What I Wish I Knew Before My First Fashion Photo Shoot

Fashion photography is one the most lucrative, but also the most difficult genres to work in a professional capacity. A one-man outfit is not enough to do good fashion work. Every fashion photographer eventually learns how important these things are. These are the things I wish I had known when I first photographed fashion and beauty images.

Makeup

My early work was plagued by a lack of knowledge in makeup. This is what I emphasize the most when I coach photographers privately: you need to be familiar with makeup.

Hairstyles and makeup can affect how a model appears in photos. It is important to communicate with your makeup artist to know what lighting to use and how to convey the mood.

If I was photographing a latex outfit with gelled lighting, for example, I would prefer to wear very eccentric makeup and have my hair loose. This will enhance the aesthetic. Makeup should be in line with your aesthetic. Makeup that is 80s-style will make your images look 80s.

However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t have a professional makeup artist. Even though I understand the theory behind making makeup, it’s not something I can do. It takes years to master makeup, just like any other skill.

Be the Perfect Model

Many models start out wanting to look like their idols. Models who aspiration to become models believe they are perfect and strive to be perfect on photoshoots. However, this limits their creativity to a narrow definition of perfection.

Few images of top models show them looking flawless. Peter Lindbergh was known for photographing models without makeup or hair. Perfect poses are not as important as a person’s attitude.

Doing Weird is not a good thing.

Many fashion images look very strange. If the goal is to create original work, it seems like the right thing to do. Many art can be quite bizarre. What I didn’t realize was that strange images are made to fit an aesthetic and not because of their goal.

Strange images can be useful if they are born out of creative exploration. This creative exploration can be achieved when everyone is being creative.

Let the team be creative

Humility is one of the most important qualities a photographer can possess. Understanding that you are just one piece of the puzzle, although an important one, is a great way to show humility. Although photographers may be credited for some of their work, not all of it would have been possible without the creativity and input from the model, make-up, styling, prop design, etc.

It is important to treat everyone on your team as a creative person and not just as a tool for your vision. This will help you build relationships with the best people in town and improve the quality of your images. Happy models will pose better and happy stylists will put in more effort.

Model posing is a concept that is often overlooked. The model is just posing and it is not creative. Models’ creativity, attitude and expression are key for the success of photos. This is what the viewer sees at the end of each day: a model.

The image will not be spectacular, regardless of how talented the photographer may be, what the styling or makeup looks like, how well the lighting is, and how much the models are able to express themselves. Models will feel more at ease, happier, and more fulfilled if they are allowed to express their creativity, create beauty without borders, and imagine the photos and bring them to life.

Photographers create energy. Make sure you have enough energy to capture the moment.

Don’t fixate on one vision and allow things to happen naturally

When you go in to start a project, there is always an idea of where it is going. It is easy to simply look at a reference photo and copy it. When you are unable to copy what you want, frustration sets in. You will always get ideas from someone.

Instead of dismissing them, listen to them and keep an open mind. You shouldn’t be afraid of trying new things. If you fixate on the vision you have in mind, it can make your team unhappy and limit your creativity. Ask yourself “What other possibilities are there to make this possible?”

Lighting

My first photoshoots taught me this: An umbrella creates soft lighting that makes the model look great. I didn’t bother with the how or the why. I just used it until I was bored. In that I don’t know how to do the same thing repeatedly, I feel like a magpie.

Understanding lighting basics, or at least the foundations of it, can help you solve problems on-set. Lighting is a huge asset that pays dividends.

Backup

This was a lesson I learned the hard way. My first photoshoot took place on one drive. Unfortunately, the drive was corrupted after a few months. I was fortunate to have backups.

Data recovery can be expensive, both in time and money. It was much cheaper and safer to have a solid workflow that works this way.

  1. Two shoot drives can be used to capture, which are not connected to mains power. Even for large Canon 5D files, the transfer speeds are acceptable. Although they are 4TB which is a lot, it’s still enough for me to be able to travel for several weeks to shoot video and stills. Are I doing it often? No. Do not be like me and buy a 500GB SSD instead.
  2. Transfer the files to two archives drives. These mains-powered machines are much faster. They consolidate all work, back it up, and sort it. They are the main work drives. Drive B is a carbon copy of data from drive A. They are identical models.
  3. Cloud storage backup. Backblaze is what I use, but there are other options. Even if my office were to burn down, all of my data would still be available. Backblaze was the best choice because it is affordable and offers great rescue options. If your data is lost, they can send a drive with all the data to you. It’s almost free if you return the drive.

Closing Thoughts

We all make rookie errors. This is just a tiny glimpse of the many mistakes I made in my first year.