Without the proper knowledge of exposure, lighting, composition and posing, even the most impressive clothes can look dull and lifeless when printed in a catalogue or showcased online.
Fashion photography is a challenging discipline that combines the typical elements of photography – exposure, composition and lighting – with the life and energy of a model and their clothing. In this guide, you’ll learn how to shoot fantastic fashion photos that capture the look and feel of your model and their clothing with ease. From studio shoot to on-location photography, read on to become an expert fashion photographer.
Whether you’re photographing your chic outfit of the day for your Instagram account, trying to sell clothes, or trying to create shots that editors will want to publish, we have some fashion photography tips to help you explore this fun area of photography.
Table of Contents
- 1 The Basics Of Fashion Photography
- 2 Plan Your Shoot And Prepare For The Unexpected
- 3 Collaborate For Best Results
- 4 Maximize Image Quality
- 5 Inspirations 101
- 6 Teamwork Is Everything
- 7 The Look
- 8 Scouting Locations
- 9 Hair, Makeup And Wardrobe
- 10 Fashion Photography Equipment
- 11 Fashion Photography Techniques
- 12 Outdoor Fashion Photography
- 13 Editing Fashion Photos
- 14 Learn More About Fashion Photography
- 15 To Summarize Everything
The Basics Of Fashion Photography
If you’re familiar with how to operate your digital camera in manual mode, you’ll have no trouble adjusting to the basics of fashion photography. Since your subject rarely moves, many photographers find fashion photography refreshingly easy.
Fashion photography takes place in two settings: indoors, in either a studio or an engaging environment, or outdoors. Outdoor shoots are generally more complex than indoor shoots since the weather makes camera adjustment more critical.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need a massive lighting rig to take great looking fashion photographs. If you’re a beginner with a limited budget, you can take good looking photos with nothing more than a single light source and two reflectors.
You need a solid imagination to create compelling images that arrest the viewer’s attention. However, you can’t bring your ideas to life without a working knowledge of basic photography skills. Study lighting and composition, and explore how various camera settings affect your images. Keep practising until you master these concepts.
Less is more. Throwing together too many visual elements can overwhelm an audience and obscure your message. A simple image can contain multiple layers of meaning while expressing a clear and coherent theme. Produce uncomplicated photos using solid fundamentals before adding more complexity to your work.
A fashion photographer should stay up to date on the latest clothing trends. When new pieces make their debut, ask yourself how you would photograph them. Consider the technical aspects of potential shots and explore your creativity by thinking of unique ways to bring the subject to life.
Plan Your Shoot And Prepare For The Unexpected
Develop a specific theme for your shoot and keep it firmly in mind throughout the day. Although clients will often provide clear guidelines, you’ll have a lot of flexibility in the execution. Plan which shots will help you accomplish your goal, and arrange an itinerary of poses, angles and props before you begin. Although preparation is crucial, spontaneity often produces the best work, so allow yourself the freedom to be creative on the fly.
Planning extends beyond the shoot, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Anticipate possible setbacks and then avoid them or create a backup plan. When devising a timetable for the shoot, give yourself enough wiggle room to compensate for the inevitable delays. Make sure you have everyone’s contact information and keep replacements ready in case of last-minute cancellations—print hard copies of any crucial documents. Bring spare equipment and keep technical support on standby in case anything malfunctions.
Collaborate For Best Results
Fashion photography pools the talents of many people. A designer creates the clothes, and a model brings them to life. Makeup artists, hairstylists, technicians and many others contribute to the final product of a fashion shoot – your image.
A fashion photographer does more than snap photos – you channel the team’s efforts into a unified concept. Communicate your objectives and then help everyone achieve those goals. Make sure they accomplish their work on schedule and stay true to your theme. Be friendly but firm. Ultimately, you control the shoot and are responsible for the outcome, so don’t hesitate to take charge and give direction.
Simultaneously, encourage team members to offer insight and add their unique flavour to the project. If you clearly express your creative vision, they will know how to contribute their talents. Above all, keep things fun; people perform better if they are comfortable and enjoying themselves. Leave some playtime and see what happens. We give birth to the images together.
Maximize Image Quality
I shoot in both RAW and JPEG-small formats. RAW allows me to blow the images up to billboard size if needed, and JPEG-small is better suited for Web images. RAW delivers enhanced picture quality and greater freedom and flexibility during post-production. It offers broader colour palette selections, various exposure adjustments that help evoke a desired mood or emotion, and the ability to increase significantly image size for larger format viewing and printing.
RAW images occupy a lot of space, so select a card with enough capacity to store an entire day’s worth of shooting. Using one card lets, you avoid interrupting the flow of shooting or keeping track of multiple sets of photos. A reliable card with 8-16GB of capacity is acceptable.
I like the energy that results from motion. I direct movement when posing my shots because it makes the models look more natural and creates interesting effects on the clothes. I shoot in short bursts of about six images at a time to ensure that my camera doesn’t miss a sudden ripple of the fabric or a slight change in the model’s facial expression.
“Nothing of me is original. I am the combined effort of everyone I’ve ever known.” or so the saying goes. Nowadays, let’s challenge the concept of people stating there’s no such thing as originality anymore. Is that true? But truthfully, the best ideas may not be the first ones.
Creativity is a limitless concept. You can always start developing your ideas by sourcing inspirations from practically anywhere. When you start noticing the littlest things in your life, it will do wonders as your inspiration source. This is fundamental because it is the groundwork before every shoot. Developing a strong and authentically concept is the key to the next step of creating the perfect frame in a fashion photoshoot.
Teamwork Is Everything
Create your perfect squad. When you meet someone you are comfortable working with, continue to develop a great relationship with them. Because at the end of the day, the perfect frame is not just in the hands of the photographer. Everyone needs to be equally involved, and the greater the chemistry ultimately leads to the perfect picture.
Make sure you succeed in getting everyone on the team on the same page, from the vision for the shoot to work ethics. A solid group of creatives that gel well together is ideal because, in the end, it’s all about teamwork.
A fashion shoot is never complete without a suitable model. It would help if you found a model who has a suitable look for the concept, whether it’s height, hair colour, skin tone, eye shape, etc. Bonus points if you get to know the model first beforehand. Good chemistry between the photographer and model is also essential to create a comfortable shooting environment.
When you are shooting, there’s only the photographer, the model, and a camera. Putting on music that’s enjoyable to everyone can also help the model get into character.
Outdoors or indoors, it’s crucial to prepare everything beforehand. You don’t want to be stressed out on the big day, right? When it comes to studios, the physical environment has to be a positive working environment. Think about how much space you need, equipment, facilities, etc. An outdoor fashion shoot is a tad trickier. Always double-check if you need to have permission beforehand if it is a private area and always check the weather! The sun can be your best friend or your enemy in this case.
Hair, Makeup And Wardrobe
This is where excellent teamwork shows. I think it is essential to get everyone on the same page for the shoot’s vision and mood. Also, don’t be afraid to voice your opinion if something can be altered. The hair is too big; the model needs more mascara, the button’s falling off, etc. Don’t be afraid to speak up; it’s teamwork, after all.
Fashion Photography Equipment
You don’t need a huge kit to shoot fashion photography, but it certainly helps if you have a high-quality digital camera. Unless you’re going for the raw style used in apparel advertisements, make sure you have a quality DSLR camera.
Fashion photographs need to be crisp at a high resolution, so your digital camera’s megapixel count (which usually isn’t particularly important) matter a lot more for fashion photography than it does for street or artistic photography.
Although some fashion photographers swear by film, don’t be put off if you’ve only got a digital camera. Modern DSLRs outperform almost all film cameras for fashion photography, and if you’ve got the right lenses, nearly every DSLR camera will do.
Fashion photography is all about having the right lens for the job. If you’re usually a landscape or sports photographer, put away your zoom lens and choose a wide to medium angle telephoto lens that’s adjustable to between 15 and 55 millimetres.
Good lenses for fashion photography include 18-55, 17-40 and 16-50 types with a fast aperture. You should also have a 50mm fixed focal length lens with a high-speed gap – preferably between 1.2 and 1.8 – to use for dark, low-light shots.
As a beginner, you don’t need to buy any additional flash equipment. For lighting, stick with a pair of 500-watt halogen lights (preferably with barn doors) and two reflectors to spread light evenly throughout your studio.
You don’t need a huge kit to shoot fashion photography, but it certainly helps if you have a high-quality DSLR. Fashion photographs need to be crisp at a high resolution, so your digital camera’s megapixel count matters a lot more for fashion photography than it does for street or artistic photography.
Fashion photography is all about having the right lens for the job. If you’re usually a landscape or sports photographer, put away your zoom lens and choose a wide to medium angle telephoto lens that’s adjustable to between 15 and 55 millimetres with a fast aperture. You should also have a 50mm fixed focal length lens with a high-speed gap, preferably between 1.2 and 1.8, to use for dark, low-light shots.
The photography technique itself is straightforward when shooting fashion photography. Keep your lens in automatic focus when shooting in a studio. This is because the distance between your camera and the model is constant throughout the shoot, and automatic focus is more accurate than manual control. Most of the time, you can stick with the same ISO, shutter speed, and aperture settings throughout the photoshoot.
Fashion Photography Techniques
If you’re used to landscape or street photography, you’ll find the techniques used in fashion photography remarkably simple. Fashion photography is all about lighting and preparation – the photography technique itself is straightforward.
Many fashion photographers keep their lens in automatic focus when shooting in a studio. This is because the distance between your camera and the model is constant throughout the shoot, and automatic focus is more accurate than manual control.
Likewise, once you’ve set your exposure settings, it’s time to shoot. Most of the time, you can stick with the same ISO, shutter speed, and aperture settings throughout the photoshoot. Some fashion photographers even let their camera manage exposure!
What’s far more important than aperture and focus is lighting. Without the correct lighting and the perfect intensity, even the best photographer will capture photos that don’t look their best.
When shooting fashion photography, lighting is a big deal. However, lots of great fashion photography can be produced with sunlight as the primary light source. One of the most popular kinds of light for portrait and fashion photography is window light. Hanging a white sheet over the window at a 45-90-degree angle to the model will diffuse and soften the light. When you begin using additional lights, you can take good looking photos with nothing more than a single light source and two reflectors.
Outdoor Fashion Photography
Not all fashion photography takes place in a studio. A lot of fashion photography is captured outdoors, from catalogues to calendars, often in exotic settings like beaches and urban environments.
If you’re familiar with landscape photography, you’ll adjust quickly to taking fashion photos on location. Outdoor fashion photography usually is more demanding than studio photography since you don’t have total control of your light sources.
Editing Fashion Photos
Rarely are fashion photos published without digital editing. From airbrushing over blemishes and wrinkles to making an overly bright picture feel natural, organic and warm, being able to use Adobe Photoshop is essential for fashion photographers.
Even if you’re opposed to airbrushing and photo manipulation, knowing how to use Photoshop will make it far easier for you to optimize your lighting, levels and colour to create photos that stand out from the crowd and command attention.
Rarely are fashion photos published without digital editing. From airbrushing over blemishes and wrinkles to making an overly bright picture feel natural, organic and warm, using an editing program is essential for fashion photographers. Even if you’re opposed to airbrushing and photo manipulation, knowing how to use a Photoshop program will make it far easier for you to optimize your lighting and colour to create photos that stand out from the crowd.
Learn More About Fashion Photography
Fashion photography is a demanding profession, but it’s also advantageous for photographers to succeed and have creative talent and work ethic. From fashion labels to magazines, fashion photographers are in demand with many employers.
It might be the fabulous magazines’ pages, or it might just be that urge to create something chic. Either way, we are now living in this digital era where fashionable shoots are just around the corner. Hashtag #OOTD (outfit of the day). But that’s where the similarity ends. Planning and executing a fashion photography shoot takes more than that.
To Summarize Everything
Producing a fashion story is a right of passage and one of the first monumental undertakings of becoming a fashion photographer. Before the shoot, decide on the story’s overall mood, whether the model will or will not make eye contact with the audience and create a backstory of the models that can be communicated to everyone on set. Take the time to explain your process and expectations, asking the model to get into character for the day. At first, it will be a collaborative effort and once everything clicks, carefully direct the model and team throughout the rest of the shoot.
Everything must fit the overall mood, from the hair and makeup to the lighting and comprehensive set. Infusing the story with emotion will pique the interest of the viewer and keep them engaged. A model’s hands and eyes are decidedly two of the most influential components of the composition, and they must convey the overall feeling of the story.
Lastly, keep the mood light and a positive tone while working together as a collective whole to achieve a common goal. It is the job of the photographer to make everyone feel comfortable and safe during the shoot. Offering refreshments is an effortless gesture that keeps everyone on the team happy and feeling well taken care of. This establishes trust, and it is that trust that will garner a very successful end product.
Fashion photography is a collaborative effort and a rather intimate process of giving and take between the photographer, the model and the team. Open communication throughout the process and positive reinforcement provide the feedback that everyone is on the right track and keeps edging toward that final achievement.