How to put a Fashion or Beauty Shoot Together?

Yulia Kharlapanova for Harper’s BAZAAR en Espanol © Benjamin Kanarek

I really don’t know where to start… But,

This example here, is for the purpose of being either published in a magazine for a fashion editorial whether hard copy or the web, or for an Advertising Campaign…

The team is always the following: A Fashion Stylist, Hair Stylist, Make-Up Artist, Model or ‘s, Perhaps a Casting Director, Prop Stylist and Manicurist,Photographer and Assistant or Assistant’s.

A stylist is the person that chooses the clothing, shoes and accessories. The stylist is briefed before the shoot by the photographer or if she has hired you visa versa. This briefing is a think tank session that is intended to garner a “Theme” or “Story” that will be the thread running through the whole shoot. It is like writing a storyboard. A mood-board is always required to show the clothing & accesories styling direction.  Let’s say we want to do a ten page fashion story with the theme being “My Day at the Laundromat” for example. The shoot will be about a girl who has a huge pile of clothes to wash and is spending the whole day in the place while people are coming in and out, as she observes the procession. All “Good” fashion stories start with a theme, from simple to complex. Well these people i.e. models are dressed in specific “Brands” of clothing that should cover a range of designers or manufactures to give a reason for it being a “Fashion” story and not just another “Model Portfolio” shoot.

All fashion magazine expect at least a six page story with a theme. Now how are you going to choreograph all of this. You are going for a ten page story. Well it could be two double pages and six single pages or three double page spreads and four single pages. On the former example you will only have to shoot seven images that being three horizontal images and four vertical. That could be done in one day but two days would be preferable. Now you have to define each of the shots in the “Story” Perhaps the first opening page could just be a picture of the Laundromat empty and void of anything except the ugly fluorescent lights and the washers and dryers. That might be where the title would be. Lets call the story “Living in a Laundromat”.

The next shot could be the star of the show who might be wearing a “Miss Sixty” pair of red jeans an “H&M” blouse a pair of “Adidas” shoes a “Viktor and Rolf” Bag and a “Dior” scarf. Remember all magazine’s reason’s for existing is to catalog what the designers are coming out with two to three months in advance of the product hitting the stores, so the stylist will have access to all of the press offices representing the designers in their showrooms. So let’s continue. The next image is the introduction of the first couple or individuals coming in to do their laundry. They are perhaps passing dirty clothing to the one that is depositing the socks in to the washing machine. Perhaps it is being throw and caught etc. The story continues with different amusing vignettes and perhaps ends with a close up of the girl, still alone in the Laundromat of a close up on her sad face looking through the glass door on to the world outside…

Luana Tiefke for VOGUE Brazil © Benjamin Kanarek

That “IS” a fashion story.

Now that you have decided on the story, you have to decide on the rest of the team. Remember that the Fashion Stylist was chosen because she/he was appropriate for this kind of challenge and in your estimation a think tank session with this person would result in an interesting treatment. Knowing the story you both will have to find a hair and make up artist or one that is very good at both which is rare. You will be doing your casting based on looking at books of Hair and Make-up people to see if their style conforms to your treatment (story). Now that you have found the support team it is time to cast for the appropriate subjects.

In the story you decided that you needed three people. The other two will look different in each image so you could get away with just three “Models-Actors” The casting is so important in re-enforcing the theme of the story. For me stranger is better, but that is a matter of taste based on your being “Plugged In” to what the looks are that are happening today.

Amber Anderson for Harper’s Bazaar en Español © Benjamin Kanarek

You will have the stylist or yourself call the model agencies and brief them with the criteria of your theme and they will respond by sending you portfolios for the purpose of honing down the selection. Once selections are made you will call the agency to have them send the chosen finalists to come for a face to face casting. The casting should be attended by the whole team. The hair and make-up artists will comment on there observations as well as the stylist and yourself, all seeing the model from a different perspective.

You will get either a first or second option and hopefully a first. If you are certain of the selection confirm immediately. That will guarantee their availability.

Set the time and place of the shoot and give the agencies all of the telephone contact info and visa versa for the whole team… That is how to put together a shoot. Although a condensed version. You must also think about the flow of the story. Two full shots two close up details one beauty shot etc etc etc…

The Beginning…

About Benjamin Kanarek
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Fashion and Beauty Photographer. Some of the magazines I have shot for include: VOGUE (China, Portugal, Brazil, Italia, Paris and South America & Mexico editions), RG VOGUE Brazil, Harper’s BAZAAR (China, en Español & Latin America, Hong Kong, Italy editions), L’Officiel Paris, ELLE (Spain, Portugal and Greece editions), Madame Figaro (France), Cosmopolitan (France and Italy editions), Glamour (France), Votre Beauté, Jardin des Modes, Dépêche Mode, New York Daily News, Fashion District News, New York Times Magazine, W (British edition), WWD, Fashion Magazine (Canada), Flare (Canada), Oyster, Tank, WestEast…

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  • Deon Zeelie

    Thank you for sharing Benjamin, much appreciated.

  • Thanks for sharing! I hope to apply this knowledge in the future, I love the creativity that goes into developing a story.

  • Great article! Great to get a behind the scenes look at what a fashion shoot takes to put together.

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  • I posted this again to help those needing some guidance for the Photo Contest 🙂

  • Bluestill

    This post definitely took a lot of the guess work out of the project of doing a fashion shoot. Very well written with indepth explanation.

  • Heinz Schmidt

    Hi Ben, awesome post! thank you so much for sharing the inner details of planning a fashion shoot (condensed version albeit)

    One question remains… I can only imagine that the planning phase takes up 80% of the time of the overall shoot. Does the job pay well enough in the end to make all the time spent planning it, worth it?

    It seems from your post that you could easily spend two weeks to a month planning a shoot and then shoot it in 2 days. The pay cheque at the end of the day must be quite substantial to cover your time and expenses for a month!

    Sorry for the personal question but I am thinking of making fashion my day job one day and want to know the reality of it rather than the dream.

    All the best
    Heinz

  • Dionna Bunting

    Enjoyed every bit of your blog post.Much thanks again. Want more.

  • Benjamin Kanarek

    @:

    In general as low as 1 select per clothing change to around 5.

  • How many edited files you actually submit to editors?
    Thanks for the post.
    Ed

  • David Stone

    Very very insightful!

  • tom

    stumbled onto your blog…. found this article to be insightful. thanks.

  • Jon Van Gilder

    Thank you for this look inside – so much to learn!

    Cheeers,
    Jon

  • Brian Barnett

    Great write up and I really like the simple design and layout of the blog, all fits together really well. Hope you manage to keep it updated with more articles like this one!