Fashion photography is the business of photographing fashion. That means that the product we are selling are the clothes. It is important for the young, aspiring fashion photographer to understand this. When a client hires us, we are being hired on our technical ability of understanding garments and the way they will photograph. I see so many photographers who are just starting out and building their books and the weakest part of their photographs is the styling.
1. The clothes are wrinkled or out-dated.
2. The clothing is accessorized poorly.
3. The model doesn’t befit the style of clothing she is wearing.
All these factors are of key importance when photographing fashion. If I’m hired to shoot a swimsuit catalogue, I hire swimsuit models. If I’m hired to shoot an advertisement for a French couture designer, my model is going to be completely different. I will talk about how important the wardrobe stylist is in another blog. Right now I want to address finding the right model for the assignment. Recently I was hired by a fashion designer to shoot her small ad campaign when she opened her boutique on Melrose Avenue in Hollywood. This designer specialized in high end, very expensive evening gowns geared towards the Hollywood celebrity clientele. Think awards shows: Grammy, Emmy, Oscars. The red carpet is where you will see her work. Not at the local supermarket or dog park. Evening wear is a specific genre of fashion and it is highly dictated by couture. One of a kind, in other words. Her work was definitely unique in that she used spandex in the blends of satins and silks to create tight, body fitting gowns. Her dresses were very “unforgiving”. My model had to be rail thin to support the look and feel of the clingy, form fitting fabric. Any girl who had a little roundness to her frame wouldn’t work. I eventually decided on the girl you see in the picture, Shay, from Photogenics in LA. Shay’s 5’10” frame worked perfectly for the size 1 dresses we had to shoot for the job. She doesn’t have an ounce of extra weight on her body and she’s not curvy by any stretch of the imagination. She is, by all means, the definition of a couture and runway model. And she pulled off this look perfectly for the job!
One thing that is SO important when you are beginning your career as a fashion photographer is for you to understand the history of fashion. How many of you have picked up a book on the subject? Because I can tell you you are going to need to understand fabrics and how they respond to light. You are going to have to know the difference between an empire waist and a waistcoat (ie.right). When your client tells you in your pre-production meeting that the fabrics you will be shooting are velour and satin, can you automatically tell them which lighting would work best for those two fabrics? You better be able to. Fashion photography is a business just like any other. It is about fashion and you should know it inside and out!
Here’s some suggested reading:
1. The Complete History of Costume & Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day by Bronwyn Cosgrave
2. Fashion (Oxford History of Art) by Christopher Breward
3. 20th Century Fashion: 100 Years of Style by Decade and Designer in Association with Vogue by Linda Watson