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Easy to follow fashion photography tips

Updated on May 11, 2013

Fashion photography tips to improve your fashion photos

Are you looking for some fashion photography tips to improve your images? Well you have come to the right place.

The world of fashion photography is fast, fun and can be very lucrative. There is a lot of money to be made in fashion photography, but there is also a lot of competition so you have to be ahead of the game. Getting one up over the competition requires essential skills, practice and experience all of which you are more than capable of.

So, for the best fashion photography tips to get you started in the world of fashion photography, or to improve existing fashion photography skills please check out this article.

Wide angle lens
Wide angle lens

Fashion photography tips - Use a fast prime lens

First on the list of fashion photography tips is to use the "best" lens. If you want to capture the best fashion photography portraits you are going to need a fast prime lens, i.e. one with a fixed focal length. Primes lenses have a lot of advantages over zoom lenses, including;

Prime lenses are small and lighter than zoom lenses, which is useful since a fashion photographer has to remain mobile

Prime lenses have a wide maximum aperture which allows you to get the subject in sharp focus and throw the background out of focus

Prime lenses are fast which eliminates the effects of camera shake, which is important as you will be shooting hand held

The image quality of prime lenses is simply awesome and will show every detail of your subject

Prime lenses are affordable and you can get a good 50mm prime lens for under a hundred bucks. It is possible to spend several hundred bucks on a top end prime lens, but there really is no need and a mid priced prime lens will be more than good enough to capture some awesome fashion photography shots

When taking fashion photography images a prime lens with a focal length of 50mm - 100mm is ideal. If you can get up close and personal to the subject a 50mm prime lens is best, if you can't get so close the 100mm prime lens is better. My personal favourite focal length for fashion photography is the 85mm prime, which is obviously between the two.

Sigma 85mm f1.4 lens

A fast prime lens with a focal length of 85mm is perfect for fashion photography and the Sigma 85mm f1.4 fits the bill perfectly. This lens is the perfect compromise between aperture and price, therefore it is a great purchase.

The alternatives include the Canon 85mm f1.8 or f1.2, or the Nikon f1.8 or f1.2. The f1.8 models are affordable but the aperture is not quite wide enough. The f1.2 models have the best aperture but they are very expensive. As a result, the Sigma 85mm f1.4 is the best option.

The Sigma 85mm f1.4 is an excellent lens. It is well tough, sturdy and built to last. The image quality of this lens is simply awesome with sharpness from the centre to the edges. Colors are bright and punchy but still realistic, and distortion, barrelling and pin cushioning are all very well controlled.

The Sigma 85mm f1.4 is available to fit all major digital slr brands so you can get one of these regardless of what brand of camera you shoot.

Canon flash gun
Canon flash gun

Fashion photography tips - Learn how to use an external flash gun

Next on my list of fashion photography tips is to learn how to use an external flash gun properly. Most fashion photography assignments will be indoors where the ambient light levels are poor. If you are fortunate enough to shoot the models in your own studio where you can control the lighting brilliant, but what about those times when you have no control over the light at all? In these situations you are going to have to rely on an external flash gun.

When buying an external flash gun it is important to buy the most powerful, i.e. the one with the largest guide number, you can afford since you aren't going to know how close to the models you are going to get. It is better to have a flash gun that is too powerful and turn it down than have a flash gun that is not powerful enough.

In addition to having a powerful external flash gun you have to know how to use it correctly and how to change the settings quickly to ensure you don't miss any shots. Before going on a fashion shoot you need to study the flash manual and practice with it. You must know the flash inside out and be able to change the key settings without looking. You have to remember speed is of the essence and the models won't wait for you to sort out your flash gun.

Metz 58 flash gun

The Metz 58 AF-2 is a powerful and affordable external flash gun that is available for all major digital slr brands, including Canon and Nikon. If you shoot a Canon or Nikon digital slr camera their branded flash guns are the best, however they are also very expensive. This equivalent Metz is much cheaper and almost as good, which makes it great value for money.

The Metz 58 has a guide number of 58m at ISO 100 which is very impressive. This is one powerful external flash gun that is perfect for fashion photography. The Metz 58 supports through the lens metering and offers manual mode giving you full control over the exposure. The build quality of this flash is superb and it is one tough flash gun that is built to last.

If you want a powerful flash gun for your digital slr camera that is tough, durable, easy to use and affordable take a look at the Metz 58 flash gun.

Fashion photography tips - Soften the harsh flash light

The light emitted from a flash is harsh and can cause hot spots and/or shadows. To avoid this you need to diffuse the light and make it softer. You may be able to soften the light by bouncing it off a ceiling or a nearby wall, but what about when the ceiling is too high and there are no suitable walls close by? I have been caught out in this in the past and because of this I always make sure I have a light modifier with me. I think the results using a light modifier are far better than using bounce flash that I never bounce the flash anymore.

Opteka SB Portable Soft Box

There are several different light modifiers on the market and after having tried a fair few of them my light modifier of choice is the Opteka SB portable external flash gun soft box. This nifty little soft box is attached to the flash gun using a sync strap, therefore once on the flash it remains securely in place.

This soft box is well made and softens the harsh light emitted by the flash and gives excellent results. What I really like about this portable soft box is its small and compact size. It is large enough to do the job but not so large it gets in the way. When the soft box is not in use it collapses down in to a “flat pack” state and can be kept in the side pocket of my camera bag.

Overall the Opteka portable soft box is an excellent product and one I highly recommend for non-studio fashion shoots.

The best tripod
The best tripod

Fashion photography tips - Ditch the tripod

One of the most logical fashion photography tips most people seem to forget is to ditch the tripod. When shooting fashion images you have to remain mobile, which means getting rid of your tripod and improving your hand held techniques. Shooting hand held allows you to move closer and further away from, and around your subject which allows you to shoot a variety of different types of image. This would not be possible with a tripod.

Tripods take up a lot of room and if there are several photographs each with a tripod there could be carnage, it is a dangerous situation. Because of this many venues will not permit the use of tripods therefore the only way to take photographs is hand held.

burst mode
burst mode

Fashion photography tips - Shoot in burst mode

One of the most obvious fashion photography tips is to shoot in burst mode, although this is something many photographers seem to forget. When photographing models the slightest change in facial expressions can turn an ok image in to an outstanding image. Because of this it is advisable to set your camera to burst mode and fire off a series of shots. A good fashion photography camera has a high burst rate where you can fire off several shots in quick succession.

Once you start taking photographs it is important to keep taking photographs. Taking hundreds of photographs in the old days would have been expensive, however times have changed and digital photography is cheap. With the modern day digital camera you can take hundreds of photographs, keep the good one and delete the bad and it won't cost you a cent!

Putting your camera in burst mode and firing off several hundred shots is going to take its toll on your batteries and memory cards. If you want to double the life of your camera you can use a battery grip for more power. A battery grip also makes shooting in portrait style a lot easier and more comfortable. A battery grip is a sound investment.

If you have a battery grip you are going to need additional batteries. You can purchase non-genuine batteries for little money but these really aren't worth buying as they don't last anywhere near as long as genuine batteries. My advice is to always buy genuine batteries.

In addition to additional batteries you are also going to need lots of memory cards. Rather than buying a single large capacity card it is better to buy several small capacity cards to ensure you don't lose all of your images should the memory card fail.

Fashion photography tips - Learn to talk to your models

One of the most important fashion photography tips is to learn how to interact with your models and talk to them. The best photographs of people are when they are happy, content and at east therefore as a fashion photographer you have to learn how to make your models feel comfortable to get the best out of them.

The best way to make your models feel at ease to build a rapport with, and talk to the models, and this is actually more difficult than it sounds. When talking to, and directing models you have to do it in a way that is not too authoritative, sarcastic, rude or condescending but you still have to let them know who is boss. Similarly, you shouldn't get too friendly with the models. There is a happy medium you have to find.

If you shoot fashion events where it is not possible to talk to the models and get them moving how you want you will simply have to make the best of the situation and use all your other skills to capture those great fashion photography images.

Fashion photography tips - Learn to pose your models

Another one of the most important fashion photography tips is to learn how to pose your models. If you want to capture the best fashion photos you need to ensure the models pose correctly, so you either need models that know what they are doing or you need to know the best poses and how to direct your models in to those poses. Even if you have experienced models who know how to pose you really need to know the best poses and how to direct the models.

A key skill in portrait photography is learning how to pose your models and the best way to do this is to read, research and practice. There are loads of books available on this subject and I highly recommend buying a few and learning how to make your models pose for you.

If you have any comments, rants or raves please feel free to note them in my guestbook. Similarly, if you have any other top fashion photography tips pleae feel free to share them. Thanks.

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