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Elements of a Successful Fashion Shoot

By Topher Kelly on October 9th 2013

Ready to break into the stylish world of fashion photography? Renowned photographer and CreativeLive instructor Lara Jade is a pro at staging fashion shoots, and her expert tips will give you all the information you need to create a successful, seamless and well-organized experience. From preparation, to finding the perfect model, to putting together a flawless team, Lara’s tips are relevant to both newcomers and fashion photography pros alike!

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Storyboard Plan A — and Plan B for your Photography

The more prepared you are for your shoot, the better off you’ll be. Lara suggests making storyboards to map out exactly how you want the shoot to play out. Draw sketches of what you hope your images will look like (play around with shadow, lighting, as well as the model’s pose), and put together “mood boards” –– aka the ultimate visual guide to your shoot. Your mood board should be a template where you feature swatches of colors, inspirational references you want incorporated in the shoot, and even ideas for hair and makeup. Though planning the entire shoot isn’t always necessary, putting some thought into the process will help your team better understand and execute the concept.

Keep in mind that everything doesn’t always go according to plan, which is why Lara stresses keeping everyone in the loop regarding any changes (a switch-up in wardrobe will likely impact makeup and hair), as well as having a solid backup plan. If you’re shooting outside and the weather turns sour, you definitely need a quick and easy plan B on the docket!

Book the Right Models for your Fashion Photography

A model can make or break your shoot, so it’s extremely important that you cast the person who is best suited to your vision. If you aren’t inspired by the model you’re shooting, it will definitely show in your work! So, how to go about finding that perfect face? Up-and-coming photographers can call on friends to be models, or even hit the streets to scout for a new face. You can also find online listings through websites like Model Mayhem, or approach small agencies. As long as you have a strong idea for your shoot, they should be open to working with you. Of course, if you’re already an established photographer, developing relationships with modeling agencies will give you access to the more experienced girls.

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Remember, it’s extremely important to communicate with and encourage your model during your shoot in order to inspire her best work. Lara suggests making the model comfortable by showering her with compliments, and telling her exactly what you’re looking for so she works efficiently and quickly. You can even share your inspirations and mood boards with the model so she knows what your vision is. If this isn’t quite doing the trick, step into you model’s world and give hands-on direction by showing her physical examples of the poses you’re looking for. Communication is even more important when working with multiple models –– they need extra time to learn how to complement each other, and you need extra time to experiment with different poses.

Note: ask your model to sign a release the day of the shoot. If you’re working with an agency and they’re being reluctant, you can always offer to photograph and test some models for free in exchange!


Find Your Fashion Photography ‘A’ Team

Want your shoot to be completely smooth sailing? Then it’s all hands to the deck. Fashion photography is a collaborative effort, and everyone should be invested and involved –– from the photographer, to the the model, to the creative team (hair and makeup stylists, wardrobe stylists, art directors, prop directors and assistants). If you have a successful collaboration, you’re more likely to have a productive day and a beautiful set of images. Lara stresses the importance of communicating with your team –– not only will it help things run smoothly, their professional input is invaluable.

So, what’s the secret to organizing a creative team? If you’re a new photographer, you can DIY your way through hair, makeup and styling, or hire recent graduates who are eager to build their portfolio. If you’re an established photographer, you can use online listings or agencies –– and social media is always a great way to reach out to stylists and models who you’re eager to work with. When building your creative team, remember that their skill set should fit the theme of your shoot. This is why networking is so important –– the more connections you have, the more talent you have to choose from!

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Scout the Perfect Location for your Fashion Photography

Your location can be your greatest asset, and the good news is that you can always find an inspirational place to shoot on a small budget. If you’re scouting for a great location as a photography newcomer, try easily accessible (and free!) spaces like abandoned buildings or public, urban spaces. If you’re looking for a studio space, a blank wall in your own home can be used in a pinch, or you can consider teaming up with another photographer to rent out shared space.

Established photographers should consider renting out a location house (they’re expensive, but you can often haggle a “test” rate), and of course there are always professional studios. Just be certain to look at the studio’s reviews!

To learn how to take Lara’s fashion tips into the world of portraiture, check out her illustrative portraiture workshop with award-winning photographer Sue Bryce on CreativeLive! You’ll learn how to bring your most imaginative ideas to life in gorgeous, conceptual fine art portraits.

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Topher Kelly is a San Francisco based freelance writer and editor at CreativeLive – an online education platform dedicated to providing free interactive photography, business and design courses taught by some of the world’s best instructors.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Felicia Margineanu

    Wow, very inspiring!!! love from Sweden

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  2. Jacob

    Just saying breaking out is incredibly hard. Although this advice is great, be aware that you’re looking at 6 months+ of just free testing. That being said, if you can make it it’s an amazing job to have.

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  3. sam

    Thanks for your tips. Hoping to recruit on modelmayhen for a shoot, will be sure to make a plan b now

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  4. Chris

    Great read thanks

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