As a fashion photographer who’s helped create a number.of lookbooks and campaigns for my clients over the years, I learned a thing or two about putting together a successful photoshoot.
It’s not always a given for the photographer to take on a role of a creative director. Often, the clients themselves or a separate creative they outsourced (such as a stylist) will take on that role. However, in my personal experience working on smaller productions for local designers and brands, I’ve found one does have to multitask from time to time because of budget restrictions. The level of creative direction you can contribute usually depends on how open the brand/client is to your input. I usually find the more laid back they are and the more creative freedom they give me, the better the shoot turns out.
All of those thoughts came to mind during my recent lookbook photoshoot with one of my longest standing clients. I’ve been working with Niamh O’Neill for over 6 years now (which is basically the majority of my professional career) and I can call myself extremely lucky to have built so much trust between both of our brands. We produce about two lookbooks per year, so we have close to twelve photoshoots under our belts. Because of that longstanding relationship, we are able to create shoots where Niamh might not be present, like last year in Cape Town, or this year in Bali.
It takes a lot for a designer to just let you run with your ideas. In a way, you are taking their baby, something they’ve invested so much time and money into creating before turning it over to your vision. Usually, the images you produce will be the selling point for the brand, so it’s understandable that they want it to look the best it possibly can. In this article, I would like to share some of my key pointers on how to put on a creative director’s hat, organize, and run a successful campaign without the client being present.
1. Create A Strong Moodboard
I feel like a strong moodboard should be the foundation of every photoshoot. I always try to gather as much information about the collection I’m going to shoot as possible. I always ask the designer about the colours, patterns, and possible visual references. This way, I can establish what kind of location and mood would be the most suitable for the campaign. On top of that, I put together a list of possible model and hair and makeup looks for the designer to look over to make sure we are on the same page in regards to the overall concept. I always try to show as many references to the designer as possible, to make sure they have a clear idea of my vision so that they can adjust it if needed.
2. Choose The Right Team
Once I have my mood and location established, I can move on to picking my team. I usually secure a model first, as she is the most important visual component of my shoot. Most of the time, I will contact model agencies, but if I’ve worked with a girl before, I will occasionally contact her directly. Once I have the model booked for a particular date, I can try and organize hair and makeup teams that are also available on my dates. In general, when organizing client shoots, I always go with creatives I’ve worked with before as I know what their work ethic is like. I know what I can expect from them. It usually makes the whole planning process much smoother and less stressful.
3. Get The Clothes
Getting the clothes can be tricky if the client is sending them from abroad. I find what usually works best for me is either bringing the clothing with me if I’m flying to the location for the photoshoot, or just using a courier like DHL to send the stuff over. You just need to make sure you allow extra time for customs checks, etc., as it can usually take a few days. There’s nothing worse than having the whole shoot set up with no outfits to shoot.
4. Scout The Location For Visual Reference
When shooting in natural light or on location in general, I find It crucial to location scout the place beforehand. I usually try to check out the location in advance and take photos of possible shoot spots on my phone. Once I have that done, I usually pair the locations with different outfits to figure out which colors and patterns work best together. Having your shots mapped out like that will always make the photoshoot go much quicker on the day as you won’t have to scramble and search for locations.
5. Pick the Time Of Day/Conditions Wisely
Always be aware of the time of the year and the weather situation. Bali gets extremely hot and humid during the day, so I knew I would have to set up my photoshoot quite early. Ideally, it’s best to start just after sunrise and finish up by 10:00am. After that, it becomes really difficult to shoot: everyone gets sweaty, the makeup runs, and the light becomes harsher. My makeup artists always carry blotting papers and powder with them to keep the model looking dewy, instead of sweaty (#goodsweat).
From photography perspective, I always try to shoot the direct sunlight looks first and then move into the shade once the light gets to be too much.
6. Dial In Your Camera Settings & Determine Focal Lengths
When shooting my fashion campaigns, I personally love using a wider angle lens, something like my trusty 24-70mm, and I keep the shots in the 24-35mm range. I tend to shoot from down on the ground facing up to even further elongate the model. I also usually shoot at higher aperture so I can incorporate a bit more of the background into my shoots. I feel like bokeh has its time and place in photos, but when I’m working in a gorgeous location, I feel like shooting at f/1.4 would just be wasteful. Incorporating the surroundings creates a better visual story and adds to the narrative.
Those are my top tips for shooting a fashion Campaign. Having as many visual references as possible and keeping good communication between you, your team, and your client is key. The more prepared you are, the bigger chance you’ll have of achieving success. Make sure to also check out my most recent video for more handy campaign tips, which you can see below:
To recap, the six tips for shooting a fashion campaign include the following:
- Create a strong moodboard
- Choose the right team
- Get the clothes
- Scout the location for visual reference
- Pick the time of day/conditions wisely
- Dial in your camera settings and determine focal lengths
Photography – Instagram: http://www.instagram.com/sadowskaphoto
Photography – Website: https://anitasadowska.eu
Sony A7Riii (B&H | Amazon | Adorama)
Sony G-Master 24-70 f2.8 (B&H | Amazon | Adorama)