Yves Saint Laurent and Model Karen Mulder. Photo by: Helmut Newton
All three of these are fundamentals needed in fashion photography. Yet these are often missed or overlooked by new photographers in the field or those fresh out of school. I’ll never forget my first photography class, we were asked to to give a reason why we decided to pursue fashion photography. Many students couldn’t come up with a reason. The most common one was “oh fashion photography seems cool”, or “I get to shoot beautiful models and do whatever I want”. Needless to say after the first three weeks into our semester half the class dropped out after finding out that fashion photography isn’t all that meets the eye. A lot of hard work goes into making that ever so perfect image which master photographers make seem all too easy .
Photo by: Helmut Newton
To me it’s very important for young fashion photographers to be aware of the work of their predecessors and also study the impact that such work can have on our field today. Great artists and photographers often refer back to their mentors and famous images that helped shape their creative eye. Fashion is ever so changing and so is fashion photography, many new photographers I talk to give me blank stares when I mention names such as Horst P. Horst, Avedon or Newton. It always baffles me when young photographers don’t know the work of such masters and the fact that their work helped shape the very field we all want to work in. Avedon brought movement to the pages of fashion magazines which were so posed and stiff before he came along and Helmut, well, Helmut brought out the kink and free spirit in everyday fashion. Being knowledgeable about such work and photographers in my opinion helps greatly in shaping and molding a brand new photographer. After all, how can we move forward in a medium where everything has been done at least once already?
Photo by: Paolo Riversi
The historical aspect aside , fashion photographers should love fashion! Live it, love it, and dream about it. I mean why else would you want to be a fashion photographer? You can always find photographers such as Mario Testino and Patrick Demarchelier front row during fashion week. These photographers shoot countless fashion spreads and editorials, and they immerse themselves in every aspect of it and it shows in their work. Fashion photographers have to be aware of a lot of things; you’re photographing garments that need to grab the viewer’s attention, you need to know how to photograph them well and may even have to lend your eye in styling them to make an image. Even Paolo Roversi has occasionally styled his own editorials! Obviously, a strong background in fashion is a must for this. It’s not something I wish on anyone, but there will always be one of those days where you need a stylist and the only person that can come through is you, so you better know how to put an outfit together !
Mario Testino at Burberry Fashion Show. Photo by: Chris Jackson
The point I’m trying to make here is that many new and upcoming photographers seem to lack a strong background in the history of and passion for fashion photography and it shows in their work. How else are you supposed to stand out in an industry where anyone who has access to a camera pretty much calls themselves a photographer?
This post was written by William David Walsh who is a Fashion Photographer based in San Francisco.