(Editor’s Note: This fashion photography how-to from professional photographer Dixie Dixon is part of a monthly series on Digital Photo where top pros from Nikon USA’s Ambassadors program share their simple tips, tricks, and advice on how to be a better photographer.)
In order to bring your fashion photography to the next level, it’s important to accentuate and emphasize more than just the fashion and textures in an image. Bringing out the personality of the person who is wearing the clothes will elevate your fashion photography, so begin by getting to know the subject you are photographing. This will help to bring out the mood of the model and show the viewer exactly what it feels like to wear those clothes – not just how they look.
Fashion is just one piece of the puzzle; bringing out the soul of a person and style is the cherry on top. Here are five of my best fashion photography tips to help get you started today.
#1 Use the Right Lens
To create beauty images, use a longer lens, like a 105mm or 85mm. Longer telephoto focal lengths are ideal because they create a beautiful compression effect, blur your background and bring more attention to your subject. A long lens helps to create iconic, glamorous headshots because it makes the model look to scale. I personally love the 105mm f/1.4, which creates a gorgeous and classic look without distorting a model’s features.
#2 Lighting Is Everything
Lighting is the most essential element to capturing a stunning fashion photograph or beauty headshot. For anyone just getting started, play with natural light. I would recommend aiming for peak times of the day like near the golden hours of sunset/near sunrise because you can shoot direct light and look fantastic. You can also shoot backlit during this time. This is when the sun is coming behind the model, and you overexpose it a little bit to create a nice hair light from the sun and balance in a reflector to fill in the face. Through this technique you are able to achieve that dreamy fashion lens flare. When shooting during mid-day, find some shade, which will create a nice overall glow. I may also bounce in a little bit off a reflector on the model to create more pop.
#3 Experiment with Angles
Angles are one of the best ways to change the perspective and create more “oomph” in a fashion photoshoot. Keep in mind that whatever is closer to the lens is going to appear larger. When I shoot headshots with either an 85mm or 105mm lens, I like to get a little above the subject, and shoot down slightly to make the eyes stand out, which happens because they are closer to the camera. This creates a nice effect and helps to build a connection with the viewer.
However, if I am shooting full-length, I like to do the opposite. Getting a slightly lower angle with a wider 35mm or 50mm lens allows me to elongate my subject’s legs and capture background scenery for that high-fashion look. In addition, when shooting at a low angle, it is easy to make people look more powerful.
#4 Play with Posing
When starting any campaign, I like to show the models who I’m working with examples of the poses we are seeking, which helps to set the tone and style of the photoshoot. Instead of having the models stand straight on, ask them to turn their shoulders, which will create a slimming effect. Additionally, I often instruct my models to stick out their chins a little bit, which will emphasize the jawline. Another easy trick is to ask them to touch the roof of their mouth with their tongue, which will tighten up the muscles in the face for a more flattering look. In order to capture a fierce and beautiful expression, have the model put their head down slightly and gaze up towards the camera. Often times I also instruct my models to close their eyes and open them after counting back from three, which helps to create a fresh expression that never fails to connect. A simple technique for shooting full length is to always outfit a model in high heels or instruct them to stand on their tiptoes as it elongates the body and improves posture.
#5 Select a Wardrobe that Flatters
For beautiful headshots, keep it simple. Avoid heavy stripes and patterns because they may draw too much attention away from the subject. Layer textures like denim with cardigans or play with different color schemes or shades of the same color to bring out features. For instance, a simple way to accentuate a model’s beautiful blue eyes is to outfit him or her in different shades of blue. Wardrobe all depends on the concept. For example, work with neutrals to achieve a clean, traditional look, or use crazy colors and gowns for that high fashion, runway aesthetic.
Everyone has a different body type, so it is important to consider when it’s best to minimize or maximize different areas of the body. An easy rule of thumb is that black typically minimizes, while lighter colors and white tend to add a few pounds; it all depends on the person’s body. Covering shoulders with at least a little bit of a sleeve is usually more flattering than a tank top or spaghetti strap shirt. People tend to look great in layers, and they photograph well, so don’t be afraid to layer jackets and different textures for a flattering look.
About Dixie Dixon
Dixie Dixon is an internationally renowned fashion, lifestyle, and commercial advertising photographer, film director and Nikon Ambassador based out of Dallas, Texas. She travels worldwide working with high profile brands and clients, ranging from Disney to Virgin to People. She has spent the last decade bringing creative visions to life for brands, ad agencies, fashion, and commercial clients.
Dixie is known to bring a wildly positive energy to set that creates a one-of-a-kind experience for her clients. Dixie’s style embodies an idealistic approach to photography and motion work with a touch of soulful realism. Learn more about her on her website: https://www.dixiedixon.com/