Tips for Today’s Fashion Photographer
Rules are meant to be broken, but first, you must know what they are.
Concepts and techniques are the foundation of fashion photography. Rules have been set by those before you. If you are breaking rules which you don’t know exist, and happen to take a good photograph, you’re lucky, not creative.
But we both know that that is not true! Know about the history of fashion photography. Study techniques, cameras, fashion, art, use it as inspiration and twist it into your own vision.
Study the work of exceptional photographers and keep up with your colleague’s projects and the big fashion house campaign’s. Having more exposure to what is being done, and what has been done gives you the foundation to create something new. Mood boards are a good way to collect all of this research and show the direction your works should be headed. It allows for you to also see patterns in the things you admire which will help mold your style. The industry is all about being different, daring, and the seduction of innovation and unique perspective. Learn from others, but be you.
Rely on your creativity, not your budget.
Let’s face it, doing the unconventional thing doesn’t always earn you the big bucks in the beginning of your career. That’s why the term “starving artists” rings true. Fashion photography has been spun as an extravagant, expensive production. Fashion is a show, but it doesn’t have to be Haute Couture off the bat.
Sure, having a larger budget is freeing in a sense you can afford the stage and props the project desires, but learning to work with what you have is a great way to stretch your creativity. Use what’s around you, but maybe not in a conventional way. It also allows you to be more modest in your design and relying on your skills instead of the materials you combined to create an image.
I have been experimenting with cameras recently, mainly film and it has been interesting to see the results, even if I had my finger in front of the lens on occasion. Do yourself a favor and shoot more than you need to, and consistently.
Subjects look different through the eye of a camera than your own eyes. Shoot the things that you may be hesitant about. You’ll never get a shot if you’re waiting for everything to be perfect. It’s not about perfection. Imperfection and often mistakes give you the most intriguing and different results.
There is a difference between fashion photography and portraiture.
Portraiture is about the person, not the clothing. However, the goal is for the two to compliment each other, not outdo one another. Don’t just plan the style and setting, plan the model. Not everyone has legs for days and a hair and makeup team like the high fashion models. Most of the time the clothing speaks more when individuals who represent real clients are wearing the clothing. Chose a variety of models, not simply the most typical of beauties.
Represent the clients not just the fantasy.
There is a particular person that may come to mind as the persona of the subject in a fashion photograph, and this is most likely not your average client. At the end of the day, you’re selling more than a photograph, you’re selling a product. Something I hear very often from people is “I love that, but I could never pull it off.” Part of the job of a fashion photographer is to make someone want to buy what is being visually presented to them. Even if someone loves the photograph, they may not want the piece because the image you have created is so unattainable for them. You can diversify models, settings and found objects within the image to create something that is more relatable.
Bloggers do a wonderful job of creating relatable images. It’s easy for someone to put themselves in the average blogger’s position, but there is still an admiration for the quality of the image. Use drama to draw the viewer, but embrace commonality to keep the buyer present.
Light can come from more than studio equipment or sunshine.
Living in the age of technology our world is continuously glowing. Take advantage of any and all light sources, neon signs, computer and tv screens, projectors. Anything that will cast a shadow onto the subject can make for an interesting concept and often offers colors you cannot replicate with natural or studio lighting.
Graphic design is just as important to learn as anything else.
Layouts in magazines require layering of images. Photographers and graphic designers have a range of skills that mix and match very well together. It’s valuable to your clients to have skills combined which will also allow you more control of the end product and perception of your photography. Photoshop, collage, and graphic design are a big part of editorials nowadays. If you don’t know how to edit further than lighting and color, learn. There are many useful tools out there to enhance your images. Some of these tools may even be hand techniques if you aren’t skilled with computer programs. You can print your images and create collages, paint over them, take photos of the photos; just be creative, and don’t be afraid to experiment. The worst that can happen is it doesn’t come out the way you expected- but you will learn something, and you may just end up with your next best piece.
Throughout it all, just remember to study current and past events in the fashion industry, push yourself in new directions, and remember why you are taking the photograph.