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How To Do a Successful Fashion Photoshoot (Best Tips 2019)

by Boris Hodakel  • June 18, 2019 • 12 min read

fashion photoshoot

Setting up a photoshoot for the fashion industry is an exciting day for any professional or brand owner. However, a photo shoot can be hard work, and from makeup artists to mood boards, it can be challenging to pull everything together especially if time is limited. The last thing you want to do is embarrass yourself by looking like an amateur running around panicked and unsure while everyone else seems calm and collected.

Naturally, you don’t want to appear flappable, and you may not want to ask for help from more experienced colleagues. Thankfully, we are on hand to work through the basics with you so you will no longer feel daunted. Instead, you'll be able to stroll in on the big day with your head held high and confidently take control, and most importantly, you will leave with a set of images that showcase your brand in the best light.

How to Plan a Successful Fashion Photoshoot

Whether you're doing product photography, shooting pictures of birds, or taking pictures of everyone at a wedding, planning is the most important aspect of a successful photoshoot. Fashion photography is no different; the process of getting everything set up correctly is vital to making sure that you get the shots you need, so from setting up the right team to getting the necessary permits to working with the right modeling agencies, it's the work you put in ahead of time that will directly result in the quality of the pictures you end up taking. While every photoshoot is different, here are some core aspects of planning an effective shoot that you won't want to skip:

1. Do Your Research

camera adjusted for fashion photoshoot

First of all, you want to ensure that the brief for your photoshoot is comprehensive. You have every right, and you are actually encouraged to dig for more details if things are not clear. If you have any colleagues who have done these types of shoots before, ask them for advice, and don't be afraid to hit the lookbooks or do a little bit of online fashion research.

2. Create a Shot List

This is a document you will create that will also be a huge help with budget and planning. Document the following:

  • The shots you are expecting to create
  • How many outfits are involved
  • What props you might need
  • Where you might get them
  • Every other detail you can think of

Your shot list will also include aspects as detailed as facial expressions, lighting angles, and more.

Starting with proper planning gives you a much higher chance of success. Your shot list is a document that you can share with your team, the photographer, the hair and makeup team, the models, and anyone else that will be part of the day.

3. Who Will Be There?

fashion photoshoot models

A fashion shoot is more likely to be a success if everyone understands his or her role, and sometimes due to budget constraints, this will mean people wearing more than one hat (yourself included). Your team should be built from reliable, hard working people, so don’t be afraid to question reputation and experience.

4. What Are The Images Going to Be Used For?

Companies will need quality fashion images for purposes such as catalogs, websites, social media posts, and other marketing purposes. Be clear on what you are expected to deliver at the end of the day, the number of images needed, and what the budget is.

5. Call Sheets

Another important document that you need to source is a call sheet, but it's not necessary to reinvent the wheel to put together this document. Online templates are plentiful, and these templates will help you as they will ask for more information that might otherwise have been overlooked.

The final version of your call sheet will be sent to each person involved in the shoot, and it will include shoot times, arrival time, parking information, a list of facilities, and a schedule for the day. It will also detail outfits for the fashion brand and assign models for each scene. Even with the best intentions, things can get behind or be held up, but call everyone half an hour before they are needed to ensure that delays will be minimal.

When you send the finished document, get confirmation from each party that it has been received and understood. Lost copies of call sheets sitting in spam folders are worthless, so if anyone doesn't reply to your email, give him or her a call to check in.

Ideas, Tips, and Tricks for a Better Fashion Photoshoot

As you prepare for the big day, there are a few different steps that you can take to make things easier when it comes time to get everyone together and start taking pictures. Here are some pro tips that will make your fashion shoot run like a dream:

1. Seek Inspiration

Before you pick out a location, learn the rules of the trade. Big fashion names have created brands for themselves by taking photoshoots in iconic settings, and where you decide to take pictures of your brand's fashions might end up having a big impact on how consumers perceive what you have to offer.

Pick up a lookbook, head online, or simply get your hands on a stack of fashion magazines. Then, take a look through the pages and allow the different settings displayed in fashion pictures to sink into your creative mindset.

By looking at the aesthetics that other brands have created, get a better idea of the overall feel that you want your photos to convey. While you're at it, you might come across the names of some prominent fashion photographers in your city.

2. Scout for Talent

Taking the time to find the talent that fits perfectly with your needs pays off in a big way in the long run. To get started, you might want to check out platforms like Model Mayhem and Instagram. Plenty of established and aspiring models in California, Italy, and other areas across the USA and Europe are relying more and more on social media to get gigs, and you can learn a lot more about a model's attributes and interests from a Model Mayhem profile than you can from most model agencies.

Social media might also be a great tool for finding a fashion stylist, photographer, or another type of professional whose help you'll need to pull off your shoot without a hitch. In the process of finding these professionals, however, don't forget the power of Google and other search engines.

3. Set up a Mood Board

Mood boards were traditionally set up with physical boards and glue, but it's becoming more and more common to make these types of aesthetic brainstorms on electronic devices. Your mood board should capture the overall feeling you want to evoke with your photoshoot whether it's dark bohemian chic or angelic white.

Your mood board should essentially consist of a stream of consciousness that portrays all of the elements that you want to capture on the day of your shoot. It may include other fashion pictures, pictures of animals, landscape paintings, or even just shades of colors that you want to incorporate. Part of being a fashion designer is having a good eye for detail, and now is the time to let this talent shine.

4. Use a Journal

You may find it helpful to keep a basic journal as you go through the set design and talent scouting process. Carry this journal around with you everywhere you go to jot down ideas whenever they happen, and keep in mind that you can usually make use of apps on your smartphone that offer the same functions as a pen-and-ink journal.

5. Develop a Detailed Storyboard

Just like a movie or television show, your photoshoot will follow a general plot, and setting up a storyboard might be the best way to make sure that your big day ends up flowing exactly as you planned. This storyboard will include all of the various specifics related to your shoot; determine how many times each model will need to change outfits or touch up his or her hair and makeup, and plan out every shot you'll take in sequence. Unlike your call sheet, which will be distributed to everyone working on the project, you'll probably end up keeping your storyboard to yourself.

6. Make Sure to Have a Backup Plan

It's important to know what you'll do if all else fails. Outdoor photoshoots can always be ruined by inclement weather, and models can get sick or flake out. It might even be a good idea to have a second photographer lined up in case disaster strikes, and make sure that at least one other person knows the details of your plan in case you're unable to make it to the event due to unforeseen circumstances.

fashion photoshoot location

Guide and Tips for Photoshoots for Beginners and Small Brands

If this is your first time doing a photoshoot, you'll want to keep things simple. Even if you've done a number of photoshoots for your small business, keeping things in line with a strict budget is a must, and you may even want to do your photoshoot indoors to cut down on costs.

Take a look around the office and figure out if there are any objects that you can repurpose to fill roles in your photoshoot. You might want to buy a DSLR camera if you don't have one, but keep in mind that most smartphone cameras are actually powerful enough to take photos that will look good enough for online product photos or web-based publications.

Guide and Tips for Established Brands

If you have an established brand or you've been doing photoshoots for a while, your major focus will be on producing quality images that are in line with your brand's aesthetic. For established brands, establishing proper shooting locations is much more important, and you may need to fork over large amounts of cash for access to the best backdrops.

Your main headache during the process of setting up your photoshoot will be determining which money goes where. Your team may consist of 10 or even 20 individuals, and you'll need to figure out how much money you want to spend on photographers, models, and other professionals who will be part of the project. Through it all, remember that you'll be the central pillar that everyone in the project relies on for support and guidance.

Working with Fashion Photographers

A professional photographer will have a portfolio with a range of different work to make it easier to get a grasp of his or her particular style, and the same applies to your hair and makeup team. Looking for professional fashion photographers with lots of relevant experience will save you a lot of stress on the day of the event.

The more trust you can build within the group, the better the day will go. You can try appointing yourself as the creative director, and this would be a natural step as you are ideally placed to understand and be able to keep the day on target to achieve the aims. When booking a photographer be sure you have realistic expectations. Check out this amazing article about booking a photographer before you do.

Contracts and Documents

Be sure you have contracts in place with your team whether you have worked with them before or not. This is a standard part of the fashion photoshoot business that should be accepted by everyone. You will need your models to complete model release forms, and templates for these forms can be found online.

In the contract with your photographer, make sure you clearly define your expectations, and include a timescale for delivery of the selected photos and what format these images will be delivered in. Once you have finalized the images, discuss when they will provide them, and confirm the requested format. In all contracts, confirm the remuneration for each team member. Plus, you will need to define the rights for the images and remuneration for cancellation or delay issues.

fashion models on photoshoot day

Location, Location, Location

While you may not always be able to visit the site of your photoshoot beforehand, it pays dividends to do a little site visit, and it's preferable to perform this visit with your photographer so you can bottom out issues and ensure that you have all the equipment needed. Make sure to consider lighting, and confirm that the photographer has the gear needed. If they don't, you will need to arrange to rent the necessary equipment.

If your photoshoot will be in a public area, consider issues such as noise, passing traffic from both people and vehicles, and confirm that access is available on the day you need to be there. Road closures can sometimes occur, and such an event has the potential to ruin your day. Ensure the location is clearly defined so all members of the team know how to get there.

Best Places to Do a Fashion Photoshoot

Iconic landmarks like Joshua Tree National Park in California are popular picks for fashion photoshoots, but a natural setting might not be the best place to capture the essence of your fashions. For instance, industrial backgrounds are often better settings for contemporary fashions, and you might want to get right into the nitty-gritty parts of a big city if you feel like evoking the urban lifestyle to the fullest. As you pick out the best places to show off your fashions, keep in mind that the following are all popular photo shoot locations:

  • Colored walls: Wherever you go in a big city, it's easy to find walls painted in bright, solid colors.
  • Gardens: If you're going for the floral look, a backdrop of greenery might be just what you need.
  • Rooftops: Nothing evokes urban chic and a sense of adventure more than a rooftop.
  • Marinas: While it isn't quite the beach, a marina combines an upper-class atmosphere with beautiful blue waves.
  • Sidewalks: Try doing your photoshoot on a sidewalk if you want to evoke an accessible pedestrian vibe.
  • Water fountains: These water features are all motion and beauty, and they serve as exciting and uplifting backdrops.

Potential Costs of a Fashion Photoshoot

According to Snappr, the average price to hire a fashion photographer in Melbourne is around $500 per hour. However, it's also possible to hire a photographer for as little as $50 per hour; it all depends on who you hire and how much experience they have. The same goes for models: According to PhotoSecrets, the average model on Model Mayhem or Instagram charges about $50-100 per hour, and models may demand to work a minimum number of hours to make the job worthwhile.

If anyone else is going to be involved in your photoshoot, you'll need to pay them as well, and keep in mind that you might need to pay for a permit to do a photoshoot in your chosen location. Before you start hiring talent, set a specific budget and stick to it.

How to Do a Photoshoot on a Budget

There's only one secret to pulling off a successful photoshoot on a budget: Do everything yourself. If you don't have a DSLR camera, get one, and learn how to use it. Ask your kids, friends, or family members to be models, and handle all of the post-production legwork yourself. If you do decide to outsource some of the necessary jobs, work with amateurs who charge less, and pick shooting locations that are free and easy to access.

How to Design Your Set

If you'll be shooting your fashion photos outdoors, you might not need to set up a set at all; your natural backdrop will be the only set you need. If you're planning to do your shoot indoors, however, you'll need to incorporate a number of different elements into your set:

  • Props: Depending on the type of apparel you're selling, you might need umbrellas, water bottles, chairs, or any number of other props to pull off your photoshoot.
  • Backgrounds: One background might be enough to get the job done, or you may want to set up a few different interchangeable backdrops.
  • Models: Of course, you'll need a model or a number of models to show off your line of apparel.
  • Lighting: When you're shooting fashion photos indoors, lighting is key.

Photoshoot Day

While you may be the creative director, you are also the runner. For everyone to do his or her job well, you need to facilitate. Plan to arrive first, and bring water and snacks; happy teams are more productive than grumpy ones! If you have tea and coffee facilities, that's great, but if the location doesn’t allow these amenities, then water is fine. Have spare copies of every pertinent document including the call sheet.

Keep your cool and stay focused. Your attitude will determine the overall mood of the shoot, so be positive and encouraging to make sure that everyone involved feels that his or her efforts are appreciated. Build rapport with the photographer, and sneak a peek at the shots as they happen so you can tweak the direction of the shoot little if needed. Overall, your prior planning efforts should ensure a good day, so go ahead and enjoy it.

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About the author:

Boris Hodakel is the founder and CEO of Sewport - an online marketplace connecting brands and manufacturers, former founder of various clothing manufacturing services. He is passionate about e-commerce, marketing and production digitisation. Connect with Boris on LinkedIn.