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June 20, 2022

Your first fashion shoot: foolproof planning tips for incredible photography

By: Peter Gregory

As a small fashion startup, it can be hard to decide when, and how, to invest in a professional photo shoot. After all, your time and money are limited, and you can’t always afford to take big bold risks. 

We speak to a lot of fashion brands of all sizes, and one thing is clear: professional photography is an absolutely essential step on your brand’s journey to success. In this beginner’s guide to fashion photography, we’ll show you how careful planning can help you squeeze every last penny of value out of your professional clothing photography budget.

We’ll also share some tips on how to get the most out of your talent on shoot day!

Why pay for a fashion shoot?

When you’re starting a fashion business, one of the most important things you need to do is create a professional and polished look for your brand. And one of the best ways to do that is by investing in a professional photo shoot.

Professional photos help you showcase your products in the best light possible. They can express your brand better than any slogan or business name. It can also be a great way to attract attention from potential customers and media outlets (see our guide to PR for small fashion businesses to learn more).

What to consider before booking a professional fashion shoot

A professional photo shoot is probably the most expensive single day in any fashion business owner’s calendar, so you want to cut the risk of things going wrong wherever you can. The more planning you can do up-front, the better your shoot will go on the day, and the better your photos will turn out.

First, think about your photographer. Typically, you can expect to pay several thousand pounds for a high-quality full-day shoot, so you need to know that you’ll end the day with hundreds of exceptional photos. Do your research and don’t settle until you find a photographer that you can trust to produce great results.

Next, set your budget. The cost of a professional fashion shoot can vary greatly depending on the photographer, the location, the model(s), the styling and props needed. There’s no reliable ‘average cost’ out there (trust us — we asked a cross-section of our customers. Everyone had a different idea of how much to spend). All you can do is figure out what you can spend, then ask your photographer for guidance. If your photographer is an experienced professional, you can explain the financial limitations you’ve got to work to and they’ll help you cut costs without compromising on quality. For instance, your photographer might know a few really interesting free-to-shoot locations. They may have met a few talented models who aren’t too expensive on other shoots. 

The purpose of your photos is very important. Are you trying to improve your online shop’s visitor experience, or win exposure for your brand with PR? These are two very different business goals that call for two very different styles of photography. Your photographer will usually ask you whether you’re looking for lookbook or editorial

  • Lookbook photography is usually more about the clothes than the model: you’ll get a collection of photos that show off a model wearing different outfits in different poses. Lookbook is ideal for uploading to your online shop. 
  • Editorial photography is similar to what you’d find in a magazine. It’s usually more about the story that the clothes are telling, rather than just showing off the clothes themselves. Editorial is great if you’re planning a PR campaign.

Preparing for the shoot: decisions you need to make

A fashion shoot is an expensive day, so you want to squeeze as much value out of every minute as you possibly can. Once you book your photographer and a shoot date, the planning work starts. You need to make a few key decisions before you show up and start shooting.

Product Range

Time flies when you’re running a fashion shoot, and you might run out of hours before you’ve shot your entire catalogue. Make sure you’re photographing your most popular products first. Prioritise garments that are already selling well, or products that have potential if they could be presented better. 

Location

Whether you go for a studio or the great outdoors, choose a location that makes sense for your brand and garment category. Try to strike a balance between visual interest (in other words, doing something different and eye catching) and context (in other words, showing your clothes in an environment where they’re likely to be worn). It might look cool to shoot office wear at a music festival, but is it going to help shoppers make a purchase decision, or would it confuse them?

Model(s)

Don’t just pick your prettiest friend to model your designs … even if they’re willing to do it for free! Think about your customer first. What do you know about your typical shopper’s age, body shape, gender, ethnicity, interests or budget? Can you recruit a fashion model that reflects these criteria? Consumers should see your clothes on a model that they can identify with. Take your time and make sure you pick someone who fits the brief.

Shot List

Your shot list is where you itemise the angles and poses you want before the shoot begins. A good shot list should be shared with both the photographer and model well in advance of the shoot date. It will help the model and photographer to give you what you need on the day. As a bare minimum, make sure you have at least one great full-body shot of every product. When you’ve got a good ‘general’ photo, you’re free to try dynamic poses, close-ups of collar details, shots showing how the product fits around the hips and shoulders and so on. 

Professional Extras

The two most important people you’ll hire for a shoot are the photographer and the model, but there are other experts you should consider bringing in as well. You might need a stylist who can help ‘press and dress’ on the day. You might also need hair and make-up.You could invest in lighting technicians, set dressers, logistics managers and catering services, but if the budget won’t stretch, then you should at least know who is going to do this work on the day.

Getting great results on the day of the shoot

If you have a plan that covers everything on the list above, then you’ll be in good shape for your fashion shoot. Just remember that fashion shoots can be frantic, chaotic days, even if you’ve planned everything carefully. When the day arrives, you need to be laser-focused on three main questions:

1: Do the clothes look flawless?

Clothing should be well-fitted, wrinkle-free and flattering. Pay attention to small details like buttons and zippers. The clothing should also be styled in a way that makes sense for the brand. You’re here to showcase these products, so make sure they look exceptional!

2: Are you getting through your shot list?

Even the most professional photographers fall behind sometimes. Help your photographer stay on schedule however you can. Keep an eye on the time, and be ready to adjust your shot list in a hurry if it looks like you’re not going to get at least one photo of everything. 

The simplest way to check whether your shoot is on track is to divide your shot list into quarters, then check how you’re getting on at every quarter-point in the day. If you’ve booked an 8 hour day, for instance then you should achieve a quarter of your shot list every 2 hours. 

3: Can you do something different?

Careful planning is important, but it shouldn’t get in the way of your model and photographer’s creativity on the day. You’re investing a lot to get these talented people to work for you, so make sure they feel free to come up with new ideas on the spot. Make sure that there’s enough time for everyone to play around a little and discover interesting poses and shots. More often than not, you’ll find that the ‘off-piste’ photos that weren’t necessarily on your planning documents are the ones that set your brand apart.


One last piece of advice…

A few weeks after shoot day, you’ll get a zip folder of photos from your photographer. Don’t just file them away. Use your new photos, and use them quickly! You’ve spent a lot of hard-earned money creating these brand assets, so send them to work. Update your website, send out your press releases, print off your promotional material.  For a brief fleeting moment, your photos are the newest photos in the fashion industry, so don’t let them gather dust. 

That’s it! We hope this guide has given you a good intro into your first fashion shoot as a small business owner. Just remember to plan ahead as much as possible and make sure that you have everything you need on the day of the shoot.

…and when it’s time to get your labels made up, you know who to talk to! Here at GB Labels, we have over fifty years of experience in making woven labels for the clothing industry. We love what we do, and we can help you with every step of the process, from planning to execution. 

See our work for yourself: request a free pack of label samples today!

Thanks for reading!

Pete

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