Beginner’s Guide To Fashion Photography

12 July 2019

Between Instagram, magazines, and catalogues, it’s fair to say that most of us encounter fashion photography every day. It’s a beautiful medium – and a popular one. If you want to create dreamy, aspirational photos, there are a few techniques you can take on board. Here are our fashion photography tips for beginners:

Develop a concept

The best fashion photography is far from random. Every shoot has a clear concept or theme to guide it. Before you turn on your digital camera, create a concept or backstory. To do this, you can ask yourself these questions: What is the purpose of this photo? Where are your models or ‘characters’ situated? What dream are you selling?

In short: What’s the story?

The concept dictates everything, from the location to the lighting, props, styling, hair and makeup, so you want to spend some time on it. Let’s say you’re photographing beachwear. Rather than snapping photos against a white background, you might move the shoot to a beach, or build a beach inside the studio with props.

Beginner’s Guide To Fashion PhotographyBeginner’s Guide To Fashion Photography

If you’re shooting winter wear, you might add umbrellas and fake rain to convey the cold weather. On the same note, if you’re shooting edgy clothes, consider an urban setting. If you’re snapping spring or summer fashion, a natural backdrop might work better.

Concentrate on the composition

Now that you have your concept, turn your attention to fashion photography composition. The right composition not only makes a photo visually appealing to your audience, but it also helps you to tell a story. If you’re still learning about composition, the Rule of Thirds is a good place to start. To apply it, divide your frame into nine equal squares. Then, position your subject – in this case, the model – at any of the points where the lines intersect. This will help you to produce a balanced photo. Most modern cameras have a grid function that makes it easy to compose your shots and after a while, this kind of composition will come naturally.

Fashion photography is all about letting the clothes shine, so make sure you have plenty of negative space around your subject. In other words, you don’t want your model taking up every inch of the frame.

Beginner’s Guide To Fashion PhotographyBeginner’s Guide To Fashion Photography

Be mindful of the background, too. If you’re shooting bright clothing or complicated patterns, choose a neutral backdrop. If the outfit is on the plainer side, you can dress it up with a more vibrant background.

Top Tip: Our eyes are drawn to lines and curves, so try to accentuate these in your fashion photos. For example, if you’re photographing a model in the city, place them close to the camera with a street or staircase in the background. This will make the viewer wonder: Where is the model going? What’s the next chapter in this story?

Study the work of other photographers

Mario Testino, Steven Miesel, Patrick Demarchelier, Annie Leibovitz, Nick Knight - the list of legendary photographers goes on and on. Like any type of photography, fashion photography is a craft, and you can learn a lot by studying the work of those who have mastered the art. While you’re flipping through their photos, think about the elements you like and don’t like. Focus on the way they compose their shots, read up on their creative and technical techniques. Over time, this will help you to develop your own style.

Beginner’s Guide To Fashion PhotographyBeginner’s Guide To Fashion Photography

When you find an image you love, try to recreate it! This is a great learning process, and at the very least, it will leave you with another photo to add to your portfolio.

Work with your model

Fashion shoots are collaborative efforts. You could be the most skilled photographer in the world, but if your model doesn’t trust you, the photos won’t turn out as well as they could. The goal is to make your model’s confidence and personality shine through your work. This will naturally happen when the model feels at ease.

To build a good relationship with your model, spend some time with them before the shoot. Ask questions to get to know them, and do whatever you can to lighten the mood. 

During the shoot, think of yourself as a director. You’re behind the camera, and you know what looks best within the frame, so don’t be afraid to offer guidance on fashion model photography poses and facial expressions. The model is trying to showcase their best work, so they’ll appreciate it.

Beginner’s Guide To Fashion PhotographyBeginner’s Guide To Fashion Photography


Whenever you’re feeling uninspired, shake things up. There are plenty of ways to play around with your fashion photos. If you only use a zoom lens, try switching to a prime lens for a fresh effect, or vice versa. Ditch soft lighting for high-contrast, dramatic lighting and see what happens.

Experiment with different angles, too. The best photographers never stand still! They’re constantly moving around. They don’t wait for the money shot to come to them – they actively seek it out. They climb ladders, crouch low and crawl on the floor. With fashion photos, you could try shooting from a low viewpoint looking up at your model, from above, or from a slanting angle by tilting your camera. The options are endless, so don’t restrict yourself to eye-level.

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Top Tip: Remember that perspective can affect the mood of your photo. For instance, if you photograph a model from below and up close, they can appear menacing.

Make sure the clothes are the stars

At its core, fashion photography is about the clothes. As a photographer, you’re tasked with selling those clothes, or the lifestyle that’s attached to them. It’s important not to lose sight of that. When you’re planning the shoot, choose a location that will complement the clothes. The type of photography you’re doing will determine this. Catalogue photography works well with a neutral background, while you have a little more freedom with high fashion or editorial photography.

Beginner’s Guide To Fashion PhotographyBeginner’s Guide To Fashion Photography

Location aside, think about the hair and makeup, and get professional stylists on board if the budget allows for it. The beauty look also affects the mood of the photo. For example, if you’re photographing pastels, soft makeup and flowy locks are the way to go because they won’t draw attention away from the clothes.

Prepare for the shoot

You’re in charge, so you want to be prepared! Write to-do lists in the leadup to the shoot, and confirm the location as well as any hair and makeup artists you’ve booked. Communicate the concept and agenda to anyone who’s involved. While you’re at it, jot down the images, poses and angles you want to attempt. That way, you won’t forget about them in the chaos of the shoot. On the day of the shoot, double-check you have all the gear you need – and that everything is fully charged!

Build your fashion photography toolkit

Along with a good camera, you may need lenses, lighting and a tripod for your shoot. Pop into your local Ted’s Cameras store for expert advice, and to shop our wide range of products.

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