Fashion Photography

Beautiful clothing, beautiful models — working as a fashion photographer can be a dream come true for many people. Although on the surface, fashion photography can look like any other type of photography, there are notable differences. For one thing, the clothing often is the focus of the best fashion photography images. High fashion photography is also often the work and product of a team of people, from the designer of the clothing and the models posing to the photographer and the stylists and makeup artists working on the shoot.

With so many moving parts and different ideas floating in the air, it can be a challenge to have a fashion photo shoot go off without a hitch. Preparation, an understanding of your tools and a willingness to take risks can all lead to a successful fashion photography shoot.

1. Develop the Concept in Advance

You can't be too well-prepared for a fashion photo shoot. If you go into the shoot on the day-of expecting "inspiration" to strike, you are probably going to be disappointed, and the people working with you are likely to be frustrated.

Fashion photography is usually about telling a story. To tell a story, you need to have the concept in advance, as well as an idea of how you'll go about developing that concept.

Conduct Research

Research can be the fashion photographer's best friend. You want to learn as much as you can about the designer whose clothes you are shooting. It's also worth looking at examples of other fashion photo shoots to get an idea of what has worked in the past and what might not have worked.

In a more general sense, it's also worth reading up on and studying lighting techniques, posing techniques, photo editing processes and makeup and hair ideas.

Put Together a Mood Board

One way to create a concrete vision is to create a mood board. You can use a social platform to create your mood board or put together a physical board using images you find in magazines, newspapers or books.

Your mood board doesn't have to consist exclusively of fashion photographs. It can contain any image that you feel captures the feeling or essence you want to convey through your photo shoot.

Using a mood board when building your concept and creating a story for a fashion photography shoot also helps you to get buy-in from the client. If you prefer, you can invite your client and others involved in the photo shoot to view the board and add their contributions.

The essential thing to remember is that you don't want to allow too many people to have input or to influence your overall concept. You should be the director of the photo shoot and should have final say over what ideas become part of the overall story and concept.

Be Open to Inspiration

You can't force inspiration. At the same time, you also don't know when inspiration might strike. For that reason, it is a good idea to carry around a small notebook so you can write down inspiring thoughts or ideas as they come to you. If you prefer to use a digital tool, you can use an app or another note-taking program to record ideas or sources of inspiration.


2. Remember: A Fashion Photo Shoot Is About Collaboration

No fashion photographer is an island. During a shoot, you'll be working with a team of other creatives. Ideally, you should all be working towards the same goal and should share a unified vision of what the story and concept for the shoot. The size of your team and the exact people you hire depends on the complexity of your shoot. In some cases, you might need to hire specially trained stunt performers or others with specialized skills. If you aren't doing anything overly complicated, such as working with stunts or shooting in unusual locations, such as in the water, then you'll most likely only need to work with a team of photo assistants, stylists, makeup artists, hair artists and models.

Working With a Stylist

In the world of fashion, an outfit that looks amazing out on the street or when worn down the runway might not look so hot when photographed. It's the wardrobe stylist's responsibility to arrange and style outfits so they look as great on camera as they do in real life.

A wardrobe stylist also often has the responsibility of sourcing accessories and clothing from designers to be used in your fashion photo shoot. This means a stylist should have a clear idea and understanding of the concept of the shoot so they can find appropriate clothing and accessories. Often, a stylist will need to source enough clothing and accessories for a variety of looks or outfits.

Along with understanding the concept of the photo shoot, the stylist should have an understanding of the body types of models you'll be working with and the ideas the makeup and hair team have.

Working With Hair and Makeup Artists

In a world of high-definition photography, it's essential to have a makeup artist who can make a model's skin look flawless. Contouring and other makeup techniques can create definition and cheekbones where none exist.

Makeup artists come in all shapes and sizes, though. Some specialize in special effects and costume makeup while others are focused on high fashion looks or on creating a more natural look. The same is true for hair stylists. Some focus on putting together natural looks while others are all about creative experimentation and expression.

The type of hair and makeup artists you work with depends on your overall goal and concept for the shoot. If you're aiming for a more natural style, then the talents of an artist known for creating out-there special effects makeup will be wasted. The reverse is also true — an artist who usually creates natural looks might not be comfortable if asked to put together complicated costumey makeup or hair looks.

Finding and Working With Models

The models who work on your fashion photo shoot are much more than just mannequins. They can breathe life into the images you hope to create. Professional models also have an understanding of how fashion photography works and how to pose during a shoot.

You can find models in a variety of ways, from contacting them through portfolio websites to booking them through their agents or representatives. In some cases, the publication or designer might have specific models they want you to use in your shoot.

The Secret to a Successful Fashion Photography Collaboration

What do you need to successfully collaborate with a stylist, makeup and hair artists, models and anyone else working on the photo shoot? Communication is key. The people working with a fashion photographer should feel as if they can share their opinions or offer insight throughout the process. At the same time, it's crucial for the photographer to outline clearly what they expect to get from the shoot.

3. Home in on the Technical Details

Photography merges art and technology. Having a vision is one thing. Having the technical knowledge to bring that vision to life is another. When you are preparing for a fashion photo shoot, there are many technical details to pay attention to, such as:

  • Equipment: When shooting your photographs, will you use a large or medium-format camera or something else? It's also important to think about the type of lenses you'll use.

  • Lighting: Your lighting needs will be different if you are shooting in a studio compared to outdoors, using natural light. Some fashion photographers find that shooting in an environment they aren't used to, such as shooting in a studio when they usually work on the street, requires a period of adjustment. If this is the case, plan on playing with the lighting as part of your prep work. That way, your photos won't end up under- or over-exposed.

  • Editing tools: The photos you take during the shoot will be RAW photos. Afterward, you'll want to spend time cleaning them up and processing them to make them ready for publication.

4. Pay Attention to the Logistics

Fashion photographers need to have an awareness of what makes a photo a "good" photo. In the world of fashion, many of the rules that apply to other types of photography are valid. But fashion photography also has its own set of logistical concerns that are worth noting.


When composing an image, it's usually a good idea to follow the "rule of thirds," which divides an image into three columns and three rows with two vertical lines and two horizontal lines, creating nine equal rectangles. The four lines overlap at four points. Those four points are the area of the image where people's eyes naturally look, so you want to position the subject of your photo at one or more of those points.

The rule of thirds isn't a hard and fast rule, and plenty of photographers do break it. If you are new to fashion photography, it can be worth following the rule, at least until you have a good grasp on how to compose a photo and how to produce balanced images.

Look at the Background

In any type of photography, what it's in the background can make or break the final image. The backdrop is particularly critical in the fashion world. You want to be conscious of what's going on behind your models and how that will impact the final photographs. For example, if you are shooting models in black dresses and the backdrop is a black wall, the dresses will seem to blend into the wall and won't stand out.

Another thing to be aware of when composing your shots is how items in the background interact with the subjects of your photographs. If there is a tree in the background, you don't want its branches to look as though they are climbing out of the heads of your models.

The backdrop can also be your friend when setting up a shot. Specific details, such as a door frame or window frame, can help to define the photograph while linear features, such as roads or railroad tracks, can help to guide the viewers' eyes to the subject of your image.

Use Props

Just as the background can help viewers understand how to interact with a photograph, so can any props you use. The trick to using props with fashion photography is to use them in a way that complements the clothing on display, rather than distracts from the garments. When people look at high fashion photography, they should pay the most attention to what the models are wearing.

Work With Poses

Pose matters in fashion photography. Movement can increase sales compared to photos with stiff poses.

More experienced models will know how to pose for photographs, but it might be up to the photographer to direct less experienced models and give them an idea of what to do or what not to do. Depending on your concept and vision for the shoot, you might need to provide experienced models with direction as well.

Focus on the Clothing

You might be working with beautiful, attractive models on a photo shoot. But in the end, fashion photography isn't about them. It's all about the clothing. Setting your models up into poses that create movement in the clothing, such as twirls, jumps and even running, lets the viewer see how the garments move and what it's like to live in the clothing. Movement shots also help to bring the clothing to life.


5. Don't Be Afraid to Experiment

It is impossible to take too many photos during a fashion shoot, so don't be afraid to play around with angles and poses with your models. You might have a distinct vision for the final product of the shoot, but there's always the possibility you'll unearth something even better if you experiment.

One way to experiment during a shoot is to capture the same pose from different heights. You can photograph the models at eye-level, crouch down and shoot upwards or climb up on a ladder to capture them from above.

If you think you might want to see what a particular shot looks like, it's best to take it during the shoot, so you don't have to reshoot later on or live with the question of "what if?"

While it's worth experimenting, it's also important to remember the needs of the people you are working with on the shoot. Don't keep people longer than they are contracted for or make people work without a break in the interests of getting the perfect shot.

Best Fashion Photography Images from Photographer Mark DeLong

Visual artist and fashion photographer Mark DeLong has years of experience shooting fashion photography. His fashion photographs have appeared on the covers and pages of Harper's Bazaar, Vogue and Elle. If you're a fashion brand interested in working with Mark, get in touch with us through Melissa DeLong, our executive producer.