Behind the Scenes of a Fashion Photoshoot

The first of every month I crack open my fashion magazines (I don’t care how cool Apple Ipad apps are, nothing substitutes the smell of ink and the feel of paper), and study the fashion spreads that editors around the world create to showcase the best fashion and accessories designers have put together for the current season.  How long does it take you to look through a six page spread?  3 minutes?  Less than that if you only look at the clothes and don’t bother to read the credits to see who the designer, stylist, model, hair, makeup, photographer, producer, manicurist, etc. are who aided you in the visual orgasm you experience when seeing that perfect dress on page 79 of your favorite fashion magazine.

Like many things in life, what seems simple, easy and fun can actually be a logistical nightmare that implicates coordinating the schedules, desires,  intentions and tastes of a least a half dozen people. After working on a great shoot yesterday for the best fashion and lifestyle magazine on the market (can’t mention which just yet, but I will share the final fashion spread with you when its published),  I figured all of you would enjoy seeing how the process actually works.

First, the actors:

1. Fashion Editor: the fashion editor is responsible for selecting the fashion theme of the shoot and then works with the public relations department of the respective designers to pull the looks (“pull” refers to the actual pulling of the look off the rack where collections are displayed in the designers showroom. Designers loan the look out to be photographed, and are expected back. No freebies here guys). The styling (how the close are presented, ex: is the dress worn as a coat? Is a belt added? Is a necklace worn as a belt?) is his primary concern and often has an assistant to help him achieve the perfect look and fit (this has to be done for every single look that is photographed).

Finding Inspiration from the Runway

Which Shoes and Accessories to Use?

2. Photographer: Duh. However, what isn’t obvious, is that the photographer is responsible for more than taking beautiful photographs. He sets up the lighting that best compliments the clothes, the model (her skin tone and makeup), and more often than not coaches the model on how to move (lean one way or another), jump, hunch shoulders forward, smile, frown, stare into the distance) to make sure the lens captures the best image possible. On the back end, the photographer is also responsible for all retouching needed to render the final images flawless and ready for publication.

Testing the Light

The photographer is so important to the overall success of the final print product that when casting a model, the first question a booker asks is who the photographer is. A model can be the most beautiful woman alive but if the photographer is unable to capture her essence, the shoot is a waste of time.


3. Hair and Make Up: Makeup and hair are essential elements to an impactful fashion spread because they are the stage for which the clothing will be presented.  The direction of hair and makeup is generally a group decision between the fashion editor, beauty editor, makeup artist and photographer (only he knows how it will look through the lens). For example, if the concept of the story is romantic girly dresses, harsh or dark makeup with over-styled hair wouldn’t be appropriate.  So generally,  once the fashion is decided, the editors work together to find inspiration images from runway, campaigns or even other photographs that visually convey the desired look. These images are then shared with the hair and makeup artists who bring their expert skills, particular vision and aesthetic to the table to tweak the look and make it original. For yesterday’s shoot, we chose simple, classic and luminous as inspired from Carolina Herrera Fall Winter 2011 runway show.

Hair and Makeup Inspiration:


If you think makeup and hair is simple, think again.  Just take a gander at how many products are used to create a “simple, elegant look”:

It’s a big job.  Once the hair and makeup is debated, completed and approved, the model dresses in the first look, which in this case, was quite the voluminous dress!

It is now the fashion editor’s job to select the accessories, style the look and make any necessary adjustments  (hint: those black binder clips you use at the office are the BEST way to take in fabric on the back of a dress to ensure a perfect fit on a model.)

The Finishing Touches

4. Model:  Perhaps I should have started here given that without a model, there is no photo shoot.  Being a model is easy, but  being a good model is not.  Knowing how to move, convey emotions with facial contortions and look through the camera is a difficult thing to do, which is why when you find a girl who can, she’s gold.  The casting of a model starts with reviewing her book (think a resume of pictures), doing a go-see (technical term for meeting the model in person), which is very important as it allows you to make sure the model’s height, weight and bone structure are the best possible match for the clothing or accessories to be featured.  After a successful go see, you hire the model via her booker or agent. Simple enough! But what isn’t simple is to find a model like Maria Flavia below who can do this on command:

and this:

Simply amazing.

5. Finally, the last key player we need to talk about is the producer. Just like in film, the producer is responsible for making sure that everything comes together and stays on budget.  He is responsible for ensuring that the talent, photographer, studio, catering (yes, everyone eats on set including the model), clothes, accessories are all where they are supposed to be in order to shoot. Any other last minute detail?  It’s the producer’s job to make sure its resolved. This job is not the most glamorous, but without a producer, it’s quite likely the photoshoot will get derailed, lose focus or be over budget.

So, there you have it.  A behind the scenes look and breakdown of how a concept becomes printed fashion!


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