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10 Things to Remember When You’re Shooting Clothing

June Fifth by Bonny Sethi photo copyright Aloha Lavina

I love dresses. Dresses that drape, dresses that dance with color. Dresses with texture, and flow.

Even though it takes a lot of time, preparation and doesn’t make me rich, I love shooting clothing, especially couture. Most of my editorial work is about clothing.

There is something fascinating about the creativity of a designer and how she combines color, texture and shape to make things of beauty that people can wear. And spending time shooting these creations inspire me every single time.

Here are a few tips I’ve picked up over the years.

1. If you’re shooting clothing, you must be shooting color.

Clothing is almost always shot in color. If the client worked hard to make a fabric a certain color, that color needs to be the same as the original in all of the photos of the clothes. So it’s important to make sure you capture the color exactly as it is in real life.

How would color change in a photograph? There are a few ways. One is through the white balance you use. Sometimes you might prefer to use Cloudy for the warmth it exudes. But this WB setting may change the way the colors look, making them warmer.

Another way color might change in your photo is the lighting you use. Sometimes, you might balance the light by using gels, just to make sure the clothing stays the same color in the photograph as it is in reality.

Still another way a photographer might change clothing color, maybe even inadvertently, is through post-processing. When doing post work for clothing, always refer to the original color of the clothes so you don’t misrepresent the product.

June Fifth by Bonny Sethi photo by Aloha Lavina
Show off the color in those clothes. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

 2. Show the cut of the clothes.

Another creative decision the designer makes is the way the dress was cut. Paying attention to the specific way the clothing is cut and pieced together is another thing a photographer has to do, to make sure the client is happy with the results.

3. Texture is also important to show.

There are ways to light specific surfaces so that they show up their natural grain or texture. It’s important to know the angles of light and how they affect different surfaces. A great resource to study about angles of light is the book Light Science and Magic. Even if I’m not much of a geek, I love this book for what it taught me about how light affects surfaces and how it behaves on different ones.

4. You’re shooting how the clothes move.

The difference between images for catalogs and images for editorial assignments sometimes lie in the creative license a photographer might receive. In catalogs, most of the poses and lighting is very consistent. In editorial work, the clothing is mostly like wearable art, and the art direction is a little more creative.

It’s important to showcase how the clothing moves. Especially in a still photo, this dynamism can be important to add energy to the image.

June Fifth by Bonny Sethi photo copyright Aloha Lavina
Movement or its illusion is often a great way to show off clothing. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

5. Even if the models are beautiful, they mustn’t overpower the clothes’ beauty.

Of course, you’re shooting a beautiful person wearing beautiful clothing. But remember that what you’re really selling is the clothing or the idea behind it. Focusing on the clothing rather than the face of the person wearing it makes sure that in the images, your model doesn’t overpower your clothing.

Of course, it might depend on the client’s creative brief. Some clients want a sense of something in the imagery–maybe an attitude or a feeling, and merely a suggestion of the clothing. This is important to clarify before you start planning for the shoot.

6. Show off the clothes.

The clothes are beautiful. Don’t hide them in your shots.

7. Remember the market.

It’s always good to ask about the target market of your client. If they are conservative, maybe overly sexy poses might not work. If they are a little adventurous, you might consider different poses than if they were less so.

8. Remember the brand.

Always ask what the client thinks of their brand. Even if you think you know the brand, the one source for your perception of how to make the imagery is the client or designer. Having this knowledge avoids photos the client might find mismatched to what they had in mind.

9. One lighting setup doesn’t fit all.

Everything works together for the purpose of the image. The lighting depends on a lot of factors. The clothing itself, mentioned earlier in this article, as well as the model, the location….It’s great to have a plan, but it’s also good to be flexible in case for instance, the ambient light at the location gives you added impact. Preparing well will serve you to make those decisions when you’re actually on set.

June Fifth by Bonny Sethi Copyright Aloha Lavina
One lighting setup doesn't fit all situations. Copyright Aloha Lavina.

10. Know the purpose for the photos.

It’s good to vary the composition of the photos. Often times, we might think to make our photos edgy by putting the model on the edge, following the popular rule of thirds. But sometimes, you need centered photos, too. Especially when one of your photos might become a cover, centered gives space for the text that goes into the cover of a print magazine. Another consideration is the client’s logo or any other text that might be added onto the photo later when it is prepared for print. Knowing the purposes of the photos, and changing up your composition is a good tip to follow to suit the assignment in various ways.

Now it’s your turn.

What tips would you give to make stunning shots of clothing?

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