Fashion has been a social indicator since the beginning of mankind. Even if today it isn’t so straightforward, clothes still give a clue about age, social status, ethnicity, and sometimes profession. In more traditionalist environments, clothes are a trademark, a traditional costume. But fashion is also a very profitable industry and fashion photography developed along with it. It refers more to what happens on catwalks, to fashion campaigns, and magazines. Fashion industry gave us famous photographers like Richard Avedon, Helmut Newton, Annie Leibovitz, Albert Watson, and Nick Knight. Nevertheless, the study of fashion photography teach you a lot about portraits, beauty, perspective, creativity, and storytelling. So choose your favorite mentor and study his/her work, following personal style, trends, social connections, and historical events.
You may approach fashion and style to a more personal dimension. Not all of us have access to glamours catwalks and famous models. But we all have access to street life, shops, traditional fairs, and public celebrations. Maybe we can’t afford photo sessions and expensive lights, but we can learn to appreciate beauty, to observe colors and patters, and to focus on poses and gestures. In the end, fashion photography is about conveying a message through clothing.
Photo Session versus Candid Photography
If you don’t work in the field and don’t have a studio and a model, it’s better to give up staged photo sessions. There is a reason for which we all like Vogue images. An army of professionals are working for them. They are stylists, models, makeup artists, hairdressers, and decorators. Using a good friend and the local park is far from being a fashion photo session. You can use candid photography with much better results. Scott Schuman, The Sartorialist, became famous by blogging pictures taken outside the fashion shows. He is a pioneer of street style photography.
Clothes say a lot about people. Use them to find their story and tell it to the world. Photograph ordinary people in their everyday clothes. Look for personality, eccentricity, personal style and expression, humor, and all those incredible features clothes say about us. You night find ethnic details or religious symbols. You might discover a mood or a passion. Learn to read people and let them inspire you.
Colors, textures, and patters
Fashion is known for its frequent use of geometry and color. For a photographer, this is heaven. Focus on details, colors, and textures. Make balanced compositions using only clothes and accessories. You can use telephoto lenses to capture details without interfering with people’s life. Or you can use wide lenses and put people in context. An extravagant outfit in New York will look different than a traditional outfit in Mozambique. Use all the elements available: light, characters, location, environment, and a temporal dimension. Fashion photography allows you to play with perspectives and angles. Creativity is your most important feature.
Although you focus on clothes, don’t forget the ensemble. Your pictures should tell a story. Clothes give you clues, but they don’t exist by themselves. While pretty images are good by themselves, it’s important to deliver meaningful images. Always consider what message you want to convey. Imagine why someone is wearing those clothes. Photograph gestures, facial expressions, and actions in order to enrich your compositions.
Fashion and style are very good subjects for practicing the art of street photography. They come with amazing geometric features and teach you to focus on details. They also have a social dimension you have to consider. People use clothes to respond to the society’s pressure or to avoid it. There is also an aesthetic dimension. Working with human body may be difficult, but is also beautiful and graceful. Some say that we are what we wear and many of us use clothes as a shield. It’s up to you to capture the style of a generation or of a specific place.