Life through a Lens: How to do a fashion shoot

Fashion shoots are probably my favourite aspect of photography and the one I do most. It is just so much fun! Get a friend to model for you, pick a cool location, get together some outfits – it isn’t that difficult! I am currently planning an exciting shoot with a professionally trained ballet dancer.

There are some things I learnt over the years and I thought I’d share them with you. All example pictures were taken by me.

1) Theme/Concept

Most fashion spreads you see in Magazines have a clear theme that is reflected in all the images. This is probably first thing professionals decide upon the rest follows accordingly. Some of my shoots have had a theme that was decided upon from the start, for example my rag doll shoot:


However, often I want to use a particular location and I build the theme around that.

2) Location + Lighting

I’ve put these two things together because they often come together. If you like me don’t have studio lights, you will be dependent on natural light. This can vary greatly depending on your location – if you want to shoot indoors you will have to use the light falling through the windows.


If you are shooting outside, you may be in bright sunlight (my enemy because of the harsh shadows it creates). The light will vary depending on the time of the day – a certain place may be back lit at some times so that is something to bear in mind. If you want soft light, avoid mid day and shoot either at dusk or at dawn (you will race against the sun going down though).




3) Models

I only once shot a professional model because she happened to go to the same university as me. Other than that I always use friends. It’s good if they know you and are comfortable around you. Plus they will probably be happy to have nice pictures taken of themselves that they can use. Most of the time I use females, but I did have a male friend model for me once!


4) Clothes

For a short while I was Fashion editor for a student newspaper in charge of the fashion pages. This involved going out to buy several different outfits, shooting them, and returning them afterwards. I found this hugely stressful, because you have to be very careful not to damage the clothes. When I am just doing shoots for  myself I use a combination of my own and the model’s clothes. Again, the clothes you pick will depend on your theme and the location.

5) Props

Props are not to be forgotten! They can be small or big things. Tim Walker tends to use amazingly opulent props and set designs, but as an amateur photographer you will probably have to do things on a smaller scale. However, be creative and have a good look around your house. Once I carried an old chaise longue that had been used as a theatre prop all the way down to the bridge. It was a pain in the neck, but worth it!



Another “prop” that can be fun to use are pets/animals.



6) Equipment

You need a digital SLR – the photos just look so much better than a compact camera. I use a Canon 450D – quite an old, entry-level SLR. However, more important than the camera itself is the lens. My holy grail lense (and the only expensive one I ever bought) is the Canon 50mm 1.4. Is is amazing for low light conditions as you can get the aperture wide open (1.4 = the lower this number the more light can enter into the camera). It also gives you beautifully blurred backgrounds. I think it is the perfect for photographing people.

7) Makeup

As a general rule – make up never shows up as strongly in pictures as it does in person. So do not be afraid to pile it on. Have some powder on you in case your model’s skin gets shiny during the shoot. Also, I love experimenting with fun things like glueing feathers to false eyelashes.


8) Giving Directions

Once thing I learnt over the years, and from trying out modelling for a friend just once, is that the photographer has to direct the shoot. It is very very difficult for your model to know how the look on camera, and it can make them quite insecure if they don’t get clear feedback from you. In other words, tell your model what to do. Put him/her in a starting position. They can then try out different poses from their. Give clear instructions (“move your left leg closer to me”, “look at this tree over here”). You are the one looking through the lens so you are ultimately responsible for making your models look their best.

9) Post production

Post production is something I often neglect. I do use photoshot, but often I am too lazy. You can adjust general things about your picture – the exposure, brightness, contrast, colours, etc. I do these things in a simpler programme like iPhoto. I also do not shoot in RAW. Many photographers believe that it is much better to shoot in RAW as it gives you more control over your pictures afterwards. I never got into it, frankly I am too lazy.


Photoshop is great for correcting imperfections, e.g. for perfecting skin. I only really bother with this if I do a closeup of a face. I did this in the picture above with the feather lashes. There are lots of tutorials on how to do this on youtube. I try to keep things fairly natural, so even if I do correct the skin I want the natural texture of the skin to still be visible.

I hope you found this post useful. Please comment and leave a link to any fashion photography you have done!


1 Comment

Filed under Fashion, Life through a Lens

One response to “Life through a Lens: How to do a fashion shoot

  1. Great tips you got here. Thanks for sharing! It’s very helpful for a novice photographer like me.

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