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From Concept to Reality: Fashion Photography Tips on How to Plan and Execute a Fashion Photoshoot

The responsibilities of a beginner fashion photographer encompass various tasks, including conceptualisation, budgeting, talent selection, and location scouting; making it a challenging endeavour. But super important if you want to pursue a career in the dynamic and alluring fashion photography and beauty industries. If this is you, then the following ten crucial steps can guide you in embarking on this journey.

Fashion Photography Tips by London Fashion Photographer Lauren Marsh
Fashion Photography Tips by London Fashion Photographer Lauren Marsh

Tip #1 - Identify Your Source of Inspiration

Fashion photography allows for all creative possibilities, incorporating portraiture, fine art, still life, and street photography. Fashion photographers have the freedom to explore and capture virtually any subject matter.

For photographers new to the fashion industry, it is advisable to conduct thorough research due to the overwhelming range of possibilities.

Research the portfolios of renowned photographers in prominent fashion capitals such as London, Paris, Milan, and New York by accessing magazines or online sources.

Every renowned photographer has achieved expertise in their field and cultivated their unique artistic style. Therefore, it is crucial to carefully observe the specific elements in each photographer's portfolio, such as lighting, composition, and styling, to gain insights from the most accomplished professionals.

Explore the works of emerging local photographers, as they will likely become your professional competitors in the field. Identify emerging individuals engaging in innovative endeavours or utilizing novel technologies to establish their reputations. For instance, playing with the new AI function on Photoshop or experimenting with 3D.

Save reference images, save posts on Pinterest and/or Instagram and create a board, or make a mental note of the fashion shots that impress you, as they can help you determine your preferred direction in fashion.

Tip #2 - Generate a Moodboard

After understanding what you would like to create within your fashion photography portfolio, formulate a concept for a personal photoshoot. A recommended initial step is the creation of a mood board. Mood boards are valuable for consolidating ideas and presenting them to creatives that you want to team up with.

It's good to provide details and concepts for the various elements of your planned photo shoot, such as lighting, styling, hair and makeup, location, models, and pose ideas or the general vibe of the poses (serious, animated, smiley etc).

Any relevant images to support your ideas is beneficial to conveying coherently and effectively what you would like the outcome to be for the shoot. It also helps get your team's ideas flowing for the shoot before they arrive, so they can plan what they need to bring; or whether it even works for their portfolio in the first place, so there are no time wasters.

When creating a mood board, it is important to consider the available equipment and prioritise feasible images for your team and skill level.

"A portrait is not made in the camera but on either side of it." – Edward Steichen

Tip #3 - Acknowledge Your Talents

Fashion shoots require collaboration from a team of individuals. Photographers commonly collaborate with a team consisting of a model, hair stylist, makeup artist and wardrobe stylist to effectively manifest their creative concepts. Larger productions often involve the participation of set stylists and assistants. Identify the talents required within your crew to transform your shoot from conceptualisation to actualisation effectively.

After establishing the foundation of your team, it is necessary to identify and contact creative individuals in your local area. The fashion capitals are naturally full of wonderful creatives. I started off rurally and luckily found a couple of good people nearby who were at the same level as me. You need to be willing to travel wherever works best for the shoot, and the rest of the team too.

Social media platforms are handy for finding your team, Facebook has some great groups you can join, or you can use Instagram to search for pertinent hashtags to identify individuals with whom they aspire to collaborate.

Certain cities have established Facebook pages to facilitate collaborative photoshoots among amateur photographers, models, hair stylists, makeup artists and wardrobe stylists. These platforms operate on a time-for-proof (TFP) arrangement. Each participant in the session receives free labour in exchange for using the images in their portfolios.

If your city lacks a Facebook page similar to this one, consider initiating one. New creatives will value the chance to connect and learn from one another, given their shared status as beginners.

It can also be handy to contact nearby colleges/university course leaders to see if any of their students are interested in a TFP shoot.

Tip #4 - Create An Ideal Team

After creating a list of potential candidates for your team, reviewing their portfolios is advisable to gain a comprehensive understanding of their abilities and artistic approach. Collaborating with individuals of comparable experience levels is advantageous as it facilitates establishing a robust and committed network, fostering mutual growth and development.

Discuss your concept with them and be ready, and willing, to integrate some of their suggestions to complete the final hair, makeup, styling, and set.

Tip #5 - Optimise Your Time

Executing a shoot day can present logistical challenges. Ensure you possess a comprehensive understanding of the day's schedule to optimise your time effectively.

Establish the visual elements that will be captured. This will make sure you create the images you would like to enhance your portfolio or fulfil the requirements of a client's project.

It is important to provide specific details such as the number of outfit changes, hair and makeup touch-ups required, and the planned sequence of shots. When working outdoors, it is important to consider adjusting your sequence to achieve consistent lighting if you would like it to be consistent, of course.

Tip #6 - Scout Potential Locations

There are endless options available for selecting a location for your fashion shoot. Location options such as urban streetscapes, natural landscapes, studio setups, and indoor locations. Consider the appropriate location that aligns with your desired aesthetic and search for suitable venues. Bare in mind that some areas, such as Canary Wharf, Ulster Terrace near Baker Street and outside the Gherkin, are private and therefore you will (technically) need a license to shoot there. You can most likely get away with it - either a few shots or maybe you're lucky - but it will depend on the size of your team; and do not be surprised if you are asked to move on by security guards.

Several practical considerations should be taken into account when selecting a final location. Is there an appropriate location for the model to make a change or will you need a changing tent? If it's cold, are there nearby facilities to warm up? Being cold on a shoot is never fun, so be mindful of the models if you are asking them to wear bikinis or summer wear on the beach in England, in March.

Can all the ideas be completed in one location, or is relocation necessary? Is transportation required to access the location, or is it accessible to all individuals?

Determine whether to pay for studio access or obtain permits or releases for filming on public lands, such as parks or city streets.

All these steps are key, as many individuals will be dedicating their time to your shoot. Avoiding technical oversights is crucial to prevent disappointment.

Tip #7 - Prepare a Call Sheet

Once the crew, location, and storyboard have been finalised, the next step is to generate a call sheet. A call sheet provides essential information to the crew for the shoot day. The call sheet should contain the following information:

  • Date and time for the shooting

  • Concept of the shoot

  • Location (including, if necessary, any guidance on parking or access)

  • The responsibilities of each individual

  • Information about how to reach each participant

  • Provide a detailed schedule for the day

  • Provide any specific instructions or additional notes

  • Pay attention to the details

The quality of fashion photography can be compromised by an unhappy crew or faulty equipment, even if the ideas are highly creative. It is important to be attentive to the details to ensure the smooth execution of the shoot.

To ensure sustained shooting sessions, it is important to provide sufficient food and beverages for all participants. Additionally, it is important to provide individuals with periodic opportunities to rest. Maintaining creativity and optimal performance can be challenging when experiencing hunger and fatigue. Fruit, crisps and biscuits are not enough for a full day of shooting - brain energy is important.

Insufficient access to electrical outlets can also lead to difficulties for you and your team. Strobes, batteries, and hair styling equipment typically require electrical power of course. To ensure you are prepared, it is advisable to plan. If working on location, then check what outlets they have available and how accessible they are. For my shoots I usually take an extension cable to be safe - then you don't have to be sorry.

It is advisable to allocate a budget for miscellaneous expenses. To ensure adequate coverage, it is advantageous to be prepared for unforeseen circumstances, such as equipment failure or unexpected additional personnel.

Tip #8 - Create a Fallback Strategy

After extensive planning and preparation, including briefing the crew and organising equipment, a potential setback can arise where you receive a notification that the model cannot attend due to illness or unforeseen circumstances. If you have sourced a model from a model agency, then usually they do everything in their power to find a replacement model. Generally I like to book two models for any test days, just to guarantee that we will have someone for the shoot. Also it's nice having two models, as then you have the options for mixed shots as well as individuals; and varying hair types and skin tones.

What if it begins to rain, and the golden hour shots you had planned are no longer feasible?

When organising an outdoor shoot, it is advisable to monitor the weather conditions regularly. In the event of potential rainfall, it is essential to either make it work in the rain (umbrellas, more team members to help and going along with an interesting rain look) or consider an alternative location.

Maintaining contact information for creatives and models is advisable to have a backup option available in case of last minute cancellations.

It is advisable to have electrical tape, clamps, and pegs readily available for making immediate adjustments to equipment and, if required, the models' attire.

Tip #9 - Keep on Shooting

Maximise the number of photo shoots to explore techniques and concepts. With practice, you acquire the ability to take creative risks and cultivate a distinctive personal style.

While waiting, continue honing your skills with your loved ones, close friends, and yourself. While a model and crew may not be available, practising lighting techniques and becoming familiar with equipment can still be valuable for improving one's skills in photography.

Growth and experimentation is key to not getting bored, and challenging yourself with each test shoot benefits yourself and your future clients. Having watched YouTube videos, reading a couple of books followed by a half day lighting course, and 2 assisting days with a photographer friend - it is the only way I learned and got to this point, so I 100% stand by this being key.

Recap for Anyone Who Isn't a Fan of Reading Long Blog Posts

Do your research, learn what you like and how you can shoot it. Make moodboards.

Find a solid team/s that match your skill set so you can grow together.

Be organised and prepared for all eventualities.

Manage expectations.

Growth and experimentation is key.

Bonus note for those that have made it to the end: If you don't know how to retouch OR are still learning and practicing but not ready for portfolio usage OR just don't enjoy it - join a TFP group and find retouchers who are looking for their portfolio.

Hope this has helped, let me know if you have any questions or how you have got on in the comments below! I'm always keen to hear, and happy to give any additional advice :)

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