Got Your First Fashion Show Coming Up? This Photographer’s Guide Is For You!


To Shoot A Fashion Show, It's Best To Learn Fashion Photography By Taking In Some Of These Brilliant Tips

Hey. I've gotta short story to share.

A while ago I got to photograph a local fashion show. It's been a long while since I had done such a thing, and since I did it just for few pictures I didn’t really put much effort in it.

But this got me thinking…

Since I've been in the same situation a few times, I figured it would be good to lay down some fashion tips for all of you that are going to be shooting at a fashion show for the first time. Sound good?

When Shooting A Fashion Show – At Least Remember These Two Things

  1. The first thing you need to remember is looks.Your looks. It is a fashion show, so you can’t go dressed in sweatpants and a hoodie. You need to look up to par, or you risk not being let in – and that'd be a grand shame wouldn't it?Fashion shows are often accompanied by cocktail parties and so on, so dress as if you were attending one. Suit and tie if necessary (for the guys – something equally dressy for the girls).
  2. The second most important thing is having credentials. Some fashion shows will let any photographer in, but some can be very restrictive, so make sure you obtain all the credentials necessary and be in contact with the crew that organizes the whole event.Additionally, make sure your credentials are visible during the time you are at the event. That will ensure that no security will be in your way if they suspect an “intruder”. It's common sense really, but it'll save you a load of (potential) hassle.

Photo by Jing Qui

Some Useful Tips For You

  1. Make sure you ask the hosts where you can and can’t go, in order to avoid any inconveniences. Often events do not allow backstage access, so you are restricted to photographing the catwalk and just that. But if you have backstage access, use it.Everybody can make the shots outside, but having the inside exclusives can bring you top dollar. When photographing outside, don’t anchor yourself to just one spot. Be in motion, seek different angles and such.
  2. Moving on, be aware of the equipment around you – i.e. other people's! Usually, there will be videographers and people that manipulate the light – that alone brings tons of equipment around which is really expensive.Also, have the videographers in sight and make sure you’re not blocking their view because they can’t work around you that easily as you can work around them.
  3. Next up, what gear should you bring?
    Well, since it is a fashion event they probably won’t let you in with 3 bags of gear, but you can safely take one general lens (24-70mm (full frame) / 18-50 mm (APS-C)) and one telephoto zoom lens (70-200mm).So to be clear, that's TWO lenses, no more – I know it's hard.

     It would be wise if you can get your hands on f/2.8 versions of the lenses since you’ll need that max aperture due to harsh lighting conditions. Not essential, just useful, so don't worry.

  4. Also, if you can sneak in a monopod – excellent, because you might just need it (unless you have an ultra-steady hand after 2 hours handheld shooting, lol).

Anything Else?

  1. Oh yes. I must say that a camera capable of some decent burst rates will go a long way since models move quite rapidly and often do sudden movements so you’ll need to spray a bit.
  2. Also, a battery grip will give you that extra juice and it can speed up the burst rate on some cameras. Even though you have a battery grip, bring spare batteries if the event is longer.
  3. Fashion shows are often well lit. There are not many diffused lights but enough that will let you slide without a flash. However, often the top-down lights overpower the other lights, therefore the model’s eyes have weird shadows and you can use fill flash to counter that and get some awesome shots.
  4. It's good to use the first few model runs to scout for light and positions where the shadows aren’t too bad and use that as a general guide

Details, Yep, They're Quite Important

I remember my first gig, I forgot that part and I had no shots of the details which luckily weren’t necessary. What do I mean by details? The smaller things, accessories, shoes, bags, jewelry etc – this goes for both men AND women by the way.

So, if you see some particularly fancy accessories and/or piece of clothes/shoes just take a few snaps out of it too, they may prove useful when you use the photos later.

This can be used in conjunction with the featured brands.

Many shows display the brands that are used on the models, so if you see for example “Rolex” you should know that the watches on the models are the most important part, so a detail shot or two might be the money maker.

I used Rolex as a direct example, more often it is a general fashion brand, but the same principles apply.

Try Not To Get Caught Up In The Gear

Lastly, I know I mentioned that it would be good to have 2.8 lenses and a fast burst rate camera, but it isn’t always really necessary. Yes, having good gear will make your job easier, but it doesn’t have to mean that you won’t be able to do the job otherwise.

A Prime Example: I shot my last gig with Canon EOS 1000D and 55-250mm f/4-5.6 IS lens and it turned out just great.

Didn’t have to go over 400 ISO while maintaining 1/100th of a second shutter speed. Both my sets of flash batteries didn’t last the whole event and I ended up shooting over 1000 photos.

Both flash and non-flash images were good, and I got out about 30 spot-on shots, and 30 more decent and totally usable photos.

The photographer that was shooting right next to me with a 1DX and 70-200 and had a comparatively easier job than me, but we both got excellent shots. I was certainly happy!


Well, I hope that's been of some use? I realize that perhaps not many readers shoot fashion shows, though many probably do shoot in the fashion industry. This I have provided as an example of some of the work I have done and those interested may wish to step into this line of photography work.

There are some amazing benefits for your photography skills to attend very small local (even voluntary) fashion shows just to get yourself familiar with working from particular angles with limited light. The added benefit is that you'll get to really practice your flash skills too!

Learn Fashion Photography – At The Catwalk! – Top Takeaways

  • Some basic tips here to at least get you started with your first gig. Remember the basics of getting your kit ready, look the part and have some credentials with you (including some business cards).
  • Try to throw in some different angled shots. Don't stick to one composition and move about a little when and where you can.
  • Mind out for other people and their gear – the last thing you want to do is trip and break someone's stuff (and hurt yourself in the process!)
  • Keep your gear minimal – one camera body, two lenses, a monopod (if you can), usual batteries (and/or a grip)/ memory cards/spares, an external flash, plus any lightweight cleaning accessories.
  • The details! Don't forget or underestimate them and their importance (see my “Rolex” example).
  • Lastly, if you don't have that mammoth Full Frame DSLR and $2k+ fast lenses, please don't be put off – it's about getting the shots and utilizing the gear you have. All of that stuff comes later down the line and shouldn't affect your outcomes (as I have shown).

Further Resources

Further Learning

The “Fantastic Fundamental Light Skills” eGuide goes beyond what we have discussed in this article with regards to light and will take your understanding next level. Check it out so you can learn how to read, understand and work better with light in your photography.

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Photographer who loves challenging and experimental photography and loves sharing his knowledge about it.

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