What are the ingredients of fashion photography? This question may be rarely asked, but it is an important question to think about. After all, is fashion photography really about the technical aspects or is it about the content?
You could say that all fashion images are made of photons, and you would be absolutely right. In fact, each image is made up of photons. However, if we zoom out from the basic micro level, we must consider the content of mode images. This content is what you see in the image, what the image makes you feel, and what experience the image creates.
Ingredient #1: Great Style
Fashion imagery is impossible without… fashion. Obvious, right? You need to understand the style and societal impact of the clothes you photograph. The style dictates what the image will look like.
You should familiarize yourself with the stylists in town and strive to always work with better and better stylists. Of course, you won’t get the best ones right away, but you can always reach out again and again. No one would spam if this didn’t work.
Albert Watson, one of the world’s foremost fashion photographers, often says that when people look at fashion photography, they react to the clothes, not the image itself. No matter how good your techniques are, if it’s an outfit from H&M or another mass-producing fast fashion retailer, the image will likely be boring. However, if it’s a haute couture dress from someone like Dutch fashion designer Iris van Herpen, your image will probably be quite interesting.
Try to have interesting and relevant clothes. If you need inspiration, pick up a recent edition of vogue. There’s bound to be something to get your creativity flowing.
Ingredient #2: Great Lighting
In order to show off the great style your stylist brings, you need to be fashion conscious – in a photographic way. For example, you need to know in great detail how to light certain fabrics. Satin and chiffon are two fabrics that will perform differently under the same lighting.
You don’t want luxurious fabrics in exquisite tones to appear in a photo as something bland and cheap. Not only will this make your stylist very unhappy, but you’ll also think you can’t capture what you see.
The trick is to understand that we see texture and color because they interact with light. If you can replicate the light you see or create a light that shows off the clothes more, you will be happy with the results. Learning how to light fabrics and garments is paramount to getting great fashion images.
There is no one-size-fits-all lighting solution for fashion. No configuration is good enough for this. In fact, I think sticking to specific lighting setups is nonsense that can confuse new photographers and keep them from progressing. They are simply someone’s idea of what lighting should look like.
I encourage you to be unique and find the light that you As. This, however, will only come if you know the light well.
Ingredient #3: Great Energy
A good fashion photo must above all energy. Photo energy is perhaps what separates great images from great images. I’ve noticed that there’s something magical about great pictures, and it’s different with every picture. However, they all just have energy, which causes a reaction in the viewer.
You should always aim to capture the energy on the board. If there is none, be the energy. Infect your crew with it.
You can always work up and better to achieve great style and lighting. In fact, if you never stop being curious and exploring the art you really love, you’ll get great lighting and work with amazing stylists. However, to go beyond things, you must have energy. The image must have something magical, something that moves people.
It’s up to you to put your heart and soul into creating. Your team, your audience and your customers will know if you really did it.