Essential Tips for an Outdoor Fashion Photoshoot
Fashion photography is challenging. Behind perfectly posed models wearing the season’s latest haute couture is a fast-paced world where several elements such as portraiture techniques, posing, lighting patterns and location must come together in harmony.
Shooting outdoors comes with many challenges you might not have considered, especially if you’re used to indoor shoots. However, you’ll find that it’s well worth the effort as shooting outdoors can add a whole new dimension to your images. Now that you’ve done your prep work, here are some additional things to consider when shoot day rolls around.
Roll with it
Metaphors aside, bring along a suitcase with wheels on shoot day. This will allow you to store all your props and clothes in one convenient moveable storage space. If you can get a hard-shell suitcase, it’ll be even better as it will protect your items in the event of wet weather. However, we still recommend having a dedicated camera bag for your lenses and batteries.
Shoot in RAW
Shooting in RAW enables you to capture the maximum dynamic range possible and can be utilised to fix an underexposed or overexposed image later on. This is important in fashion photography, particularly for clothing on loan as you might not be able to get them again for a reshoot until a much later date. This is because most fashion houses tend to loan clothes (or samples) out to multiple publications when a new collection is launched and will usually need to be returned before a stipulated time. To add, your model of choice might also not be available for a reshoot.
Work with your surroundings
You’re shooting outdoors for a reason - make sure that reason is evident in your shots! A photographer with a good eye should be able to spot elements in the environment that can play well into photographs. For example, use a tunnel of trees to frame your model, or take advantage of reflections on the water’s surface to highlight details in the clothing. If your model is wearing a very long dress, emphasise its length by having her hang (gracefully, of course) off a low branch or ladder. Safety first though! Don’t forget, fashion photography is about clothing. Don’t get too lost in your concept and forget to showcase the clothes. Look out for elements in the environment such as contrasting colours or textures that photographs beautifully with the clothing, allowing it to pop. Think orange dress against the blue sky, a warm-cool colour story of khaki brown and blue (above) - these are all things that you should have considered during your location scout.
Make your model feel comfortable
Start a conversation! That’ll put the photographer (you) and the talent on the same wavelength. While directing with words is one way to deliver instructions, you can also show the model the poses/direction yourself and get the model to mimic.
It’s important to add that fashion photography is not just about the clothing, the person wearing them also matters. This is especially important if your shoot concept requires more emotive responses from the model, such as laughter or sadness. Don’t forget to compliment him or her during the shoot if they are working on it – a little positivity can go a long way!
If your shoot requires high energy from your models, schedule some rest breaks in between shots to ensure that they will stay energetic throughout the day. If you’ve brought food, be sure it’s something easy to eat and has a low chance of staining clothes - avoid soups or curries and stick to wraps.
If you did not engage a makeup artist, pack along some items like wet wipes, blotting papers to remove excess oil and moisture on the model’s face, a handheld mirror, hair spray, extra hairpins and fabric stain removers. As the day wears on, your model will go from looking fresh to...not, so it is important to have items on hand that she can easily use to refresh herself. This will also save you the effort of having to edit out sweat or runny makeup afterwards. If you have a car, bring along several large umbrellas. In the event of bad weather, you might still be able to shoot if the rain isn’t too heavy, and the umbrellas can play into your concept as props. If it’s an especially sunny day, have your models rest under the shade of an umbrella during breaks to avoid getting sunburnt or sweating too much and ruining their makeup. Portable USB fans are handy for these situations too. Most importantly, by choosing to shoot outdoors, you know you’re taking a chance with the elements. If adverse weather does arrive, be prepared to be flexible. For example, if the clothes are yours and can withstand a bit of water, consider working with light rain as it can add drama to your shoot. Windy days could potentially be great for flowing garments and if a shoot runs late, you might be able to create a raw aesthetic with a Speedlight.
Outdoor fashion photography can be physically exhausting and challenging, but if you’re well-prepared and willing to be flexible, the results can be stunning. Unlike other genres of photography that can be more technical, fashion photography is ultimately about the clothing and the lifestyle or story of the person wearing them. Aim to capture that, and the rest will follow easily.