Hey everyone! So I felt like this post was long overdue, but I finally decided to type up some tips on fashion photography. The idea of it is pretty simple: book a model, find some cool clothes, find a cool location, shoot. There’s a lot of ways you can go about doing fashion photography, and a few key factors you should know about. With this post I’ll do my best to help illustrate some basic techniques so you can try this out on your own!
1. What’s Your Theme?
Before you do ANYTHING you should think of a theme for your photo shoot. Do you want something dark and dramatic? Or are you looking for something more simple and bright? Whatever it is, it’s up to you to portray that theme in your work. You are your own art director. Take some time and figure out the gist of what you want your finished product to look like. If you’re shooting FOR someone (a clothing company etc) go for a theme that will best showcase their product. Collaborate with them on some ideas (they may have some suggestions already). For example, I wouldn’t shoot a bridal gown in an abandoned building (not sure the company would want to use the image). Follow your theme throughout the planning of your photo shoot. Think of what direction you want your photo shoot to go.
2. Where Are You Shooting?
When thinking of your theme, a simple question will always come to mind: where am I shooting this? The location is (obviously) just as important as any other aspect of this photo shoot. The two basic places to do an editorial/fashion shoot: downtown in the city, or somewhere in a heavily wooded area. If you can’t think of anything specific or find a special place, those are your best bets. If you want to go for an opposites theme that could work too (just make sure it’s done well). There’s usually a lot of good locations in any given area, you just have to find it. The best way that I’ve found places to shoot is just by driving around and taking notes. I don’t even have to get out of my car (which is great, cause I’m incredibly lazy). Usually what I do is slowly drive around with my window down with my camera phone ready to shoot. I take a picture of the location and then the cross streets where I can find it again. From there, I just use my pictures to find it when it comes time to shoot. If you’re looking for a specific place in a certain area, just look it up. I’m more than sure you’re not the only one who wanted to know where that certain place was.
3. Choosing Your Model
This is pretty simple stuff. You wouldn’t try to hire a “G-Rated” model for a nude shoot. So obviously you know what kind of models to talk to. Usually, I pitch the idea to 2-3 different models just in case the one I wanted suddenly becomes unavailable. I suggest having a basic look in mind for your model(s). The most you need to look for are heigh and weight, measurements (for garments), the number of tattoos on the model, and the hair’s color/cut. Some photographers go as far as choosing a certain race for their models, but I don’t. Unless I’m doing something specific, I keep an open mind on that subject. Keep in close touch with whoever is going to be working with you on this project when choosing your model. If you have a certain hair style you want to do and the model needs long hair, either consult the stylist about extensions or choose another model with longer hair. The make-up artist needs to be aware of the model’s face shape and skin tone to finish designing the final look. Some make up artistry is designed for oval-shaped faces, others are designed for round faces. The only one who will know what will work is the make-up artist. When working with a designer, I would get the model’s measurements upfront and send them right away. You may want to work with your second or third model choice depending on who fits the garment. Usually, I just style the model myself from my own closet (or theirs) that way I don’t have to switch models around.
4. What Are They Wearing?
What is your model going to wear? You need to style the model or hire a wardrobe stylist. Either way, they need some clothing (if you’re shooting fashion). If you’re unsure what to style your model in, link up with a local designer (they tend to have a lot of things that they want photographed). Another thing you can do is pick up the latest issue of Vogue or Elle magazine. Take a look at the ongoing fashion trends that are currently being sought for publication. If you’re looking to get published, you’re more likely to succeed by giving the magazine something that they’re looking for. Something else you can try is getting lost in the world of Pinterest. I’ve found plenty of inspiration by looking up random words and sifting through the images. Last but not least, ask your model! More likely than not, they know what to wear and what makes them look good. Models generally have a lot of clothing for you to choose from. Just tell them what kind of look or theme you’re going for and see what they come up with. I tend to go for at LEAST three different outfits to have a well-rounded photo session.
5. Finding The Hair + Make-Up Combo
This is where I fall flat most of the time. It’s almost impossible for me to have a specific idea of what I want the hair and make-up to look like. Most of the time I leave it up to the models or the make-up artist. What you SHOULD know is if you want the hair and make-up to be subtle or dramatic. Of course the easiest way to remedy this is to hire a hair stylist and make-up artist. If you’re looking for something specific… LOOK! The easiest ways are (again), is by buying and flipping through the latest issues of Vogue or Elle. Allure magazine is my favorite one for trying to find beauty trends, and ideas for hair and make-up. Again, Pinterest can yield some amazing results when you’re looking for a hair + make-up combo. Key tip: I tend to use a bright red for my model’s lips so it’s easier to change in Photoshop. That way it’s more than one look, and we don’t have to keep wiping off their lips, thus saving time (and agony).
6. Attention To Detail
Overlooking details can result in your photo set looking like a hot mess OR keeping the shoot from its full potential. Sometimes adding a little detail such as a bag to showcase, some shoes to frame, or a random prop can help the photo shoot. You do not have to do any product placement in your photo shoot if you don’t want to. But having a little something extra is always a good thing. When doing your shoot, make sure everything is on point. Is the garment bunching up somewhere unflattering? Is the model’s hair out of control? Did the make-up smudge a little? All of these things can be easily fixed, and fixing them will save you hours in post. To catch these things, take a minute to look over the scene carefully before you start to shoot. Check the model, the clothing, and the background. Yes, the background. I have seen this mistake countless times. A beautiful shot, but there’s trash in the frame (not a part of the shoot). If there’s a twig overtaking the close-up, break it off. If your background wall is dirty, clean it up. If there’s a blade of grass overlapping a shoe, snatch it up. It’s pretty simple, you need to be in control of the scene. Paying attention to detail keeps your photo from looking like a “spot the 7 mistakes” game.
7. Post-Production Editing
This is the part where you accentuate and enhance the photo to your liking. Most photographers have a general style that they go for. If you don’t know yours yet, that’s okay. Just play around with Photoshop until you start seeing the results that you want. There’s plenty of tutorials on Youtube to help with anything from editing hair and skin, to changing an entire background. Remember to keep the shadows and highlights within a good balance. Sometimes you can overdo it and the photo won’t read so well. Be sure not to edit the life out of your model (personal advice). I’ve seen way too many photos of beautiful girls that looked freakish because the photographer over-softened the skin. Try to keep as much of the model’s skin texture as possible (this WILL make the difference). The more “fleshy” your photo looks, the better.
Alright! So now it’s your turn to do some fashion photography. If you have any questions about this post you can contact me here.