In conversation with a professional fashion photographer, Neena Majumdar and Editor-in-Chief of our fashion magazine, Shilpa Ahuja. Both share their views on what fashion photography is all about and tips! Are you excited to know? I sure am!
Hey there! Fashion photography is dedicated to not just showcasing the clothes and accessories but also setting a mood, creating aspirations and making dreams come true. But I realized that fashion photography doesn’t always have to be a one on one task, where the photographer guides and model poses accordingly.
And I got talking to them when I was researching about fashion photography, to know the differences in opinions between the two sides of this field.
Traditionally, fashion photography has been a relationship between brands or magazines and photographers. However, in the digital era, bloggers have carved a niche in fashion photography wherein the traditional rules no longer apply.
As Shilpa says, for fashion bloggers, fashion-styling, photo-editing and shooting is always a self-learning process. No one guides them on how the shoot should be, what the poses should be and what mood it should set. The bloggers have to train themselves to portray their styling skills and attitude. Whereas with fashion photographers, they may have to guide the client on how to approach the shoot for the best shots, or may be briefed by the clients on the desired concept.
So, here’s an interview with the two of them on what their perspectives on fashion photography are! Without further delay let’s get started!
1. Please tell our readers about your work and experience with fashion photography, both you beautiful ladies!
Neena: I’m a lifestyle photographer based in Mumbai, India. I got my initial training at the Chicago Photography Academy. With over six years of experience now and a lot of self-teaching I continuously hone my craft. These days I’m trying my hand in food and product photography. I love photographing food because it’s such an important part of our lifestyle, family history, sentiment and experiences. Plus there is always so much to explore. I also taught a few classes at Purdue University, Chicago and plan on conducting more workshops and walks in Mumbai.
Shilpa: I started as a fashion blogger in 2014 and became the Editor-in-Chief of ShilpaAhuja.com in 2017. I’ve done both still and video shoots wherein, at least for our website, I style, photo-edit and conceptualize the shoots myself, and enjoy every minute of it!
2. What’s the most important thing about fashion photography in your opinion?
Neena: To me, the most important points that have to be considered are posing, lighting, the dress you choose, the way you flaunt it, concept of photography & background.
Shilpa: For me, every little thing matters, right from the location to lighting, to outfit, makeup and editing. Even the model’s mood, since that changes her spectrum of expressions! I feel that every little thing is needed to take the photo shoot from failure to excellent!
Preparation and pre-planning matter a lot, too, to make sure things go right. For example, like making sure the poses look right, or the outfit looks ironed. Similarly, there needs to be a comfort factor between the model and a photographer.
3. Posing, ah, that may be the most difficult part! Can you give some opinions on what are the best ways to pose for women?
Neena: Posing depends on what look you want to go for. Typically, women are posed to accentuate their curves. A slight twist of the waist away from the camera gives an impression of a smaller waist.
Arms should be away from the focal plane not pointed towards the camera. Also, it’s always better to create gaps between arms and lateral bodyline.
Shilpa: I learned these tips from Neena, too. I agree that posing depends on what you’re going for. For example, I often pose standing straight looking into the camera, to let the focus be on the confidence and attitude since ShilpaAhuja.com is all about inspiring confidence. However, like I’ve noticed Kylie Jenner often shows her back, turning the torso to face the camera, with the focus on her curves, especially hips.
It even depends on where the photographer is, like I prefer for them to shoot from below my neck level so as to make me look taller or more confident. I love making triangles with my arms or legs, or trying crazy new poses to create the shock value!
4. We would love to help out our male readers too! Could you give them some posing tips too?
Neena: For men, there is this popular hero shot. Contrary to women, men are traditionally shot an angle below the model’s eye level.
Shilpa: I’ve never done men’s shoots, but I love really casual and relaxed poses like bike poses, leaning against a wall – all the poses that bring out effortless handsomeness!
5. Can you tell us how to get the best portrait shots?
Neena: For females, it’s more accentuating to shoot from a slightly higher angle. They say it makes the face look slimmer.
Shilpa: Both side shoots and frontals work well. Just look natural and avoid awkward expressions. For minimalist shots, keep your mouth slightly open and try curving the corners of your mouth upwards to avoid frowning. For natural shots, a smile goes a long way. The “Steve Jobs” pose works well, too! Try to keep your eyes open but don’t overdo it, unless you wanna look scared!
For the angle, I love eye-level shots more, since they enhance the jaw, smile lines, giving a more mature, womanly look. Whereas, a higher angle blurs out the skin more, makes the eyes appear larger and the mouth smaller – for a doll-like appearance. While youthful, it takes away the complete personality that a blogger (or real woman) should have!
6. Can you talk about some of your favorite types of studio lighting that work well in fashion photography?
Neena: There are so many types of lighting techniques. Traditionally, Rembrandt, butterfly, clamshell, Hollywood style and may more. Like, Rembrandt is basically a lightning technique used in studios that works well for portrait shots. So, it is important to decide on what type of photos you’re looking for and based on that, the light differs!
Shilpa: It really depends on what I’m trying to highlight or the mood of the shot. For example, split lighting can create a lot of drama. Rembrandt is great for focusing on expressions and clamshell lighting works well for highlighting outfits or even makeup, and I’ve been recently using it in our Youtube videos. I’m still learning about different lighting techniques through hit and trial experimentation to see what works well!
7. How important role do you think lighting plays in fashion photography?
Neena: Lighting is very important as it helps to the get the shots in a best possible way. The basic idea behind it is to create smooth shadows.
Shilpa: Lighting also helps to make a shoot look more professional. Sometimes I’ve noticed that even an okay camera can do a great job with proper lighting and expensive, professional cameras can also take amateurish shots when the lighting is bad!
6. What kind of lighting can get the perfect shots in fashion shows and magazines?
Neena: Many fashion magazines employ direct light with shadows. Also, male models are shot with dramatic lighting to accentuate the textures of their face. On the other hand, they want to show how smooth and flawless a female’s skin is, hence the lights are arranged to cancel out shadows. The idea is to increase the surface area of light w.r.t. to the model’s face. For example, on a cloudy day or in an open shade the light source is larger.
8. Our readers would love to know how to select or showcase outfits for the shoot?
Neena: The whole point of fashion photography is you want to sell that outfit. So, flaunting the uniqueness of the dress is very important! Be it the flare, texture or frill of the dress, never miss on these tiny details. For example, Zara does a great job at that.
Shilpa: The selection of accessories and how well they are put together can really make a difference. My advice is to try a lot of different variations in front of the mirror before your photo-shoot! The fit, trendy factor and even the right lingerie matters. Try unique looks or creative combinations for social media, since they grab eyeballs. Keep the background in mind so that the outfit goes with it. For framing pics for your room or albums, go for classy outfits that won’t go out of fashion.
If you’re a blogger, never be afraid to repeat outfits or recreate fresh outfits with clothes you’ve already showcased in previous shoots. A different hairstyle, accessories, background and lighting can still get you a whole new photo-shoot!
9. Could you talk about some of the things one should keep in mind before planning a photoshoot?
Neena: Concept is something one can’t miss! Everything falls apart if the concept is weak. Who are you targeting the image to? What are they interested in? Is the outfit for a party animal or for a serious office goer or both? The idea should be loud and clear and that’s what sets the tone of the image. It also governs the lighting, posing, background and attitude.
Shilpa: For me, it depends on the starting point. Sometimes, a client is promoting a particular product so I keep in mind and do the planning around it.
For example, in my M.A.C shoot they wanted to us to promote kajal eyeliner and matte liquid lipstick, so I created a makeup look where those two products take the center stage. Similarly, sometimes I have to be at a certain location so I try to make the best use of scenery, etc.
So, let the primary requirement of the photo-shoot set the theme. For example, if it’s a shoot for a blogger, her personality and attitude should come through. If it’s for a brand, their brand USP should be showcased. Like in my Nike shoot, I wanted to focus on confidence and hard work since Nike celebrates athletes and winners.
10. Apart from lighting, concept & dress, what would you say about choosing a good background?
Neena: A lot of shoots are done in the studio setting when the product speaks for itself or you want to do a minimalistic approach. It depends on the demand of the outfit. Typically, professional models are comfortable posing in a studio setting and can produce great results without any special background. Outdoor photography helps when you want to add to the story, like if you’re doing a pre-wedding or maternity shoot!
Shilpa: I’d say a studio shoot works well for showcasing outfits or putting the focus on makeup. Otherwise, an outdoor location can really add a lot of character or drama. For example, a garden setting with flowers can set a feminine theme, a street works well for (clichéd) street style shoots. Extreme backgrounds like flames, horses or birds can work perfectly for memorable or experimental shoots. It depends on what you wanna showcase, and then find the right background so that it can act as a medium to tell the story.
11. Now, for the question I’ve been waiting to ask – what are the latest trends in fashion photography?
Neena: Decadent looks, dramatic lighting, adventure sports and fashion! Also, backlit, using colored gels, fluorescent makeup shots in the dark are trending in fashion photography. And yes, crazy makeup looks are in.
Shilpa: Everything extra – exaggerated hair accessories, dramatic colors or bold backgrounds are very in.
On the contrary, models are made to showcase their naturalness and raw beauty through freckles and intimate shots!
12. What’s your take on good photography tools?
Neena: Usually, a good DSLR would do, a prime 85 mm lens works great, even 50 mm which is much cheaper. A lot of great work can be done with only one light and a reflector. Technology doesn’t matter as much as the skill or brains behind the camera. You should know how to be creative given the situation.
Shilpa: I couldn’t agree with Neena more! I’ve done so many shoots with my iPhone or The Guys’ MiA1! However, if you’re trying to go for pro-equipment, I’d recommend at least two studio lights, a reflector, and a background stand with white background.
For indoor photography, I’d recommend, Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF 50mm F/1.2L Prime Lens (made in Japan). For outdoor photography, the same body with lens 70-200mm f/2.8L.
13. Finally, can you please give a few general tips to our readers on fashion photography for getting great everyday shots?
Neena: Try putting the sun behind you, shoot on a cloudy day, shoot in open shade where lighting is more uniform. Invest in a reflector, even a white foam board will do or a white bedsheet. Learn how to pose because that matters a lot and also know your angles. Before the shooting, practice the poses in front of the mirror and this way you can accentuate your stronger areas.
Shilpa: Also, go for early morning or sunset shots when the outdoor lighting is softer, so as to avoid harsh shadows. Avoid awkward poses or trying too hard. Just be yourself and pose naturally, freely! Let your personality show, but avoid clichés like pouting or hip-showing! Don’t worry about tiny inconsequential things like extra eyebrow hair! Instead focus on the final shot, and overall concept.
14. What advice would you give to budding fashion photographers on how to pursue a career in this field and become famous?
Neena: Fashion photographers become famous through contacts, ha-ha! On a serious note, lots of portfolio building, working for free initially, building contacts, networking, being consistent in personal style yet open-minded. Also applying to lots of magazines, ad agencies and companies can be a good approach!
So, this was a wonderful interview with the two talented ladies! Do you have anything more to ask them? If yes, tweet your questions @shilpa1ahuja.