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9 Tips for Planning a Fashion Photoshoot

To plan a fashion photoshoot is incredibly time-consuming and setting aside weeks, and even months, to arrange everything is quite common. The more time you give yourself, the less stressful the experience.

Once your samples have been produced and have passed all of the fit and quality tests, selling your range and marketing will, no doubt, be next on your list. However, before this can occur you will need to start planning your visuals. Without these, it will be difficult to communicate with buyers, press, and customers.

Most designers underestimate the time it takes to plan a photoshoot. They don’t spend enough time thinking about the kind of images they would need.

So, how should you prepare and plan a fashion photoshoot? What types of photos do you actually need?

That all depends on where the photographs will be used. If they’re to be used for your website, social platforms and a Lookbook, then a selection of style shots and product shots will be needed.

Follow this 9-tip guide to help you successfully plan a fashion photoshoot.

1. Create a Mood Board

What is your overall vision for the final images?

Prior to the photoshoot, gather together images and compile a Mood Board. This will enable you to clearly plan what you would like to achieve. Sketch any styling ideas for the still photographs and think about poses that you’d like your model to focus on.

Once your Mood Board has been created, compile a shortlist of photographs you would like to emulate.

Set up a Pinterest Board perhaps to share with your team (which should include the photographer, stylist(s), and the models) prior to the shoot.

Print the list on the day of the photoshoot and make sure that each pose is ticked off the list once it has been photographed.

This is an important step, as there is nothing worse than wrapping up after a long day only to realise that some shots were not taken.

You will need three types of photographs:

a) Product Flat Images:

These are full colour and feature your garments/products on a plain white background (laid flat for garments, hence the name).

Show front, back and side details.

Be sure to include close-ups of any important details.

b) E-Commerce / Linesheet:

These are garment or product shots, on a model.

No extra accessories should be included in these shots as the items are the stars.

The models should assume the same simple pose for each shot and hold it; this maintains consistency and will help prevent visual fatigue when the images are presented all together on a page, such as a website.

Include a complete 360˚ view if possible, to give viewers a complete picture of the products.

Remember that a plain white background should be used, so plan the photoshoot accordingly.

c) Style Shots:

Style shots are used to convey your brand aesthetic and how the pieces can be used in everyday life.

Unlike e-commerce images, style shots should feature more movement and poses from the model(s), and show them enjoying the products.

The setting for these shots really depends on your overall vision for the fashion photoshoot. They should include a model or models and can be shot in a studio or on location.

Top Tip: Think through how and where you would be using the images and cross check with the type of shots you already have listed that you need. Don’t forget to ensure you have portrait and landscape variations.

2. Select a Photographer

Selecting the right photographer for your particular aesthetic is of the utmost importance. They should have some experience in fashion photography. They should also be willing to listen to you and support your art direction.

It isn’t a vanity project for the photographer to get paid to execute his own vision at the expense of the client’s end goal.

Find a few photographers who appear to be a good fit based on the type of work they produce and interview them.

Do the images in their portfolio resonate with your ideas?

If they predominantly show in their portfolio moody shots with blurred backgrounds when your ideal is sharp, clean shots, then they are probably not a good fit.

Are they charging you by the hour or can you set a fixed cost?

Is post-production, such as Photoshop editing, included in the price? It should be, but if not then negotiate this fee prior to the shoot.

How many images will you get at the end of the photoshoot?

Top Tip: Speak to a few people you may know or potential stylists and make up artists you may consider working with, and ask them for tips and advise. Ask them for any requirements they may have too, so there are no surprises on the day.

3. Set up Casting Call

With your vision and look set, selecting the right model should be relatively easy.

Do you know what you are looking for?

Are you looking for an olive-skinned brunette, a cool blonde, or an African queen?

How many models will you need? It may be easier to select up to three models, as this will ensure that the photoshoot progresses at a faster pace.

Are you after group shots of the models walking together, singles or a mixture of both?

Depending on your budget you can contact a model agency and look through their books for models. Speak to them as different models have different fees (depending on their experience) but also ask if there are any new faces who need exposure and have “better” hire rates.

Alternatively, set up a casting through your social media channels and be sure to include a profile for the type of model you’re seeking.

Also consider creating a flyer which can be circulated. Don’t forget to include your contact details along with the casting date and photoshoot location.  If you’re on a budget, look for new models who will work for prints but remember that you need models who are confident behind the camera. A complete novice may be difficult to work with until they’ve gained some experience.

Top Tip: When looking for models, do NOT forget to specify the height, body measurements, size fit and shoe size. Try to arrange for a fitting prior to the fashion photoshoot to ensure that everything fits on the day.

4. Select Hair and Makeup Professionals

Successful fashion photoshoots are those that have thought about the finer details in advance. having the right hair and makeup on the models can make a huge difference to the overall final look.

Finding Hair and Makeup artists (MUA) can be achieved by asking for recommendations from the photographer you’re going to use.

If you’re on a budget, consider contacting students at a college to work with, such as London School of Makeup. They may be happy to be paid with photographs. Alternatively, join a college FB group and post an advert there.

You can also contact agencies like Carol Hayes Management. Make sure, in all cases, that you see a good sampling of examples of their work before you make a booking. Chat with them about the looks you’re trying to achieve and send them a mini Mood Board along with images of your models and colour references of your clothes or products.

Top Tip: The stylist and makeup artist should, ideally, have a firm idea of what it is you’re hoping to achieve, at least two weeks before the shoot. If they need to purchase additional supplies and do any prep, this should be ample time.

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5. Location and Backgrounds

Plan your locations far ahead of time.

If you’re shooting outdoors in the height of summer, bear in mind that direct sunlight will cast hard shadows and the models will squint against the glare of the sun. Either shoot first thing in the morning or late afternoon.

Any location shots that rely on particular trees or shrubbery being in bloom, for example, must be timed to coincide with seasonal changes.

If you’re shooting in a studio, it should be furnished with a selection of backgrounds and different types of lights.

Consider the following when shooting on location:

  • Is there somewhere to hang garments? If not then you must provide a portable rail.
  • Is there a bathroom on location or close by?
  • Are there changing facilities? If you’re shooting outside you will need to arrange some type of changing area. It may not always be convenient for the model to use the facilities due to time constraints, so perhaps you could provide a large sheet that could be held up around the model, as a makeshift tent.

If you’re shooting a swimwear collection in winter, it would be wise to provide warm covers to wrap around the model.

Top Tip: Regardless of where you choose to shoot, make sure you have a First Aid kit on hand and ensure you have water and snacks or food to sustain everyone’s energy through the day.

6. Create Model Cards

For each look that you shoot, it would be a good idea to plan each outfit that the model will be wearing. Here are some helpful pointers to bear in mind:

  • Begin by taking full-length photographs of each outfit either on a model or flat lay.
  • Print out each picture and attach to a large board.
  • Include close-up shots of all shoes and accessories.
  • Try to show how each piece is worn. In the case of bracelets or rings make a note of which hand they should be placed on.
  • Next to the photographs, list all of the items that are to be included in each look and include instructions for how the look is achieved.
  • Include as much information as possible so that the stylist/model/dresser can just get on with the job. You, as the designer, will be too busy to dress models.
  • Finally, add the model’s name, along with the order-of-shot number at the top of the board and hang it in front of each outfit.

Inform the models whether they will need to bring anything with them on the day of the photoshoot, such as seamless, neutral colour underwear, including strapless and regular bras.

If you need to buy additional items such as shoes, props, accessories or additional clothes, just keep the price tags attached. Tape the bottom of shoes to prevent scuffs. These items can then be returned after the shoot.

Top Tip: If you allow plenty of time to plan the fashion photoshoot, it would be a great idea to contact other brands and ask them to lend you props and accessories. This will save you costs and perhaps even help you promote your brand as the other brands may want to shout out the collaboration.

Related reading: What are the Fashion Photography basics you need to know?

7. Fashion Photoshoot Schedule

Setting a schedule for the photoshoot is very important. Without a detailed schedule, you may not be able to accomplish your goals.

Each person’s arrival can be staggered with the photographer arriving first, to check equipment and set up.

Alternatively, since hair and makeup take time especially if the looks you want to achieve are elaborate, schedule the photographer to arrive after the models, so you’re not paying them to wait around fiddling their thumbs while the models are getting ready. Allow 1-2 hours per model.

If you’re shooting outside as well as inside, plan which will be done first, basing your decision on light and temperature.

Once you have worked all of this out, type up a list with everyone’s arrival details, including contact numbers, the location address, and email it to everyone involved. Print a copy for yourself.

Top Tip: Don’t forget to plan in breaks and a lunch break.

8. Prepare the Samples

Your samples should be ready well ahead of the fashion photoshoot. Press them well and place them on a hanger in cellophane bags.

These should then be put into a zip-fronted garment bag to alleviate any damage that could possibly occur in the interim.

Remember to cut all loose threads and attach buttons securely.

If you will be leaving the garments on the hangers for non-model shots, keep hanger loops out of sight by using double-sided tape on the inside of the garment and sticking the loops to it. This will minimise the need for extra Photoshop work for the photographer.

Top Tip: As much as possible try to pack look together, rather than individual items. It will help you save time looking for the accessories when you are on location.

9. Contacts & Fees

When you plan a fashion photoshoot involving more than just one person, firm agreements are required. Whether you’re working with friends or take on professionals, agreeing how you would work and the payments is super important. What is even more important is documenting this in writing and making sure both parties sign on the dotted line.

This will ensure that everyone is clear on their obligations and what is expected from them in order to collect their fee at the end of the day.

You don’t necessarily need a lawyer to draft you an agreement – you can do so yourself by clearly writing all the details (even stating the obvious).

Some of the information such an agreement should cover is:

Date of the agreement and who it is between ( you and the stylist, you and the photographer…ect);

  • When and where the photoshoot will take place;
  • Who is involved and what is their role;
  • What are their duties? What would you consider as “job done” at the end of the project?
  • Working timings of the project;
  • What fee is agreed for the job and when and how it will be paid;
  • What you expect to get in return for the fee (number of images…etc);
  • What happens in case of cancellation from either party

Regarding fees – as much as possible try not to pay all in advance. Fees need to work both ways and both parties need to feel secure that they will get they have negotiated.

An acceptable scenario would be where you pay part of the total payment in advance as a deposit and the rest upon completion of the work and when you are happy with the result.

Top Tip: Make sure you have agreements with all parties including venue hire if you are using a studio. You don’t want to have unexpected costs as a result of not knowing the rules of engagement.

So as you see to plan a fashion photoshoot is not as easy as it may seem. Allowing plenty of time and perhaps even taking on a helper to assist you in the organisation would be a good idea.

Following the above steps will ensure you minimise the surprises you may have on the day. But be certain there will be some – there always are. Make a note of them for the next time and accept that nothing ever is perfect. Accept the challenges and adapt to what you have to work with on the day.

Top Tip: Enjoy the day!


Have a 10th tip that we haven’t covered? Comment below.