Fashion Photography by Stuart Smith - Jed Phoenix Clothing

How to Create a Beautiful Successful Fashion Photoshoot Production

Fashion photoshoot production. Part 2 of 2 considering pre-production, production & post-production. This is for those planning or commissioning a fashion photoshoot.

Preparation and Planning into Action

Following on from pre-production it is now time to consider the fashion photoshoot production. In Part 1 we looked at the elements needed to be brought together in pre-production for a fashion photoshoot. Part 2 is taking the preparation and planning and bringing it all into action to produce a fashion photoshoot and create some great images!

With the plans and team in place, it is time to get on set and get on with the fashion photoshoot production.

Fashion Photoshoot Agnes B by Stuart Smith

Who is in charge of the Fashion Photoshoot Production?

Although, ultimately a team effort, someone in the group needs to adopt or be assigned the role and responsibility of a Production Manager for a fashion photoshoot. The Production Manager will basically make sure everyone and everything is in the right place at the right time. For many fashion photoshoots, either the Photographer, their assistant or the Art or Creative Director will adopt the role of Production Manager. A very large or big budget shoot might have a specific person take on the Production Manager Role but for most, it will either be taken or shared between the Photographer and their team and the Art Director.

Prior to a fashion photoshoot, whoever has the Production Manager role should make sure that everyone has all the key information that will make the shoot run smoothly. Information that needs to be known by everyone includes:

    • Location details – including any GPS oddities that might be known about.
    • The schedule of the fashion photoshoot – who needs to be on set or in make-up and when.
    • Key contact details – especially, who to contact if anyone is running late or lost!

Fashion Photography by Stuart Smith - Jed Phoenix ClothingCatering

It is really east to get carried away in the creative buzz of fashion photoshoot and to forget some crucial things, like eating and drinking!

Depending on how long a production is lasting catering might range from water, tea, coffee and simple snacks etc. through to full meal breaks. It can be very useful to have some bottles of drinking water always available.


3 things need to be set-up for any fashion photoshoot

The Cameras and Lights

Fashion Photography by Stuart SmithIf shooting at a location (indoor or outdoor) then the Photographer will need to be especially aware of the ambient light on the set. The Fashion Photographer and their assistants will need to make assessments of how the photoshoot can exploit the lighting conditions or decide if they need to use additional lighting to overcome the ambient light to produce the desired creative effects.

The lighting choices and size of the location will affect what lenses, apertures, and exposure speed the Photographer selects to make the photographs with.

Some fashion photoshoots use only available ambient naturally occurring light. This has the big advantage of reducing the amount and cost of kit needed and also will help create a particular ‘look’ for the fashion photoshoot production.

However, natural light is unpredictable. For example, I am based in the UK and it is easy for light conditions to go from cloudy and dull through to bright and harsh several times over a 30 minute period.

So many fashion photoshoot productions will rely on strobes, speedlights or powered constant lights in order to provide predictability and creative control for the photographer.

When choosing the location the Photographer will need to factor in the time needed in order to set-up the lighting to fit the creative vision of the art direction of the fashion photoshoot.

The Set

Jed Phoenix of London Fashion by Stuart Smith PhotographyFashion photoshoots sets can range from the highly sparse to the highly detailed.

If on location then the set may well be ‘ready-made’ or a studio location may only be using plain seamless paper. These sort of set-ups do not require much additional input.

However more editorial style photoshoots will often be seeking to create more of a fashion story so there will be a sense of environmental portraiture to the photography. Add to this mix that increasingly fashion photoshoots are also including video elements. These types of fashion photoshoot productions lend themselves to more complex setups, which may require additional props to be brought in and set-up.

On smaller fashion photoshoots it will often be the Photographer and their assistants setting up there with the guidance of the Art Director. On larger shoots then there may a specific individual or team doing this.

The Models

Fashion Photoshoot Agnes B by Stuart SmithThe Hair, Make-up (MUA) and Stylist team should be making sure the models are ready on time to be on set for the photoshoot.

It is very useful before hand to know how the Hair and MUA want the models to present themselves. Generally, models will be asked to have,

  • Clean Hair
  • Minimal or no make-up

If a photoshoot involves nudity, semi-nudity or bare shoulders, essentially any part of the body that is often covered by underwear then it is well worth asking the models to make sure that underwear is not so tight as to be leaving marks on the body, when removed. These marks can be time consuming and expensive in post-production to remove effectively. It is also useful for the Photographer and Stylist to liaise on the order of photographing the various styles as some shoot clothing may leave marks on skin that will be exposed by other outfits and this should be managed in the photoshoot schedule.

Most experienced models will know how to present themselves for Hair and MUA but making sure the information is available before the photoshoot will help decrease the chance of any problems or misunderstandings.

The Fashion Photoshoot

When a model or the models are ready for their shoot then it is time to go on set. How the fashion photoshoot production is conducted on set will depend a lot on the dynamic between the Photographer and the Art Director.

On smaller shoots the Photographer, may well be the Art Director, so it will solely be they who will drive the production at this point.

If a separate Art Director is on set and taking oversight then it is likely they will want to be viewing images as they are shot (assuming digital cameras are used) and giving feedback. If that is the case then the Photographer will need to shoot tethered.

Shooting tethered is to have a digital camera attached to a computer with software (usually Capture One or Adobe Lightroom) that allows the images to be seen on a larger screen immediately. This allows the Photographer and Art Director close up views of the images and to make directions about the photoshoot.

Fashion Photography is all about the image and creating an aspiration to the look. Attention to detail is very important. Post-production should be primarily about polishing the final images or preparing them for use in composites not correcting problems with make-up and wardrobe that occurred on set. So it is likely that throughout a shoot the Hair stylist, MUA and clothing Stylist will be need be on hand to make adjustments and freshen looks.


Once the Fashion Photoshoot is over then it is time to take down the set and get the images ready for post production.


Fashion Photoshoot Agnes B by Stuart SmithMost rented locations, whether outdoor, indoor or studio will have Terms and Conditions about the state they are left in after being used. They may require damage deposits, which will be lost if the T&Cs are not met. Potentially not leaving the location in the right state could end up taking a hefty chunk out of already often tight budgets.

Whoever in the crew is taking on the Production Manager role, should be making sure that locations are left in an acceptable state.

The images

A lot is at stake on the images from a fashion photoshoot production.

Most shoots today happen using digital cameras. They have the advantage of allowing backups to be made relatively quickly and easily compared to film. Film, however, does remain the aesthetic choice of some Photographers and Art Directors.

Where Digital Cameras are being used then some will have dual memory card slots meaning that Photographers can save two copies of an image as they shoot. If a Photographer is shooting tethered then dual or even triple copies of images can be made as a shoot progresses.

However, multiple copies of images being made during a fashion photoshoot production can slow things down as things are written to hardware and add to the technical complexity and can increase distractions from creativity.

Where dual card slots on a camera are not available (and even if they are) then many Photographers will seek to make some form of back-up of the images before leaving a site after a photoshoot. Alternatively, they may ask assistants to create backups as memory cards fill up during an actual photoshoot.

They key message here is that if a back-up can be made then it should be at the earliest opportunity.

Should I back up to the Cloud?

One of the best ways of ensuring photography media security is to have backups in different physical locations. The Cloud makes that increasingly possible as an immediately available option today.

However, unless you have a really good Internet connection then uploading hundreds, if not thousands of RAW images from location, immediately after a photoshoot might not be the best way to preserve your sanity. The chances are it will be a very slow lengthy process.

If you are in a studio or location with great Internet and have the time, go for it.

Alternatively, stick to a local back-up until better a better connection is available.

One option is for a Photographer to shoot JPEG and RAW and back-up the JPEGs to the cloud. JPEGSs are far smaller files than RAWs and whilst not containing the information and editing options of RAW files do provide a ‘worse case’ option. However, I would consider this to be additional backup process to backing up RAW files on site as opposed to an alternative.

Fashion Photoshoot Production Closing

For a fashion photoshoot to be successful then there needs to be a well understood and agreed Creative Brief. There also needs to be a strong supporting production plan. The production process described here will vary depending on the size of the particular photoshoot. The smaller the shoot then the less defined roles will be. Whatever the size making sure everyone knows where they should be and when is crucial to the success. A good production plan should never be obstructive and will allow the creativity of the fashion photoshoot to flow with beautiful images as the outcome.

The next part of this series will look at the post-processing of those images and final delivery to the client.

This brings us to the end of Part 2. If you have found it useful please do share For notification when Part 2 is out please sign up to the Mail List, or follow me on Twitter or like my Facebook page. Part 3 will consider the post-production processes and the delivery of the final images.

Need a Fashion Photographer or Art Director with Production Management skills for your next project? Please get in-touch.


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