A Fashion Photography Guide

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Calling all fashionistas! Wouldn’t it be fabulous to combine your passion for photography with your passion for fashion? 

Oh, wait. You can!

Fashion photography is a large industry that will only keep getting bigger. And it doesn’t only include photographing high fashion in New York or Paris. Local business owners, friends selling vintage clothing online, and even kids who love to play dress-up need fashion photographers just as much. 

Here’s how to learn the specifics of fashion photography and get your start in this exciting genre!


The Basics of Fashion Photography

Every genre of photography is a little different. Technical skills, equipment needed, and technique can all vary — sometimes by quite a bit. 

On its surface, you might assume that fashion photography and portrait photography are pretty similar. That is, you’ll use the same equipment and techniques to photograph both types.

However, though the scenes are similar, the subject is completely different. In portraits, your subject is the person. You might fill the entire frame with their face so that their clothing isn’t even visible and it is still a portrait but there is no way it could be a fashion image.

In fashion photography, your subject is the clothing, not the person wearing it. If you are photographing the clothing as a product, the entire purpose of the image is to show off the clothing and make the viewer desire it. 

Gear

Gear can be all over the map in fashion photography. You can take excellent photos with natural light or you might set up multiple studio strobes or flashes with giant softboxes to get “perfect” lighting. It depends somewhat on your budget and the purpose of your images. 

For lens choice, many fashion photographers choose a 50mm. It is an inexpensive lens that offers a true-to-life perspective. You can get good bokeh if you like and it is relatively fast for shooting in lower lighting conditions. (Though most fashion photography is not shot in low light). 

Some fashion photographers prefer a 35mm. This can be helpful for shooting in small spaces since spare bedrooms or other spaces are often turned into makeshift studios. 

Posing

Posing is very important in fashion photography. Depending on the garment, you’ll want to show off how it gently hugs the curves, shapes and supports the body, or provides all-day comfort. The right posing will communicate these ideas.

Though the model is secondary, you want to convey that the clothing makes the model look good. Flip through Pinterest or fashion magazines to get some ideas of poses used by professional fashion photographers. 

You may notice that females are rarely photographed standing straight and facing the camera. Kicking a hip out to the side, resting the weight on one leg, and turning about 45 degrees to the camera help accentuate her curves. This dimension will give more life and depth to the clothing so keep this in mind while photographing. 

If you’re working with professional models, you’ll find posing to be super simple. They already know how to position themselves and you won’t have to worry about it too much. 

If you’re working with newer models, you have to be prepared to give more direction. Bring a few reference examples on your phone or (gasp!) printed off on paper so you can show the model what you want. 

Composition Rules

Compositional rules for fashion photography are more or less similar to portraits. However, don’t forget what your subject is. 

Negative space around the model is a great technique, especially if you want space for ad copy, but you don’t want to leave too much negative space and make the clothing too small. People don’t want to need a magnifying glass to see the clothing details. 

Even though the person isn’t the focus, you still want to be aware of where you crop the image. As in portrait photography, you should avoid cropping the model at joints (knees, wrists, ankles, etc.) 

Full body shots are more common in fashion photography because you want to show off the clothing. However, closeups are also great to better capture details. 

Use lines or curves in the environment to “point out” your subject or frame your subject with doors, windows, and other strong shapes. 

Working with Your Model

Again, though the model is not the focus, you still want him or her to express the right vibe. You want them to exude happiness, comfort, relaxation, or whatever feeling the clothing is supposed to inspire. 

A nervous model isn’t going to produce the results you want. 

When you start shooting with a new model, don’t dive into the heavy stuff right away. Chat a little first to put them at ease and let them get to know you. 

As you start shooting, it can be helpful to take more posed portrait-style images first. As the model relaxes you can move into more candid-looking poses with the model sitting, standing, and walking around. 

Actively look for positive feedback to give to your model. Avoid negative words like “no” or “not like that”. Redirect instead and lavish praise on the things they’re doing right. This will help them look more relaxed and happy in the images. Stressing your model out is definitely not a great way to get amazing images!

Once both of you are really in the swing of things, you can whip out the Pinterest model poses you wanted to try. 

Have fun with it! Your (and especially your model’s) excitement during the shoot will come out beautifully in the final product.


Photographing Clothing to Sell Online

A lot of the fashion photography work you’ll run into these days is with small business owners selling clothing online. 

Many people think it is sufficient to show the clothing spread out on the floor. However, to really be successful in clothing sales online, you need images that are more true-to-life. 

You can probably attest to this yourself when shopping online. It is easier to envision how the clothing will look on you when a person (or at least a mannequin) is wearing it or when it is spread on the floor.

In this type of fashion photography, it isn’t always necessary to have the model’s head in the shot. A plain background is usually best and you want to keep props to a minimum if any. 

The point of the image is the piece of clothing and you want to fully direct the viewer’s attention to the garment. 

Sometimes, you might be the only model available for the images. In this case, all you need is a tripod and a method for remotely tripping the shutter. 

Photographing yourself can be easier for getting the poses you want or harder because you can’t see what you’re doing. 

A simple way to help with this is to download your camera manufacturer’s app. Major camera manufacturers all offer an app that will allow you to connect your smartphone to your camera (if it has Wi-Fi abilities). 

You can see what the camera sees on your phone screen and even adjust the settings before taking a picture. Put your camera on a 2-second timer to give you time to hide the phone before the shutter clicks.


Photographing Kids

Fashion photography doesn’t always have to be about making money. It can simply be a fun way to spend time with your kids or grandkids. If the children in your life love to play dress up, they will love that you get involved and take pictures of them in their fun outfits as well. 

This type of photography blurs the line between portraits and fashion photography. While being models, your kids are still somewhat the stars of the show! 

The main thing to think about when photographing kids is to keep it fun and lighthearted. Even if you want some serious faces as part of the shoot, let them get silly first and it will be easier for them to calm down once they get the wiggles out. Both action and candid shots add depth to your shoot and make things more fun for the kids. 

Have fun planning the shoots. Choose backgrounds that support the costumes in terms of mood and color or help tell the story. This is key for producing professional-quality images. 

Photographing your kids can serve more than one purpose. Spending time with them is always awesome, but there’s nothing stopping you from using the time and images to help build your photography business. 

This is a fantastic way to practice photographing fashion as well as build a portfolio you can use to attract clients. It can also be a great source of social media content you can use to connect with your followers and find more clients.

Make A Splash in Fashion Photography

Fashion photography is an exciting genre where you can have a lot of fun. Whether you’re creating product images for an eCommerce store or designing elaborate costume shoots, it’s an awesome experience!

Interested in learning more about different types of photography? Check out more of our content!

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