Prep-work For Your First Fashion Photoshoot
Secured your first fashion photography project? Great. Now it’s time to get into the nitty-gritty details of the preparation work you’ll need to get done before the big day.
Unlike other photography genres, fashion photography is about capturing a narrative. Your model, the clothes she’s wearing, her makeup and her environment must come together to tell a cohesive story. To ensure that your narrative is distinctive in your images, plan and research your mood board ahead of time. Sites like fashiongonerogue.com and lookbook.nu are good sites for inspiration.
Planning your mood board will also determine the kind of equipment you’ll need for the shoot. If you’re not shooting long exposure shots, you might be able to get by without a tripod. If you’re shooting multiple looks, you’ll want to ensure the model has somewhere to change in privacy, so perhaps bring a large sheet to prop up.
It should also include certain details such as:
- How the set design will look
- The colour story (learn your colour theory here!)
- Tear sheet
You can start by collaging a few different images together to make up the board while including specific colour squares (optional with keywords) to better convey your ideas to your client, model and team. Also, don’t just create one mood board, prepare a backup or two just in case the first idea flops.
Location and Studio Scouting
For outdoor photography, you’ll want to make sure that your location will allow for wet weather plans. In the event of rain, you ideally want to seek cover not only to save your photoshoot, but also the clothing. Clothes on loan from luxury couture houses are expensive and can cost you a pretty penny if damaged. In this case, you’ll want to choose an outdoor location that isn’t entirely unsheltered.
You also need to pay attention to the lighting situation. Once you’ve found your ideal shooting spot, visit during different times of the day to understand the light, and from there, decide if you’ll need to bring extra lighting equipment. If you don’t have the luxury of an assistant, you might want to pick a time where the light is strong and natural.
Finally, if you’re shooting in more than one location, be sure to have some mode of transportation planned. Relying on cabs or sharing rides can cost you valuable daylight, so consider renting a car. Pro tip: a car also doubles as a changing room.
For studio scouting, the first consideration is gauging location accessibility. You might need to send some instructions to your team who may not be familiar with the travel route. Other considerations are:
- Studio and backdrop size
- Privacy (especially if your concept is a little on the sensitive side)
- Tools available (steamer, shared props etc.)
- Lighting equipment
- Rent and miscellaneous fees (late check-out or early check-in)
Model and Team Selection
Your choice of model is crucial to the success of a shoot. More experienced models can pose with little to no direction, or even come up with suggestions that would best showcase the clothing. On the other hand, those newer to the industry will require more guidance but may come with a lower fee.
When approaching a modelling agency (or friends), have a clear idea of the look you’re going for and pay attention to his or her comp cards and “book” (portfolio). Look for previous experience with outdoor shoots and if you’re going to require your model to jump or climb, be sure he or she is physically capable.
If you can afford a hairstylist and makeup artist (MUA) for your shoot, do it. Outdoor shoots can be long, hot and messy affairs. Having an MUA on hand to touch up your model’s makeup or a fashion stylist to ensure that the clothes are showcased well allows you to focus on your photography. Sometimes, hairstylists can double as MUAs and vice versa, so ask around to see if you can fit hiring someone into your budget before writing it off and trying to do everything yourself.
In all, a common photoshoot team should include:
- Photographer (yourself)
- Hairstylist, MUA and fashion stylist (some professionals are experienced in more than one trade)
- An assistant or two to help you with preparations (steaming clothes, preparing accessories and lighting setups etc.)
- Interchangeable lens camera
- Variety of lenses (this depends on your concept, but generally a 50mm, 85mm or 70-200mm lens should be sufficient for close-ups of details like embroidery or stitching and wider shots showcasing the model in the environment)
- Tripod (only if you have long exposure shots)
- Reflectors (will you have an assistant/ stylist/ MUA to help?)
- Flash (depending on your concept)
- Extra Batteries
Props: If your shoot requires props like a picnic set up, for example, then come up with the relevant prop checklist.
Clothing: Research clothing brands and request for loans. You must be prepared to introduce yourself and your photoshoot ideas before contacting the boutiques. This will allow the boutique to decide if the photoshoot is desirable for the brand, and to proceed with the administrative details like loaning period, guarantee forms (if the clothes on loan are not sample sizes but actual off-the-rack products) and more. You should also compile a checklist of the items loaned to refer to in case of any that may go missing or miscommunications between the supplier and yourself.
Food: Water and some easy-to-eat snacks like protein bars or fruit pieces will be especially helpful if your shoot requires energetic movements like jumping. Otherwise, locate the nearest convenience store around the photoshoot location so you can send your team to get their refreshments.