How do I Become a Fashion Photographer?

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  • Written By: M.C. Huguelet
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2018
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For many, the idea of fashion photography brings to mind a jet-setting lifestyle filled with gorgeous models, couture clothing, and sizable paychecks. While this luxurious dream may come true for a select few, if you want to become a fashion photographer, you will likely face a far less glamorous existence. In reality, fashion photography is an extremely competitive field into which entry — let alone success — can be difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, if you have high levels of talent, determination, and resourcefulness, you may be able to build a career in the industry. To become a fashion photographer, you should begin by developing your photography skills, constructing a portfolio, and showing your work to potential clients.

Good fashion shots hinge on the photographer’s ability to tell a story by synthesizing a range of elements like the model’s posture and garment, the lighting, and the setting. Thus, before you can become a fashion photographer, you must develop your photographic skills. You might consider obtaining a bachelor’s degree in photography or enrolling in photography classes at your local community college or arts center. Whether or not you undertake formal training, you should attain a vast and varied amount of practice. As fashion photographs often require digital manipulation, you will likely also find it helpful to familiarize yourself with computer editing programs.


Once you have received adequate technical training, you should assemble a portfolio of your work. Your portfolio is your first and usually only chance to impress potential clients. It should showcase not only your best work but also your range and flexibility as a photographer. A typical portfolio consists of 20 or more 8 X 10 inch (20.32 X 25.4 cm) photographs. Previously published work is best, but if you do not have a body of published work, you should simply make sure that your photographs are of high quality.

After constructing a portfolio, you should begin sending your work to potential clients so they can consider you for upcoming jobs. You can do this independently or through an agency. Either way you should first study your target publication or agency to determine whether your style of work will suit its needs.

If you choose to submit your portfolio independently, you should first familiarize yourself with the potential client and its ethos. Should you wish to submit to a particular fashion magazine, for instance, you can benefit from examining the publication to see what kind of photographs it typically publishes, and whether your style matches that. You should also be sure to label your portfolio — which should consist of copied prints rather than irreplaceable originals — clearly and direct it to the appropriate editor. Keep in mind that established fashion publications receive a constant influx of portfolios from would-be photographers. For yours to be considered, it should be visually impressive and free from amateurish mistakes.

You might find that working with an agency is an easier way to become a fashion photographer. While agencies take care of seeking work for you, they also charge a fee on the jobs they secure. Still, an established agency’s industry contacts can prove quite valuable to the beginning photographer.

Just as with potential clients, you should familiarize yourself with prospective agencies to decide which will best fit your style. If you want to shoot high fashion spreads, for instance, an agency specializing in catalog photography probably will not suit you. You can get an idea of an agency’s character by examining the work of the photographers it represents.

Finally, it is important to keep in mind that most fashion photographers do not begin their careers with multi-page spreads in glossy magazines. Rather they build their reputations and their portfolios through small jobs and work their way up to desirable, high-paying commissions. At the start, you might consider taking stock photographs or doing direct mail shoots. If your work is creatively and professionally executed, you may gain notice and progress up the fashion photography career ladder.



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