Become a fashion photographer
Top tips & creative ideas
Fashion photos are a popular genre of photography, but for those starting out it can seem daunting — where do you source outfits, how do you pose your model, how do you get the best lighting?
In addition to an extensive knowledge of lighting, you’ll need a unique style, creative ideas and the ability to work with a team. To help you get started I’ve put together this guide to answer some of the most commonly asked fashion photography questions, including how do you become a fashion photographer and what equipment is best for fashion photos. I’ve also provided top tips, some fashion photography lighting setup examples as well as some set ideas.
Being a fashion photographer requires a unique style, creative ideas and the ability to work with a team.
Having a strong concept is a key part of a successful fashion shoot. Once you have your concept, the planning can begin. If you’re working with a team, it’s important to meet with everyone to discuss your concepts and ideas. Having an idea of the outfits you want, the sets you’ll be using and the mood of the shot is important. For this, I recommend having pre-drawn sketches and mood boards to show your ideas so that you can clearly communicate your goals.
You don’t necessarily need big fancy sets and elaborate props for fashion photography. For our fashion photography courses I show you how to re-use the same set in a number of different ways.
These images use the same set but look completely different.
Another, simpler, option is to create your own backdrops. This can be done simply and easily using items you can purchase from your local art and hardware stores. Props are another way you can enhance the narrative of your image. These don’t need to be elaborate, but they do need to match the mood and theme of your image.
Working with a good stylist can make this stage of the planning much easier. For our fashion photography courses I work with fashion stylist Bianca Swan, who explained different ways of how to source outfits for fashion shoots.
For those who don’t have the budget for a stylist or buying outfits, Bianca advised approaching upcoming labels and offering to photograph their clothes or working on test shoots with other aspiring creatives.
There are a number of agencies that you can get in touch with about hiring models for fashion shoots and it’s important that you work with a model who is enthusiastic to your ideas and brief as this will help really bring your concepts to life.
Prices for hiring models depends on which agency you’re hiring from. Agencies such as Model Mayhem or Model Management include listings of models still looking to build their portfolios and you can usually hire models for a couple of hundred pounds per day. For photographers working on a budget, looking to develop their skills and build their own portfolios, these are good places to start.
A level up from that are agencies such as Sandra Reynolds or BMA Models, where you can hire models for anywhere between £500 to £1000. MOT Models is another agency, though their prices generally fall around £1000 per day. Then, representing some of the more famous names in the industry, are agencies such as Storm, Next Management and Select Model Management, where prices start from about £2000 upwards.
However, if you’re working on a budget, professional fashion photographer Daria Belikova (who appeared on our live talk show) said she’d often approached friends to model for her or used social media to create contacts. Another option is to get in touch with models who work independently, as these rates can be lower than going through an agency.
As with any genre of photography, I’m sure you’re asking “What camera is best for fashion photography?” Or “What lenses do fashion photographers use?”.
In our live talk show with Daria, she explained how she uses both Hasselblad and Canon cameras for her work. Both do the job perfectly well (although working with a medium-format camera does require a slower shooting process). However, most of her work on her Hasselblad is done with a 50mm lens.
Put simply, you can use any camera for fashion photography, the same way you can use almost any lens (you can learn more about the best lenses for studio photography here). The most important tool a fashion photographer can have is a good knowledge of lighting.
Lighting plays a major role in fashion photography. Your lighting determines the mood and feel of your shot; it's what can make your image stand out above the rest.
Depending on whether you’re working with basic modifiers like softboxes or more expensive equipment like Paras, there are a number of different fashion photography lighting examples that work for any budget. We have a wide range of fashion photography courses in our Fashion and Portrait sections that give a number of different lighting setup examples you can try.
This bold yet soft lighting style that you see above (which is ideal for catalogue shoots) was achieved using just one light and is a versatile lighting setup that can easily be adapted to get different results.
You can watch the full tutorial for this lighting setup here.
Another lighting setup that I've used on a number of occasions, both in studio and on location, is a three light setup using a Para 222 and two Para 88s. This produces a beautiful, punchy light that allows your model a great deal of freedom to move and pose.
To make it as a professional fashion photographer it’s important that your images say something, you have the ability to work with a team and a good knowledge of lighting.
Daria provided a number of tips during her live show.
Fashion photography tips:
1. Find an idea and get inspired by it.
Inspiration can come from anywhere — music, something you see in the street, even your little sister.
2. Find a good location.
This is a very important aspect if you’re to get a successful final result.
3. Prepare as best you can.
Use documentation such as mood boards to present your ideas clearly to your future team.
4. Build a team you can work with.
Concentrate on what type of shoot you’re doing and choose the artists who will help you best.
5. Collaborate and communicate on set.
Never forget that you are the photographer, which means you are responsible for the make up, hair, styling and so on. Keep a warm and friendly atmosphere in your team, make everyone feel comfortable. Remember that at the end of the day the first name people see on those images is YOURS, meaning every little detail has to be controlled by no-one but you.
For more tips from Daria, watch the full live show here.
From high fashion to street style, there’s a number of different types of fashion photography, but fashion photography can broadly be divided into a few main styles: editorial, high-fashion, catalogue and street.
Depending on your budget and knowledge, experimenting with the different genres can be a good way to develop your skills.
Editorial photography - Typically seen in magazines and adverts, editorial fashion photography typically aims to tell a story, with the model in a particular environment showing the outfits in different ways.
High-fashion photography - High-fashion photography goes several steps further than editorial fashion photography, but unlike editorial images, it’s less about the story and all about the model, expression, clothes and poses. Good use of lighting to create the right mood is essential.
Catalogue photography - Catalogue fashion photography is far less elaborate than editorial work, with the main aim being to show off the clothing. It’s purpose is to provide information rather than tell a story.
Street photography - Street fashion photography has grown rapidly over the last few years. Commonly set in urban locations, street fashion photography commonly shows models wearing popular styles of clothing in relatable ways.
This should provide a guide to help you learn fashion photography. For more fashion photography courses, visit our Fashion section, where I demonstrate a number of lighting setup examples and creative ideas. I also recommend visiting our Lighting Theory & Equipment section to learn about lighting and lighting theory, as this knowledge will really help you fully realise your ideas.
To learn more about fashion photography, make sure to take a look at some of our additional fashion photography classes. These classes cover everything from planning to set building, model casting and outfit selection as well as a number of creative lighting setups that you can try yourself.
If you’re looking to grow your lighting skills, you will also find the following classes useful. Here I cover some of the fundamental knowledge of studio lighting and show you how you can take complete control. Whether you’re unsure about different modifiers, flash duration or how to measure and correctly expose your shot, you’ll find all you need to know in these informative modules.
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