Fashion Photography 101. Even a basic introduction to fashion photography is fairly in depth. So, renowned photographer Clinton Lubbe decided to split the topic up into a pair of videos. Clinton covers the gear, the fashion genre, finding your style, and techniques for directing your subjects.
Fashion photography isn’t like shooting portraits. You’re not simply shooting to create a flattering photograph of your subject for your subject. There’s a lot more to it than that. One needs to understand the genre, its subcategories, and find one’s style to set them apart from the crowd. So, if you’re interested in shooting fashion, these should help you get started.
First up, Part 1, in which Clinton talks about the gear and the genre itself. He says that genre is absolutely vital to becoming successful in fashion photography.
When it comes to the gear, not surprisingly, the camera doesn’t really matter. Fashion isn’t like wildlife or sports where you need to have a camera with rapid frame rates, 3 million point dynamic 3D autofocus, and perfect subject tracking. You can shoot fashion with just about anything.
There are, of course, certain bodies that are specifically designed for things like fashion and portraits, like the Canon 5DSR and Nikon D810. The increased megapixel count and lack of antialiasing filter are both definitely a bonus, but they are by no means essential. Clinton says that the main consideration is simply that you shoot Raw, with whatever camera you choose to use.
Clinton keeps three lenses in his bag on a fashion shoot, a 35mm, 50mm and an 85mm. Those are his go-to lenses. But he says that he uses each of those lenses for specific tasks. They relate directly to how and what he likes to shoot.
On Genre, Clinton feels that the proliferation of digital has harmed fashion photography. With the ease with which one can now get hold of models (or people claiming to be models), it’s far too easy to just go out and photograph somebody without really knowing or caring what you’re doing.
Understanding the genre allows you to create better work. And it also lets the model have a better idea of what they need to give you from the other side of the camera. When both sides are working from the same playbook, it affords more effective communication, and communication is key.
Part 2 deals with finding your style and directing techniques. Both of these are very important to making you stand out amongst your peers.
Within fashion as a genre, there are a number of subcategories. Which of these subcategories you go for will depend on what you like, what you want to shoot and how you see. Clinton picks a few photographers that he see as examples of photographers that primarily target “youth culture” with their work. The pose, makeup, hair style, and general attitude, they all speak to elements that appeal to a younger audience. As does the type and style of lighting and the angles used to photograph the subjects.
Clinton says that this isn’t his style of work. He can imitate it, but it’s not what really excites him about fashion. And as with any other type of photography, that’s important. I don’t shoot fashion. I’m probably as far from fashion as a photographer of people can get. I shoot portraits, but even for those, I know what I like, and what I don’t. And I’d like to think there’s some consistency in my work that reinforces this.
If you don’t know your style, make that your goal. It’s not something that comes immediately. You can’t just go and sit down, pull out a piece of paper and look at a few images and say “oh, ok, there, I’ve defined my style”.
It is something that is earned, your voice, what you project out there with your photography. It does take a few years of getting to know yourself as a photographer, and understanding what you produce best.
This is why you really want to try to find your own voice as a photographer to develop your own unique style. Clinton believes that having an overall style which defines you is vital to having a successful career in fashion photography. Personally, I think that’s true of just about every genre of photography. Take a dozen photographers from any given genre, whether it be landscape, pets, macro, portraits, they’ll all have their own take on the world. Why should fashion be any different?
Both videos total up to about 35 minutes, and they’re well worth a watch if you’re interested in fashion photography. Even if you’ve already started to adventure into the fashion world, you might find a trick or two. Portrait photographers, too, who are looking to give a fashion look to their personal portrait clients might also gain a few pointers, especially when it comes to style and direction.
Before I watched these videos, I wasn’t entirely sure if fashion photography was something I could ever do. Now, having watched them, I’m absolutely convinced it’s not. And I’m totally ok with that. I enjoy looking at it, but I can’t shoot it. What I want to tell with my images isn’t what fashion wants. Fashion isn’t for everybody, certainly not me, but if you’re passionate about it and have an affinity for it, go for it. Do everything you can to succeed.