By: River Callaway
Fashion Photography is essentially broken up into 3 types of photographic genres: editorial, runway and streetstyle. If you decide you want to get into fashion photography where you’re working with a publication or a designer, you will want to know how to do all 3 as you never know what your client or company may want.
Editorial can be anything from portraiture-like commercial photos you see of brands promoting their brand message to the photo spread of the cover star on the front of a magazine. Runway photography can include covering the runway of a fashion show, but the backstage before the show as well. Lastly is streetstyle, which means covering the fashionable attendees entering the shows from outside. Many publications will absolutely want all 3 types of photography, and they will usually have anywhere from 1-4 people covering a show.
Now, some people might tell you to really focus on one type of fashion photography genre, and while that’s an excellent point, if you want to be in photography you really need to know your stuff. You never know what type of gig you’ll get/be asked to do so it’s really important to be adept at doing all 3. I’ve freelanced for many publications and blogs, and sometimes they already have an editorial photographer lined up but need someone to do runway photography and other times they may have a photographer and videographer lined up to do the runway show but need someone to get there early and shoot backstage as well as run outside the show location and do street style of the celebs arriving. It’s also important to be able to achieve whatever your client/designer/publication may need, especially when you’re just starting out.
Another point that many people don’t want to do, and many don’t think they should do is working for free. Oh, you’re an amazing photographer but have no runway photos on your portfolio and think you should be paid top dollar to do your first runway show? Think again. It’s tough spending money you may not have to make your dreams happen, but that’s exactly what it’s all about. Be willing to do whatever’s asked of you. There have been a few times where I’ve arrived on time to a show, gotten there to set up my equipment at the photo pit at the end of the runway, and guess what? All of the Vogue, Elle, Marie Claire, and Vanity Fair photography teams were given early access and arrived an hour before me and now I won’t be able to get a clear shot of the runway. Does that mean I need to pack my stuff and apologize to my client? Hell no! They won’t accept ‘Oh it wasn’t my fault, these people were blocking me,’ or ‘oh I was late and other people got better spots.’ Your name will be blacklisted and you may have a very, very hard time getting access to photograph runway shows for a long time.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when diving into the world of fashion photography.
1. Plan your time wisely
The NYFW runway show scene is very very very cut-throat and competitive. Runway photographers at the end of the pit literally mark their territory by making a box out of tape, and if you try to sneak into their spot they’ll ask security to kick you out. Also, if you’re lucky and get access to multiple shows per day, you’ll need to do as much as you can in a short amount of time: getting to the venues of each show, being clear on the exact type of shots wanted by your client, and most importantly being able to edit your shots as quickly as possible. Big teams like Vogue and have teams of photographers and sometimes teams of editors so that the photos can go out immediately. If you’re all by yourself, you need to plan your shots wisely and make sure they’re perfect, the better the shot the less the editing time!
2. Try your craft wherever you are, as often as possible
You don’t have to be in New York, London, Paris, or Milan to take beautiful photos of fashionable people. Check out Instagrams like @tylerjoe, @mrstreetpeeper, @moeeztali, and @le21eme for some major street-style photography inspo and head to malls, brunch spots, chic lunch areas, and just big areas of your city and try mimicking some of the shots that inspire you!
3. The rules of fashion photography
Rules of fashion photography: Show up early, backstage makeup and hair start 2 hours before the runway show, and if you have access and time, show up as early as possible, run to the runway and mark your name down in the pit, try to get as much hair and makep photography as possible, try to get street-style photography if you can, and then during the rehearsal of the show, get all your settings on your camera figured out, so you don’t miss any shots when it really counts!
4. The shots
Every fashion photographer knows that for each model and outfit, you need a total of 5 clean shots, no exceptions. Face/Hair, full body, accessories, up close of wardrobe-tassels/lace/clothing material or embellishments, and one last shot that’s unique (think interesting angle like up close of a girl’s face when she’s turning at the end of the runway). You need at least 5 clean shots per model because you never know what your client may need. Sometimes they give you exact guidelines, but remember the photography pit usually includes 10 to sometimes 50 photographers all trying to get shots of the same model. Personally when I do runway, I take about 10 shots per girl, making sure I get full shots of the models in motion (both feet on the ground and legs apart), and my favorite is to really do close-up shots of the model’s faces-the smirks they do while they’re walking, a profile of their face as they turn at the end of the runway, etc. Find a way that you love to do runway and go with it.
5. What you’ll need
Everyone has different equipment, but you’re absolutely going to need to travel with some kind of backpack to carry all of your stuff. You’re gonna need an extra battery or two, battery chargers, extra SIM cards, and extra camera body and lens if you have it. I’d also recommend coughing up the $100 rental fee to rent from somewhere; there’s nothing worse than photographing a show and realizing there’s something wrong with your lens or camera body. Not only do you not have time to figure it out, it comes with the consequence of not getting the shots you need. You’re also going to need a monopod unless you really want to go with shooting on a short lens, all the adrenaline of shooting a runway show (even though it’s only 10-15 minutes) will get to you and your arm will start cramping. You don’t want anything personal or physical to compromise your talent and your shots. You also NEED blue tape and a sharpie to write your name, and a step stool in case you have to stand behind the other photographers. BUSINESS CARDS are also a must. People forget who they follow on Instagram, and sometimes they do lose biz cards, but a physical card is always something good to have!
Last thing – fashion is FUN! People are excited to see runway shows and streetstyle and there’s so much effort put into creating a runway show, editorial photoshoot, and the outfits people are wearing on the street. With all that being said, just remember to take a few deep breaths and calm yourself down! Photography is trial and error!
I hope this mini guide can help you get started, but you really need to go out there and try different types of photography to get your skill levels up. I was born and raised in Atlanta, and I always wanted to be in fashion, so I answered Craigslist ads of unpaid gigs looking for photos of beauty bloggers and fashion bloggers, I used to camp out outside chic brunch areas to up my skills in fast street-style photography, I’ve tried it all. You’d also be surprised how much you can find on websites like Eventbrite that list fashion shows or fashion events going on in your area, the worst a person can say is no for photos, but try your luck anyway because you never know!