10 Tips For Your First Fashion Shoot

Welcome to the exciting world of fashion photography! In this article, I will take you through a whirlwind 10-step process for organizing your first fashion shoot. As you will see from this list, in addition to technical merit, successful fashion photographers must be adept at managing a team and networking in a fast-paced, global industry.

I love fashion photography because I get the opportunity to work with talented & creative professionals in fun and stimulating shoots involving beautiful clothes—what more could a photographer ask for?!

1.  Organize a test shoot…actually, lots of them! Your first several fashion shoots will be “tests.” Tests are a great way to improve your technique, test creative ideas or equipment, build a styling team you work well with and develop your portfolio.

2.  Create a mood board. A mood board is a powerful tool to organize and direct your shoot. Mood boards consist of inspirational images collected from other sources (often fashion magazines) that will help the model and styling team understand the looks, poses, backgrounds or locations for your shoot.  I collect images on Pinterest and make a detailed mood board for every shoot.

 

My Test Shoot mood board on Pinterest. This is a great resource for styling ideas, poses, lighting patterns and much more. Connect with me on Pinterest to see the rest!

My Test Shoot mood board on Pinterest. This is a great resource for styling ideas, poses, lighting patterns and much more. Obviously, I have a thing for intense black and white portraits! You, too, may learn something surprising about your style and preferences when you collect your favorite photos into one place.  Connect with me on Pinterest to see the rest.

 

Pages from an actual mood board that I used for a shoot. Note the styling notes in addition to the pictures.

Pages from an actual mood board that I used for a shoot. Every photographer will make a different type of moodboard.  Mine usually include detailed styling notes as well as images.

 

3.  Build your styling team. Connect with creative professionals who are also getting into the industry and will contribute their skills in exchange for images from the shoot for their portfolios. Makeup and hair styling schools are a great place to meet talented and trained artists. At a minimum, you will need a makeup artist (many makeup artists are also proficient at basic hairstyling). Eventually, you may add a hair stylist, wardrobe stylist, nail technician, photography assistant and more.

4.  Cast a model. “New faces” or “development models” are the newest models signed to an agency; these models are seeking test shoots to build their book and gain experience. Reputable agencies will typically ask to see samples of your work before booking a model. An agency may also request a meeting in person before your first shoot with their model. Before you approach an agency, shoot your most photogenic friends or cast models directly through industry websites like Model Mayhem or Model Management to build your portfolio.

5.  Prepare each look. I typically shoot one to three looks for a test. For each look you will need to assemble the clothes and accessories as inspired by your mood board. Seek out local designers or boutiques that will allow you to “pull” (borrow) clothing and accessories for your shoot in exchange for credit or images.  Fashion photography is a subset of commercial photography, the purpose of which is to sell the photographed items. Be thoughtful in how you select and photograph these items. Eventually, you may work with a talented stylist who will handle this task, but as the photographer, you still have the final word on the overall look.

6.  At the shoot. My favorite part of the entire process! I typically have my styling team arrive early for set up and to discuss the plan for the day. Once the model arrives, he or she is put into the hair and makeup station.  This can take quite long—from 30 minutes to an hour—so this is a good time to set up your lights and backdrop. Finally, because fashion shoots are quite physically taxing, I like to provide healthy snacks and drinks at longer shoots to keep everyone energized. Great music will also pump up the energy and keep the good mood flowing on set.

Where the magic happens! You don't need lots of fancy equipment, but a basic neutral backdrop and lights are essential. While natural light shoots are becoming popular, a fashion photographer must be a master of studio photography.

Where the magic happens. You don’t need lots of fancy equipment, but a basic neutral backdrop and lights are essential. While natural light shoots are becoming popular in the industry, a fashion photographer is still expected to be a master of studio photography.  I often shoot at home but will also rent studios and equipment when I need space to get creative.

7.  Back Up. Back up your files!! Back up your files!! Back up your files!! Fashion shoots have lots of downtime during hair and makeup changes, so use this quiet time to review your work and…back up your files.

Talented makeup artist Keisha Kerr touching up model Madison (ILAND Models) on my set. My team hard at work!

Talented makeup artist Keisha Kerr touching up model Madison (ILAND Models) on my set. My team is hard at work!

8.  Review and edit. Each shoot will generate several hundred to over a thousand photos. Review your work and select the best images to process. In fashion, quality counts over quantity. You only need two to three GREAT images for each look, and you will probably spend several hours carefully selecting and processing the chosen images. Your styling team and the model’s agency may also request specific photos for their portfolios.

Lightroom is a powerful tool organizational tool. I took over 600 shots at this recent shoot, of which less than 20 are likely candidates to be edited and shared with the world. My beautiful model is Pilar (B&M Models).

Lightroom is a powerful organizational tool. I took over 600 shots at this recent shoot, of which less than 20 are likely to be edited and shared with the world. My beautiful model above is Pilar (B&M Models).

 

9.  Share your finished photos with the world. Marketing is everything in fashion photography. Share your best work on your website and social media, and remember to credit your team members. Facebook, Instagram and Behance are all popular social media and photo sharing sites for fashion photographers. Marketing your portfolio will build your brand and name recognition in this fiercely competitive industry.

10.  Rinse and repeat. Evaluate your work with a critical eye and don’t be afraid to ask for feedback from your team members. I love this entire process, and as soon as one shoot is over I find myself thinking of and planning for the next one!

 

Read Anushila’s other posts here.

13 Responses to 10 Tips For Your First Fashion Shoot

  1. Mike Poole February 22, 2016 at 7:10 pm #

    Phenomenal tips!!! Thank you so much!!! I just did my first shoot about a month ago and it went so much better than I had hoped and its already lead to two more shoots. YAY me. Getting my first model lined up took almost a year!! Im guessing if you have no portfolio they dont want to waste their time. Or maybe I come across as a creeper? I still have so much to learn and get pretty nervous at the outset of every shoot, Im deathly afraid of sucking. What methods do you use for retouching? I have been using frequency separation I learned from a Plearn video https://youtu.be/ldhG9fmgC7o but I have found it doesnt work so well with certain skin types as I was left with a blotchy look so Im looking for other ways. I was looking into a Dani Diamond tutorial but its $300

    Not sure what music you listen to while shooting but Im an absolute nut when it comes to my music and I have my soundcloud playing for EVERY shoot and editing session.

    • mm
      Anushila March 4, 2016 at 8:29 am #

      Hi Mike, thanks so much for your message! When I retouch model shoots, I spend the vast majority of my time spot healing. Professional models tend to have good skin, so I mostly retouch to perfect the skin, clean up hair and tidy clothing. Because I’m able to work with great makeup artists, I rarely have to do frequency separation unless I want to go for a specific effect. If you work with makeup artists on your future shoots, tell them to spend extra time on getting the model’s skin tone completely even, especially around the nose and under the eyes. It’s much easier to fix a small pimple with the spot healing brush than to fix large areas of discolored, blotchy skin. Even with clients who do their own makeup, I spend time before the shoot having them touch up makeup so that their skin looks clean and even.

      As for tutorials, I’ve mostly relied on the Northrups’ videos and free tutorials by Phlearn. The rest of my learning about post processing has been by trial and error!

      Keep going on your shoots. If you’re in a small market, it will take time to find good models and build a great creative team, but it will get easier as you build your portfolio and reputation. Good luck!

  2. mm
    Anushila March 4, 2016 at 8:31 am #

    Oh, as for music, I listen to various radio stations from Google Music. Usually either 60s & 70s rock, synths or throwback pop. It depends on my mood and what energy I want the model to project during the shoot. When I retouch I like to listen to ambient EDM, indie, or classical.

  3. mm
    Sarah Bowman March 11, 2016 at 8:31 pm #

    I really enjoyed the post! Fantastic!

  4. Sirron C April 7, 2016 at 12:04 pm #

    Awesome tips.
    Thanks
    – that darn lens cap. hahaha

  5. Abhishek March 19, 2018 at 6:48 am #

    Thank you for the content.

  6. Ali May 28, 2018 at 7:17 am #

    Nice Blog.Thanks for sharing such a great information.

  7. Photoshop Editing Services October 16, 2018 at 5:43 am #

    usually on the first fashion shoot the photographer, as well as the models, become nervous. But these tips can surely relax you if you follow the tips. This article is smartly written by the author. Kudos!!!

  8. Karen Schmidt October 18, 2018 at 5:34 am #

    Great article love the ideas and tips. It was very helpful. Thanks for sharing such splendid ideas with me.

  9. Photoshop Editing Services October 18, 2018 at 6:24 am #

    This is an amazing article. I loved the ideas of the first Photoshoot. Definitely going to try them.

  10. propixel November 26, 2018 at 4:11 am #

    I really benefited from this idea that you have revealed here 10 tips for fashion

  11. Gerty Gift January 24, 2019 at 11:39 am #

    I liked what you said about development models. My friend was talking about building her portfolio and needing to find some models. It would be great if she could hire models like this so that she can get the ball rolling.

  12. Kgomotso May 23, 2019 at 1:25 pm #

    Great help. Thank you. Crossed fingers

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