10 Fashion Photography Tips

10 Fashion Photography Tips


Natalie Johnson fashion 1

  1. Fashion photography should convey an essence of authority, so your direction of the model(s) needs to be confident and self-assured.  Showing signs of anxiety, stress or lack of direction will invariably be reflected in the performance of your model so make the subject feel comfortable and involved.  Organise a shot list before the shoot and rehearse technique and composition for each shot in your mind. Prepare the location, props and clothes ahead of time and for a truly effective shoot be sure to communicate your agenda, objective and posing directions coherently and calmly.
  2.  Fashion photography is all about clothes and beauty, so pull all the elements of the scene and the model together to reflect this. For example if the shoot focuses on the clothes– use make-up and hair styling to compliment the garment – and vice versa.  If you desire a provocative or seductive look opt for dark, heavy make-up and over styled hair; alternatively for an innocent or natural feel choose subdued pastel tones, gentle make up and soft flowing hair styles.  Unusual looking folk bring interest and personality to the piece, whereas female models with large almond eyes, big lips, small chins and symmetrical faces are deemed “more commercial”.   
  3. Posing can be a tricky point to master but browse through the latest men’s and women’s magazines to target a few inspired suggestions as well as getting a grip on what is currently fashionable. Using ‘broken down’ poses or poses that require angular body shapes can add interest and edginess to the piece – as well as help to elongate body length.
  4. A studio is an ideal place to perform a fashion shoot because photographers can easily control lighting and stabilise conditions. If you are shooting in a studio environment remember to meter all areas of the scene to avoid unwanted shadows and the use of a separate light meter rather than the one in your camera, will offer a more accurate reading.
  5. Natalie Johnson fashion 2

  6. If you can’t afford to hire a professional studio and all the pricey equipment there is a way you can cheat at home. Clear a space in a room that benefits from large windows and peg a white sheet, net or fabric across the window. On a bright sunny day you’ll have yourself a homemade soft box – ideal for flattering even light.
  7. When shooting in low light or into the sun, you may require an extra light source. If all you have is flash then rather than shoot straight on, set it to bounce of a nearby reflector, wall or ceiling. Experiment with angles to create an array of effects and discover what works best for you and the scene you are shooting. Be careful to pay attention to unwanted shadows that may fall across the face and body.
  8.  Props are fantastic for telling a narrative within a fashion shot, but one of the best props to use is a mirror. A mirror can be a used to tell a story and act as an effective tool that allows the photographer to display the front and back of your model. Take a spate reading for the mirror and you may need to bracket your exposures here. Be careful to position yourself, lighting equipment and anything not to do with the shoot out of the reflection.  
  9. Location, location, location! Getting the right location is important if you want to convey a narrative within your shot.  For example if the clothing and beauty styling are edgy, hard or provocative you may want to consider an urban setting , alternatively for spring/summer and natural fashions find a rural environment like; a field, meadow, beach, woodland or river bank.
  10. Influence the image by moving around the scene and exploring which angles work best to full expose the garment. This could mean climbing a ladder, crouching low, working a slanted angle or moving closer to the subject. Think about what the message is here and create a composition to reinforce it.
  11.  Fashion photography is achievable alone, but to step it up a gear rope in a friend, family member or photography student as an assistant. Often photographers need an extra pair of hands to position reflectors, angle and reset lighting equipment, tweak the positioning of garments and clear the scene.

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Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) Natalie Denton (nee Johnson) is the former editor of Digital Photographer magazine, and is now a freelance journalist and photographer who has written for dozens of photography and technology magazines and websites over the last decade. Recent author and tutor too.

Some Older Comments

  • Tahseen Dilbar July 1, 2013 09:17 am

    you have done tremendous job. excellent work. i m really impressed !

  • Rudi February 13, 2013 09:55 am

    oohh... I wanna be a photographers!!

  • dhoho January 20, 2013 07:28 am

    There are some fundamentals for fashion photography, and although to shoot the models aren't very complicated, unless you've put them to practice, jumping into a shoot could be a waste of time. Your article is very interesting, thanks.

  • Yaseen March 17, 2012 12:03 am

    2yrs since my last post. Very educational site this :) That's round bout when I first started..
    Getting into wedding photography.. I only have a Nikon D50 and a SB800 flash. Any info/ sites that can help me improvise with what little I have. I understand that I will have to rent a back-up camera and flash for starters as well as a fast lens cos the 2 lenses I have are +F5.6.. Don't mind taking a few knocks at the beginning.

    But my next investment would have to be a good fast lens, what focal length would be condusive for Weddings?


  • Jam London November 11, 2011 01:30 am

    Damaging article. You forgot the most important thing. WHAT DOES THE CLIENT WANT.

    This article asks the PHOTOGRAPHER to decide what look he wants - does he want a sexy look? Traditional? Modern? Indoor? Outdoor?

    This is a fashion shoot, so that means it is not the photographer's own work - it is for the client.


  • clipping path April 21, 2011 05:36 pm

    fashion shoots look complicated when the photos are finally finished. The actual shoot may be very simple. Sometimes using one light and one model can have amazing outcomes. Little usually goes a long way when shooting fashion.

  • shabnam April 21, 2011 05:34 pm

    5th and 6th points are so important, thanks for valuable tips!!!

  • Nathan April 6, 2011 09:08 am

    The camera you chose is important, but high quality glass makes a much bigger difference.

  • Willoughbys March 15, 2011 06:26 pm

    The camera you choose for fashion photography will be one of the most important decisions of your career. It is an investment and it's purchase will impact your creativity. There are many brands to choose from, and important differences to consider in this process.

  • Arnold M. Wilson January 12, 2011 01:49 pm

    A great list of valuable and helpful tips and recommendations on fashion photography. It goes withoutsaying that even the most professional masters will find it interesting to read this post carefully. Honestly, I have read the article from the very beginning to the end and very much satisfied with important knowledge obtained. Hope that these advices will help most people master such creative art as fashion photography. Also thanks a lot to other users for leaving so many helpful comments on this post.

  • Zuhaib Ramzan Bhatti November 8, 2010 03:50 pm

    No Doubt the fashion photography is an art, A fashion shoot, according to the website Digital Fashion Photography, consists of many elements: a model, photographer, and stylist, plus makeup and hair artists. When you have a stellar fashion shoot idea, choose your model based on the theme. Make sure that you have a good model who can execute the shoot's aesthetic. There are many great shoot ideas that can you can customize and make your own.
    In Pakistan, when we move for shoot, either in indoor or outdoor we always take care also about the skin of model.
    Although fashion shoots look complicated when the photos are finally finished. The actual shoot may be very simple. Sometimes using one light and one model can have amazing outcomes. Little usually goes a long way when shooting fashion.

  • raj August 13, 2010 07:41 pm


  • raj August 13, 2010 07:37 pm

    hi i like to learn through this site,

  • Raffles June 29, 2010 05:28 pm

    Wow I learnt so much just by reading the article and the comments! And I have to disagree with @ Matthew-Dutile. I think Asia is catching up really fast so watch out NY.

  • Yaseen June 11, 2010 09:46 pm

    Doing mostly fashion. Buying my First flash, NIKON SB800. I’m using a NikonD50

    How do my camera settings communicate with my flash settings? Do I adjust my camera settings then adjust/select flash settings separately? Example once I’ve set my iso, aperture, shutter speed and taken the meter reading, do I then select my flash settings.

    Could u help me understand a basic flash setup procedure e.g. set flash mode, then select flash speed...? If I’m making any sense.

    I’ve learned that the focal length that my camera is on, affects the output of my flash?
    How does me changing foul length affet my flash output?

    Quote, “don’t shoot too fast cos u’ll blow up flash because all of the power u asking it to pump out by pushing it 3 full stops and zooming flash head to its max at 105mm .Which is another great feature.” ? I think I read this here. What does this mean? Sounds important.

    Quote this site,” I set my flash to high sync speed mode so I could shoot at 500th shutter speed. Why shoot at such a high shutter speed? So I could capture a nice blue sky and not blow out the background. My Fstop was 6.3 ISO was 160. Now when u use such a fast shutter speed you obviously need to demand more power from your flash. Also using an Fstop of 6.3 demands more power. So I set my flash exposure compensation to plus 3Stops ! I also set my zoom head on the flash to 80mm instead of letting it set itself to 44mm automatically. As u can imagine I was asking my flash to do a lot and demanding a lot of power. So I had a quantam batter pack attached to give it the flash and extra power it needed.”
    I‘m lost after, “Also using an Fstop of 6.3 demands more power”. Flash xposure compensation to 3stops? Zoom head? Set itself? How does setting itself ffect anything? Do I need a battery pack for my flash?

    Quote,” I then set the flash to ETTL and high speed sync mode, dialed up the flash exposure 3 whole stops and zoomed the flash head to 105mm. I was standing about 8feet from the model with an 85mm lens on the camera. Now this is the awesome part! I then set my shutter speed to 1/1250th of a second! My Fstop was 4.5 and my ISO was 200. I shot away and this was the beautiful result even under the midday sun.
    The high speed sync mode is my favourite feature. I now am not limited to syncing at only 1/1250th of a second. I can capture details in my background and control my contrast by using a very fast shutter speed.” Huh? What does dialing up flash exposure mean? How and why would u zoom a flash head? But could’nt a high sync mode of 1/1250th of a second overheat the flash?

    Being able to zoom the flash head from 24mm all the way to 105mm gives the photographer so much more control and room to play. How?

    Buying an SB800. I’m worried about it overheating. Heard that if u take too many shots in a row it could overheat. Apparently I’m spose to wait 2-3mins after doing 30 shots? Does this mean that need to pace my use of the flash/ allow it to recover?
    I don’t want it to overheat or melt down (

    Since theD50 does not cater for the commander mode, the only way(cost effectively) I have to shoot off camera is sync cable. I need a sync extension cable, cos most of the ones I’ve seen in the retail shops are very short. I’m Looking for a 10m or more at least.

    What is high sync speed?

    I’m quoting,” how to shoot wide open apertures with flash and hi speed sync”
    What does this mean?

    How do u keep your focus locked on subject, when the subject is moving ? focus tracking, and how does this work basically.

    How do u set your camera flash to light your subject/model relative to background ?
    Could one take meter reading off subject and then adjust setting within 3F stops ?

    Quote, “At mid day you’re probably gonna get an F/16 which is very bright. So that means your flash needs an output at least F/11 and that is asking a lot from an off camera flash.” What in the world does this mean?

  • Jennifer Moore April 17, 2010 04:39 am

    This is really excellent advice.
    Thanks, everyone!

    Jennifer Moore
    JenniferLynn Productions, LLC

  • Lindsay March 27, 2010 01:32 pm

    Referencing to the first paragraph, the model makes or break great fashion photography ideas. The way the model moves, poses, acts is all reflected into the lenses and into the photograph. Giving the model direction, especially when they are inexperienced is vital! Great story!

  • Ole M March 26, 2010 05:00 am

    Not the best article Ive read here !

    You miss a few main points about fashion photography:

    -A good stylist is 70% of the shoot, and way more important than getting a photography assistant for instance. If you are shooting fashion, you want the latest clothes, and you want to use items that will be trendy soon, not things that are cool while you shoot it. Stylist should help you gather up the clothes you need, and should help with concept / story.

    -A good model is - very - very - important. You can be politically correct and pretend you can shoot "fashion" with any girl, but in reality, having a fashionable model is one the most important things in a fashion shoot. You can create fashionable shots with any light / setting / clothes with the right model :=)

  • Anonymous March 26, 2010 04:03 am

    I think the article was well thought out and well presented. I would only like to add two steps. First, try to get a few shots DURING the model's dressing. I have sold as many of those as I have once they're actually in full fashion-ready condition. and second, pay close attention to the eyes. They MUST match/contrast the fashion. Even in formalwear, whether the hair is long and swept back or tightly weaved on top it will be generally acceptable. From my experience, the eyes MUST be 100% in focus and properly made up. Finally, I always try to do 3/4 facial shots. Looking straight into camera often pulls attention away from fashion and towards the ears.........a straight side view often makes the nose look like a ski slope. A 3/4 facial blends the nose with the cheek and has the benefit of keeping one ear out of sight and the other blended with side of the head so attention isn't as much on facial features as it is on the fashion/whole image itself.

  • jc March 24, 2010 08:10 am

    These two pictures are great examples of amateur fashion photography. Maybe if you included images of what professionals actually achieve, people would be better able to wrap their mind around the decent ideas you throw at us in your writing?

  • Matthias March 24, 2010 01:50 am

    Here are some of my first tries regarding fashion photography. Enjoy




  • kolkata fashion week March 23, 2010 05:37 pm

    It's a well written article. But there are certain points that I want to put forward....Firstly, lighting is an important part of photography, so you just cannot compromise with proper lighting. Secondly, you must make sure that the props that you are using is appropriate. moreover if you are a professional, you have to make a note of the client's choice and work accordingly.

  • Mark Fenwick March 22, 2010 09:02 pm

    Thanks for a great article. I've stumbled it and passed it on to my photography update members.

  • Ron Gibson March 22, 2010 03:35 pm

    I thought this was a well thought out article.

    @ Matthew- I do disagree with the NY comment, but I understand what you are saying.

    I do shoot fashion and I do not shoot in NY. Fashion photography is shooting fashion- for advertisement in magazine, in store, or on the web. This is true of any situation where a company or designer is trying to market their product. Fashion photography is advertising, plain and simple

    Jason brings up a very important part of fashion photography on the other side of the spectrum. Runway work. It's a whole other beast in the industry. And yes the lighting always sucks. I compare runway shoots to sports, you are never where you want to be, you never get the shot you want, it's best to shoot 1000 shots and hope that you actually had one decent shot of each outfit. Can you tell I don't like runway work? There is something constricting about having to stay in one spot all night shooting from the same angle and rubbing shoulders with 2 others doing the same thing.

    For fashion photography it just comes down to what the client is looking for, and the true talent is making the client happy by getting their vision in the finished product. They chose you because they like some aspect of your work but what they want is their vision of a shoot, and they believe you can make it happen for them.

    Your client should (and will want to) be involved at every stage of the shoot from initial planning, to model selection, to examining proofs, to re-examining proofs, and finally with the end photo selection for their marketing use. One thing you shouldn't do is make this your shoot and impose yourself too much. You run the risk of the client saying no to the finished work- not because there is something wrong with it- but because it wasn't what 'they' wanted. This is a very important point that you should always keep in mind. You might dislike the photos, the models might not appeal to you, and the clothing might be something you would never wish on your worst enemy- but this is what you are shooting today, and if you can pull this off you will have another 5 clients asking for you to shoot their next line.

  • Matthew Dutile March 22, 2010 09:38 am

    I'd like to add one more thought. Unless you're working with NY models, your fashion photography is just pretend fashion. It's a sad thought, but true.

  • scott March 22, 2010 08:51 am

    I agree with a few of these points, but disagree with others. Overall this is a wonderfully written article with a lot of good information. However, lighting is KEY, and you cannot just bounce a flash around and hope something magical happens. Personally I feel that "flat light" is a horrible thing in photography, and I would rather have something more dramatic than an evenly exposed image that has not life to it.

    I submit my fashion shot for example. Three lights and no props.

    I feel that most props distract from the target of the shot, that being the fashion. Just my opinion, but I would read another article from Jason quite happily in the future. Nice work and I appreciate your attention to details, even if I feel a few are more important that others.

  • Jason Collin Photography March 22, 2010 04:30 am

    Even with a studio, fashion photography can be a challenge. I have photographed a few runway shows for a local modeling troupe, and they always decide to very poorly light these night events. Props and background objects can definitely help make a great fashion shot, that is a tip I will keep in mind more myself for next time.

    Here is a brief rundown of my pre-fashion show shoot checklist an one example shot: