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How a Pro Photographer Shoots a Fashion Campaign

See how this high-profile fashion photographer approaches a photo shoot, from concept to completion

Fashion photography is a mystery to many photographers. Most of us don’t live in New York, Milan or Paris and don’t have the opportunity to experience the world of high-fashion firsthand, so we have lots of questions. Who determines the concepts? Does the photographer pick the location? Who chooses the look of the lighting and the models? Curiosities abound, of course, and thankfully Adorama TV has answers. 

Have you watched Adorama TV? It’s the photo retailer’s YouTube channel and it’s full of helpful content on a variety of photographic subjects. One great example is the series of four videos explaining how a professional fashion photographer plans, produces and shoots a fashion campaign. It’s called Nigel Barker’s Fashion Photography Walkthrough, and if you’re interested in studio photography, commercial photography, or photographing models, this series is must-see Adorama TV. 

The videos focus on photographer Nigel Barker, who is familiar to many after 17 seasons as the photographer on the hit TV show America’s Next Top Model. Barker helpfully leads his audience through four stages of a fashion photo shoot: concept and collaboration, choosing models and makeup, fashion gear, and finally post-production. 

“I’m going to break down what it’s like to actually shoot a fashion campaign from top to bottom,” Barker explains. “From actually working with the client, to thinking about the idea, the concept, to working with the models, the makeup, the hair… all aspects of putting together a fashion campaign from A to Z.” 


The first episode focuses on concept and collaboration as Barker works with upstart fashion brand YES AND, an eco-friendly fashion brand. He discusses the process of thinking about the appropriate looks and themes for the campaign, as well as how he goes back and forth with the client exchanging mood boards to help communicate what the space might look like, what props will be used, what the lighting will be, and how the models may pose. 

The second video in the series explains choosing and casting models, in so doing choosing what each model might bring to the photo shoot, as well as what they are hoping to communicate with the selection of each model. It also goes into detail regarding concepting the look of hair and makeup, as well as explaining the challenges of natural makeup compared to bolder styles. 

“We wanted to represent the women as they are, looking their best as real women,” Barker says. “Doing natural makeup is arguably harder than doing glamorous makeup where you may put a smoky eye or big red lip, obvious statements. When you’re doing natural makeup you have to make it look like it’s not really there. That takes a lot of expertise and a lot of time.” 


In the third video Barker goes into detail about the cameras, lenses and lighting equipment he uses in the campaign. And perhaps more importantly, he talks about designing and shaping the light—techniques such as feathering key lights, focused spots and minimizing spill, and much more. In total, for this project Barker was one of two photographers with eight assistants working to present the clothes and models in their best light. 

Finally, in the fourth and final video of the Fashion Photography Walkthrough series, Barker explains how the finished images are polished during post-production in order to give the clothes and models the ideal appearance. From removing loose threads to retouching scratches on the backdrop, Barker explains what goes into refining the images as well as how he chooses which images to edit, as well as the mechanisms for sharing those shots with clients. For any photographer with an interest in fashion or commercial assignment photography, or if you’re simply in need of some great visual inspiration, check out this series from Adorama TV. 

To view all four videos in Adorama TV’s “Nigel Barker’s Fashion Photography Walkthrough,” click here to visit the YouTube channel. The first video in the series is embedded below.


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