So you want to be a fashion photographer? Sounds exciting?
Sailing around on yachts with models, shooting in the Caribbean or Tahiti, or maybe even in Australia with your favourite model are perks of the job, right?
How fun it must be to shoot models for Victoria’s Secret and Sports Illustrated!
Who wouldn’t want to travel to exotic locales and make a fortune while working with and befriending the most beautiful women in the world? Everything listed here is not precisely what we do.
It looks like that in the movies and on television.
If you are a young fashion photographer or stylist trying to break into the fashion industry, you’re likely feeling frustrated right about now.
For all artists out there, the path to success and financial security is fraught with uncertainty, and there is no sure-fire business plan that will light the way and no straightforward strategy that will lighten the load.
We can completely sympathize! And if you’re starting, you’re likely facing one of the most demanding professional periods in your life – that critical moment when you get on your feet and get the ball rolling.
We’re here to help you make the most of it. Our list of ultimate career advice for aspiring fashion photographers, stylists, makeup artists, and anyone else working in the fashion industry is here.
Tips On How To Begin
Find An Idea And Get Inspired By It.
Inspiration can come from anywhere — music, something you see in the street, even your little sister.
Prepare As Best You Can.
Use documentation such as mood boards to present your ideas clearly to your future team.
Learn Basic Photography Skills
Take some introductory courses in photography so you can understand the functions of a camera.
Practice With Models
Go out and take pictures of models. Many websites out there have models who are ready to shoot with you and who live in your area. Start with an internet search to find model websites.
After you become comfortable taking pictures of amateur models and have some great photographs in your book, approach local modelling agencies by giving them a call or sending an email and ask to shoot their models for their portfolios. You may be able to hit their models for free—or perhaps even get paid in the process of doing so.
Build A Team You Can Work With.
Concentrate on what type of shoot you’re doing and choose the artists who will help you best.
Research Fashion Magazines
Look through the magazines that you want to be in and study their styles. In time you’ll be able to shoot as well as the photographers in the magazines. When you’re ready, submit your pictures to the photo editors of these magazines. You’ll find their contact info on the first few pages of the magazine.
Find A Good Location.
This is an essential aspect if you’re to get a successful final result.
Develop An Original Style
When you first start shooting, it’s easy to fall into the trap of copying other artists and trying to shoot their style. This is not always bad. For centuries, painters and sculptors have swarmed to the Louvre in Paris to duplicate the Mona Lisa and other great artworks.
However, after you’re done practising, it’s essential to move on and forget about trying so hard to imitate the great masters. Instead, imitate life. That is what art does. Work on developing your style, and you’ll be rewarded for it handsomely.
Collaborate And Communicate On Set.
Never forget that you are the photographer, which means you are responsible for the makeup, hair, styling, etc. Keep a warm and friendly atmosphere in your team, make everyone feel comfortable. Remember that at the end of the day, the first name people see on those images is YOURS, meaning every little detail has to be controlled by no one but you.
The road to becoming a successful fashion photographer can be a long one. Don’t give up. Shoot in the beginning as a hobby in all of your spare time. Create as often as you can. The experience will be invaluable.
Fashion Photography Career Advice
You Can’t Ask For Your Big Break; You Have To Earn It.
If we had a nickel for every time, a photographer contacted us with no experience, barely anything to call a portfolio, and said something along the lines of, “If you give me a commission letter, I’m going to make you something amazing, just trust me.” We don’t mean to be harsh, but in the insanely competitive job world out there, no one is just going to give you a break because you seem passionate and sure of yourself.
In the social sphere that stretches beyond your friends and family who believe in you because they love you, everyone else will be hard on you. If “just trust me” is all you have to go on, you don’t have much.
When hundreds of competitors are applying for the same jobs as you with polished portfolios of work that highlight what they’re capable of, you better have more than just promises and passion for going on. As a general rule of thumb in fashion, the show doesn’t tell. Take significant risks with the work you create, work hard, and not need to sell yourself because your work will speak for itself.
The Key Is Consistency
That’s it, the magic word that will get you through the door and onto the other side. The one piece of career advice that’s probably more important than any other. Consistency. It’s the one quality that separates a successful professional from a struggling artist. No one expects you to hit a home run every time, but clients expect a consistent quality level in your images.
And be aware that there are a few things clients will always watch out for. Your website, for one. Unless you have a large amount of high quality published work in there, clients will be wary of your portfolio because they know you’ve selected only the very best of everything you’ve ever created. What about the stuff that doesn’t make it in? How long did it take you to get that perfect shot? Can you do it again? Was it just blind luck? If you can prove to a client that you can consistently reproduce your best quality work, you’re in. But that’s not to say that your work necessarily has to be perfect every time. Consistency might mean achieving the same style in every shot; maybe it’s your signature lighting skills that come through or your particular flavour of posing the model in strange and original ways. Whatever it may be for you, aim to hit the same note every time.
Don’t Follow The Trends, Create Them.
Every aspect of the fashion industry (and every industry for that matter) is affected by trends. We all seem to fall in love with the same things at the same time. There’s nothing wrong with that, but you need to be very aware of trends in your work and calculate how you choose to incorporate them into your photography or design.
For example, about a year ago, the whole wet-hair-stuck-to-models-face look took off. You can see it here, here and here. For a while, you could see it everywhere. About 50% of photography that passed through the Lone Wolf office featured this hair look.
Not surprisingly, even though it’s trending hard, we quickly grew tired of seeing it. In other words, you could have been a brilliant photographer, but because you used an overused trend in your editorial, it effectively became invisible. Our advice is to rework trends, add unexpected elements to make your work stand out and show the world that you’re one step ahead of the game.
Don’t Ignore The Details.
Wrinkled clothes? A dirty backdrop? Polyester fabrics? Don’t think others won’t notice. As they say, the devil is in the details – it doesn’t matter what industry we’re talking about. Overlooking the most refined information will result in mediocre work. It’s as simple as that.
But pushing yourself beyond mediocre in fashion photography is extremely difficult because it requires that your whole team is as much of a perfectionist as you are. If your stylist is diligent about wardrobe, and you are a total perfectionist when it comes to lighting, but your hairstylist cuts corners, the whole thing falls apart very quickly.
Stop Comparing Yourself To The Competition
You should only ever compare yourself to yourself, as you were six months ago. It’s like Malcolm Gladwell said in The Tipping Point, the magic number of true expertise is ten thousand hours. That is, it takes ten thousand hours of practice to become truly great at something.
You don’t know where other people lie on that scale. If they’re better than you, it’s likely simply because they were busy practising while you were busy flipping through Pinterest “looking for inspiration.” Comparing your work to top photographers is crazy. They have a lifetime on you. By that same token, looking back at your own body of work, you should see a noticeable improvement. If you don’t, you’re doing it wrong.
Don’t Be A Starving Artist.
Many young creative types romanticize this idea of being a starving artist, but it’s only tolerable for about a year. After that, it becomes an unbearable weight on your shoulders. There’s nothing romantic or glamorous about poverty, folks, especially when working in the fashion industry!
Every so often, you’ll want to wear shoes that don’t have holes in them. The fact is, becoming a pro photographer takes money, lots of it. So you’ll need a solid long-term plan in place. You may need to supplement your career with less glamorous gigs (weddings? corporate portraits? Elance?) until you refine your craft and make some solid industry connections.
Home Is Where Your Dream Job Is
They say, do what you love and never work another day in your life. There’s no denying that loving your job and being passionate about your career is one of the greatest blessings in life. Therefore, it is essential to understand and be aware that the place you call home may be holding you back. Though other cities have their flourishing fashion scene or movie scene – a location is not a proper industry. A location is not enough to build a thriving career. That’s not to say you can’t do it, but you will likely end up frustrated by the lack of resources
and community support available to you.
Strive For Simplicity
The old saying that “simplicity is the ultimate sophistication” holds. All you need to create beautiful images is a beautiful model, a single dramatic element and nothing else. No crazy accessories or hair and makeup all laid over intense poses and voodoo lighting.
When deciding how to style a shoot, between dramatic makeup + hair + sets/lighting + dramatic clothing, aim to choose only two out of these four options; otherwise, you’ll have a circus on your hands.
Action Is The Only Thing That Matters
It’s all about what you do rather than how you feel. Of course, your thoughts and feelings matter, at least to those that know you personally. But as far as the rest of the world is concerned, your internal world barely exists. Yes, it sounds harsh, but it is an essential lesson in becoming a successful adult.
The world turns on the currency that is action. If you try to convince someone that you’re an amazing, talented and compassionate individual that’s going places but have nothing to show for it, you’ll be wasting your breath.
Your greatest contribution to this world and your own life will be through the actions you take. If you want to stand out professionally, stop talking and go out and do something (anything) productive that will have a positive effect on the world. By that token, showing people you want to work with what you’ve done (no matter how small) is always going to be more impressive than showing them what you plan to do or how motivated you are about your career.
Work With The Best – Even If It’s Not Financially Rewarding.
Another thing to consider is that fashion is a career path where big companies and small companies’ division is extreme. There are very few in the middle. So basically, if you’re new to the game, you’re stuck between not being good enough for the big boys yet, and volunteering your time to the smaller companies that are just barely staying afloat.
When you’re just starting in the fashion industry, you must pay more attention to working with talented people instead of getting paid. Trust that the money will come in due time. For now, focus on collaborating with talented no-bodies who will one day be big somebodies (like you!).
Fill your portfolio with quality work, publish in quality magazines and associate yourself with quality people. Newbie artists that think they’re going to be getting paid from the get-go are in for a rude awakening. Unless you were born into this industry, you’d be crawling your way to the top like everyone else.
Be An Image Maker, Not An Image Taker
Anyone with a camera, access to photoshop, and a great model can luck out with a great shot. But there is an important distinction between someone who takes an image and someone who makes it. You need to be an image-maker, not an image taker. See the final product in your mind, and do what needs to be done to usher it into reality. Don’t rely wholly on your team’s skills, and don’t wait for the magic to happen. Sometimes it will. Other times it won’t.
And that’s the crux of the problem. Image takers are like scavenger animals, while image-makers are like wolves. The wolf seeks out her vision, hunts it, runs after it and skillfully takes it down. The scavenger waits for something amazing to fall from the sky, usually by machine-gun shooting thousands of images just to luck out with one. And even when scavengers get lucky, these lucky strikes are like creative left-overs and rarely contain all the meat of an inspired, curated and carefully executed shoot.
Plan A Fashion Shoot
Fashion Shoots – Props & Sets
You don’t necessarily need big fancy sets and elaborate props for fashion photography. For our fashion photography courses
Another simpler option is to create your backdrops. This can be done simply and easily using items you can purchase from your local art and hardware stores. Props are another way you can enhance the narrative of your image. These don’t need to be elaborate, but they need to match your image’s mood and theme.
Sourcing Outfits & Working With Fashion Stylists
Working with a good stylist can make this stage of planning much easier. Those who don’t have the budget for a stylist or buying outfits are advised to approach upcoming labels and to offer to photograph their clothes or working on test shoots with other aspiring creatives.
As with any genre of photography, this is a FAQ for beginners. “What camera is best for fashion photography?” Or “What lenses do fashion photographers use?”.
Put simply; you can use any camera for fashion photography, the same way you can use almost any lens. The most important tool a fashion photographer can have is a good knowledge of lighting.
Lighting Setups For Fashion Shoots
Lighting plays a major role in fashion photography. Your lighting determines your shot’s mood and feel; it’s what can make your image stand out above the rest.
Depending on whether you’re working with basic modifiers like softboxes or more expensive equipment like Paras, several different fashion photography lighting examples work for any budget. We have a wide range of fashion photography courses in our Fashion and Portrait sections that give many different lighting setup examples you can try.
Boiled down to its very essence, a photographer’s job is to present a product in a way that captures the attention of consumers. This effectively renders creating “art for art’s sake” in the field of fashion photography extremely difficult. Fashion photography only exists because someone somewhere wanted to sell a beautiful designer dress, it seems obvious, but it’s something many aspiring fashion photographers forget. They get into fashion because they hunger for that creative outlet, not realizing that creativity often takes a back seat to commerce in fashion. Not only can this be incredibly disappointing to artists, but it can also immobilize their career before it has even started.