Being a fashion photographer demands a certain amount of authority. Do your best to project confidence and assurance when you’re giving your models directions. This isn’t about establishing a pecking order; if your subjects can tell that you’re stressed, anxious, or directionless, they’re not going to deliver their best work.
Before your shoot starts, draw up (mentally or on paper) a full shot list. Try to rehearse your composition and technique for each shot beforehand. It’s also a good idea to review your shooting location, props, and clothes in advance as well. With thorough preparation, you’ll be able to issue clearer, more coherent instructions to your models and assistants.
Remember that the highest goal in fashion photography is making the clothes look their best, so you should arrange your shoot accordingly. Hair styling and makeup need to be sorted out with an eye towards complementing the garments. Within this fairly wide limit, you can make more precise choices to achieve specific effects. If you’re aiming for a seductive or provocative look, for instance, you’ll want to over-style the hair and slap in darker colors with your makeup. The reverse holds true: If you want to capture an innocent or natural look, keep your models’ hair soft and their makeup gentle.
You may not have a lot of ideas for poses when you’re first starting out. As noted above, you don’t want to appear hesitant when you arrive at the shoot, so prepare yourself by reviewing fashion magazines to get a sense of what’s trendy at the moment. You don’t need to follow what you see in the mags precisely; think of their input as a starting point for your own ideas. Remember that asking for “breakdown” poses that emphasize angularity can make your shoot more interesting and also show off your models at their lankiest.
Studios make excellent places to do fashion photography because you get total control over the conditions you have to work with – particularly the lighting. Don’t take the studio environment for granted! Take the time to meter every area you’re going to be shooting in so that you don’t mess up your exposures and create unwanted shadows. Invest in a separate light meter rather than just relying on the one built into your camera.
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If a real studio is outside of your budget, you should still take some steps to create a controllable space that’s favorable for fashion photography. Clear out as much space as possible in a room with plenty of windows. Peg something white across your primary window (the one the most light is coming through) to diffuse it. Sheets work fine for this purpose, but fabric swatches or even netting might do the job. The result will be a bargain-basement soft box that will flatter your subjects.
Sometimes conditions demand that you shoot in low light. If you’re going to have to use a flash to meet your needs, try not to aim it directly at your subjects. It’s more effective to bounce the additional light off of a reflector or a surface like a wall or ceiling. Pay attention to the additional shadows that are created when you add a new light source; you want to keep them from unintentionally falling across your models. Experiment with your lighting angles to give yourself plenty of different options.
Most good fashion shoots have a sense of narrative flow between the pictures and sometimes even within individual shots. Props are one of the best ways to add this narrative sense to your fashion work. Don’t ever overlook the value of a mirror for this purpose. Besides affording you a lot of different narrative options, mirrors always make it possible to capture multiple views of your model in a single frame. Remember to position all of your equipment and team members to avoid unwanted appearances in the mirror. You may also need to bracket exposures when shooting a mirror.
An alternative way to inject a narrative into your shoot is to pick out a good location. Do your best to match your location with the style of the pieces you’re photographing. Edgy and provocative styles, for example, are naturally suited to urban locations, while natural seasonal fashions typically do well in more rural environments. Make sure you shoot from several different angles to find the best match between your garments and the environment.
Though it’s possible to take great fashion photos all on your own, it’s not always easy. Lighten the load by roping in somebody you can trust to be your assistant. You’ll find shoots move faster – and you can snap more shots – when you have someone else with you to move equipment, adjust lighting, tweak garments, and clear the scene.
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