At this point I've been shooting semi-professionally / professionally for more than half my life.
(Over 15 years!)
And I've come a long way from the girl shooting her little sister in the backyard after school...
But for YEARS of my photography career I would say things like "I belong behind the lens, not in front of it".
I love the stories I can tell of others.
But I HATED whenever the camera turned on me.
Unlike many bloggers who yearn for the spotlight, I began modeling for this blog VERY begrudgingly. If you look way back into my Instagram (we're talking late 2013, early 2014), I never ever ever showed my face. If I shot a photo of my outfit in the mirror, my face was always covered with my phone.
To say I was camera-shy wouldn't quite be true. I know the camera well... we are good friends after these long years together. And I know how a camera can tell a story about someone they don't see themselves.
But I disliked every aspect of modeling. Everytime I was in front of the camera I just wanted to hop up and shoot myself.
(Which I have actually done with a tripod but it's not the same...)
But once I went on Fox News in February 2014 after winning an Instagram competition for my fashion, the jig was up. I HAD to be a face for my style if I was going to share it.
So begrudgingly... very begrudgingly... I've learned to not only BE in front of the camera, but to EMBRACE it, flaws and all.
I've learned a lot along this blogging journey about what makes outfit shoots work (and what doesn't!), even if you're a nervous mess like I was. So I'm sharing some of my best, fool-proof tips for ensuring gorgeous outfit photos. Even if you only got 4 hours the night before and the only pose you can think of is an ambivalent yawn...
5 Tips For Getting The Best Outfit Photos
1. Shoot At Golden Hour
Most photographers will tell you nothing ruins a good photo like bad lighting. Harsh, direct noon sunlight invariably makes subjects flat and blown out.
Over the years I've learned to schedule all my most important shoots during golden hour -- that magical time about an hour and a half before the sun sets or after the sun rises. Many photographers I know even use apps on their phones to track when and where golden hour will be.
But living in a big, busy city can be challenging during evening golden hours. So my favorite time to shoot is actually during the morning golden hour since there are fewer people out and about (meaning cleaner spaces and less background noise).
If you can force yourself to get out of bed early, you'll be amazed at how many photogenic spots like the Cloud Gate, the Honeycomb, or the Brooklyn Bridge you have to yourself. It's really the most magical time of day to shoot (once you've had a couple swigs of coffee, naturally).
2. Shoot Every Angle
Generally when I shoot myself, I go with close friends or my own tripod because I know the photos will be so much better if I'm comfortable and at ease with who I'm shooting with.
But once I was so desperate to shoot a particular look (and none of my regular photographers were free) I shot with a friend-of-a-friend who happened to be a full-time photographer.
And while the shots were good, they were all the SAME. I was the same distance from the camera in every shot. There were no close-ups, no dreamy far-away shots... just 20 images of me standing in the same spot with different expressions.
Needless to say but I learned my lesson -- always ask for multiple angles.
Anytime I'm shooting someone's outfit, I shoot with the exact same technique in the exact same order:
(1) Shoot All Far Away Shots, Starting From As Far Away As Possible & Slowly Moving In On Your Subject
(it's best to do these as soon as you can -- saving them for the end always means more crowds)
(2) Shoot Standard Full-Bodies, The "Basic Outfit" Shot
(plus one full-body shot cropping out the head for Pinterest)
(3) Close In On Any & All Interesting Details
(cute shoes, purses, a tight torso shot, jewelry, wind-swept hair)
(4) Finish With Portraits, When Your Subject Is Most Relaxed & At Ease With The Camera
(my best tip for shooting portraits is to get your subject to forget you're shooting. Being a goofball or saying something distracting/hilarious works very well!)
3. Shoot with a Prime Lens
Lenses are a very personal choice for photographers.
The moment I meet a new photographer, the first question I ALWAYS ask is "what lens is your favorite to shoot with?". You can tell more about a person from the type of lens they shoot with most than almost any personality test devised.
Personally, I shoot almost exclusively with prime lenses. I favor the sharpness and aperture range of a prime over the flexibility of a zoom lens in almost every situation. This is partly because of the type of work I shoot (less sports and photojournalism, more studio and posed) but also partly because once you shoot with primes, it's really hard to go back to the lower quality of a zoom.
My favorite lenses for shooting outfits:
85mm 1.4 (a beast of a lens but it creates the most magical bokeh)
50mm 1.4 (great all-purpose, good bokeh, more range than the 85mm, cheaper)
20mm 1.8 (my newest lens -- the wide-angle instantly makes all subjects 10 lbs lighter and gives me versatility when traveling in tight, small spaces)
Between these 3 lenses (and my trusty 35mm), I can shoot almost any situation, any space, any purpose. And, because they are primes, I'm able to shoot incredibly clear photos very quickly -- a huge bonus when you're in a rush!
4. Choose the Best Location
Not to sound lazy but beautiful spaces MAKE the shoot. The prettier the place you shoot, the prettier the photos.
I'm sure there are a few of you who may argue with that point but I stand by it. A stunning outfit will never look as good against a plain background as it will with one with character.
Whenever you're shooting an outfit, think hard about the narrative you want to tell. Shots against walls will naturally have less energy than a bustling city will. Minimal spaces mean the subject needs to bring personality to the images. Busy spaces mean the subject will have to stand out in a visually striking way (or risk being LITERALLY lost in the crowd).
Choosing the right spot for your shoot (and the right time to shoot it at), is key to any successful outfit shoot. Here is a list of my favorite shooting locations you can find just about anywhere.
5. Keep Walking
While this tip isn't useful 100% of the time, I use it in at least 90% of the outfit shots I do so is certainly worth noting.
If you have an uncomfortable subject (or hate being the model like me), walking is a great solution. When subjects just sit and pose for an image they quickly tire and their expressions become more artificial as time goes on.
When you tell your subject to walk (or yourself if you're modeling), you're distracting them from modeling. This helps them lower their guard and allows you to get really natural, beautiful images instead of more posed shots. We are all capable of being truly beautiful on camera but what we THINK looks beautiful on camera and what actually does are two very different things.
That's why walking makes such a difference.
It distracts us from modeling in a very natural way and allows our real selves to be more visible for the camera. Our true selves.
Walking also has the added benefit of creating instant movement in a photo. It'll swish the dress, twist the hips, swing the arms, and flare the hair. It'll create THAT MOMENT. It's 100% of the reason why I'm walking in most of my outfit photos... because pretty much everything else is only good for the blooper reel.
One tip for any klutzy girls out there: put one foot in front of the other and "rock" back and forth instead of actually walking when you model. It'll look the same but prevent you from faceplanting into the asphalt... yet again...