The Brief

When you are commissioned to do a fashion photography spread, the idea or theme would normally be given by the editor of the magazine for a particular issue. The brief may simply be one word or a whole concept. You discuss the brief with the art director or editor as to how it should be interpreted. At this stage, you determine the feel you want the photographs to have, such as, do you want the viewer to be excited, or calm, to feel sad or happy, or should the photographs have a great deal of colors or should they be muted. You decide what the brief means to you and how it would best describe your meaning within a fashion photograph. All the possibilities of the outcomes depend on the available budget.

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Mood Board


The Stylist

The stylist is the person who gets the clothes and she contributes greatly to the development of the idea. Her work is to acquire the latest possible fashion clothes that are suitable for the brief. The magazine would want the stylist to acquire clothes from famous brand names, as it would have more prestige in the eyes of its readers. Personally, I do not really mind what brands the clothes are as long as they fit the brief and more importantly, that they enhance on how I want the photograph to look like.

Model Casting

Casting of the model is most essential as it is the main factor that determines the feel of the pictures, no matter where and what clothes she will be wearing. The model defines who you are as a photographer and has a person. You are making a statement if you choose a voluptuous or thin model, tall or short, intellectual or not so intellectual. When a photographer chooses a model, he is deciding on how he wants to be judge as a person. Choosing your model is like choosing your friends, because they define you.

Makeup & Hair

It is important to give a clear guidance as to what you want to the make-up artist and hair stylist. You must brief them on the project and ask for their contributions. A good conversation with the make-up artist and hair stylist is absolutely essential, and try and bring them into your project in the early stages.


Once all has been decided and a date has been set, it is important to get the necessary permissions and bookings. For example, if you are shooting in a location, like a bar, then you need the permission from the owner. Book the model from the model agency. Book all the crew, such as make-up artist, hair stylist and if needed, assistants. Make sure the stylist has all she needs and booked for the day. Food and water are very essential because nobody likes to work when they are hungry. Music also helps to set the mood, so if you have some speakers to bring them along an plug them to your computer.


Time Schedule

On the day of the shoot, keep everyone informed of the time schedule for the whole day. I tend to find that the best way to deal with a shoot day is by working backwards. Once you know the exact time in which you have to finish the shoot, then you work out exactly the time it takes to pack up everything. So now, you know the exact time you need to start packing which means that you know the time when you take the last photograph, so you work out how long it will take to photograph everything, and you repeat the same steps until you reach the arrival at the location. It is important to think on your feet as all the possible unforeseeable obstacles may occur during the day of the shoot.

The first task that needs to be done is the make-up and hair on the model. These can be quite complex and time consuming. The longer the make-up and hair take to do, the earlier you have to start, if you have to finish by a certain time. Once the make-up and hair is done the model puts on the first outfit and the shoot begins. Once all the outfits are done, it is time to pack up and the model to have her make-up off.


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Art Direction

There is normally one set of clothes outfit per page. So an 8 page spread normally requires eight set of outfits and one different location per outfit. This is the normal practice but it varies depending on the requirements and circumstances. I LOVE the double page spread!

While taking the photograph, you have to look at the clothes, the location, the model, the lighting and arrange all these variables for to your liking. Ask the stylist, make-up artist and hair stylist to look at their particular area and ensure that the model looks her best while the photograph is being taken. I normally look at the model’s face for the expression that I want, so it is difficult to keep an eye on everything else, such as the clothes not tuck in properly or the hair style has gone of. It is important to have your crew focused on their job, even after they have made the model up.

Model Direction


You must be able to direct the model to the brief. The model has an infinite number of body movements and facial expressions. A photographer’s job is not just to get the best look or pose of the model, but also something unique to the concept at play. To guide the model through a journey, where the feelings and emotions related to the brief are explored. Often, you may not have much time to get to know your model, so you need to find out very quickly what they are like, such as their fears and likes, their attitude towards their work and modeling in general. It is your job to then work from that and guide them to their potential in terms of acting and modeling.


Keep the crew informed on the time schedule and gently push them to finish their task. Everyone will have a deadline as to when their task must be finished. Make sure everyone has a comfortable work environment and your attitude sets the mood and atmosphere for the set.

The set may become crowed. There is the whole team, plus the clothes’ designer, agents, passers by, etc might decide to come by the set at one time or another. It is your task to keep the shoot progressing and on schedule.


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Once the shots have been taken, you will need to process them from raw files to tiff files. The color temperature, exposure compensation and contrast are some of the processes that take place at this stage.

Often, the fashion photographer hands over to the editor/retouchers the processed files. However, it is important that the photographer participates in all the processes as it will ensure the best results.

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