Getting into Fashion Photography

Jan 26, 2024 | Photographic genres

“Show Notes”

Marcus has a wide experience in fashion having worked in it for many years, and then being a fashion photography lectures.

It’s a team sport Fashion photography involves a team of people, not just the photographer. This might include hair and make up, stylist, model and assistant. Marcus says as a fashion photography there is no need to know anything about clothes. This is the job of the stylist.

Stylist As a fashion photographer you need to build relationships with a good stylist. We have a⁠ podcast episode where we interview mens stylist Nick Hemms⁠.

Hair and make up people who are good at fashion shoots are hard to find. It’s important to note that fashion make up is very different from other types of make up.

Assistants are very helpful on a shoot. They mean you are able to focus on the model and the look, while the assistant is working in the background on the setup.

Models are a vital part of the fashion shoot. Marcus says fashion models often look a little different, have a striking look. It is vital to find a model that helps you get the end look you are looking for. The simplest way to find a model is to talk to a model agency. Marcus says they often have new models on their books who are looking for gaining images for their portfolio. But before an agency lets you work with them they will want to see some of your work. Fashion vocabulary

Look book. This is a photograph usually with a plain background where the garment is front and centre.

Editorial This is a series of shots that often are telling a story Shooting ahead In the fashion world the photography is for items coming out 6 months ahead. That means that in the summer you could be shooting ski wear and bikinis in the winter Edging / street look vs. episode Catwalk / print The look is very different Call sheet This is a list of everyone on the shoot and all the information about the shoot. Ready to wear vs⁠ ⁠haute couture Make sure you know the difference ⁠The September issue ⁠– This is a film about the fashion world that Marcus recommends watching.

“Show Transcription”

Sam: Hi Marcus, How are you doing?

Marcus:  I am very well, thank you, Sam. How are you?

Sam: Very, very good, thank you, Marcus. It’s good to be speaking to you. And so today on the shoot to the top podcast, we are going to be speaking about. Well, when I say it is mainly going to be Marcus, we are going to be speaking about fashion photography and how to get into it. Now, my daughters will tell you, I’m not an expert in fashion, so I think this is definitely where we hand over to Marcus. So, Marcus, please tell us a bit more about fashion photography and how we can find a route in there.

Marcus: Yeah, my pleasure, Sam. Well, obviously, I’ve been involved in fashion photography for quite a long time. Ten years shooting in the business and about ten years as a senior lecturer in fashion photography at the University of South Wales. So, there’s obviously a lot to talk about, but we’ve only got a few 15 minutes. So, I’ve actually picked three topics that I’m going to cover and one bonus one, which is a real, really good one for our newsletter Readers, listeners. Readers, listeners. Oh, is it readers? Are they newsletter? Well, they’re both.

Sam: Well, they read the newsletter and then they listen to the extra. Anyway, we’ll move on.

Marcus:  Okay, I digress. Okay, so there’s three things I’m going to talk about that I’ve picked, I’m going to highlight. And the first one is, it’s a team sport. Secondly, we’re going to talk about finding a model. And then thirdly, what does it all mean? Okay, those are my three subjects.

Sam:  Quick question. When you say finding a model, I presume you mean like a person model, not a business model.

Marcus: Yeah, mate, we’re talking about fashion here. Model.

Sam: You still might need a model for your business, but okay. To hang the fashionable stuff on.

Marcus: Exactly. Right. Okay. It’s a team sport. So, first of all, people don’t realize that fashion geography involves a massive team of people. Well, when I say massive, well, it can be massive, but at least two or three people involved in the shoot. And it’s important when you’re starting off to start working in this way. I feel the kind of people that might be involved in this shoot are a hair and makeup person. You might have a clove stylist. The model, of course, we’ve talked about that, assistant that could be a camera assistant. It could be a digitech assistant taking care of all that and on the shoot, you might find the clients as well. So how do you start building up this team, and why do you want this team? Well, a misnomer about fashion photography is that the photographer needs to know about clothes. It’s not true. I know fashion photographers who have got know nothing about clothing or have very little interest in it myself, I was quite interested in fashion, the garments, et cetera. But I still work with a stylist. And what a stylist does is they bring along the garments to the shoot, so they’ve got connections, a book, a black book of various outlets or manufacturers of clothes that they can bring along to the shoot, which they borrow and then they let give back to them. So, establishing a connection with a stylist early on is such a good idea.

Sam: And if you go back through the podcast archives, we’ve got an interview, haven’t we, Marcus? With a stylist, Nick hems .That’s it. Back through the podcast. You can listen to that one.

Marcus: That’s quite right. And I think we’ve got another clothes stylist coming up, haven’t we? Soon, fairly soon, we could well be. Yeah. So, a clove stylist is almost essential to work with, because to try and find these clothes yourself as a photographer is going to be very difficult. So how do you find a stylist? Well, a good place to look might be in universities or colleges, courses that have places that have fashion degrees or fashion courses. You might find even ones that specialize in doing production. They call it fashion production, which is basically putting together fashion shoots. Or you could also maybe go to a local shop, a really high end or a good quality clothes shop that sells really interesting garments and see about working with them and opening up a collaboration. You might even do and go to a hairdressing salon and talk about working with them as well.

Sam: Are sometimes your clients, those sorts of people in the market. So sometimes as a fashion photographer, your clients, the people who are providing the clothes or doing the hair or whatever.

Marcus: I mean, that’s a great question. Really, it all depends. A lot of the time you’re going to be working for magazines, that’s sort of the traditional route in. And then you might do that as a free. And then clients like manufactured will see you in those magazines, and then they’ll pay you or employ you to do that. Same with hairdressers.

Sam: Okay, so you might need initially to get in the magazine, you might need to provide all of these people yourselves. But then it might be that a shop or someone wants you to work with them to show their clothes, and then they’re definitely providing the clothes and possibly the other stuff. And that’s quite different.

Marcus:  Exactly right, exactly. So, we got the stylist next, the hair and makeup, again, a crucial part of any fashion suit and not easy to find. And the reason I say that is because a lot of makeup artists might want to. Might want to take over a little bit or dominate the suit and really spend too much time doing costume makeup as opposed to fashion makeup. So, you should really understand the difference between fashion makeup and costume makeup or special effects makeup. They’re very different.

Sam: They’ve got to kind of understand. So, if you work with somebody regularly, that could be really good, because the key is that you understand each other, isn’t it? And know what’s needed.

Marcus: Exactly. I worked with the same makeup person for many, many years ago, and he just knew he would put on the bare minimum. He just put like some cream on their face, on the mold face, and they just look amazing. It’s like, wow, that is just perfect. People for photography is very different from makeup for going out and being out and about or partying.

Sam: it’s very presumably look. Yeah, presumably for some shoots, you want virtually no makeup, so it looks like there’s none. And for others, you might want some really strong, really crazy stuff and they’ve got to know what’s appropriate for which shoots and stuff.

Marcus: Exactly, right, exactly. So, you might find the makeup artist, hair artist, might be the same person through Facebook groups is a good place to look for that, or local connections, but that kind of thing, the model we’re going to come on to next assistance. Well, that’s obviously, I always work with assistants and I try and do that when I can. Not essential, but they’re going to make you a lot, your life a lot easier because there’s so much going on in a fashion shoot. You needed to be focused on the end look and the model and talking to the model and having an assistant setting upon all the gear and being in control of that, and that makes the world a difference. And of course, they’ll be learning from you as well. So, getting Sony, so that’s basically the kind of team that you would put together. And its general industry practice that this is the way you do things and people will be willing to contribute to working together as a TFP, which is trade for. We used to call that trade for prints. Maybe it’s the trade for files now, but certainly everybody would be interested in producing prints that they would get for free from the photographer and that would be the payment for it. We call this testing. Right. Okay, so let’s say we’ve got your team together. You’ve all agreed on a concept beforehand. Let’s now talk about the model and how you’re going to find a model, because this is the photographer’s responsibility. The model is key to how the look of the shoot. And really, as a budding fashion photographer, you’ve got to start getting an eye for what makes a great model. A fashion model is not somebody necessarily who is got your person, girl, boy next door looks, i.e. They tend to look a little bit different. They’re striking. They got striking looks. They might not even be considered as being good looking, whatever that is, but they tend to have these looks. And certainly, you should be open your mind should be open to understanding what this is. Yeah, it’s a bit of a weird one, isn’t it? I can say you are looking at me a little bit quizzically there, but what is this? It’s a bit nebulous, what I’m talking about, but it’s basically you should just have the eye for what makes a fashion model.

Sam: Presumably it’s also to do with their skills as well in being a model and, yes, the way they behave and the way they look, because that can obviously change a lot, can’t it? Depending on what they’re thinking and feeling and that sort of thing.

Marcus: Well, if you to direct them, it’s to. To direct them and to bring that out of them and to get your message across. It’s just understanding how you want your end image to look, your end story to look and finding a person, a woman or a man, a girl or a boy, that’s going to fit that aesthetic. I see around, like workshops and stuff, photography, lighting workshops, where you can go along and you can take photographs of models. And they tend to be not the kind of what I would call fashion models. Fashion models look quirky, they look interesting, they look unusual. When you see a fashion model walking in a room, you know that they’re a fashion model. They just got this certain gravitas about them. How do you find them? Well, the best way, and probably the simplest way, is to go to a local model agency or a national model agency. And what they have is they’ve got new models that are just come on board and they tend to be a bit younger and tend to be more inexperienced. But they’re looking to test, they’re looking to go out there and work with photographers to get experience of being in front of the camera, like you were talking about just there, Sam, and that kind of thing, of building up a portfolio. So, when you go to an agency, you’re going to be looking for new faces. They call these the agents. The modern agency is going to make sure that you are up for the task. So, you’re going to have to have some kind of portfolio to show them. It doesn’t need to be glam photography. They’re looking for really something that’s just not too over the top fun enough. But anyhow, maybe this is, I’m going a bit too deep into it, but certainly model agencies are the place to go for. Mean, there’s various online places. I’m not going to mention any names, but they’re not very good. I would say go for the agency.

Sam: Go for the agency.

Marcus: Yeah, exactly.

Sam:  They’re there for a reason.

Marcus: That’s exactly right, Sam. And they know these people are experiencing the whole world. They’re talking about fashion models and this whole rather unusual world. Of fashion. And that brings me on to my third point. What does it all mean? So, you’ve got to bring up your vocabulary, your fashion vocabulary, all the different words that are banded around. I’ve got a list here. Let me just go through them quite quickly, because I know I’m going on a bit too much now, but a list of words that you need to be aware of in the world of fashion.

Sam: So, before you say that, Marcus, I was just thinking, you’re talking about talking to the agencies and stuff. Presumably that’s really helpful for you, because it’s just building your network, isn’t it? And if you want to get into the fashion world, then if you’re talking to people who are running agencies, working in agencies, talking to people in hair, makeup, you’re building that network. And you’ll pick up the language as well. You pick up lots of things just from being with people in that world, talking to people in that world, making connections and people in that world, just as if with any other business, you’re making those essential business connections.

Marcus: Exactly, Sam. And the way it works is you start testing for a modern agency, then they get a client, come along and say, we’re shooting a campaign for X Company. Got any new photographers on board? Got any interesting photographers? And in your name. And that’s how it works. So, yeah, it’s Uber networking, but the terminology, let’s go through this. Basically, I’ve got lookbook versus editorial. So, it’s important to know what a lookbook is and what editorial is. A lookbook is more like a catalog where the garment is put front and center, normally against the plain background, whereas an editorial look or an editorial campaign is something that might be a story that’s shot over many pages. So, you’ve got to understand, if a client comes up to you and say, you want a lookbook or an editorial shoot, you’ve got to know the difference. You’ve got to understand that fashion works in a very weird way and that you’re always shooting forward, just shot six months, maybe a year ahead. So here in UK now, it’s in the midwinter. So, you’ll be shooting for summer, come the summer.

Sam: So, you’ll be there in the rain and the cold doing a bikini shot or a swimwear shot or whatever and sun hats and things.

Marcus: Well, hopefully not in the cold, but certainly you got to be aware of that. Yeah, exactly. Start to understand what makes her an edgy or street look as compared to, like, a beauty shoot. When I started very briefly, I was doing lots of edgy work for testing. And my portfolio was very edgy. And I went over to America to show it to hairdressing salons and hairdressing manufacturers. And they really liked it because they are used to doing beauty work, very classical. And they saw my book, they thought, oh, it’s very edgy, very different, and they wanted to sort of buy into that. So, understand what makes the difference? What makes a story? What is a story, a fashion story? How do you build up six pages or more from one photo shoot? Understand the difference between catwalk and print, and the models are different, the aesthetic is very different. Understand the different people involved in the process. And what does an art director do? What does an agent do? Know how to put together a call sheet. What is a call sheet? A call sheet is basically a list, a spreadsheet, as it were, of everybody involved in the shoot, where it’s going to be, phone numbers, everything, timing, it’s all in there. And one of the most important parts of putting the shoot together is putting a call sheet together. Yeah. And I’m just going to finish up with one more term, Higgs, I think we are running out of time.

Sam: We are, Marcus. But I’ll let you off with one more.

Marcus:  One more ready to wear and oak couture, if I’m saying it correctly, oak couture. What is different between ready to wear and oak couture? You had to know these things. A really good resource that I’m going to mention is a film called the September Issue, which is a documentary film, all about Vogue, and then putting out their September issue, which is their big issue of the year, the big month of the year. And it is very interesting and very enlightening. There we go. Okay, let’s leave it at that. But as I say, I do have one more thing to say, which is going to be in the newsletter, and this will just change, blow your mind and change everything, what you know about fashion photography.

Sam: There we go. So, if you want to get Marcus’s bonus content, then head to our website,, and from there, you can sign the newsletter. And when you’ve signed up to the newsletter, you will then be sent every new podcast each week with the bonus content. And if you sign up, and this podcast has already gone, then if you ask us nicely, we can give you access to that bonus content, too. So, Marcus, that has been really interesting. That is our oat Couture podcast for this week. I’m looking forward to next week already. Brilliant to talk to you, and I will see you next week, Marcus.

Marcus: See you next week, Sam.