Defining Your Style in Fashion Photography
One of the most important things you need to do, from the very beginning of your career, is to define your style. And you define your style mainly by knowing which market of fashion photography you want to work in.
There are several different genres of fashion photography. There is lifestyle fashion, high fashion, editorial fashion and then there are sub-markets which would include fashionable wedding photography and Senior portraits.
The first thing I bring up in the business portion of Fashion Photography EXPOSED is the importance of defining your style because that will inform how you market yourself, where you will live and how you will shoot throughout the course of your career.
Lifestyle fashion is more commercial and not as edgy as high fashion. One of the best examples I can show you is the work of fashion photographer Larry Bartholomew who shoots for companies like Target and OP. Lifestyle is very bright, fun, lots of smiles and running on the beach/forest/campground etc. It pays very well and is more easily accessible than high fashion. I would say there is more work for this genre of fashion photography than in high fashion photography. And you don’t necessarily have to live in one of the main fashion cities.
High fashion photography is the work you see in Paris Vogue and in the campaigns like Prada and Gucci. Mert and Marcus and Steven Meisel are good examples of photographers who shoot high fashion. The ad gigs pay really big, up in the millions and of course, getting a 12 page spread in Paris or Italian Vogue is pretty sweet, too. Here’s the glitch: There is only a small clique of photographers who actually are able to do this. Of course it’s the most sought-after position that most young, hopeful fashion photographers wish to accomplish when first starting out. Just be aware: it’s the most competitive of the genres and only a few make it to the top. Also, you absolutely need to live in a city that has a lot of fashion work like NYC, Paris, Milan or London. You cannot expect to make it to the top of this genre of fashion photography and insist on living in Idaho.
Editorial fashion is a wider market because there are so many online magazines popping up every day. It’s a place to be discovered, as well, as you pay your dues on that ride to the top. You can maintain your high fashion style while getting published and building your reputation and book. You can also start out shooting in a smaller city before you move to one of those big cities I just mentioned. It must be stated here, though, that’s it's awfully difficult to earn a living shooting editorial nowadays. I used to be able to make a living shooting editorial. Not anymore. Very few magazines pay photographers anymore, and most of the time your expenses aren’t even covered. But it is a great way to state your vision and get noticed. One photographer who’s getting published quite frequently and whose work is just beautiful is Danish shooter Sigurd Grünberger. He’s the perfect example of a photographer who is definitely on the way up and who also has a fantastic eye.
Do you know how much a good wedding photographer grosses annually? And when you hear about established photographers like Daniel Jackson shooting weddings, you might want to sit up and listen. More and more people are reaching out to wedding photographers with a fashion bent. And I can add here that I have had quite a few wedding photographers attend my workshops with no intention of going into the fashion market but instead want to give their wedding work a more fashion bent.
Also not to be totally dismissed is Senior Portraits. I think Michelle Moore, who is based in Seattle, is probably one of the best Senior Portrait photographers out there today. Her work totally nails the fashion like quality that this business is starting to claim. Senior Portraits with a fashion-edge is becoming thee IN thing now. And don’t laugh at that either, you’ll make more money shooting weddings and portraits than you ever will shooting editorial.
But of course, you want to be the next Steven Meisel or Annie Leibovitz then you’re going to have to start out by shooting the free editorial and get your work and your name out there.
Just remember that your style is what sets you apart from other photographers. It’s this unique style that draws the attention from fashion editors and art buyers.