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   How to shoot fashion

Photo Fashion Pro Secrets

How to Shoot Fashion in the Studio...
photo: Roger Lewis © 2003/11

How to you get started as a Fashion Photographer..

I think the most important thing is not only to be totally dedicated to the profession and feeling that you have that flair that this job needs, but always to keep studying fashion magazines, catalogs, brochures and other fashion promotional literature and to keep on practicing your skills as a photographer.

A good way to find these answers is to try to work out how a photographer might have covered an assignment that you may have been reviewing in a fashion magazine, trying to work out what equipment he might have used and carefully studying his technique and how affective it is in illustrating the fashion shoot he covered and in your opinion was he successful in doing the best work, or could you see room for improvement in his results.

The trick is to keep on practicing you skills, especially in the Studio, weather it's your own studio or a hired studio, together with practicing shooting on location and learning the technical stuff, using stand in models to try out these ideas and improving your own technique untill it's almost second nature.

Someone asked me how I got started and when did I get my lucky brake, well I had done all of the above and my head was 'flat' after hitting it against a brick wall for so long, that's when it happened...

Sexy Fashion Shoot in a field of Yellow Flowers!

Check Out Maayan's Exclusive Photo Club and See All Her New Photos ...

The real brake came when the winter 'flu' had caught up when the photographer that I worked for was running a temperature of 100. His client phoned me to ask if I could take over the shoot for a fashion magazine for him.

I was so ready and terrified at the same time just the thought of a 'Shoot' with top London fashion models for a London fashion magazine and working directly with one of the bigest names, at the time, on the London fashion scene ...almost wiped me out.

But then things started to fall into place, I had in fact worked with the 'Big Man' before, but as an assistant, so there was some respect for my work and previous efforts and he was about to trust me with the whole shoot. I also knew the models that had been booked for the job, from my experience as an assistant to the photographer who was sick. I also knew the lighting set-up, 'off by heart', because I had set up the lighting many times before for my boss.

When the models arrived, they greeted me as an old friend, this helped the client to feel more at ease. I took the models to one side and asked for special help, in so much, that they might cover my lack of practical working experience. They worked so hard and all the skills I had learnt fell into place, at the end of the shoot I had 'arrived'... PURE ADRENALIN !

The reason for the above short story, is to make you realize that the best possible way to become a pro' photographer is to go work for one. It's probably how more than 70% of the top photographers make it!

The advantage: With hands on experiance, you'll learn more in one week than you can possibly learn at college, or from a book, or a website, in one year.

The disadvantage: You'll be paid almost nothing for your services and on top of that, a job like this is almost impossible to find.

It would be a good idea to check out all the top studios and try to present yourself for an appointment. Be prepared to be disappointed, but be positive and keep trying, sooner or later someone will recognize your talents - and "your in".

However, if getting a job as an assistant with an ad/fashion studio or photographer is out of reach for the moment, why not consider a position as an assistant with a good "High St" portrait and wedding photographer, meantime practice your skills, also at the same time keeping your eyes open for an opportunity with an ad/fashion studio.

Seek out your opportunity, study photography, check out your local photo art training courses, or evening courses, (if you are working in the day), keep reading fashion and photo mag's, also check out galleries in your spare time, set yourself assignments, and be critical about the results you produce.

It's most important to try and see if you can work for an established photographer as his assistant, it's really the only way to learn.

FACT: It's the way most well known photographers got started.


NB. All preparation's should be the same as for head shots)

POSITION: Your 'Key Light', (brolly), about two meters or so, from your model and slightly higher to the left or right of your camera position.

NEXT: Position your two large reflectors the opposite side. It is not so important to use a hair light in fashion work, but your background may need some help with lighting up. You should also use a second light bounced off the reflector on the opposite side of the key light, with the output of the flash set at half power, this will assist the reflectors when filling in the shadow side of the model.

WITH FASHION SHOTS: Unlike Head Shots, you should be trying to get more animation, (body movement), but remember to check the garments to see if they look ok. Again, careful preparation of your fashion shoot is essential to success, you may need somebody who is familiar with the garments, to be on hand to help.

IN FACT WHEN WORKING as a professional, you should have, as I always had, a stylist that knew about the garments and prepared them for the shoot and was on hand all the time during the shoot. I never worked without one and that applies to in the studio and on location, even on assignments abroad the stylist assistant was one of the most important people in the crew.

NOTE: THE FOLLOWING INFO is more detailed and intended for the professional.

WHEN I HAD A FULL TIME proffessional studio in London, I used a regular set up for my studio flash equipment for shooting Fashion and Head Shots . There were two main reasons for this uniformity, first the obvious reason of a quick set up, whereby working with the studio flash units deployed at the same distance each time would speed up the setting up time and secondly if your experienced assistant was sick or on vacation or where a new apprentice was assigned to you it was whole lot simpler to explain to the novice who could quickly learn this way.

the basic lighting set up I used in my pro studio for shooting Fashion and Head Shots.

THE KEY LIGHT WAS a "Beauty Dish", this is as it sounds, a large dish about 1 meter or so wide with a flash tube pointing inwards, the same as a umbrella, the difference being it gives a slightly sharper output of light. The flash packs that we used were "strobe" units and the output of the main beauty dish key light was set to full power 2,000 joule. To make sure that the beauty dish was set up at the same distance from the model each time I had attached a piece of string at the top of the light stand, marked off at about one meter distance for head shots and a second mark at about 2 meters for fashion shots, which was used to measure the distance between the flash and models face.

BY THE WAY, it would follow that you would automatically know what the aperture setting would be, however I always carried our a light meter reading just to make sure. This would also confirm that all flash units were firing correctly and were set to the correct power outputs.

EVEN THE POSITION for the key light and other lights were marked on the floor with tape, so they could be assembled on the same spot quickly and only moved around as required while shooting. Thus allowing you to return quickly to your standard lighting set up.

BELIEVE ME THIS WAS A BIG ADVANTAGE when working under pressure, eliminating the possibility of making mistakes. In the process of returning to your standard lighting set up, you also returned to your standard aperture setting running a checklist and further meter readings to confirm everything was A OK, thereby enabling you to quickly precede. Remember Model fees are expensive and your client is watching your every move, their is basically NO TIME or tolerance for technical mistakes and time wasting.

I HAD TWO HUGE REFLECTORS which I used with the flash set up in my studio, measuring eight feet high and eight feet wide each or which were consisted of three panels that were hinged together and set on wheels so you could use them as a curved reflector, maximizing the the spread of the bounced flash to the subject. These were set up each side of the camera position and each reflector was lit separately by one flash pack pointed into each reflector. The total power output from each flash pack was 1,000 joule, both flash units were set at half power output.

NOW YOU WILL NOTICE AT THIS POINT that the Key light was a 2,000 output and the total fill-in flash was two times 500, giving you a total Lighting ratio of 2 to 1.

THE BACKGROUND WAS LIT by another two 1,000 joule units one each side of the background, both set at half power, with an additional clip light, two meters high, for the models hair also set at 500 output, if required.

OF COURSE THERE WERE many exceptions to the rule which were used and to give you some idea another photographer working in the same building used a different and simpler set up, rather like the set up I first talked about at the top of the page.

HE USED AN UMBRELLA, set at about 2,000 joule output, with two large reflectors the same as mine with only one flash unit bounced into one reflector, possibility set at either full power of 1,000 or half power at 500. Keeping in mind his studio space was a lot smaller than mine with white painted walls and the ceiling was much lower. Whereas, my studio was a huge unit, so much so that I had a suspended ceiling measuring 10 feet by 10 feet, constructed of white canvas stretched over a dexion lightweight frame attached to ropes and pulleys which you lowered to the required height, thereby giving you a lower ceiling.

THE SUSPENDED CEILING, together with the reflectors and background, were in effect creating a room within a space. The other photographer was working in a smaller sized studio. The reason why I worked in a large size studio is that I use to shoot room sets, rather like a film studio space, it also had an overhead gantry where you could hang lights and props for carrying out this kind of work.

IF YOU GET TO setting up your own studio it would be to your advantage to note the above details and try to apply them.

BACKGROUNDS: If you want just plain white or color backgrounds, most of the pro' photographers use:-

COLORAMA: Background paper, available in different widths and lengths. This background paper is somewhat expensive, so to start with, go for a roll of white and if you can afford it, a roll of sky blue. Try to get a new roll of a different color, for each commissioned job you do, and in this way you will build up your background stock. Tip for keeping your background paper clean, before your model steps onto the set, cover the bottom of her shoes with sellotape, this is standard practice in all pro' studios.

BACKGROUND PAPER SUPPORTS: You will need a pair of brackets to support your background paper. Another alternative is to use "Bi-Poles" which lock between the ceiling and the floor and can be positioned and later removed . (Ideal, if you are using your living room or garage as a studio). Check out your pro' photo store, but regrettably, these items you will not generally find on the second hand market.

CAMERA HEIGHT: If you are shooting fashion dresses/coats etc., the camera height should be, as a general rule, the same height as your knee. But rules are for breaking, as 'flicking' through any fashion mags', will soon tell you, almost anything goes. However, it is a sound idea to check out fashion mags', to give you some inspiration and even if you copy someone else, your interpretation of the same shot will be different.

MODELS: You will soon learn that a professional model is worth her weight in gold and on an hourly basis, costing about the same!

FINDING A MODEL: Well, if you have the cash, contact one of the big agency's. However, if you are on a tight budget, keep an eye open for an undiscovered model. Maybe, place an ad in your local newspaper. It might be a good plan to contact some of the model agency's anyway, letting them know that you have set up business in their area, and that you are willing to shoot model test shots, to help their new models get started, at a fraction of your normal fee, plus cost price only for film, processing and prints.

SOME YEARS AGO: I use to get a lot of work like this and although some of the new models were a little inexperienced, first, it was a great way to practice a new lighting set up, and second it was more than worth it, when every so often a great one came along and you got to be one of the first to shoot pictures of her.

YOU MAY, however, have to make an appointment with the model agency, to show them some of your work. Back to square one! You don't have work to show, because you don't have models to shoot!

YOU COULD offer to shoot for free and if your using digital, all your using is time not money for film and processing.

THIS IS NOT THE TIME TO QUIT! The fashion scene will always need creative men and women dedicated to shooting fashion assignments and if you have the flair, why not you!

TRY to build up your portfolio, shooting people you know, if your active, sooner or later YOU will be noticed. Develop your own style, look at other photographers work and take part of their technique they may have used, and try to use it your shots, perhaps in that way you may develop your own technique, that everyone will want to copy.

DIGITAL IMAGING, altering the image on your PC after the shoot.  Much has been said about this subject and in fact anybody with PC. imaging experience can digitally alter any image and come up with, (often, only in their opinion), a "masterpiece".

BUT: Let me say right now, unless your experienced in the art and techniques of Ad/Fashion or still-life photography, and can produce under studio and location conditions the desired results "in camera" required by your clients, you will aspire only to a PC. expert altering other photographers images for the rest of your life. Of course, to day shooting in digital is an available option and not related to the above comments.

YOU COULD PUT IT ANOTHER WAY: If your not "up to speed" with your photo techniques, your PC wont help much.

HAVING SAID THAT: Over a decade ago, Pro' UK. photographer Phil Selfe, pioneered in-studio digital photography and now only shoots digital, using specially adapted cameras fitted with a digital back, such as the medium format Hasselblad camera, (image size 6x6cm.), and a 5"x4"inch view camera. The big advantage of this is you can see the results immediately on screen. He now advises and works with clients helping to set up their new digital studios. Check out what he has to say on our Digital Photography page.

Of course buying the Pro' Digital Imaging Camera and equipment may require you to re-mortgage your house first!

CHECK OUT below, the comments, use and opinions of two top UK fashion photographers, do you have any comments.

One of these well known UK fashion photographers, Nick Knight, always digitally manipulates his images to create the effects he wants. But to quote the words of another famous UK photographer, David Bailey, "It makes a good picture look average and a average picture look poor"!

Roger Lewis © '2003 - 2012'


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