Fashion photography is everywhere. You will see hundreds of images a day of men and women dressed-up (or down), showcasing clothing, accessories and footwear. It is one of the biggest, most profitable areas of photography.
The world of fashion photography is fast-paced. It focuses on portraiture, posing, extensive lighting and beautiful locations.
This genre is evolving and changing as many photographers find their own aesthetic.
You may have heard of Mario Testino, Jurgen Teller, Nick Knight or Helmut Newton. But there are thousands of other photographers trying to make a name for themselves.
Like most areas, you need time and patience to learn. If you would like to read more about a fashion photographer’s life, see our interview with Kitty Gallannaugh here.
If you’re interested in learning all about fashion photography, from equipment to poses to post-processing, keep reading this guide.
Camera equipment in fashion photography is important. But it all depends on what you are doing with the final images. Are they for editorial purposes?
Will they be blown up and shown on the side of buildings? Or is the sole purpose to be shown on social media for the online world?
All these questions influence your equipment needs.
Like most areas of photography, there is no perfect camera. There might be a perfect camera for you, and there might be a perfect camera for the kind of fashion photography you would like to do.
In this diverse genre, lighting, clothing and hair and makeup might be more important than the camera itself. Here, we will run through the best picks of DSLR.
There are other types of camera that many professional photographers use, such as medium or large format.
DSLRs and mirrorless cameras can come with a full-frame or crop sensor. Full frame sensors shoot using a ‘full’ sensor. These are closer in size to the 35mm film equivalent. The crop sensor in comparison ‘crops’ into the image. A crop sensor is lower in price but comes with a lower quality of image.
The sensor also affects your lenses, which is why the images become ‘cropped’. Using an APS-C camera system, a 100mm lens works as a 160mm lens due to the Canon crop factor magnification of 1.6x (Nikon is 1.5x).
This is a great advantage to turn a zoom lens into a telephoto lens but at a compromise of fine details in the image.
Specific lenses need to be used to keep that same focal length, such as the Canon 24mm f/2.8 STM.
This article will give you more information on these two types of camera, and why they are important.
As this photographer points out, a lot of people feel that they do not have the right equipment. It is easy to forget that at the end of a day, a camera is a camera.
When it comes to fashion photography, the lighting, hair/makeup and post-processing make the image. Whether you photograph with a $600 or $6000 camera, you still need many other elements.
Photographing with an iPhone nowadays is a go-to option. This will allow you to photograph in a studio or hit the streets. Some of the latest smartphones have exceptional cameras. Meaning you don’t need to buy more unless you want to.
Apart from your camera gear and lenses, there are other things you will need. Chances are you won’t only be photographing in the studio, but outside of your own work zone.
Fashion shows would be obvious choices of where else to photograph. This is an area where a monopod becomes very handy. This is great if you don’t have space for a tripod (you won’t).
Also, using a vertical grip frame, which doubles up as a battery pack, would be a great help. It even holds a Speedlite, or two if you have muscles.
The Best Choice in Lenses
Many people swear by their 50 mm lens. But what about 35 mm? This is still a popular choice for street and fashion photographers alike.
Probably because it gives you a good working distance. It allows you to get close, but not so close that you make the subject anxious.
35 mm means you can also fit into a studio, as most are converted spare rooms. Perfect for small cramped spaces where you can’t step back.
The 35 mm lens tends to be a little more expensive than a 50 mm. This is partly due to complex mechanics inside the lens. Have a look at this article for more information and how the 35 mm gives the 50mm a run for its money.
The age-old argument of prime lenses versus zoom lenses. There is no simple answer. They both offer you something a little bit different. Comparing an 85 mm prime lens to a 70-100 zoom lens is only similar in the way that they both shoot at an 85 mm focal length.
Yet, the 85 mm prime lens will be sharper and will house a faster, larger f/stop, such as f/1.4. The zoom, although versatile is less likely to have such a large aperture. The quality when shooting at 85 mm might not be as sharp either.
Have a look at our article to see why we recommend both if you can afford it.
This extensive guide shows you seven different lenses, and the perspective they give you. Each photograph was taken using the same model in the same position, 3 metres away from the camera.
The photographs show you what the model looks like with a 24, 35, 50, 70, 85 and 100 mm lens.
There are no magic camera settings that will take that perfect picture for you. Luckily, you can set your camera up to meet you at least halfway.
The main thing you should do (and continue to do all the time) is to always shoot in raw. This stores more photographic data in the image and gives you more ‘play’ in post-processing.
Use the single shot setting, not burst. This seems counterproductive when you have a fast-moving subject which you definitely need to capture. But, keeping your finger on the button means you can not frame and re-frame as needed. It will also eat up your hard drive space like a champ.
White balance is very important. This is something you need to do before the show has started, not when the show is in full swing. Be a scout and make sure you are prepared.
Lighting is one of the most important areas to consider in fashion photography. Whether you are are using a studio space or photographing with natural lighting. Even using a simple set-up with one Speedlite needs preparation and practise.
There are many different lighting systems available. Big, powerful units like strobes would be used in a studio and plugged into the wall.
Smaller versions, known as Speedlites, are portable and run off AA battery power. This thorough article gives you all the information you need to get started.
If you’ve had a few sessions of fashion photography and found yourself hooked, a home studio is not a bad idea.
Cheaper than renting out space every time and you can have your own equipment to practice with as and when you can.
The initial cost might be a little steep, but it could pay for itself ten-fold if you start to get a steady flow of clients.
This could even be a portable studio, mobile enough to take and unpack in any location.
This article gives you all the tips and lets you know what you need to consider.
Lighting terms might be thrown around if you are assisting a fashion photographer. Knowing them is key.
This in-depth guide will let you know what a backlight is. It will also tell you the difference between a bounce and catchlight. Maybe you need to use some gels for colour, or you need to diffuse the light.
High key, loop lighting and spill light are all different things too. Check out our article to figure them all out.
This is the fun part of fashion photography, and the most labour and research intensive. This guide is here to help you understand what lights will have what effect on your subject.
Some photographs are lit very simply. Others can have up to and including 6 different lights to light the background, the hair, the face et al. They always start with one light and work up to the multiple lighting setup, testing the effect as they go.
This is a very minimal lighting setup where the majority of the image is black. This is relatively easy to do if you have a lot of light. The purpose is to highlight a specific area of the model where the viewer will place their focus.
The ambient light should be as low as possible. There should be no light other than the flash or ‘strobe’ unit you are working with.
Read through our article here and go experiment.
Beauty dishes are a standard form of lighting in fashion photography. They are also inexpensive. They work either wired or wirelessly, depending on the system you prefer. Each beauty dish works in two ways, either with or without the grid.
These can really add dramatic lighting to a scene where a softbox or umbrella spreads the light out more. Read more about the dishes here and how they can benefit your work.
How to Shoot Fashion Photography
Shooting fashion photography is no small feat. There is a lot of research involved in finding the right person to photograph and then posing the model. You have the lights and what you want to achieve with them. Your camera and your lenses need practice so you know what you are doing and what your limitations are.
When the day comes, you need to organise the team (if you have one) and stay in high spirits as you manage the model and their personality. For hours on end. It is exhausting, mentally and physically tiring. Your confidence needs to be unshakable and able to solve multiple issues at the same time. Yet, your hard work will pay off and you will be happy with the results.
Show up and shoot. These are the watch-words of this industry. Those who put the effort and time into practice and research will get ahead. First and foremost, you need to take good photographs. To get there, you need to command this high-pressured work environment.
Meet and discuss ideas with agencies that manage the models.
For inspiration, understanding how a fashion shoot works in its entirety, try assisting. This will teach you more about how everything works than anyone could ever tell you. Try it out and see if you have the energy and personality for it.
Some might see fashion and glamour photography as hard to tell apart. Fashion photography is about selling a lifestyle whereas glamour photography sells the model. If the images show a half-naked girl looking provocative, then the chances are that they are not fashion photographs.
The three styles of fashion you could end up being a part of are: catalogue, editorial or high-fashion. Catalogue fashion photography is more of an information image. The wardrobe is seen clearly, the mood is very subdued and everything is clean and simple.
Editorial fashion photography looks at the model in an environment other than a studio. It looks at a lifestyle, where styling is everything.
High-Fashion photography is where the most amount of money is spent. These can be very big productions, where the wardrobe could be fantasy-esque with the whole focus on one powerful image.
Working with models might be a little daunting at first. Fashion photography is a little different from portraiture. Here you need to tell a story.
These images flow by keeping the same mood through similar settings and atmospheres.
Give good feedback and show the model your work. This will help her confidence more than just telling them they are doing great. Although you should do that too, even if it’s not going so well.
Be respectful and never touch the model without permission. Don’t over complicate things, keep a good rapport and everything will go fine.
This article has 10 great tips for the aspiring fashion photographer. It looks at how you need to assert yourself into being a confident and self-assured photographer. Research extensively so that you can pose the model well with clear instructions.
Having a studio to use, either rented or your own is a huge benefit. By having your own studio, it saves on rental costs and means you can work whenever you can. You also have the opportunity to practice on a slow day.
Read more to take your fashion photography to the next level.
Photographing a fashion show could be one of the most exciting places to see as a photographer. But don’t get too drawn into the buzz of it all, you are there to work.
Make sure you are prepared. Look at the environment, what is the temperature of the light and how does it fall on the area. Work out a good white balance and have your camera ready to go. Network as much as you can, so have a steady flow of business cards or information to hand.
As the models will be walking, you need to freeze frame them. This is best done with a high shutter speed. No movement here, unless you have everything you need and feel a little creative surge.
Read more of our article for the best advice, getting you shooting the show with confidence.
Having a team behind you lets you focus on the model. Depending on what you are photographing and for who, your team will vary.
When you are starting out, having a friend or family member assist you will go a long way. As you shoot for bigger and bigger clients, more members will be needed.
If you don’t have the budget to get the most professional team together, look at fashion colleges or universities. There will be students looking for experience and will not cost much, if anything.
Model Mayhem is also another source of models and team members, apart from being a great social networking website.
How To Pose
Posing a model can be tricky, especially if they are just starting out. They are looking to you for guidance. This is where you will need to direct them with confidence and self-assurance. Communicate with them as much as you can without going overboard.
Research and use mood boards for inspiration so you have a clear idea of what you want on the day. Communicate with the team and the model beforehand so they also have time to prepare.
This extensive article gives you ten posing ideas that will help your fashion photography shine. A lot of research (yes I said it again) will be needed to find out exactly what you want to show with your images. Is there a mood or feeling you would like to portray? Well, the poses need to fit into those atmospheres.
Hands are an interesting area to work with as they could be doing anything, anywhere. The idea is that they should be relaxed, slightly bent at the joints and fingers spread slightly apart.
The chin is one of the most important areas to look at. For women, and especially men, a clear and defined jawline is a necessity in fashion and portrait photography.
You don’t want to add extra weight to the model or to make something unattractive distract the viewer. Bring the forehead out and down, so that the jawline pops just enough that it has created a stronger line.
You might have all your camera equipment and have a studio set-up. But how to find that perfect model? Each person has a different aesthetic and style, so casting is very important.
When you look at the portfolios of potential models, look at their previous work. This will tell you if they have a variety of styles and looks. A versatile model allows multiple looks and moods. They offer far more than a model who only has one look or style in their portfolio.
Looking for a model that is inspired by your concept would be very beneficial. Maybe they have shot something similar, so they know what you are looking for and can pose accordingly. They could even bring ideas to the table.
There are a few things to look out for when dealing with models. Communication and clearly defined guidelines are very important. This cuts down on conflicts in the future over who expects what from the shoot.
The composition is very important in any style or genre of photography. They allow the subjects and settings to look more interesting and professional compared to a quickly snapped image.
Fashion photography is no different. We use composition to enhance the subject and to guide the viewer’s focus.
Read our article here for tips and ideas on how to compose your fashion photography images.
Inspiration is something you will need to heavily research. From looking at other photographers, and having an interest in fashion photography means you already have a good idea of what you want.
Pinterest is a great way to start searching, as they have substantial material on fashion photography. Here, you can create boards easily to keep all of your inspiration in defined areas.
Here is another collection of images. These show the versatility of a fashion photographer utilising different looks and concepts.
As a fashion photographer, you will be defined by your style. That’s what agencies, models and magazines will know if they want to use you as their photographer.
“Don’t use a lot where a little will do” is a great proverb for this section of fashion photography. You can photograph a successful fashion shoot with only one of everything. One model, one camera, one lens and one light.
This is a great way to start, as it simplifies all the complicated, time-consuming areas of fashion photography. It will force you to really use the equipment that you have, and work on your feet to try to find those differences.
Not to mention saving you a ton of money.
This article looks at the experience a photographer gained after shooting his first fashion photography session. He realises that it really comes down to a group effort, not just the model or even the photographer.
They all add to the concept and bring something to the table.
As the photographer had a passion for street photography, he incorporated it into his work which worked wonders. He stuck to what he knew while adding a different perspective and subject.
He goes on to talk about the difference between shooting with an on-camera flash out of the studio and the two lights he used in the studio. Guess which he found more difficult to use? Read more here.
Now that you have some experience what next? Time to put that researching and creating mood boards skill to good use
This article gives you a good idea of what to expect working with fashion in the real world. The basic idea is even though there are already thousands of fashion photographers, there is still hope.
You need a good portfolio that shows images that have a style or can be used as a connected story. Building a good rapport with photographic editors is a necessity.
They will give you work, help with your concept and organise the models for you to shoot. Read all the tips here.
A photography contract for fashion photography is to ensure both parties retain their rights.
It makes sure that neither side can do anything with the images that were not pre-discussed and agreed upon. A risk of prosecution from either side can be enforced if consent was not given.
One rule for photographing people is to get a model release. This is a contract between both parties, allowing the use of the model’s image. Most stock photography requires this if you wish to sell the images online.
Read here for the other nine tips on what your photography contract needs to have.
Having a good workflow is a priority.
After shooting your images in raw (a must), the files need to be taken from the CF or SD card and imported into your laptop or computer. Bring them straight onto into your desktop without using any programs such as Photos or any other program.
Copy the images as soon as you have a chance to an external hard drive. Bring the original images into Adobe Lightroom or Bridge for reviewing the images.
In Lightroom, you can even create a contact sheet to show a selection of images on one page.
Go through this article for in-depth steps of saving, renaming and saving – exactly what you should be doing.
Adobe Lightroom is a great piece of software for many reasons. It utilises a library system, so when you import your photographs, it stores them and allows you to place them in sets and add keywords. This means finding your images fast and easily.
The other great thing is that when you make any kind of adjustments, they can be synced across many other images. This is a very fast way to go through hundreds of images from the same shoot.
This article helps you look at extending the background for those tight studio shoots and how to use the dodge and burn tool to pull detail out of lighter or darker areas.
Retouching skin is a time-consuming art. Many photographic editors can work on this one area for most of their time. The first rule is to never blur the models’ skin. You might be tempted to use this to eliminate blemishes. But skin has a texture that will look fake and overworked if blurred using a tool.
The second rule is to never work from a background layer. It is a bad habit and is destructive. Copy the layer and work from that instead.
Generally, the skin is edited in two steps. First, fix the blemishes and distracting parts of the skin using the heal/clone stamp. Be careful not to remove any characteristics of the face or skin, as a beauty spot can really define a face. Next comes the dodge/burn tool to add or pull out detail from the skin. Colour management comes next.
Go through this step-by-step article for help on creating stunning fashion photographs.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
Thank you for reading...
if you want to capture breathtaking images, without the frustration of a complicated camera.
It's my training video that will walk you how to use your camera's functions in just 10 minutes - for free!
I also offer video courses and ebooks covering the following subjects:
You could be just a few days away from finally understanding how to use your camera to take great photos!
Thanks again for reading our articles!