Fashion Photography for Beginners

written by:
Kaye Ford


Fashion Photography for Beginners


Fashion: Whether or not we like to admit it, we’re all interested in fashion. Every day, being fed fashion imagery within newspapers and magazines, or via adverts on social media and the internet. We can’t really escape it, so if you can’t beat them, why not join them? I have been shooting fashion since 2011, starting off on the runways of London Fashion Week, and since evolving into fashion imagery for brands and influencers. And while looking through the bible pages of a magazine like Vogue can make it can seem daunting to shoot fashion imagery, I’m here to offer plenty of hints and tips on fashion photography for beginners. Showing how starting in Fashion Photography can be the most fun a photographer can actually have.

Before I even start talking about shoots? It’s time to talk gear.

When I photograph influencers and work with brands it’s mostly on location, and while you can’t beat a good studio shoot, different concepts and locations require different gear. I mainly shoot fashion on a 50mm lens as I personally love the low aperture, but I will always switch to my 24-70mm F4 if I need a wider field of vision when on location (such as wanting to fit a whole landscape in, or composing a setting better so I can tell the story I want to achieve). Other people in a studio will often use an 85mm or a 70-200mm, but I love my nifty fifty.

On location I tend to utilise the natural light and this is where a reflector comes in handy. If I don’t have budget for an assistant, I will use a Lastolite trigrip reflector/diffuser as the handle makes it easy for me to hold, whilst shooting with my camera in the other hand. Any kind of reflector is a must, even within a studio: it’s always down to the lighting as to which is the best for you. Even sticking a mini reflector and keeping it in your camera bag as a ‘just in case’ is a great way to go.

In a studio? I tend to use the studio flash and softboxes provided with a studio I hire out, but in my own personal home studio I use LED lights, mainly the LYKOS LEDs. I have always utilised LEDs over flash. I can use flash but have always preferred LED due to the simple fact that most are daylight balanced already and the continuous light aspect makes it easier to see where the light is falling. LEDs also help me use lower apertures, even in a studio (that is possible with studio flash that offers HSS) and movement can be caught easier, as you can fire away without worrying about the recycle time of a flash.

Now you have the basic kit you need to decide what your concept is. I personally love fashion editorials that tell a story. That is much easier to do when on location, but you can do it in a studio also depending on how you light the shot and the styling. Props go a long way also. I love using props within a studio to add another element to the visual you are creating and it helps tell a story if the prop can coordinate with any colour scheme you are using or the style of the clothing.

Side note: when starting out you can obviously style the shoot yourself, but where possible try and get a whole creative team together for the best possible work! Your focus should be on the photographs, not the styling, hair and make-up. A lot of creatives will do ‘tests’ if it’s valuable to everybody’s portfolio.

Moving on from my side note. I started out shooting my friends and built up a semi OK portfolio. While I started to get noticed by people due the fact I was using LEDs for still photos, there are better ways to go about this. A lot of models will host workshop days and a lot of studios will host model days, meaning you get to work with actual models! Yes they charge, but working with a model who knows what they are doing is priceless. You can also contact model agencies to ask to test with their new faces. These are models who have been brought on board recently, thus needing a portfolio. Just show your photography portfolio to the agency, explaining what you can offer to that model’s portfolio. It is normally expected you pay the models travel for this kind of thing.

When working with an actual model, they tend to know how their body works and best angles. But you as a photographer also need to understand posing: how this will work with your setting and concept, as well as your composition for the shot. Research magazines and other photographers work but don’t directly copy. Look, appreciate and draw inspiration from others. The rule of thirds is always a good place to start for composition, thinking about where in the frame you want the focus to be. This is fashion photography, so also remember about how you want to show off the clothes. Got a floaty and long skirt? Cool, get the model to swish her hips to get some movement or get them to lift a corner up and snap it as it falls back down. This is where working with a model will show, as they will be able to keep facial expressions strong whilst doing any silly requests you may ask. Trust me, I once asked a model to head bang and it worked.

My one last tip for you is shameless self-promotion. I have a hashtag on Instagram and Twitter that I call #KayesPortraitTips. These tips can be applied to portraiture and fashion photography. They are little composition tips, or lighting tips with supporting imagery, so you can see exactly what I mean. My latest example? How you don’t necessarily need to see the subjects face within a portrait/fashion shot. The model has their back to camera or their face is partially obscured.

Every time I think of a new tip, I put it onto Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag so it can all be searched for! I also encourage people who have listened to my tips to take shots of their own and use my hashtag so I can search for their images and see what others are creating. It’s a little bit of fun within the community.

So, to sum it up into a list format for you for ease. My top tips for Fashion Photography are as follows:

1# You obviously need that to even start.

2# I love images that tell a story, so think of a concept to your photo shoot.

3# Shoot with professional models where possible and a whole pro team such as hair and makeup artist.

4# Composition of the shots should be a standard tip really for any kind of photography. But also research poses for models and how to show off the clothes on the model.

5# Check #KayesPortraitTips for regular inspiration!


Kaye Ford

Kaye Ford is a UK based photographer specialising in fashion portraiture. She started off documenting London Fashion Week runways and backstage at shows before evolving into fashion portraiture, fashion events, and working with fashion influencers.

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