What is fashion photography?
To me, fashion is more about imagination and colours, art infused with art. The best thing about fashion is that it’s not entirely about what’s trending now; it can range from the past through the future and sky’s the limit. It is one of those professions that is driven by passion and not by money. Being someone that has been through a lot of highs and lows, I’d say that my passion for photography is all that kept me going.
A lot of people have the drive, interest and motivation to become a fashion photographer, but we don’t really know where to start or what to do and how to do it. I hope this article helps as a launching pad for making your way through fashion photography.
Firstly, to become anything you want to be, you need to start believing that you are one already. So initially check out other fashion photographers and get used to looking at photography with fashion in mind. Get inspired by other photographers, do a lot of brainstorming and see what you get, with respect to fashion. While it is good to get inspired, always remember not to blindly copy. Trying to recreate a photograph is okay, as long as you do some value addition to it. Magazines are key to studying up on what’s current and in style. Not only do your photos have to be on point, but you need to know what’s the trend right now, even if you have a stylist who does it for you.
Follow your favourite photographers online, on Behance, Facebook, Flickr, Instagram, or their website.
Start off working with people in a barter system, teaming up with growing makeup artists, stylists, growing models or even friends. Setting up a portfolio is the most important step before you can take up projects, professionally. So, team up with people, experiment around with a lot of variables and keep shooting until you have gathered enough photos to put up a good portfolio. It is important that you have a fashion portfolio ready, before getting yourself known to people as a fashion photographer.
Meanwhile, start networking with people from the industry. Attend fashion shows, and other events and let people know you exist. The more you talk to people and open up your interests, you get different perspectives and get to hone your skill accordingly.
Decide and stick to your style, and try to express what inspired you in your style.
Unlike some genres of photography, fashion photography is not just about the photographer. It is essential that you build a team that share your vision. A good stylist, makeup artist, model and the photographer work in sync to get the perfect output. Ideally, a team shares and works on a concept together, with different perspectives and generally open to experiment. We are all driven by passion, so each person in the team being passionate about what they do is necessary.
The first thing to do right after you think up a concept is to create mood boards for the same. There are essentially three mood boards that need to be built with some sample photographs, for the model, stylist and the makeup artist. This essentially shows them visually what you have in mind and they can decide about their comfort level, feasibility and value addition.
The key considerations when planning a shoot are the location, lighting, makeup, stylist and the model. Having a backup plan is as important as any other part of the shoot. If you’re planning on an outdoor shoot for a well lit sunny day, what will you do if the sun decides to hide behind the clouds and it starts to drizzle? Do you pack up and waste the day or do you move the shoot indoors and modify the concept accordingly or shoot in the rain and add some drama? That’s completely left to the imagination and every photographer’s creativity.
When you choose a location for outdoor photography, pick one with no distracting backgrounds. They might creep into your frame when you least expect them. If you’re working in a studio, this is often easier to manage. You can run out there on instinct and shoot what you like, all day. But without research, you’ll have no understanding of the recent developments and the trendsetters in the industry and as a result you will stop evolving as a photographer.
To begin with, you might want to shoot your friends, and other people you know. But to really get the output you want, you’re going to need a professional model to do it for you. Finalise your concept, build the mood board and email the model that you think fits well for the concept with all the details. Protip: Stay professional, but warm and friendly.
The choice of the lighting style will determine how edgy your finished images are going to look. You may decide that you want a very soft feel to the images, or alternatively, you may like a high contrast feel to the images.
Assuming that you’re new to lights, make sure you don’t complicate the lighting, and get started with just one light at a time. Move the lights around the model, test the shadows, the effect, and experiment with different positions. There are absolutely no rules you should know. Some photos look good with shadows and some don’t. So it really depends on the photographer’s style and the concept.
Start with a key light, for the face and based on your primary subject the rest may vary.. It could be for highlighting the hair, jewellery, make-up, beauty shots, anything. Slowly build the lights, increase the number gradually.
- Sell yourself well. Put yourself out there, and get people to notice your work. There are so many platforms these days to publish photography work, like Behance, dribble, 500px, flickr, facebook to name a few.
- Plan the shoot, and follow your plan meticulously. But don’t set your mind to a certain type of shot and just stick to them. Talk to the model, assistants, and keep evolving your ideas as you shoot. Stay spontaneous.
- Keep shooting no matter what! Don’t let your emotional whirlwinds affect the quality of work. They say sadness is one of the best emotions to work with for an artist. But that holds true for only as long as it influences your concept and style, not the quality.
- Get inspired every day. Don’t get stagnated at any level. Always remember to outdo yourself by at least 1% with every shot and surprise yourself with every shoot.
- A team that works together, grows together. Have periodical brainstorming sessions with your team, hang out together, spend a lot of time with each other apart from shoot time and be in sync.
- While shooting, make sure you do your best to get the output you need during the shoot itself. Don’t compromise on the quality of the photograph, saying you would take care of the flaws in post processing.
- The repeated attempts to understand others work will build your own skills and create a vision such that you won’t be seeking inspiration anymore, you will have your own style.
We have been shooting with various gears over all these years. Our first fashion shoot started off with Canon 600D, a simpex light, and this gave us such brilliant images. Some of my personal favorites to shoot with are the 85 mm, 135 mm, 105 mm, 35mm, 70-200 mm. I know, I’m a little biased to block lenses. For the cameras, I prefer the Nikon D810, Nikon D800, Canon 5D Mark III. This is only to give you an idea, and you should feel free to experiment yourself and pick your favorites.
Prophoto, Broncolor, Elinchrome are some you can get started with. Check out the lighting diagrams I’ve provided with this article, and try to recreate similar effects in your photographs, if you don’t know where to start. Challenge yourself to learn the lighting techniques used in different photographs and see if you’re able to decipher and crack the lighting diagram of a particular shot. Remember to not get too comfortable with a single gear. Keep experimenting, and be comfortable with a lot of equipments.
On a final note, as a fashion photographer the challenge I face every day is to keep competing with myself, doing better than I did the previous time, with the constant search for excellence, rediscover and redefine what I do and who I am.