A successful career in fashion photography involves more than just knowing how to use your camera. I learned that first hand on my first trip to fashion week in New York. I went there as an assistant with a local fashion photographer who I was shadowing while in college. I wasn’t really sure what to expect as I had never been to a fashion show. Having your first fashion show be one of the biggest isn’t all that bad I guess. It was a chance to see if this was the career that I wanted to go into. I had always envisioned myself shooting weddings or taking family portraits. This was until I met a local fashion photographer. He was originally from New York and had worked there for over 20 years. He gave me my first intern job and for that I will always be grateful. From that point on I knew exactly what I wanted to be and that was a fashion photographer. Here are a few tips that I’ve learned over the years from experience and by other’s in the industry.
I know this will probably sound like a no brainer, but the easiest part of your job is taking the picture. The problem with this easy part is that most photographers know how to take pictures, but don’t know how to use their camera. That’s why you should always learn how to use your camera properly. There are a few ways you can learn how to use your camera properly. You can teach yourself through reading manuals. These days there are online photography forums that you can ask questions and obtain feedback on how to use your camera. There is also an unlimited number of amateur and professional photographer’s blogs that can assist you as well. I prefer going to local photography clubs to get hands on help. I also recommend taking a local photography class at your local vocational school as well.
Having the proper equipment is essential to get good quality photos. You’ll need reflectors and diffuser’s with you at all times. You’ll need to make sure that you have monopods and tripods as well. When It comes to the proper lens to choose from. I don’t have a specific brand or model that I recommend. I think it’s more a trial and error process that you have to go through first. I always recommend you rent various lens and even different camera models. This will save you from spending money on a lens or camera that you don’t feel comfortable with. Most companies won’t take back a lens or camera after you have used it. The resell market never offers equal value to items you may have purchased. This is the case even if it only has a few hours of use on it.
Now that you know how to use your camera properly it’s time to find some models. I found the best way to get a model willing to do a shoot for free is find one that is trying to build their portfolio. This way you can practice on your technique and both of you can work on building your portfolio. You can try various websites on the internet that can aid you in your search. You might want to beware of craigslist when searching for models. This experience is invaluable in helping you with your lighting techniques and getting comfortable directing a photo shoot. The best part is once you’ve gone through a few shoots you’ll have quite a few photos to work on your editing skills.
No matter what genre of photograph you are in understanding how to use your lighting properly is extremely important. You will be working with different varieties of lighting such as natural and studio lighting. I prefer natural lighting, but I do find that most of my clients prefer studio shots. So, I decided that reflectors were going to be my best friend during my studio shoots. To keep expenses down in my first few years. I chose to use as much natural lighting as I could get away with. It gave me time as well to work on learning how to use various studio lighting. I was lucky enough to have a studio portrait photographer in my home town allow me to practice with her lighting. You can always rent lighting equipment to practice as well.
Editing your photos is another process that takes time and experience to produce a quality and professional final product. There are several different programs out there that you can use to edit your photos. I prefer Lightroom to edit all of my images. You can use either a Mac or PC as well with this program. How you edit your photos is really up to how you want your style to be. It may be a style that’s suited specifically for a particular client. It may be a style that’s total unique or one that you’ve seen other successful fashion photographers use. This is where you get to explore your creative side and determine how you want your post processed pictures to look like.
The fashion industry is in constant change mode. Different styles and tastes come and go with each year that passes. As a fashion photographer you have to stay familiar with the current trends. You need to be familiar with the various designers. It would also be a good idea to know the different magazines that cover the fashion industry. I know the biggest part of cover a fashion show in my early years where the contacts that I made. It’s extremely important to work on establishing relationships with others within the fashion industry. I call this self marketing yourself and it’s probably the second most important only behind the pictures you take.
A fashion shoot is not something that you can do on your own. You’ll need help in most cases with wardrobe changes or with hair and make-up. I have a great assistant that can do all of these tasks for me. Starting out I wasn’t able to afford an assistant so I posted an ad at a local college for an intern. This is a great way for both you and an intern to work on your skills. I was also lucky enough to have a husband that didn’t mind carrying all my gear for me. You would be surprised how much you end up having to carry to an outdoor photo shoot.
Hiring an agent was probably one of my least favorite tasks to complete. I was hoping that once I got my name established and had proven that I produced professional quality photos that the work would start flowing in. Unfortunately, that was not the case for me in my first 2 or 3 years. The big plus for me was that I did have a portfolio to present. Most agents aren’t chasing after you and in some cases it can be difficult to get them to even look at your work. Once you have an agent they will be the one going out and getting your work in front of designers and magazines. Highly recommend hiring an agent once you have a good portfolio.
I find that fashion photography is probably one of the most competitive genre’s of photography to get into. For me it took lots of time and lots of patience. It may not be for everyone and it there may come a time when it’s no longer for me. Listen to others that are willing to help you along in your potential career. Keep an open mind when others are critical of your work. Be aggressive in marketing yourself and your work. In the end all of your hard work will pay off when you see your work on the front cover of a major magazine.