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Stepping Into the Fashion Photography Industry

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It's hard to miss the slick fashion photography found within glossy magazines, boutique windows, and billboards. Fashion photography is everywhere! The satisfaction of seeing your own work printed 25 feet high feels fantastic, but before your next shoot can be seen on a billboard in the city, you have to get started from the ground up.

Getting Started

The truth is that there are many challenges to producing a successful shoot that have very little to do with photography. In the best circumstances a successful shoot will involve collaboration between you and you're creative team of stylists, and models.

You might be asking yourself "how do I get started shooting fashion, building my team, and doing so without breaking the bank"? Continue reading if you have been wanting to get started shooting fashion and take your photography to the next level.

Step 1: Building Your Team

A successful shoot is often the result of creative collaboration between the photographer and his/her styling team. If you don't yet have a team and want to arrange everything yourself be prepared to do plenty of shopping, and hope your model will kindly do her/his own hair and makeup.

I do not recommend sourcing everything yourself for two reasons:

  1. When you start taking on commercial shoots you will be expected to already have the contacts for your creative team.
  2. The more time you spend looking for a pair of classic white Levi's jeans, the less time you have to focus on photography.

Finding and building a team from the ground up will take time, but I've found that contacting people in your local area can often be a great way to get started. Students enrolled in fashion-related college programs need a portfolio the same as any young photographer. Post a request within the fashion program department and you'll be sure to find someone looking for a photographer.

When looking for models, I've found asking people I know, posting an ad on craigslist, or contacting a local modeling agency have all proved to work well.

You then need to develop a concept or 'look' for the shoot. In my example, the team and I have decided to shoot loosely around a dark blazer, bronzing makeup, and 5 o'clock shadow as can be seen in the image below.

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Step 2: Equipment Checklist

Since the goal of this article is to help someone get started shooting fashion I would like to bring up a few notes equipment wise. When just starting out, try to keep it simple. Producing a shoot with 3 assistants on set and the best gear available is convenient, but not necessary.

New photographers starting out often overload the set with more equipment than needed. Anyone serious about photography will generally already own the basic equipment which I'm using for this project. What is inside my camera bag you ask?

I'm planning on shooting outside on-location, using available light. I still need a minimum of equipment, which consists of a DSLR (Nikon d-90), 50mm 1.4 & Tamron 28-70mm 2.8 lenses, a large 40" (white and black sided) reflector, light stand to hold reflector, tripod, and Nikon-SB800 flash. It's a good idea to have a working lens at least 80mm for close ups, and for beauty/cosmetic work such as in the second image.

I'm packing light with respect to my photo equipment, but we aren't working alone anymore, and might need to pack items for our team. If you are not shooting in a well equipped studio be sure to ask your styling team what they need to work on location, and make sure to have it available.

For this shoot I needed to bring a foldable table, a few chairs, and of course refreshments. In this business first impressions are everything, so be sure everyone is taken care of and feels comfortable. Your next shoot might have anxious clients on set, so get in the habit of planning beyond what is needed inside your camera bag.

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Step 3: Scouting Your Location

Like most photographers, you have probably noticed dozens of great places to shoot around your city. It's very important to remember all these spaces if you plan on shooting outside on location and quickly need a "Plan B" - you eventually will!

I found my location at the exact time of day I wanted to shoot at but realized I would only have one hour of sunlight available. Be sure to find a backup location which will be easy to access, a short distance away, and be sure to know what to expect lighting-wise.

My backup location is all about rolling hills and sunset, but since the sun has already set it's going to look like a miller-time commercial. Fantastic! Lets start the shoot.

Step 4: The Shoot

When producing a shoot that requires the collaboration of several people, the number of emails sent, and phone calls between you, your team, and modeling agency can often be enormous. However, when the session finally begins it is always tremendously exciting.

The hair and makeup team are happy you have brought what they need to work, and while they work you are likely busy setting up and testing your equipment. When everyone arrived at the first location, the available light was warm, late afternoon sunlight.

I wanted to shoot using mainly available light and my reflector. I love shooting with available light whenever possible, however there are instances when you just plain need flash. This wasn't one of those cases. The main light used in the first photo is sunlight from behind the models, bounced into my white reflector to the front of the models. The exposure was roughly f8 @ 1/250th sec.

The second photo is an example of a shot that wasn't chosen for the final image but was a shot for the makeup artist. It will often happen that someone from your team will ask for a specific photo taken to show the work or detail they have created. Try to accommodate them if you can do so without taking too much time - they will be very pleased when you deliver the extra images to them after the shoot!

At about this time, the team and I had lost our light and needed to drive over to the second location. In the third image I had less than 10 minutes of light remaining and wanted one more photo. The main light is one Nikon SB-800, fired bare bulb towards the models in a high, butterfly position.

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Step 5: Getting Exposure

Once the session is completed, backed up, and post processed (which is a full lesson in itself), be sure to contact everyone that worked on the shoot and attach a few images. It is important to know ahead of time what photos, or prints, each member of your team expects to receive for their time, and be sure to deliver what was agreed upon promptly.

Besides updating your own website, print portfolio, and any social networking sites you share photos on, it's also important to find other sources of exposure (just be sure to have a model release before doing so). If you can produce a shoot with a local up-and-coming fashion designer you might send the photos to your local newspaper to be featured for creative editorial use.

Fashion bloggers are always looking to chat about new designers and fresh faces, so be sure to contact a few blog sites you enjoy and send them a selection of photos and a short email.

Ideally you would like your images to get better every time, circulate, and be seen. In time, doing this will help build confidence, develop your portfolio, find exposure, and create more chances to be seen by the client looking for someone like you.

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Thanks For Reading

The truth is that there is no one clear way to get started within fashion/beauty photography. I hope this article will make getting into this exciting genre of photography easier for those ready to take on new projects, answer a few questions about how to get started shooting fashion, learn new skills, and take your shoot to the next level!

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