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Shooting fashion can be one of the most fun and creatively satisfying types of photography you can pursue. With a little know how and prep-time on the front-end, you can produce a high-end fashion shoot worthy of any glossy fashion magazine.

Choose A Theme

You first step in styling is choosing a theme or concept for your photo shoot. This will determine all your other choices including locations, models and even hair and makeup. (Watch an episode of Project Runway and you’ll get a feel for what we mean.) Your theme can be anything. Start with a simple idea – for example, a Fall shoot for boots. From there you can choose a local park with warm light during the magic hour, a wardrobe with nubby, fall-hued fabrics and heavier eye-makeup and lips to reflect the season.(1)

Study the master in fashion photography styling Grace Coddington. Her 30 years at Vogue magazine along with a career prior to that in modeling, gave her the chops to create some of the most visually stunning and memorable fashion images ever.

Selecting Wardrobe

Where to Find It

Many stores are willing to lend clothes if you give them credit. This way they will get a chance to endorse their store or product. Small, local boutiques are a great place to start. Larger department stores may be helpful as well although there are typically several layers of corporate types to get through for approval. If you want to go that route, create a resume and a contract to return the clothes in good condition.

male model in suit on gray backdrop

How to Fit It

Make sure to have a fitting session with your models. Schedule it as close as possible to the actual shoot date. Or you can choose to do one, comprehensive fitting and then a quick last-minute try-on a few days before the shoot so you can adjust for any weight gains or losses.

How to Prep It

Photograph all the outfits as you would like them to appear in the shot on either a hanger or mannequin. Bring the reference photos the day of the shoot to the pace moving. The stylists and models will appreciate having the shots so they can look ahead in time and prepare for the next couple of shots without bothering you. Waiting for a model to be prepped is not only stressful but expensive as well. If it’s in the budget, schedule at least two models at the same time so you can switch back and forth between models during the shoot.(2)

Include accessories. Know what accessories you want to use. Choosing unique, trend-worthy jewelry, bags and shoes can make all the difference in the success of the image. You may want to find an up and coming jewelry designer looking for exposure who may be willing to share the cost of the shoot.

female model crouching on white backdrop

Styling Kit

While you’re shooting on set you must have a well-stocked styling kit that can easily be rolled on and off set. You may even want to invest in one for location shoots that can store not only hair and makeup tools but outfits as well. T-pin’s, magic tape lint and lint brushes are just a few essentials to have on hand. For a comprehensive list of what’s needed in your kit, check out Susan Linett-Cox’s book Photo Styling: How to Build Your Career and Succeed.

See more: Prop Styling for Photo Shoots

Steaming, Pinning and All That Other Fun Stuff!

Do you ever wonder why it’s so hard to find information on the perfect way to steam a shirt or how to pin a jacket on a model? First, no great fashion stylist ever wants to give up their secrets! Secondly, there is such a broad range of materials and garments no one person can possibly have had experience with it all. And there’s also a vast difference between styling on figure and creating a lay down shot.

Styling fashion shots more than any other aspect of photo styling takes a lot of practice. Don’t get discourage with your early efforts.

Cheryl Woods

Cheryl Woods is an accomplished photographer, designer and branding consultant with a career spanning 20+ years. Her photographic work includes editorial, fashion, portraiture and product photography for major companies in the consumer products field including QVC and Hanover Direct. She received a B.F.A. in Photography from the University of the Arts and an M.F.A. in Media Design from Full Sail University. Cheryl's work has been exhibited at the Lowes Museum of Art in Coral Gables, FL, The New York Independent Film Festival and the Rosenwald Wolf Gallery in Philadelphia, PA. Check out her website here!


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