How to pass for a fashion pro - 4/20/09
Fake it where it counts—in your portfolio
So you want to be a fashion photographer but you don’t want to quit your day job and move to New York? Here’s an idea: pretend to be a fashion photographer instead. Armed with these essential tips—more than just dressing in black and sporting cool sunglasses—you can fool any fashionista into thinking you’re the real deal where it really counts, your portfolio.
- Try a hard light. Everybody uses soft and flattering lights to try to make subjects look pretty. It usually works, but done poorly it can be a little bland. Fashion photographers are anything but bland! Try lighting with a direct light from the camera—like a bare bulb flash or a ringlight. It’ll make the colors pop and flatten the scene by filling in almost every shadow in sight. The glamorous snapshot look is always in style, and it comes from a harsh light right next to the lens.
- Work with a good model. So many pros I talk to mention talented models as crucial to the success of their work. Not only does a great model make fine lighting look wonderful, it makes you look like a more talented photographer. Even better, collaborate with an established model, particularly as you’re learning, to make for more interesting images and a better learning curve.
- Hire hair and makeup help. It’s hard to elevate the craft of fashion and beauty with a six-dollar haircut and bags under your eyes; even worse if you’re the model. Help your subjects look their best by investing in talented hair and makeup help to keep the production from looking, and feeling, amateurish. Find makeup artists and hairstylists at the same place in their careers, and consider trading work in exchange for more professional portfolio pieces and references.
- Don’t over-light. Keep it simple, stupid, but use your lights unexpectedly. Position the background light to create flare, or work with minimal fill to add to the sense of mystery and intrigue. Use a window as a side light, or a giant and soft source for the smoothest skin you’ve ever seen.
- Emulate the best. Working with a goal in mind will help you quickly understand what it takes to create particular lighting and posing results. Read fashion magazines and check the ads to see what the best of the best are doing. Keep a folder of tearsheets, digitally and/or in print, of samples you like. Then set out to emulate them. This process of starting with a specific agenda will be immensely helpful in understanding what it takes to make great photographs. Many pros do this, and it if it’s good enough for them…