Essential Tips for Photographers Considering An Outdoor Fashion Shoot


There is a well known–and rather obvious–fact floating around that fashion photography is all about fashion. While that's true, these types of photos should indeed focus on the style present within it, the process of actually conducting a fashion shoot isn't quite as straight forward. There is a lot more to take into consideration beyond what your models are wearing. Whether you are working with a paying client or just building up your portfolio, you want to make sure you put a little forethought into the overall idea of the shoot.

Image by Dmitriy Ilkevich

The Keys to Scouting Great Locations
In most parts of the world fashion is highly seasonal, it changes every time the weather does. Having the winter styles ready to advertise in early fall allows the designers to stay ahead of the game which means photoshoots are done well in advance of the next season. Photographers are affected by this timeliness because they have to take this into consideration when choosing the location. This is another area in which seeing the styles beforehand will prove to be helpful. For example, if you're going to be shooting a spring line, it doesn't really make sense to shoot somewhere that implies it's fall outside, even though it very well may be fall at the time of the shoot. Avoid including backgrounds that would give this away, such as fall colors on the trees. This may force you to get creative, but go ahead and create “rain” with a hose or make “snow” if you think it will add to the scene.

Scouting for that perfect location is essential to the work, not an afterthought. If the clothing you are photographing tends to blend into the scene, you will lose much needed separation between the subject and the background. Remember, the point of fashion photography is fashion! Don't be afraid to bring in props if needed, but they should never distract from the model. You are looking for a setting that fits in with they style of clothing, has a complimenting color palate, and can go largely unnoticed, if not ignored.

Image by Eli DeFaria

The Sun Is a Gift. Use It!

Pablo Picasso was once quoted saying, “There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who, with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.” While Picasso was probably speaking a bit more broadly, his words still hold a great deal of truth in their most literal interpretation. A lot of photographers are intimidated by the idea of photographing models using the sun as a main source of light. I'm here to tell you, there is nothing to be afraid of. Not only is the sun capable of creating gorgeous light, it's also free to use and you don't have to worry about packing it and lugging it around from location to location. How much easier could it get? Try these tips to help you get the most out of the sun:

  • Find and use open shade like your it's best friend. Much like trees, a north facing wall is always a good source for open shade. If the setting works with the fashion, setting up under structures like bridges and piers can also offer up some of that supreme filtered daylight. When all else fails, have a pair of assistants hold up some sheer, white fabric over the model to serve as a sort of sun-powered softbox. In the photo below, the balloons help mask the face from harsh sun all the while masquerading as a creative accent.
  • If no open shade is available, first of all ask yourself if you gave 110% during location scouting. If the answer is no, but it's too late to switch it up, you can always ward off shadows by using a reflector aimed at your model or by using a flash on a low power setting to fill in any unflattering shadows cast on your model.
  • Looking into the sun is not good for your models eyes and the squinting it will inevitably cause will not be good for your photographs. To help combat this, have your model close her eyes. Count down from three and instruct your model to open her eyes on one while you simultaneously snap the shutter. This prevents her from having to stare into the sun for too long, thus preventing squinting.
  • If you can't possibly attempt to do the shoot in broad daylight, there's always golden hour. Twilight and night shoots are possibilites as well, but these times can be equally challenging .

Be A Team Player: Working With The Designer

If you're working for a designer, ask ahead of time to see a lookbook or sketches of the styles you'll be shooting. This will help you get an idea of the style and give you plenty of time to brainstorm ideas for a potential theme. It can be a lot of fun having complete creative control, but chances are the designer will have some ideas of their own to add the mix. Be receptive to their ideas, but don't be afraid to speak up if you have an idea to improve upon them. Ask the designer to meet with you in person to discuss both of your ideas and assure you are both on the same page.

Image by Icons8 team

Fashion photography is very much an artistic collaboration, thinking of it as such can inspire you to think outside the box, make bold decisions, and work on ideas you may never would have ventured into on your own.

About Author

Tiffany Mueller is an adventurer and photographer based in Hawaii. When she's not climbing volcanoes or swimming with sharks, you can find her writing articles and running the official blog at PhotoBlog.

Please, if you’re talking about north facing walls on an international forum such as this one, include which hemisphere this works for. The two orientations give completely opposite results

Almost all the internet that is in english is half a year late, and it’s “compass challenged”. This means they will talk about autumn photos, autumn challenges, autumn tips when is september and spring is starting, and all the time they talk about “north”, you need to read “south”. Don’t know why they do this…

My gal and I deal with the hemisphere thing because over the years we have just gotten accustomed to opposites. Saying either North America or Oz does ensure an experienced social media geek is “orientated.” South America or Europe and Suid Afrika compared to Sa’udi or Russia.

People will literally complain about everything. Great article and I can figure out the directions all by myself thank you.

I love this article. One other thing that may be necessary when using fill flash outdoors is a high-quality neutral density filter. This may be necessary to be able to shoot at the camera sync speed. It is a simple, however, that a high quality filter is used and not the cheapest one on the market. Doing so will help Ensure Les color cast and distortion.

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