How to Take Great Fashion Photos

June 29, 2010 | Mark Goldstein | Photography Techniques | Comment |

Fashion photography is a highly visible, exhilarating and creative line of work. It’s also extremely competitive. To succeed, you must breathe, sleep and live photography, and constantly focus on improvement. In this article, I will cover the unique mix of imagination, professionalism, technical skills and leadership abilities that a fashion photographer must employ.

Photography Fundamentals

You need a strong imagination to create compelling images that arrest the viewer’s attention. However, you can’t bring your ideas to life without a working knowledge of basic photography skills. Study lighting and composition, and explore how various camera settings affect your images. Keep practicing until you master these concepts.

Less is more. Throwing together too many visual elements can overwhelm an audience and obscure your message.  A simple image can contain multiple layers of meaning while expressing a clear and coherent theme. Produce uncomplicated photos using solid fundamentals before adding more complexity to your work.

A fashion photographer should stay up to date on the latest clothing trends. When new pieces make their debut, ask yourself how you would photograph them. Consider the technical aspects of potential shots, but also explore your creativity by thinking of unique ways to bring the subject to life.  

How to Take Great Fashion Photos

Plan Your Shoot and Prepare for the Unexpected

Develop a specific theme for your shoot and keep it firmly in mind throughout the day. Although clients will often provide specific guidelines, you’ll have a lot of flexibility in the execution. Plan which shots will help you accomplish your goal, and arrange an itinerary of poses, angles and props before you begin. Although preparation is crucial, spontaneity often produces the best work, so allow yourself the freedom to be creative on the fly.

Planning extends beyond the shoot, and an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Anticipate possible setbacks and then avoid them or create a backup plan. When devising a timetable for the shoot, give yourself enough wiggle room to compensate for the inevitable delays. Make sure you have everyone’s contact information, and keep replacements ready in case of last minute cancellations. Print hard copies of any crucial documents. Bring spare equipment and keep technical support on standby in case anything malfunctions.

Collaborate for Best Results

Fashion photography pools the talents of many people. A designer creates the clothes, and a model brings them to life. Make up artists, hair stylists, technicians and many others contribute to the final product of a fashion shoot – your image.

A fashion photographer does more than just snap photos – you channel the team’s efforts into a unified concept. Clearly communicate your objectives and then help everyone achieve those goals. Make sure they accomplish their work on schedule and stay true to your theme. Be friendly but firm. Ultimately, you control the shoot and are responsible for the outcome, so don’t hesitate to take charge and give direction.

At the same time, encourage team members to offer insight and add their unique flavor to the project. If you clearly express your creative vision, they will know how to contribute their talents. Above all, keep things fun; people perform better if they are comfortable and enjoying themselves. Leave some playtime and see what happens. We give birth to the images together.

How to Take Great Fashion Photos

Maximize Image Quality

I shoot in both RAW and JPEG-small formats. RAW allows me to blow the images up to billboard size if needed, and JPEG-small is better suited for Web images. RAW delivers enhanced picture quality and greater freedom and flexibility during post-production. It offers broader color palette selections, a variety of exposure adjustments that help evoke a desired mood or emotion, and the ability to greatly increase image size for larger format viewing and printing.

RAW images occupy a lot of space, so select a card with enough capacity to store an entire day’s worth of shooting. Using one card lets you avoid having to interrupt the flow of shooting or keep track of multiple sets of photos. A reliable card with 8-16GB of capacity is fine.

I like the energy that results from motion. I direct movement when posing my shots because it makes the models look more natural and creates interesting effects on the clothes. I shoot in short bursts of about six images at a time to ensure that my camera doesn’t miss a sudden ripple of the fabric or a slight change in the model’s facial expression.

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