Less is more

A common mistake when working in the studio is to create a lighting setup so complex that it overwhelms the session. If you stick your subject in front of a huge array of lights and tell them they can’t move an inch this way or that, it is all too easy to kill any possible spontaneity. Furthermore, if your subject is able to provide you with a great pose but you aren’t ready or able to shoot them, the moment is soon lost and the shoot will suffer.

If you want to make your life easier, then follow the KISS rule and keep the lighting setup as simple as possible. Here is a typical lighting setup that I have used many times. The main light comes from a softbox on a boom arm and a small fill reflector is used to bounce light from below.

With a setup like this the minimal lighting produces a great looking light for fashion as well as portrait work. What is also interesting here is that the effect of the lighting will change as you and the subject move – you can quickly achieve a variety of lighting moods in a single session.

I mostly like to keep the lighting simple and flexible so that the model is free to move about. It helps if one can have an assistant to adjust the lighting as you shoot, but even so, I prefer to keep shooting even if I sense the lighting may have fallen off slightly. Doing so means the rhythm is maintained and hey, you can always lighten images in Photoshop!

A simple lighting setup can greatly minimize the number of things that can go wrong under the pressure of a shoot. Another benefit is that the subject isn't intimidated by a huge number of lights, can see and talk with the photographer and is free to move around as much as they like.

Fashion photography jobs can be stressful during the preparation stages, but at the end of the day a good shoot should leave you with a glow of satisfaction of a job well done. You don’t really want to be encumbered by unnecessary distractions on the day itself, hence the need to be fully prepared. Even so, there are always things that will happen that may come back to haunt you (even on what seems to be a great shoot). This is where a good assistant can help by being an extra pair of eyes and ears. i.e. noting down the times models arrive and are finished shooting, but also picking up on whether clients are fully happy, or if there are problems building behind the scenes. Little things always make a difference, like making sure everyone is offered something to drink and that no one feels left out.

Getting Client Approval

In the days of film, clients would have to wait a day or two to see the results. Nowadays the pictures can be seen straight away of course, which on the whole makes life easier and clients can be assured on the day that they have the results they are looking for.

At a suitable point in a shoot you can choose to let everyone involved share looking at the pictures as they arrive on the computer. It's important for the photographer to decide when it's best to do this. Stopping to check photos all the time can be a distraction. Overall, I find it to be a positive thing, which can help give encouragement to the models and everyone else who is involved with the session that day.

Some clients prefer that I create printed contact sheets of all the one-star select photos. It is all very well producing web gallery websites or sticking photos on a DVD, but some people still find it easier to refer to printed sheets of photos, just like they did in the old days. I firmly believe that all digital services should be charged for as an additional fee. With the ability to shoot digital comes the responsibility of looking after the files and maintaining a secure archive. So, it does not seem unreasonable to charge for this. I know for some photographers it has proved tricky getting clients to agree, but all the clients I work with have accepted this as a necessary cost. It’s also important not to undermine other professional photographers by not charging for digital services.

Contact sheets can be easily printed while the shoot is in progress and taken home by the client at the end of the day.

Summing up

At the end of the day anyone can photograph a pretty girl (or boy). But, if you choose to make a career out of this there is a big difference in finding clients who are prepared to pay you for the privilege. Compared to when I first started out I reckon it is now a lot harder for someone to establish themselves as a fashion photographer.

There has been a substantial erosion of photographers’ rights during the past few years and fashion editorial fees have barely increased above what they were 25 years ago. Yet, despite all this there are plenty of young talented photographers out there who have been able to break into the business and make themselves decent careers by devoting as much care and attention to producing a shoot as they do to expanding their photographic skills. They have my utmost respect.


Martin Evening is an award winning advertising and fashion photographer based in London, England. He is also a best-selling author of instructional titles such as The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 4 Book and Adobe Photoshop CS6 for Photographers.