Wednesday, February 16, 2011

8 Tips for Fashion Photography

Sometime late last year I was approached by PhotoYou Magazine to contribute an article for their winter issue and give some tips on fashion photography. It's been out for a while now so with permission from my lovely editor Valerie Wee here's a repost for those who can't get their hands on a copy. I hope some of you will find it helpful~ :3


PhotoYou Winter 2010: Fashion Forward
Photos: Zhang Jingna
Words: Zhang Jingna and Valerie Wee





1. Look and Learn 

Look at images every day. Whether it's photographs or paintings—looking, learning and observing are the key to creating an eye for arresting images. This will form the foundations of your aesthetics and style, from colour palette, lighting, framing, clothing, makeup to model choices.

Always find opportunities to shoot. If you're starting with a single kit lens, learn how the wider and longer ends of the lens differ in terms of effects to your photographs before moving on for more expensive gear. Does it distort the model's proportions? Does it make the scenery look vast and wide? Learn what works best for you, it will help develop give you confidence when working in different situations and also your choice in what you'll need when you buy your next lenses.


2. Simple is Always Best 

Few people are blessed enough to start their photography career with a full team of fantastic stylists, hair and makeup artists. Fashion test shots or your initial portfolio work often just need to be simple and classy. Keep the setting and look, such as makeup and styling, clean and light. Grasp the skill of taking really good simple shots before getting more experimental and elaborate.

DIY Styling Tip: 
Male models can go topless to make the shot work. For girls, get them into body-con outfits which will accentuate their figures—scoop neck tank tops, tights and heels no shorter than 5 inches are great basic items that can get you very strong looks. Alternatively, you can also try a crop jacket and pair of hot pants on her to add variety. Keep their hair simple – worn straight or simply pulled back into a bun. You’ll be surprised how chic and sleek going simple can be. 

3. Light and Shadows 

Good lighting, like everything else, comes with experience. It doesn't have to be complicated, but play around with your settings and put together three to four different setups for different looks. To start, master just one light. This will help you go a long way. Always watch out for shadows when photographing. Our eyes catch on to highlights first, but unintended messy shadows can break a shot when reviewed later on. Train your eye to observe what you are shooting in its entirety.





4. Always Cast Your Models 

The purpose of a model portfolio is to help them get jobs, but it can also be misleading.

Professional models usually start modelling from as young as 12 or 13 years of age. Imagine how much their faces and bodies may have changed by the time you see their portfolio photos. You may see bleached blonde hair but she may be sporting raven black when she turns up at your studio; you may be shooting a super skinny '20s flappers look and she's just put on 8 kilograms from a holiday in the last
three months. You never know.

So always do a casting or, at the very least, request up-to-date polaroids from the model agency. If you're engaging a freelance model, make arrangements to meet up for a casual coffee to assess his or her current look.


5. Supervise Hair & Makeup 

Always be around when hair and makeup are being done. Knowing what the colour palettes are can help you determine how you set up your shot. Try to stay invisible and don’t get in the way of your beauty team. Step in when something is off from your expectations or direction. You will learn and eventually know what works best for your shoots after a few sessions. And when you work with new teams on jobs, you’ll be able to give direction, as well as learn new things at the same time.


6. Clothes Must Be Seen 

Fashion photography is about aesthetics and trends.

Fashion is about selling the latest season's clothes and accessories. It's about making people covet what the model is wearing. Are you shooting a picture that makes you want the clothes for yourself, for your best girlfriends or for your boyfriend?

As a general rule in fashion photography, make sure your lighting always accentuates the texture and beauty of the materials—the lustre of silk, the sheerness of chiffon, the sparkles in gems and precious stones. These details will heighten the beauty and quality of an image itself.




7. Keep a Journal 

It doesn’t have to be a public blog, but you should have a channel or avenue where you can jot down experiences from pre-productions, meetings and photoshoots.

You don’t have to do it diligently, but whenever there's a great or super bad shoot, there's something you're bound to have learnt.

Write down all the stuff you thought was cool, things you felt ruined an important shot or even the whole project; approaches you felt were terrible initially but actually turned out great, bad experiences, good experiences, miscommunications, oversights, joy.

From time to time, go back and read up on these reflections. Sometimes it will send you harsh reminders of mistakes not to be repeated, and sometimes it will help you see things in a fresh perspective.

The best part is that it will help you realize and appreciate the extent to which you have progressed. And because we are always changing, and that sometimes we forget the rawness, newness and passion of our earlier days, it's a great way to look back at those times and perhaps be re-inspired once again.


8. Be Confident, Be Humble 

Take advice and suggestions from others, but be confident of your vision. Everyone in your team looks
to you to achieve the final product—the photograph. You may have a client, an art director, or an editor to turn to for opinions, but you must know deep down inside that you're the creator of your work.

Collaborate with people whom you respect and who respect you in return. Believe that no matter the circumstance, you will shine in the photograph because everybody sees the world differently, and is what will set your images apart from someone else's.

Remember there is always room for reinvention and newness, and only with a humble attitude and belief for constant learning will you keep moving forward. Always stay true to yourself, always keep learning.




Last but not least here's a picture of me freezing in the Toronto cold. Photo by Conan Thai.


PS: If anyone's interested, I'll do a meetup this weekend?

PPS: Plugging for my SC2 clan, we're on NA server looking for good master players to practice with. Feel free to come to channel "iS" to hang out, see you there~ XD

53 comments :

Oleksandr Hnatenko said...

simple and good words...

Ana Gely A. said...

Wow, very useful!
Thank you so much for posting this.
I'll keep in mind all your advices, as I really admire your work.
Never stop creating.
Ana xx

Yana said...

Thank you for this! :D

CK said...

wow, thanks for sharing. I've been puzzling for years about what goes into fashion photography and this is insightful, especially about how the clothes need to be seen.

Dennis Dunbar said...

Great tips Jingna!

Bel said...

I really like the Journal idea. I'll definately do that! :D

Laura said...

Wonderful tips, thank you for sharing your knowledge. Also you are very beautiful, even when freezing :)

tedbelton said...

Meet up!? When and where? That would be awesome.

Great tips. I'm grateful that you were able to share them on the blog. Thanks!

Michelle said...

^ Same questions as the above. Where/when were you thinking of meeting :)?

Thanks for your tips!

maya said...

i could be a complete space cadet but i had no idea you were based in Toronto. since when?! anyways...lovely post and JES! i'll be in Toronto for the weekend up from NY. i'd love to meet up and chit chat: maya@mayawashington.com

FleurLapin said...

Those are very useful tips! I'd be interested in a meetup! When and where???

Nicole said...

You do meetups? In Toronto?! I am altogether too excited about the idea... do keep us posted on when and where!

Joyce said...

I've always been afraid of the fashion industry so I don't think I'll ever do that kind of photography, but your tips are wonderful! Thank you. :)

I also love that photo of you in the snow.

Lorinc Hever said...

Sign me up for the meetup too if you are around LA/Santa Barbara.

Daniel M said...

Thanks for sharing. By the way, your work is amazing!

elaeye said...

Thank you for the tips! Will definitely be experimenting! I wish I could attend a meetup but, sadly, I'm on the other side of the world ): Hope it all goes well and that you are well :D <3

Kevin said...

I'd love to hear more details on a meetup! Fantastic blog post

Všivavá Čivava - čivava krátkosrstá Canis familiaris said...

Thank you so much for sharing! Great points, very helpful. Love your work :)

Akio said...

Always an inspiration! Thank you so much for sharing!

Amelia said...

Wow, thank you for sharing this with us! You really are an inspiration, and you sharing this information with is is just awesome. Thank you!

Fiona said...

Thank you for sharing this with us Jingna <3

I think your point about accentuating texture and beauty of materials is very true. Your style of writing is so romantic.

And I would love more details on the meetup. Do you do autographs? I purchased your photobook last year :3 Would be icing on the cake if you could sign it!! <3 <3 <3

†Niesje7002† said...

Thank you for sharing these tips, they are very helpfull!

Eff said...

I honestly hardly admire anyone, but I think I'd die to meet you. Haha
will you ever come to south america?

Raj said...

I didn't know you were in my home town :-) Hope you're enjoying despite the cold. I can't make it for the meet up this weekend as I'm in Ottawa but if you could meet during the week or Sat next weekend It would be an honour! I actually have a shoot on Sunday 27th and it would be amazing to get your insights. Either way excellent post. Your 8 tips are so clear! And I know from recent personal experience your suggestion to keep things simple for now is a good one.

Saw Kang Jong said...

well put... thanks for sharing... if you don't mind, I wanna share this.

Lloyd said...

Thank you for sharing your tips - very much appreciated :) Love your work too!

Marita Toftgard said...

Hi Zhang Jingna

You have an amazing gift to portray people and places with that special magic!
Love your work!!!!

I am on Photonet as well..and saw you there today.

Warm regards from a freezing Sweden

-27C last night

http://www.maritatoftgard.com

Marita Toftgard (photographer)

Rina Hoshino said...

You are constant inspiration to me... your words motivate me to strive even more! Arigato <3

edwayangsta said...

lovelights challenge you 1v1

Tom Zhao said...

Cool tips Jingna! I found them pretty applicable in my work as well.

the letter G said...

This is very cool. I'm like a child reading things in awe. Though it's not the field I am majoring in (still a student for a few more months), I love photography and following what you do and seeing all the visuals you share has helped me work on my projects with more ease :) The visual aspects you described here are SO useful.

Thank you so much!

skipgue said...

Lovely and humble sharing of information! Thank You

Danny St said...

This is a dream article from you :) Thank you!

Danglars said...

Thanks Jingna

Fascinating Photos

The only other person I know from my area that went to Toronto came right back after 3 months because of the cold. I can see why!

Anonymous said...

One of those informative posts i get interested reading with. this is very helpful not just to bloggers but also to those readers out there. thanks a lot for sharing this one to us.

Anonymous said...

great article! very informative indeed! and more power to your career! tnx for sharing!

Catherine said...

Thanks a lot for sharing this! It's very usefull! <3

If you have the time... It would be lovely if you visited my blog (or deviantart) and -maybe- give me some tips?
http://catherine-oneway.blogspot.com
http://koolmeesje.deviantart.com/gallery/

x <3

Catherine said...

Thanks a lot for sharing this! It's very usefull! <3

If you have the time... It would be lovely if you visited my blog (or deviantart) and -maybe- give me some tips?
http://catherine-oneway.blogspot.com
http://koolmeesje.deviantart.com/gallery/

x <3

Anonymous said...

I love this game :)

LJY said...

loveeee this. hope all is going well with you :) :)

Anna said...

Thank you for all the advices! I'm a photographer's daughter who never got a real interest on photographyn (dad's a specialist in macro and lanscapes)... until I started following you...

I'm definitely keeping your advices in mind! They're very useful!

JesC said...

thanks for your advices!

JesC said...

thanks for your advices!

Velwyn said...

Mature and poise. You're very inspiring Zhang, I am so glad I met you at AX'10!

mark said...

Great advice. Thanks for posting, I'm a really big fan of your work. It's so nice that you have a blog where you can share your ideas and thoughts with fans like me.

I had a shoot recently and i did my best to follow the tips you posted here but i failed to do number 5. Needless to say my photoshoot was a disaster. Oh well lesson learned.

Keep up the good work, your photography is just awesome.

I was wondering if you have any tips regarding styling and conceptualizing

Thanks

Michael Chiong said...

I'm a photographer from Philippines. I've been practicing photography for about 4years and since from the start your works continuously inspires me. Following your work on DA sets my standards. Thank you so much for sharing your ideas to all artists around the world. Congratulations to all your accomplishment and the recent Elle nominations. Hoping to meet you one day.

Michael said...

Great advice & read. I'm enjoying your work (first discovered on flickr).

steph said...

hi zhang jingna

i found your page when i was searching for tips on how to improve my blog photography. though it's not fashion photography i thought there might be some ideas i can draw from it and your post is the best one i've read - thanks for putting this together! particularly like #6 - the bit about having light accentuate the texture of the materials - such an important point and so helpful!

i've since looked up your work and i just want to say that i'm really glad to have chanced upon your blog! thanks for sharing ;)

Zhang Jingna said...

@steph: Glad it was of help, thank you for letting me know ^^

Maryland Moving Companies said...

I like photography a lot, especially for fashion. So thanks for giving these ideas to enhance my knowledge and to think about it in a different way.

Rohan Goes said...

Thank You so much!! <3

Mike said...

Love your blog! I've been looking for some inspiration for my fashion and product photography work and this has really helped so I just wanted to say thank you!

chan wy said...

Very informative and personal. Thank you.