The second half of day two of my seminars addresses the business side of fashion photography. I jump in by reminding my students that one of the biggest mistakes photographers make is forgetting that fashion photography is a business, like any other business, and the purpose of being in business is to obviously make money. That’s kind of a no-brainer, right? We are all aware that we need to generate revenue in order to survive. However, after reminding my students of the importance of remembering that this is a business, I then ask them WHY they are interested in pursuing fashion photography. I mean, why aren’t they interested in say, food photography or portraiture, weddings or cars? Aside from teaching at my seminars, I also answer a huge amount of emails. And again, I ask the people emailing me with questions about how they can make it as a fashion photographer, why are they interested in fashion photography as oppose to other avenues of photography. What baffles me is not very many people can answer that question. What IS fashion photography? I mean, the answer is right there: FASHION photography is about the fashion. It’s the business of photographing the fashion for either editorial or advertising purposes. It’s about selling the clothes! The CLOTHES!!!!
I always ask some pretty easy questions, like: do they know what Chanel was famous for in establishing her brand? Not only do most not know what she was famous for, some don’t even know Chanel was a “she” and they don’t know her first name! I asked them to describe the difference between an empire waist and a drop waist. No, they can’t answer that. Next? Describe what a bolero jacket looks like. No, they don’t know that either. Okay, then, tell me the difference between viscose and rayon? Nope.
Look, here’s a fact: you must understand fashion design. You are going to have to communicate with editors, stylists, art directors and designers in this career. If a fashion editor has hired you to shoot 8 pages for their next spring issue and tells you that the mood for that particular issue is a “Paris 1920’s, heavily influenced by a “Brassai” feel,” you better know what she’s talking about! Do you know what political influences were going on during that era that revolutionized the way women approached fashion? Do you know what designer’s were coming into the forefront of that revolution? (I just named one of them so that was an easy give away…..). Which hair style was vey popular, what were the women wearing in Paris during the ‘20’s and by the way, who is BRASSAI????
I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news here, but seriously, if you think that fashion photography is all about shooting half-naked chicks with hot bodies then perhaps you need to change direction and look into glamour photography. They are two vastly different industries. Does Maxim do it for you? Or does Numero? I haven’t looked at a Maxim in God knows how long. I’m not interested in the work. I’m not saying you can’t make money shooting that style of photography but it isn’t fashion. I shoot fashion photography. My blog is about fashion photography. I teach fashion photography at my seminars. And the one thing I will constantly insist on is the importance of understanding fashion design.
To make things a little easier for you I’ve compiled a list of some good books to get. You should read them inside out. Buy them so you can bookmark them, underline them, make notes and use these books like textbooks. You will refer back to them constantly over the course of your career. And the next time you tell me how “passionate you are about fashion photography” you better be able to tell me WHY! You know, my husband asked me this recently, “Do you really think Steven Meisel or David Sims love fashion and understand fashion design?” My answer is…yes. I really think you HAVE to love it and understand it in order to shoot it well and be successful at it. So educate thy Self and get ye to a bookstore or Amazon or I don’t care where or how but gain some strong knowledge on the subject and you’ll start to love it even more than you do now!
Fashion A to Z: An Illustrated Dictionary by Alex Newman and Zakee Shariff.
A great comprehensive guide to fashion.It’s an alphabetized guide where you can look up things like Empire Waist under E and find the definition.
100 Years of Menswear by Cally Blackman
Figure Drawing for Fashion Design (Pepin Press Design Books)
The Fashion Book by Phaidon Press
Fashion: The Twentieth Century by Francois Baudot
Icons of Fashion: The 20th Century Gerda Buxbaum (editor)
Costume and Fashion: A Concise History by Amy De La Haye
Fashion by Taschen Books
Vogue Fashion: Over 100 years of style by Decade and Designer by Linda Watson