So you have a camera, the “eye” for fashion, and the urge? Now you want to be a fashion photographer. (I am assuming you know some technique and are a sensible person who shoots manually).
First Things First
The “glamour” you might have seen in films such as “Blow-Up” is almost non-
existent. Fashion photography is all about hard work. That means you won’t be on location (or in the studio) shooting all the time. It means, mostly, that at least 65% of your time will be spent in marketing yourself, sending emails, making phone calls and suffering from anxiety attacks (Will I make it? Will I break through? Will the booker answer my email?).
You have a camera (whatever DSLR) but don’t have a model?
You’ve probably reached the point where your friends might have said: “Enough, I’m not
modeling for you anymore! All I wanted was to have a beer with you…” or maybe you want them to do certain things only a pro would do.
Before panicking and thinking your career is over before it started, you should know most serious modeling agencies are more than happy to make a “trade” with you. They call it “Test Shooting”. They will lend you a model and in return they will expect your photos.
Developing Your Style
Some agencies have certain “standards” they would like you to follow, but that doesn’t mean you can’t develop your own style. A good tip is to shoot according to their guidelines of “less is more” and then, by the end of the test shoot, take a few pictures you created the concept for. It’s a great way to know people in the business and also improve your portfolio.
Also, never stop shooting your personal editorial work. When you are out on go-sees with publishers and editors, they aren’t really interested in single shots. They want to know if you can handle a complete shoot with thirteen looks or more, a full team of creatives and their own demands. You can brainstorm with most editors, but always stick to the theme they proposed if you’ve been assigned to an editorial shoot. It’s not the end of your creativity!
In photography, or whatever sub-genre, it’s very important to be seen. That’s where self marketing kicks in. Some photographers are great, and others aren’t so great. Some just like to show off! This is often very irritating according to a lot of editors and creative directors. Your history in photography is important, but you don’t have to praise yourself. Business cards, a clean and user-friendly website, and Z-cards (like model cards) are good marketing tools.
I use all tools, but I personally like Z-cards and have been assigned to many jobs after sending them to the right people within the industry. They could be in print or virtual, it doesn’t matter. What matters is knowing who to send it to and when to send it (timing is everything).
Z-cards should contain your best 4 or 5 photos and your full contact information (website, phone number, email address). Please note that you will have to change the design according to the client you’re sending it to. If you’re sending your Z-card to a swimsuit label, your best 4 or 5 shots should be related to beach couture. Here’s an example of a Z-card:
Keeping profiles on leading photography sharing websites and communities is also very important. Some brands and magazines keep discussion groups or scouts in these websites, and you can always have a pleasant surprise in your mailbox because you’ve been seen there. Also, nowadays, getting your work published in leading online magazines and fashion blogs is extremely important. Keep in mind that whenever you publish something on the internet, you will be seen. Just make sure you use good channels to be actually seen by the right people. Start with Flickr, DeviantArt, Ben Trovato, and other blogs that feature photographers. Google search!
Deadlines are extremely important in fashion photography. If you’re shooting for magazines, make sure you deliver the proof photos and the retouched photos on time. Coming from a journalistic background I know how hard the day-by-day in a magazine is, editors are often on the fast lane. Don’t make their offices resemble Hell by forgetting to deliver the photos on time. It doesn’t matter if the power in your house is off or if your dog is catching fire, find a way to deliver the photos. Seriously.
Always keep backups. I have a relatively safe system for backups you could also use. First thing I do after coming back to my office from a shoot is to save all RAW files (if you shoot RAW, of course. You can do the same if you shoot JPEG) both in my computer and in my external hard drive. After retouching, I save all the PSD files and retouched JPEGs on the hard drive and I also burn a CD or DVD with that job. As my computer has little available space in its own hard drive, after making sure everything is backed up twice (external hard drive and DVD), I delete only the RAW and PSD files from it, keeping only the JPEGs to make room for future shoots.
It’s a boring job to do, but I’ve had clients asking for the original files and the retouched files 1 year after the shoot. That happens often, but when signing a contract make sure to put a limit of usage (1 or 2 years). Otherwise, you’ll have clients asking for photos you don’t even remember anymore 5 years later.
Be Honest With Yourself
Unfortunately, fashion photography is not the ideal match for everybody. You must be willing to:
- Work at crazy hours
- Get phone calls from editors wanting you to be in location for a last minute shoot in 1 hour or less
- Sort your files into the night and the next day if you’re that messy
- Retouch yourself numb
- Wrap up a studio shoot at 3 a.m. only to be up again the next day at 6 a.m.
- Hear a lot of “NO” in the beginning without getting your spirits down.
I’ve seen amazing people rise and then abandon the business to pursue something else. Any kid with an internet connection nowadays must have seen the crazy amount of “fashion photographers” populating the web lately. I find that fascinating. There is so much creativity and energy going on, but unfortunately for some it’s just a phase.
With talent, hard work, and good contacts you hopefully will go far.
Questions and other inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
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