Fashion photography is one of the most desired and lucrative genres of photography. Working with top models, movie stars, and fashion gurus is alluring, isn’t it? But, it’s not all roses as it may seem. For one thing, it is a small number of those who enter this circle of fame and perks. The road to get there is not so glamorous and it takes a lot of work, talent, social skills, and time to get there. But, you have to start from somewhere, right?

“For me a photograph is most successful when it doesn’t answer all the questions, but leaves something to the imagination.” – Greg Gorman

There’s no such thing as a manual on how to become a fashion photographer. Yes, you can find myriads of advice such as: be unique, find your own style, be confident, never give up, and so on. The truth is that there is no path that guarantees success in fashion photography. However, there are always basics that you need to master and then build upon it.

It is only after you master the rules and ways of fashion photography that other skills come into the picture to help you break through. But the technique and skills are your foundation pillars. Without them, you won’t be able to seize the opportunity when it comes.

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So, let’s see some basic facts about fashion photography.

Fashion Photography Styles

The first thing that crosses your mind when you think of fashion photography is probably a picture of supermodel posing for glamorous shooting. But, there’s much more to it. There are four different styles of fashion photography. Well, strictly speaking, there are three main styles: editorial, catalog, and high fashion photography. However, street fashion photography is very popular and many a fashion photographer consider it the fourth style of fashion photography.

Editorial Fashion Photography

In editorial fashion photography you use several different images to tell a story. Usually, you shoot editorials in different environments and not in the studio. It is all about style, attitude and powerful statement. The series of shots should convey a story and your model plays the role all along. This style is often featured in fashion magazines.

You will often shoot throughout the day, while your model changes wardrobe and environment. So, there are many different images but they are different chapters of the same story.

Catalog Fashion Photography

Catalog fashion photography is actually quite simple. It promotes products and that’s it. I’m not saying that it is easy to do it, but it is the most structured and limited fashion photography style. The background is usually white, but in any case, it shouldn’t create any distractions.

The focus is on the clothes. It should be sharp and clear with details clearly visible. A hairstyle, makeup, props, and the pose should be fitting with clothes. Model’s job is quite simple: no strong expressions and no story to tell. Except for maybe: ‘I feel good in these clothes’.

High Fashion

High fashion photography is the top of the genre when it comes to money and glamour. Models are usually supermodels, actresses, actors, singers, or other creme de la creme celebrities. Usually, it promotes brands or products, but in an unconventional, overemphasized way. Everything can be dramatized in this fashion photography style: the hair, the makeup, the pose, and the background. The idea is to send a powerful and perfect message.

photographers working on a high fashion show

Street Fashion Photography

Street fashion photography is all about the style of common people. It is almost opposite to high fashion photography. It captures the real people doing their everyday business as usual. Still, their style conveys a message. This style also captures street trends.

Get the Equipment

High-quality equipment is important, but your needs may differ depending on your shooting plan. There are some general guidelines, though. Just remember that clothes, hairstyle, makeup, and lighting are essential for fashion photography. 

As for the camera, you can shoot with mirrorless, DSLR, or even with your smartphone. However, full-frame DSLRs are the most usual choice. Always shoot in RAW. It allows for much more possibilities and flexibility in post-processing.

 “The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.” – Dorothea Lange

Prime lenses are an obvious choice as they provide maximum quality and sharpness. You can use a zoom lens or even a wide angle lens when you want to create some special effects. 

Lighting is extremely important for fashion photography. Ideally, you have a studio or a room that can serve as a studio. Now you just have to fill it with light. One strong light is absolutely necessary, but you need three lights for a perfect set up. You will also need a reflector and umbrella or softbox to diffuse and soften the light when doing fashion photography.

Find Your Fashion Photographer Crew

You need social skills for all kinds of portrait photography, but when it comes to fashion photography it is a whole new level. You need to cultivate relations in all directions. Keep in touch with students, fellow fashion photographer colleagues, and basically anyone you have ever worked with, in the industry. Chances are that you can’t assemble a team of skilled and experienced professionals when starting out. Fashion students or your friends can assist you if you’re running on a low budget. But, sooner or later you will need a bigger team.

Crucial members of your team are fashion stylist, a hairstylist, and makeup artist. You should look for cooperative and easy-going characters. And they should be good at what they do, of course. A good team can make a world of difference. Of course, sometimes your client will impose some or the team members. Try to avoid it whenever it’s possible. Simply, the well-coordinated team works better. 

Shooting Tips For a Fashion Photographer

Use the rule of thirds. It is not a must, but it will help you to achieve a balanced composition. The rule of thirds is one of the basic rules in photography. However, I would also recommend breaking this rule occasionally. In fashion photography and portraiture photography it can be very effective. However, you need something to balance the image. Use background symmetry, leading lines or triangles to create an interesting composition. Suitable poses can help you to add some dynamic balance and avoid static and rigid composition.

“Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera.” – Yousuf Karsh

Unless you’re shooting for a catalog use the background and props to enhance the message your image conveys. Once again, look for leading lines, patterns and textures that will flatter your model. Just be careful, you need to accentuate your model, and the background can help, but it can distract, too. 

Always be creative and experiment. Try to shoot from different angles. Truth be told, moving your camera up or down creates more problems than solutions in portrait photography. However, if you do it carefully, sometimes you can achieve great effects.

And the most important tip: don’t forget the fashion! All other tips and tricks have a purpose to create a glamorous story around the clothes in the image. Make sure it looks clear with visible patterns and details.

fashion girl posing in a fashion photography studio

Post-Processing

Post-processing is necessary for fashion photography. While you may have artistic freedom to express your style, there is also a commercial side of fashion shooting. It means that everything has to be impeccable. So, you don’t use Photoshop and Lightroom only to fix possible mistakes, but also to enhance the message. Fashion photography is not about looking real, but looking perfect. You shouldn’t hesitate to ‘improve’ your model, the background or anything that can help to create mind-blowing, out of this world appearance.

Conclusion

Fashion photography is a pretty unique genre of photography.  It allows a lot of creativity, but it also comes with specific requirements regarding your personality and social skills. It is a highly-rewarding niche, but it can be stressful and frustrating. Interestingly enough, all bad sides aren’t photography-related. They are a result of the fast-paced fashion world environment. 

So, if you are interested in fashion photography it is a long, tough, but rewarding journey. Take one step at a time and don’t worry. If you ever get tired of it, you can always turn to landscape photography and greener pastures – pun intended.