The Truth About the World of Fashion Photography

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There are many fields of photography in which one can choose to work, but perhaps the most favored is that of fashion.   People are bedazzled by the glamor and the possibility of working with the top celebrities of the day. The expectations are that it will be exciting and fun, like playing on an online casino. But the reality of working in fashion photography may be quite different.

Viddedit says, “The focus of fashion photography is about the presentation of clothes and all other fashion products.  People are really drawn to this field of photography.  It all began with the need of different fashion brands to advertise their wares.” 

But it has grown enormously over the past 50 years encompassing all the newest trends, fashion brands, stylists of all kinds, make-up artists, the hottest celebrities and of course all the top models.   Shooting a fashion spread today involves an entire crew of people.  A multitude of people and skills are involved and it is all about connections, not just lighting abilities. 

If you are really serious about a career in fashion photography you have to relocate to one of the fashion centers, New York, London, Paris or Milan.  This is the heart of fashion and where it’s all happening.  You have to somehow get access to the fashion houses and editors so connections would be useful. 

An incredible amount of patience is required and don’t expect to see much money for quite a time.  You’ll have to work with some real divas so being able to exercise self-control is a must.   Perseverance can pay off if you are creative and able to put together a good portfolio which has a style that is identifiably yours.

Fashion Photography Set Model Photographer Lighting

A few more facts you should know:


Photographers often complain about the issue of working for free.  Unfortunately, this is often the case in the fashion industry.   If you want to be taken seriously this is often the situation you will find yourself in.  Sometimes it may even be that you pay to actually be involved in the work.  

Sounds crazy but this is often the way it plays out.  Often editorial jobs do pay a photographer’s fee or will reimburse money spent on the job but many will not. You may end up paying all the costs involved.  As in most industries, you start at the bottom of the ladder.

You should be aware that when you do actually get paid you are not free to do as you wish. You don’t get to choose your crew, the styling or the models.  You work for a client, that is the fashion editor or the stylist, even if they are paying you only a small amount.   

There are two possibilities to avoid this situation. You could become that much sought-after photographer who everybody is hankering after or you could choose to walk away.  You need to weigh up whether being published in a particular magazine or journal is worth the loss of freedom to choose how you work.  Sometimes it is necessary to move on and remain true to things that represent your style.

There is a lot of money around in the fashion industry.  But, unfortunately, clients are not quick to pay their bills and it is often necessary to hound agents and agencies to get paid.  I guess this is true of other industries as well.

Work Ethics 

Once upon a time, fashion photographers never agreed to have assistants or interns or anyone else for that matter not connected to the shoot on set.   The reason for this was said to be that their lighting set up was the blueprint of their work.   They were protecting their special lighting talents.   Today it is not such an issue because of the possibility of retouching

However, it is worth keeping in mind the possibility of people stealing your ideas.  Some agencies will take your ideas and then use another photographer to do the work.  I guess when you are young and perhaps a little naïve these things can happen in any industry. You see it in the Art world. 

It is better to keep your creative ideas to yourself and not think that by sharing them without payment it will benefit you.   Clients should pay for your creative ideas.  This way you will be valued.

It could be that you will find yourself in a situation where your work is altered so much that it is unrecognizable.  It could be that they won’t even inform you about the changes or will never even forward you the printed journal or magazine.  Not much to do about any of that.  You just have to become less sensitive and become more thick- skinned.

Makeup Artist Apprentice Cosmetology

Working with a Crew 

Fashion photography is basically a collaboration between you and all of your crew. It is quite a process to find the right people who you can work with and who have the technical abilities that you can rely on to bring your vision to fruition.   You want to find people that will work with you towards a mutual goal and that you also like as people.  

And once you have found your crew, you want to keep them with you on each and every shoot if possible.   It makes things go much more smoothly and can actually be fun.  This is not always possible, however, maybe because of incompatible schedules or even for political reasons. 

There are others working on the set, like stylists and hair and make-up artists that are there much more than the photographer in terms of actual hours.   After long hours, they may be more impatient and are often looking for ways to make their life easier.

They are likely to want to work with certain people, of their choice, those they don’t mind spending long hours with.  The same goes for clients who have their own contacts, they will often want to do the same. 

Some of these added members to the team may try to impose their own ideas on the shoot and may even have what to say about your lighting. This situation needs self-restraint but you do need to stand your ground.  You will need to be assertive, but always with a smile.

Sometimes the team that you have just doesn’t work well together, no matter what you do. It could be that two members of the team don’t get along and this can spell trouble for the whole team as they compete against each other.  Instructions are sometimes not carried out and the wrong clothes are delivered to the set because the stylist unilaterally decided that these would work better.   

The model you thought you were getting doesn’t show up or the model agency  ‘forgets’ to inform you that the chosen model cut her hair short yesterday and has to leave in the middle of the shoot for ‘personal’ reasons.  In short, it can make you crazy and you may well ask yourself why you chose to work in this industry at all. 

It is probably at this point that you make your decision to either stay and just put up with all this craziness or to check out and try something different.  If you stay, developing a sense of humor will be a lifesaver.

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