Hey everyone, welcome back! As promised, I’m here this week sharing my experience with fashion and portrait photography. I don’t profess to know everything. I don’t even profess to know half of everything. So why am I writing this post? Because every new endeavor is an accumulation of hundreds of tiny little successes and failures, and in the time I’ve been doing this, I’ve learned heaps. I want to share while everything’s fresh in my mind, not 5 years from now when I can sound more expert. For me, there’s no better time than while I’m in the beginning stages of it.
If you’ve been a lover of photography, fashion, and portraiture, then I encourage you to join me. You won’t find everything listed in this one post because it’s simply too much to share all at once, but I promise that I’ll keep adding more as I go. So hit that follow button here and on Instagram as my IGTV will also contain videos about my experiences.
The thing about starting any new adventure is that the learning experiences and challenges come at you from all different angles. Practical things, like learning your camera and gaining experience, are coupled with business things, like branding and finding clients, to emotional things like self-doubt and fear, being unsure of your choices, and roller coaster feelings of worthiness. That’s a lot of commas (and I’m not quite sure if they’re all in the right place). All that’s to say, I hope to bring you a variety of tips to help you gain confidence to get out there and do that thing you love. Let’s get this show on the road, shall we?
Learn Your Camera
Simply owning a nice camera does not gorgeous pictures make. You might be surprised to learn that an expensive camera can take worse pictures than the phone in your pocket if you don’t know how to use it properly. I highly recommend this video.
My best shoots happen when I have a clear vision of what I’m trying to achieve. Having a clear vision creates a stronger foundation for everything else. To be clear, you don’t need to have a clear vision in order to get out there and start shooting; however, the better an idea you have of what you want to achieve (the look, the feel, the story) the more purposeful you can be in how you spend your time in learning, styling and choosing your models.
Gather Your Mentors
The photographers that I follow on YouTube, for instance, all shoot in natural light. So when I watch their videos, I don’t need to wade through information about studio light setups and gear I won’t be using. I also get to hear why and how they make certain choices, which is so helpful because theirs is a style I’d love to emulate. Because I love the styling, coloring, and compositions of Jessica Kobeissi, I learn from her. Because I love the natural posing, teaching style, and location choices of Julia Trotti, I learn from her. Because I love the moody, artsy, storytelling quality of Sorelle Amore, I learn from her. Don’t just hop on YouTube for random videos by random people; choose online mentors instead.
It makes no difference if you watch 10 tutorials or 100, if you don’t get out there and start taking pictures of people, it doesn’t mean a thing. By the time you get to video number 10, you’ll have forgotten what video number two said, anyway. You have to get out there. But how, and who with?
Make yourself as comfortable as possible. The first portraits that I took were of myself in secluded places. That’s how I got to hone in on my style, study what I like, understand the challenges, and learn my camera. No pressure. Afterward, I recommend making your first few shoots with friends and family (modeling agencies probably won’t be banging down your door at this point, so you’ll likely have no choice anyhow, lol).
Here’s the key, though. Avoid at all costs posting on Facebook that you want people to practice on. Why not? Because you’ll either be accepting or rejecting volunteers who aren’t suited to your vision. Working with non-models has unique challenges; it’s even tougher when your subject looks nothing like what you have in mind or won’t stop smiling when you’re aiming for seriousness. The solution is to reach out to specific people who you think may be a good fit for the style you want to achieve. But do keep an open mind. If you’re into styling and someone is willing to be a blank canvas, you can still accomplish a lot.
When reaching out to people about a shoot, be open and vulnerable. Let them know that you’re starting out and possibly learning your camera. There can be lots of nerves and excitement when going into your first shoot, so relieving yourself of the pressure to look 100% competent all the time will help you to have a clearer head, and may help your subject to be more patient.
Did I mention you might be working for free at the beginning? Yeah, and it’s okay. It’s actually beneficial. There’s less pressure than with a paying client relationship and you can take as much time as you need in editing afterward.
Whether a friend or paying client, talk to your model. Let them know the vibe you’re going for, even share examples from Pinterest. The more context they have, the better.
Before any shoot, I always get on the phone with my client and discuss the types of outfits I’d like her to bring. I also request that she send photos of various options so that we can decide together. Do take into account the weather. Once I was so hot that nothing in the universe could compel me to change into a thick knitted crop top I had packed. Uncomfortable people will hate you and suck in photos. Also, the model will normally bring a few extra pieces as a backup in case we get inspired to try something different.
As a fashion photographer, you want to start building a portfolio that’s as representative of your style as possible. In that way, your work will speak to and attract more of the clients you want to work with.
Before the shoot, I also send out an email with a checklist of reminders. Most non-models have no clue what’s involved in a shoot, so it’s best not to rely on their knowing or remembering how to prepare or what to bring. The email includes reminders big and small: nail polish done, skin oils applied, a reminder there will be changing of clothes in cars and the woods, no scrunchies on wrists, bring water and comfortable shoes, reminders about undergarments, etc. I can share a more specific list in the future and talk about elements of the contract (at least as much as I know thus far).
Choosing a Location
I say find a place you really like and use it until you know it like the back of your hand, then branch out. That’s just me. I’m nervous enough before the shoot. I don’t need to be working in a new environment each time. Either way, get to know your location. If you’ve never been there before or not for a while, visit the location with your camera, at the same time of day as the shoot, and get a feel for the place– the light, the angles. You’ll go in more inspired, more efficient with time, and more prepared to tackle challenges. Scout your location.
FULLY CHARGE YOUR CAMERA BATTERY.
Have plenty of space on your SD card and a spare card just in case.
Start preparing for the shoot at least 3 hours in advance.
Have all the camera equipment charged and packed.
Pack an umbrella for the client and/or sudden rain.
ALWAYS shoot in RAW.* Unless you’re doing the shoot with your phone, shooting in RAW allows you much greater control over the image in post-processing. If you aren’t used to shooting in RAW, change the settings on your camera before you get to the shoot to avoid forgetting completely.
*When shooting in raw, the pictures in your camera will look different once uploaded to your computer, almost like the color has been drained out of them. It sucks, but it’s true. I highly recommend getting advanced photo editing software like Lightroom Classic CC or Photoshop.
THE MENTAL PART
I’ve been realizing just how hard I can be on myself. So hard, in fact, that I’m shocked every time my pictures turn out nicely. I still struggle after every shoot with thoughts that I didn’t do enough or that I won’t have enough to give the client. I don’t feel brave and confident all the time, but I do grow in confidence the more I work at this. I grew confident enough to start charging for my talent, and my goal is to someday work with agencies as well as individuals. It’s important to not let doubt get in your way. Make yourself as comfortable as possible and remember why you’re doing it. I’m constantly learning, and while I still often look at the gorgeous work of the photographers I love and wish I could be where they are, I also remind myself that the learning is part of the fun. Part of the fun is also in sharing this information with you all. It’s been so rewarding for me and I want to encourage you to go for it as well.
Here’s a peek at my portfolio: https://iwannabealady.pixieset.com/fashionportfolio/
If you’re in Fort Lauderdale, hit me up!
I can’t believe how long this post is and I’ve left out so much. It’s driving me crazy to not keep adding more about the actual shoot, editing, and all that. Let me know if you’d be interested in this info in some form of a complete beginner’s guide pdf. Would that be helpful to you or someone you know who’s into photography?
Have you thought about or tried fashion or portrait photography? If not, what’s been holding you back?
My name is Lyz-Stephanie and I want to inspire you to be more connected to yourself and the world, to find beauty in simple pleasures, and to have more adventures. Every day we can do something to make our lives happier and richer, make our minds more active and engaged. I’m on the journey. Will you join me?