How to Become a Fashion Photographer in 8 Steps

As a you are about to enter an exciting world. If you are successful you will be envied by many.

This article will help you get started in 8 easy steps.


Step 1
Before You Pick Up A
The single most important attribute for success may surprise you — it is simple integrity. In a world inhabited by thousands of pretenders or worse, this single attribute will put you in front of almost all your competition. For a this means:

* Always treat models, creatives and other photographers professionally and respectfully
* Never mix professional and personal life
* Be on location, with your gear ready, on time — or ahead of schedule. This will give you time to scout the location and relax, as well as impress your clients.

Step 2
Choose Your Gear
Some photographers spend more time thinking about gear than shooting. Enjoy your hardware, but remember that cameras and lenses are often a complex means to a simple end: capturing a fraction of a second of light. There are countless articles on what gear to buy, which lens are sharpest, etc. so I will leave it to others to help you here. One of the best sites for reviews and questions is Digital Photography Review. Research a number of sites for the latest gear and reviews, and remember these general, and important tips:

1. Choose the SLR that feels best in your hands. Look at your camera like a painter looks at their brushes — it doesn’t matter who makes it. It matters how you use it.
2. Lenses are important. When deciding to spend money on a good camera body or a good lens, always opt for the lens. A mediocre camera with a good lens will always out-shoot a top of the line camera with a poor one. If you can afford it, I highly recommend purchasing an F2.8 70-200mm lens — around 70mm is ideal for photography, and the zoom and wide aperture are priceless.
3. Shoot digital — for all but very specialized fashion, film is dead.

Step 3
Before Your First Model Shoot
Shoot until changing aperture and zoom are completely automatic
Shoot moving people or animals with two goals: (1) Their eyes should be sharply in focus, and (2) They fill at least 80% of the frame. Start with F4, and move to F2.8 for the most challenging practice. My first “model” was my yellow lab running up and down the beach.
Take pictures of friends, family, etc. with the goal of capturing events in motion (not poses).

Step 4
Beginning Models & Beginning Photographers = Opportunity
A major advantage you have is that your are in an industry filled with novice models, and you have something to offer them: photographs. Models that will be successful are likely to shoot several times a week if not more — for fresh portfolio photographs as well as experience. On the downside, good models almost never pay for photographers — they are either working, or able to trade their time for photographs — aka “Time for Prints” (TFP), or “Time for CDs.” TFP is their time for your prints.

Step 5
Meeting Models
In every major city, and most minor ones there’s always a pool of photographers and models who desire to work together. You need practice and a portfolio — and they are seeking the same. So how do you meet? Currently the best ways to meet are via sites such as Model Mayhem, One Model Place, etc. Craiglist is also a possibility, but be careful.

Step 6
1. Be safe, as well as respectful of models safety needs in choosing a location — it is normal if they want to bring a friend to act as an escort (I recommend that it is not a significant other or family member). You are risking potentially thousands of dollars of gear, and they are probably risking more. Shoot in a public place if possible — this makes everything easier and safer
2. Choose a location with varied backgrounds and lighting — variety is always good for portfolio shoots.
3. Thoroughly scout the location before the shoot at the same time of day that you will be shooting. Imagine what locations you want to shoot and how you want to shoot them. Take some practice photos.
4. Shoot with natural light, late in the day when the sun is weaker, and mostly use indirect or reflected light if the sun is harsh — such as on a cloudless day.
5. Have two copies of a simple legal release and written agreement for both of you to sign– for example, you will give them copies of your five best photographs in exchange for their time. Be very specific on what they will receive, and when they will receive it, and keep your promise.
6. Discuss expectations and shot ideas before you begin shooting

Step 7
During the Shoot
1. Relax, this is the fun part!
2. Realize that it will take some time for the model to relax. In the past, at least some famous fashion photographers would shoot their first “roll” of film with an empty camera.
3. Honestly encourage and praise the model’s work whenever possible
4. Kindly give suggestions when needed
5. If things are going well, keep shooting. If it feels rough or static, switch locations.
6. Keep the shoot to two hours or less — any more and neither of you will be shooting your best work.

Step 8
After The Shoot
1. Say “thank you” and reconfirm when the model can expect to receive their photographs
2. Always keep your side of the agreement. I cannot over-stress the importance of this simple step.
3. If things went really well, shoot again — second and third shoots are often even better as both the photographer and the model are more relaxed.

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