Fashion photography can be quite different than other types of photography, so it’s important that you’re using industry-specific techniques when discussing poses with your model(s) or adjusting your camera settings. The good news is that we’ve already compiled everything you’ll need for a successful photo shoot. Here are 14 fashion photography tips to get you started in the world of style.
1. Visualize Your Concept
It’s easy to say that your concept will be vintage Hollywood glam from the ’20s. When it comes to actually creating it, however, visualization is key. Before you sketch a single outfit or order a single prop, pull out a notepad and start jotting down the details of your mind’s eye. For an “old Hollywood” shoot, your list might look something like this:
– Vanity lights
– Hair curlers
– Classic cars
2. Go Hard or Stay Soft
The most basic of fashion photography tips concerns the use of hard vs. soft light. “Hard” lighting casts bright lights and deep shadows; “soft” lighting is gentler and more diffused, usually created by setting up reflectors or muffling your light source in some way. If you want to take bold, dramatic photos of a bright red dress on a black background, use hard lighting. If you want a dreamy, delicate portrait of a blonde model lying on the sun-bleached grass, use soft lighting.
3. Try a Fresnel Lens
While Fresnel lenses are common in the movie industry, a lot of people don’t realize that they can take great pictures, too. Originally invented for use in lighthouses, Fresnel lenses come with an adjustable slider that you can push back and forth between “flood” and “spot.” Depending on your settings, they can create fresh, crisp and detailed shadows of everything from your model’s curly hair to the individual beads on her bracelet.
4. Fill Your Shadows
One of the sneakier fashion photography tips, “filling” shadows involves using a secondary light source to prevent dark spots from ruining your model’s clothes or makeup. It’s a way to manipulate the scene and get the shot that you want without having to sacrifice whatever pose you’ve already set up. Use this technique for tricky compositions that aren’t turning out as planned.
5. Mind Your Megapixels
You can calculate the megapixels (MP) of your camera by multiplying the horizontal and vertical lengths of its pictures. For example, if your pictures are coming out with a 3220 x 2110 resolution, your math would look like this:
3220 x 2110 = 6,794,200
6,794,200 / 1,000,000 (one megapixel)
= 6.79, or 6 MP
The more megapixels, the sharper the image, so you’ll need a high-quality camera for high-quality photos. Some DSLR cameras offer as much as 40-50 MP. The camera in your smartphone only comes with 8-15 MP.
6. Play With Props
Don’t be so focused on the clothes that you create boring, portfolio-style pictures without any kind of drama or resonance. Bring props to the shoot so that your model can sit, stand, perch, recline and drape herself across various surfaces, and don’t be afraid to incorporate things from around the studio or within her purse, too. Sometimes a tube of lipstick can be just what you need to add realism to a staring-in-the-mirror shot.
7. Try Different Positions
Loom over your model as she’s lying down. Put her on a ladder and take the photo from below. Take turns standing and sitting on blocks, stools, and chairs of different sizes. The most dynamic photos are creative ones, so you’ll need to be willing to test yourself if you want your fashion photography to be the kind that stops people mid-flip through a magazine.
8. Adjust Your Shutter Speed
If you’re trying to capture someone on the runway, you’ll need a fast shutter speed to keep up with their strut. If you’re taking a still life of your model’s eyes or shoes, you’ll need to slow down the shutter speed to better capture the details of the moment. Like many things in fashion photography, the answer to “the best shutter speed” comes down to “it depends on the circumstances,” so play around with these settings until you find a suitable one.
9. Keep an Eye on the Clock
Makeup will melt. Hairstyles will droop. Your model’s arms will start to shake. These things are inevitable after hours of shooting, so one of the most important fashion photography tips to remember is that you’re always on the clock. If you can’t do it quickly, at least make sure that refreshments and replacements are available for round two.
10. Experiment with Different Light Sources
There are several types of light commonly used for fashion photography, including:
Each comes with pros and cons, so it’s up to you to decide which is right for your particular photo shoot. For example, tungsten lights offer gorgeous color rendition but can get too hot and heavy to easily transport. HMIs can illuminate large areas, especially at night, but they have large power demands.
11. Shoot All Sides and Angles
This is one of those fashion photography tips that’s routinely ignored by first-timers who want to capture every little detail of the model’s outfit all at once. Instead of trying to “have it all” in a single shot, experiment with different angles and inclines that only show parts of the outfit. See what the clothes look like from various slants and bends. See what they look like from the front, back, and sides.
12. Invest in Useful Equipment
A wind machine can help you with dramatic shots full of energy. An open-faced light can manipulate your lenses and reflectors in a unique way. A tripod can prevent motion blur if your model is walking down the street or tossing her hair. Having the right equipment can make all the difference in your final photos, so budget them in whenever you can.
13. Accessorize with Impunity
Much like props, accessories can have a big impact on the mood, meaning, and message of your photography. They can also make or break whatever aesthetic you’re trying to sell. Keep a box of them on hand so that you can make swaps and adjustments as necessary, and encourage your model to play with them or use them in whichever creative ways they see fit.
14. Choose Your Focus
When it comes to focus, fashion photography tips can range from “auto is the best!” to “manual is the only way to go.” The simple truth is that both have their advantages. If you’re shooting a professional mascara ad, you might want the control offered by manual focus; if you’re blogging about street fashion, you might prefer the convenience of auto-focus for candids and slice-of-life shots. There’s no right or wrong answer here. It all depends on what you’re doing.
These are just a few fashion photography tips to help you take clearer and more dynamic photos. What do you think? Did we miss anything? Do you have any advice of your own for budding fashion photographers? Sound off in the comments!