Tips for a Fashion Shoot

Last month, I got the opportunity to shoot some photos for the new fashion line of a friend, and I was able to work with two wonderful
models. Photographing people is a challenge to me. I prefer the comfort of photographing still life, landscapes, random portraits. But shooting people requires a different set of skills, because most of all you have to be able to interact with your models. Here are some quick tips for a fashion shoot.

How to begin a fashion shoot? 
The first thing you want to decide on is the lighting. You basically have two options: do you want natural or artificial lighting? If you go for the latter, you need a lot of light boxes, soft boxes, white backdrops and basically a lot of flash. Since I have neither the equipment for nor the experience with artificial lighting, I went with natural lighting. I actually prefer natural lighting, it’s what I love working with most.

How to shoot with natural lighting?
With natural lighting, you make use of all the light around you. Whether you’re shooting inside or outside, always look for the sun or light first and see how the light is cast on your object or models. Is it harsh? Adjust your camera settings to the harshness of the light. If it’s too bright, lower your iso (in daylight, you can do with an iso of 200). If you work with your shutter speed a lot, make sure it isn’t set too slow. As for the focal ratio (the f of your diagram), this is completely up to you. A lower f-stop (and thus wider aperture) enables you to shoot with more light and, conversely, a higher f-stop (and thus decreased aperture) gives off a darker lighting. Because you are shooting portraits at a fashion shoot, you’ll want a wider aperture to create a beautiful depth-of-field effect (or bokeh to photographers).

The best lighting (for me) is when it’s not too bright and your models don’t have to squint their eyes when they’re facing the sun. It makes for the best photos. When we were shooting, the lighting was horrible. It was dark, there was a grayish cast everywhere (it was very cloudy) and it was cold and windy, which was definitely not good for the models. In this case, there really isn’t much you can do as a photographer other than trying to make the best of what you have. And it’s what I did. A lot of the photos needed post-editing, but you have to realize that not everything can be solved with editing. In this case, a re-shoot is the best (and probably only) option.

By the way, whatever your settings are for the iso, shutter speed and aperture, don’t forget that all settings are a dependent of one another. For instance, a lower iso always means you have to adjust your shutter to a faster speed or aperture to a higher f-stop. It is getting a little bit technical here, but I’ll post a summary of the technical aspects of photography soon.

What else?

Well, this is something you have to do beforehand. It’s the pre-shoot prepping. First of all, learn what your client (or in my case, friend) wants. Do they want specific poses or do they want a more natural shoot. A trend these days, is to shoot very natural photos of models, much in the way of shoots fashion bloggers have on their blogs. It looks fresh, it looks off-the-beat, it looks simple and natural. And it creates a less ‘fake’ effect than when you instruct your models to pose a certain way. Second, scout for locations. Know where you want to shoot, how the lighting is at that particular time and spot, and if it contrasts well with the colors of the clothes. Third, know what lenses you want to use and what you want to use them for. I brought with me a wide angle and two portrait lenses and a macro. The wide angle I used on wider shots; the macro for details and the portrait lenses for the rest.

And then what?
And then you shoot! This is the tricky part and where the shoot actually begins. All the prepping and stuff are all things you should have under control before the shoot. But that is not going to be the case with your models. Your models have their own way of posing, walking, looking and it may not be what you as a photographer are looking for. In that case, you must be able to instruct your models to do what you want. This means you have to step out of your comfort zone of silently shooting things to all of a sudden interacting with your object. It helps if you know the models, but that wasn’t the case with my shoot. So then the only thing you can do is to try and get to know your models. I try to have a pre-shoot talk with my models just to see what their character is and what sort of things they’re doing in life. It definitely helps them get comfortable and for you it’s a way to pin-point some subjects you can talk or joke about during the shoot. You never want your shoot to be stiff. It delivers the most posed and ‘fake’ shots. So always try to make the shoot ‘light’ and ‘airy’.

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Anyway, I hope this helps you with your fashion shoots. I am in no way an expert of fashion shoots or shoots at all in general. And there were definitely (a lot of) things I would have done differently with my shoot. These are just some quick tips. May the tips in any way be helpful to you. Good luck and thank you for reading!