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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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