If your goal is to be employed at a fashion magazine as a photographer, then your first step is likely to be a college degree in photography, fashion or similar category of study. Even as an independent fashion photographer, some formal education will be necessary to succeed even modestly in a highly competitive career.
Knowledge is also required of the world of fashion and style, and the current trends, influences and major players. Concepts can be learned in school, but the only way you’ll know what and who are hot and not is to immerse yourself in the fashion culture. You may not be a fashionista, but you must understand how and why consumers are attracted to specific styles and today’s (and tomorrow’s) must-have products.
Another aspect of your fashion education is to study the past. Some styles become fashionable again, or some variation of them. The designers and fashion houses know this fact and they expect you to know it too. Read books on the history of fashion, so you understand its eras. Refer to magazines of the past 8 decades or so. Become a regular viewer of Turner Classic Movies and notice what the stars were wearing when their movies were made.
The most important purpose of all this education is to give you the background and tools to become a great storyteller with your camera. Technique is not enough. Editors hire the photographers who can convey a story, photographically, because the editors know that the allure of a story is what fires consumers’ imagination and convinces them to buy.
The most important marketing tool of fashion photographers, especially beginners, is a portfolio. Yes, a Web site is also necessary, but editors still prefer a physical portfolio of your work.
Research of fashion photo editors for this PhotographyTalk.com article revealed exactly what kind of portfolio they expect to see. Include a minimum of 20 images of various media. For example, experienced pros will display a few of their images as 4” x 5” transparencies, but generally 8” x 10” prints should be the bulk of your samples. If your photos have already appeared in a publication, then add tearsheets, maybe in combination with a print of the photo used. You may need to prepare multiple copies of your portfolio because if an editor agrees to view it, he or she will want it for a number of days.
Many photo editors can determine the value of your work by looking at just the first few images in your portfolio, so make sure you’re best three photos are at the front. Editors also want to gain insight about you and your shooting style with those first few images. Plus, they are looking for your storytelling ability.
The content of the photos in your portfolio should match the kind of assignment you prefer and you are confident you can complete successfully. For example, you might shoot men better than women, or vice versa; or you have a talent for outdoor fashion shoots instead of in a studio; or you’ve developed the skills to shoot close-ups of jewelry on a model rather than full-length fashion shots.
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This will be a career-long job of continual education because fashion is ever-changing and often moves in one direction or another for no particular reason.
It’s also a good idea to include one or two images of an entirely different type of photography; however, photo editors are more likely to remember excellent portraits than spectacular landscapes. Very stylish wedding photos are good choices, especially if they highlight the bride’s dress in a very fashionable composition.
With a portfolio of these exact specifications, you will increase the possibility that photo editors will not only accept your portfolio, but also actually look at the contents.
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Photo By PhotographyTalk member: Mark Kline's