This article was originally published on Adorama Learning Center
Every Fashion Week I learn something new. This is my tenth or so New York Fashion Week by now and I’m still forgetting memory cards, wandering aimlessly trying to find the backstage entrance at Skylight Clarkson, getting kicked out of areas and wondering why Dropbox doesn’t sync faster on Starbucks wifi.
My kit this NYFW included my Nikon D800, 16-35mm f/2.8, 50mm f/1.4, 24-70mm f/2.8, and 70-300mm f/4-5.6G Nikkor lenses, Nikon SB-910 Flash and multiple trips to CVS for AA batteries. I rented a Sony a7R II with 85mm/1.4 from Adorama, which I loved so much I shed a little tear when I returned it today.
As a photographer, you are always learning and this fashion week was my biggest learning experience to date.
1. Having more than one camera makes a difference. This was actually the first fashion week I used more than one camera body. I don’t like to feel overwhelmed by gear and gadgets so I like to keep it simple. I added the extremely lightweight Sony a7R II with 85mm/1.4 to my kit. My 24-70mm on my Nikon is great for runway and first looks but doesn’t compare to the beauty that is the 1.4. I elevated my beauty work alone with the Sony, a personal goal of mine during NYFW.
2. Some things aren’t worth biting your nails over. This was actually something another photographer said to me while I was backstage waiting for first looks at Jason Wu chewing on my hot pink nails. Fifteen plus photographers were crammed in a hallway at the St. Regis Hotel waiting for models to bolt down the hallway in gowns and stilettos. I’m disappointed with the lighting in the hallway and my inability to move around. My back is pushed up against the wall leaving only 3 feet away from the models when they line up. My nerves kicked in and I started biting my newly manicured nails. She [the photographer] was right. It wasn’t worth stressing over. I couldn’t change the situation. I just would have to make it work. Make a beautiful shot out of a difficult situation. But isn’t that what fashion week is all about?
3. Celebrities are people too. I know, shocker! Prabal Gurung’s show emphasized femininity with a finale that left viewers speechless. Bella Hadid led the pack down the runway to a cover of “Imagine” by the John Lennon in a white tee with the text “The Future Is Female.” Matching black and white tees with other sayings quickly followed. I watched Sarah Jessica Parker hug Prabal Gurung post show. They both turned their backs to the cameras as they shed tears. SJP posed for a couple shots after wiping away tears. She turns to the photographers and says, “He’s all yours, gentlemen.” The pauses and turns to me and says “and ladies.”
4. Welcome to “Photographer Humiliation Month.” We often get told we have access to one thing and then it changes or that we only get 15 min backstage and nothing more. Pushed and shoved in tight quarters all day to get THE shot. I learned however that photographers have each other’s back during fashion week. We might all be kicking each other out of the way to get the photo, but when push comes to shove [literally] I can count on the backstage vets to have my back.
5. Don’t shoot just to shoot. I use to photograph EVERYTHING backstage. Just because it’s there doesn’t mean you need to shoot it.
6. Eat the catering. I always forget this one. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but when no one is looking I sneak some of the leftover snacks and drinks into my bag on my way out the door. Essential fuel for editing. (Coach had insane chocolate chip cookies with salt on top and Thakoon had cute Rosé in a can).
7. Take on personal projects. Just because your editor doesn’t want you to shoot runway, doesn’t mean you can’t. This fashion week I made GIFS for clients. I always have fun making them because they showcase my images in a new way and break up my coverage by adding movement.
8. If you see Anna Wintour, immediately click the shutter. I try to shoot and not think during this one because the more I over think it the more I panic she will say something to me. So I shoot then run.
9. If you can’t find moments, make them! Ask models to twirl, hold up the bag, and make a silly face. Talking with the models and getting to know them will help you know their personality and as a result, know how to direct them in images to get the photos you want.
10. Have a little faith. I have always been a half glass empty kind of girl. Maybe it’s the perfectionist in me always striving to do better. Three days or so into NYFW, I was over it. Ready to quit. I hated the photos I was taking. They felt repetitive and old. I was striving for something fresh. Even though I was getting lots of “likes” and “regrams,” I wasn’t happy. I was trying to stay away from the “chaos” and makeup/backstage photos I tend to ‘crutch’ on.
It wasn’t until Proenza Schouler’s show that I felt like I was producing the work I wanted. Black cords lined the dingy floor of Skylight Clarkson with brick white walls. My face lit up instantly. Sometimes I need to remind myself that not every show will be amazing. I won’t love everything I shoot. But if I leave fashion week with at least five great photos I am proud of, then I’m golden.
About the author: Alyssa Greenberg is a New York and Boston-based fashion photographer who began her freelance career as a team photographer for The Boston Celtics, is known for her journalistic style which lends well to fashion, lifestyle, and portrait work.