Your Ultimate Guide To Fashion Photography

person holding camera taking photo of woman standing near gray wall

Featured Image: Photo by via Unsplash

Fashion photography has been around for hundreds of years and has evolved into one of the most crucial aspects of the fashion industry. Print media and the internet, have both embraced the use of photography to tell the story of fashion. Talented photographers make a decent living from their jobs, and fashion models are taking the world by storm. Before one can take a camera and claim to be a fashion photographer, one needs to understand how the world of fashion works and gain essential skills that will make working in the industry possible.

What Is Fashion Photography?

woman in long sleeves ramps

Photo by via Unsplash

Fashion photography is a genre of photography that deals with capturing images of clothes, shoes, accessories and other fashion items on models. Fashion, as an industry has grown exponentially over the past few decades and many people, are considering a career in fashion photography as it is lucrative and the talented ones have already experienced success by working with some of the most prominent fashion magazines in the world. It is a robust industry which requires a photographer to have the skill, connections in the fashion industry, a creative eye for detail and enough patience to make it in the glamorous line of fashion photography

Origins of Fashion Photography

According to history, fashion photography goes back to the time of countesses and their official court garb. A book by Adolphe Braun published in 1856 contained about 288 photographs of Virginia Oldoini, Countess di Castiglione, a Tuscan noblewoman in the court of Napoleon the third. The photos showed the count clad in royal garbs making her history’s first fashion model. People consider these works as the first photo shoot making the practice widespread.

20th Century

It was now common for French fashion magazines such as La Mode Practique and Conde Nast to produce fashion magazines. It is at this time that halftone printing became possible. In 1911, the publisher of Jardin des Modes and La Gazette du Bon Ton Lucien Vogel at the time challenged Edward Steichen, a photographer to use his craft to promote fashion. Steichen took up the challenge and took photos of gowns designed by the famous designer Paul Poiret. His pictures were printed in April 1911 in a magazine called Art et Decoration, making these photos the first ones taken during a modern fashion photoshoot.

21st Century

This era has seen more fashion photographers compared to previous centuries. People have turned the craft into a lucrative career that works with some of the most prominent publication in the world like Vanity Fair, Vogue, Elle, Harper’s Bazaar and so on. The evolution of skills in fashion photographs is huge and technological advancement has led to the advancement of the way fashion photography works.

Things You Should Know about Fashion Photography

Essential Tips for Fashion Photography

Own Professional Equipment

black video and DSLR cameras with tripods

Photo by ShareGrid via Unsplash

When you are still working for other people, it would be okay if you borrowed and used their cameras, lenses, stands, and studio. If you want to get attention in the industry, you need to invest in all the equipment you require. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Many photographers have started with just the necessary gear and worked upward. With the inception of smartphones, you can use your phone to take beautiful pictures until you have saved enough for a camera. When it comes to lighting, you can use natural light and research cheap alternatives in case you are shooting in a studio. Growth is essential so that you can land big clients.

Be a Team Player

Unfortunately, fashion photography is not a one-person job. For you to succeed in the industry, there is a need to have a good rapport with everyone that you work with to make the environment conducive for work. Be respectful to everyone even the ones doing odd jobs on set. Don’t take advantage of your position to harass models. This could land you in trouble with the law, and it is unfair to the models who work hard for these opportunities.

Be Creative

woman posing with reflection behind

Photo by via Unsplash

Fashion photography is not just about taking a good picture of someone in clothes. It is how you use the subjects of your photo to solicit emotion from the people that get to see the images. With that, the props, the set, the lighting, the angles all have to have one goal in mind and should be deliberate. A successful photo shoot is one that fully captures the essence of the client’s work and communicates the message to the one that is looking at the picture.

The Ugly Truths You Should Know about Fashion Photography

It Is Not As Simple As It Looks

To get your foot in the door, you as an aspiring photographer would have to move to one of the fashion capitals of the world like New York, Milan, Paris, London and so on. One has to look for connections in the industry to get a shot at working with the big fashion moguls. You may have to work for free and doing the most insignificant of roles for other people to get a chance to showcase your talent. However, this doesn’t have to be a bad thing as you can use the opportunity to learn, gain experience, and  build connections.

You May Need to Work for Free

man holding a camera trying to capture the woman

Photo by Jakob Owens via Unsplash

You have to start at the bottom to rise. You may need to eat humble pie and shoot some projects for free so that you can build your portfolio. You may also need to assist the leading fashion photographer without expecting compensation or credit so that you can gain experience.

You Will Not Always Get Creative Control

In the case of significant projects, your work may be to take the photographs only. Another person may be brought in to work on the creative part of the project, and they may not be willing to listen to your ideas. It may be frustrating when you cannot work together as a team to come up with a creative masterpiece because of different views on the project in question.

Different Work Ethics

There have been a lot of cases of big companies stealing creative ideas from fashion photographers and not acknowledging them afterward. They may also choose photographs based on the clothes rather than the quality of the picture. The client also owns your photo and may decide to edit your work further.

Your Team May Not Be Cooperative

With a lot of people working on the photo shoot at any given time, there is bound to be some misunderstandings. An excellent professional fashion photographer needs to be able to communicate and adjust when things do not go as planned. Stylists, hair and make-up artists, lighting crew, are but a few of the people that are at a set at any given time and each of them have to do their job well and on time so that a shoot can be successful. It would be better to lay out the ground rules to the client before the D-day and if things still go wrong, try to figure out a way to make things work without looking unprofessional.

How to Get Started in Fashion Photography

Learn Photography

man capturing a photo

Photo by Matthias Blonski via Unsplash

It may not be a must for a fashion photographer to have a college diploma, but it is prudent to have at least some knowledge of photography. You can take a short course in photography or even learn by practicing and creating a portfolio that you can show prospective clients.

Meet with Model Agencies

Here you get to work with real models that you can take photographs of and gain the required experience. You will get to understand and navigate the fashion industry. You will also learn how to conduct yourself in a high-pressure work environment.

Choose a Niche

There are three styles of fashion that you can choose from; catalog, editorial or high-fashion. Catalog fashion photography is more about clothes and is clean and straightforward. Editorial fashion photography focuses more on the model in different locations. High-Fashion photography is where the clients go all out to make sure they get a powerful image with beautiful clothes, stunning location, and beautiful models.

Working with Models

group of fashion model

Photo by via Unsplash

If you make the environment safe and pleasant for the models, they will do a good job. Give them feedback on their performance and share with them your process. Don’t disrespect them or be rude. Don’t touch them without their consent.

Have a Team behind You

As you progress, you may need a professional team to help you out with equipment or scheduling. Hire personal assistants, someone to help you set up and carry the equipment among others. Be confident when you are offering direction in the projects you work in so that your team can learn from you and they will emulate you.


Lastly, the importance of fashion photography is clear. It is through beautiful photographs that many people get to see how the fashion industry has evolved over the years. It serves as a way to preserve the history of fashion for future generations. Many things happen in the fashion industry on a daily basis, but we can all agree that fashion photography is here to stay and will only grow in the coming years.

Speak Your Mind


Related Posts

a woman using a Canon camera
Sony A5100
photographer taking picture of a building
Fruits and a jar placed at the top of the table used for fine art photography