10 Helpful Fashion Photography Tips
In the digital era, fashion photography is more popular than it has ever been before. There is high demand from businesses and websites alike for high-quality fashion images, so this is an excellent industry to get into if you have the opportunity. Fashion photographers not only need to be able to handle any technical situation that might arise on a shoot, but they also need to understand industry expectations and be able to manage others — at the very least, you’ll be working with a model. You also need to choose the location of your photoshoot carefully — something Peerspace can help with. If you want to improve your practice, here are 10 helpful fashion photography tips to get you started.
1. Build a good work environment
Before even considering the technical elements of a fashion shoot, you should go into your prep with creating an ideal work environment in mind. You’ll be working with, at minimum, a model. Maybe you have makeup artists and assistants as well. As the photographer, you’ll be running the show, so it’s important to create an environment where everyone has what they need and is happy to work. That means making sure people can take breaks to rest and get water or food.
It’s also important to understand that the people you’re working with are professionals just like you. If you’re building your portfolio and come to an arrangement for a free shoot, that’s one thing, but if you’re getting paid for your work, then you need to pay others for their work, too. This is our most important fashion photography tip.
2. Be specific with posing instruction
Specific instructions are especially important no matter who you’re working with. As the photographer, you’re the chief architect of the creative vision of the shoot. That means you need to know what you want and how to communicate that to others. When shooting, it’s easy to be vague with instructions, and this can work if you have an experienced model and a broad expectation for the shoot. Otherwise, you must be specific about what poses you’re looking for, and be ready to give detailed instructions to your model. Nobody can read your mind.
3. Shoot where you are comfortable
Most fashion work takes place in the studio, but if you don’t have access to one or aren’t experienced working in a studio, you may want to shoot in a more familiar environment. For most, that means blending fashion with street photography. You’ll still be working with some external lighting, but if you’re already accustomed to working in natural light, shooting fashion will feel more familiar to you. You don’t have to have a studio to do great fashion work — the most important thing is to shoot where you’ll make your best work.
4. Master the technical elements
Know everything you can about the technical elements of your shoot. If you’re shooting in a studio, then this means dialing in your lights and camera settings to get a perfect exposure with every frame. If you’re shooting on the street, that means you should be aware when and how to use fill flash and portable lighting. When you’re comfortable with your lights and equipment, you’ll spend a lot less time checking your shots and more time making them.
5. Focus on the model, not the fashion
This may sound counterintuitive, but fashion photography is as much about story as it is about clothing. The clothing will speak for itself, especially with a well-directed model. But, in order for people to connect with the images, you’ll need to emphasize the human element. This means always keeping your attention on your model’s face and body, the message they’re conveying, and how their presentation of the clothing changes the tone of your images. Some of your best work may even be from those in-between moments, changing from one pose to another or being distracted by an off-camera event. Take advantage of these opportunities.
6. Choose the right lens
Generally speaking, longer focal lengths result in a more flattering image for portraiture. However, space constructions might make using a longer focal length difficult, especially when you also need to show off outfits. Best practice here is to shoot on the longest focal length your space allows for, but be prepared to move to a wider angle if necessary. Be sure to have a variety of lenses available. While zooms are versatile and quick, you’ll get better bokeh if you shoot with primes, so keep this in mind when assembling your kit.
7. Work with a team
While you certainly can successfully shoot fashion portraits with just a model, the entire process is much smoother with a team, giving you better results. Having a stylist or makeup artist to prep the model and do touch-ups throughout the day helps keep looks consistent over a long period of time. And having an assistant or two to manage light positions and help with gear keeps you focused on getting the shot. Hiring a team isn’t always viable, but if you can afford the investment, it will pay off. If you’re just getting into fashion photography, performing these services for a more experienced photographer is also a good way to soak up some knowledge.
8. Work the scene
This is true for any photography, but it’s especially beneficial in fashion work. Don’t stop shooting when you think you’ve got the shot — keep going, and you may be surprised to learn there was a better shot waiting. In the era of digital, there’s little reason to be conservative with shooting (except that it means more culling during the editing process). Don’t underestimate this fashion photography tip — shooting after you think you got your shot is essential for making good work.
9. Give credit to your talent
You’ve taken some killer shots and are ready to share them on social media. It’s always good to promote your work, but don’t forget that your fashion shoot was a team effort. If nothing else, you at least had a model. When you’re sharing your work, it’s important to be sure to credit everyone involved in the process. Not only does this help promote your talented partners, but it also shows that you value their contribution to the project. Photographers who are notorious for not crediting their models often find, unsurprisingly, that models stop working with them.
10. Break the rules
This fashion photography tip may seem contradictory, but it’s important to know when to break the rules. There are plenty of rules when it comes to poses and lighting, and it’s important to know all of them and be able to get expected shots. However, when you start to break those rules, you might find your creativity pays off. Get your safe shots, but don’t be afraid to experiment. Unless you’re just really crunched for time, there’s no reason not to try new setups or techniques.
There’s so much room for creativity in fashion photography. It’s not quite like anything else. And in the era of Instagram, there’s arguably a bigger interest in fashion right now than in any other point in history. Likewise, the popularity of fashion on the internet has democratized the scene. Striking fashion photography doesn’t only happen in high-end studios, and it isn’t just seen within the pages of Vogue — if it’s something you’re interested in, it’s something you can do. Go out there and give it your best shot, and don’t forget us when you make it big.