Navigating the world of fashion and beauty photography

The first Fashion Week season of 2024 has ended, but we’re still floored by all the designs and beauty looks that continue to circulate on social media. From ready-to-wear designs by Veronica Beard to the groundbreaking couture show from Maison Margiela, the fashion world is abuzz with new content. And while the clothing designs take center stage, our attention is on the stunning photography that brings these looks to life. If you’re curious about how to venture into the world of fashion and beauty photography, look no further. We’ve partnered with members of the KEH team and talented photographers to bring you tips, tricks, and other valuable insight into a very closed-circle industry.

Understanding fashion and beauty photography

Loosely defined, fashion and beauty photography is any image whose primary goal is to highlight clothes and fashion accessories, as well as makeup, haircare, and other beauty products. Subcategories in this medium include editorial photography and commercial advertising photography. Whereas editorial work is featured in magazines, newspapers, and other kinds of publications to support a story, commercial advertising photography is more relevant for advertising campaigns, product packaging, and other forms of brand promotion. 

Photo Credit Kendrick Carter<br>

9 tips to capture stunning fashion photos

1. Don’t be afraid of harsh lighting

A harsh light can appear very soft when used for beauty photography. With a studio strobe, use a regular reflector (a standard 7” or larger works fine), raise it slightly above the model’s head, and point it directly at their face. If the model’s face is facing the light source the light will be direct, provide rich shadows under the chin, lip, and nose, and will look smooth and soft. 

Photo Credit Ken Hamlett

2. Capture textural detail

Oftentimes, fabric is just as important to showcase as the cut or silhouette of a design. To capture detail in fabrics your light should be at an angle to the fabric’s texture. This will allow the texture of the materials to show.

Photo Credit Ken Hamlett<br><br>

3. Don’t go crazy with lighting

Multi-light setups aren’t essential in fashion or beauty shoots. One light source can be used in many creative ways – it can be used as hard light, soft light, feathered light, diffused, undiffused, and many more. Each use provides a different look to your images.

4. Remember what you’re promoting

Fashion and beauty photographers work with some of the most striking people in the world. Consequently, it’s easy to allow their looks to outshine what you’re hired to shoot. Keep the product you’re promoting in mind, and make sure that stands out most in the images. If you’re shooting clothing, makeup, and hair are typically best paired down and neutral to allow the outfits to shine. When makeup or skincare is the star of the show, outfits should also take a backseat unless the producer or art director says otherwise. 

5. Take advantage of natural lighting

Direct sunlight is your friend! When used properly, it can add a pop of contrast to your beauty images while keeping your model’s skin and makeup looking great. Avoid direct sunlight at an angle to your model’s face or every imperfection will show. 

6. Don’t be afraid to try something out-of-the-box

Fashion is all about being creative and pushing boundaries, and your photography can reflect that. Don’t rule anything out before you try it! Sometimes the most outrageous and ridiculous ideas will give you surprisingly good results. Even accidental shots can yield a lot of promise.

Photo Credit Kendrick Carter

7. Get in close

Don’t worry, models don’t bite (usually)! Everyone on set wants to get the best possible shot, as long as you make sure your model is comfortable, you can get up close and personal. This can work wonders when highlighting makeup and skin, or small accessories like earrings to push the story you’re building further! 

Photo Credit Kendrick Carter<br>

8. Make the most of your location

Use your location to the fullest! Photographers often spend hours scouting a specific location, just to use one nondescript area on the property. If you booked a horse ranch, don’t just stand on the outskirts by a fence. Try to incorporate unique elements of the property. Get on a horse, shoot in the stables, lay in some hay. Whatever is at your disposal, use it! 

Photo Credit Ken Hamlett<br>

9. Have fun

You’re hired to do a job, but you should also try to have a good time yourself. Play music on set, dance, and wear an outfit that makes you feel like your best, creative self. You set the tone for the entire shoot, so whatever it is that can make the experience enjoyable for everyone involved, do it. When all is said and done, you’ll find yourself leaving with not just good images, as well as great memories to go along with them.

Photo Credit Kendrick Carter

Establish your creative process

The creative process is just as crucial to the finished product as the photoshoot itself. If you struggle to define your process, start by solidifying the message or story you want to tell. Establish an overarching vibe, theme, or look and feel. Utilize platforms like Pinterest to create a mood board, pulling inspiration from movies, songs, textures, and anything else you can think of. You can also create separate mood boards for different elements of the shoot, like makeup, hair, and styling to give makeup artists and hired talent more direction. You can do as much or as little as you need, but the more details you iron out, the better prepared you’ll be. 

Essential gear for your fashion photography kit

Ready to try your hand at fashion photography but need to pick up some gear first? We asked KEH team members and fashion photography experts Ken and Kendrick for some of their top gear picks. Their suggestions include: 

An octabox, silver beauty dish, or deep silver parabolic umbrella.

Shop these gear recommendations and more awesome preowned gear at low prices today!

Photo credits: 

All photos and tips featured in this blog are courtesy of our amazing in-house photographers, Ken Hamlett and Kendrick Carter. 

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