Fashion photography is similar to studio photography since the methods developed from the studio of the photographers stemmed from the fashion work. At present glamor and fashion set the trends in the contemporary style of shooting. Even the innovative styles are based around the common methods used from the time of the studio light creation. All these techniques are not very difficult to learn but are quite challenging to master.
Basics of Lighting
The studio lights could be divided into 3 categories and they include key, fill and back illuminations. The main illumination helps to define the subject and it is in general the strongest source of illumination. The fill light is not very bright and used to fill in shadows that are created by the main light. The back light is used for separating the subject from the background. You could take pictures of small groups of people in fashion photography with these 3 illuminations.
Location of Lights
While taking fashion photographs, keep the main light to the side of the subject and a bit over to the head of the subject. This is the main guiding illumination and its location helps to form the areas of focus and shadow on the subject. You should place the fill light above and at the back of the position of your camera. If it is used by itself, it will provide a flat upshot with the least shadow. It is very obvious from the name that the back illumination is placed at the back of the subject. The work of this illumination is separating the backdrop from the subject and providing the impression of the depth to the scene at the back of the subject.
In a high key photography bright and light tones are used. It could be described as flat illumination as minimal shadow defines a model's face in this regard. This is often used in fashion to smooth out the tone and blemish on the skin and it is blended with overexposure. The main illumination is placed ahead of the subject and is towards the side of the model. The back light is generally very bright and is placed on a white background.
The low key illumination is comparatively very high and dark. The main illumination could be at extreme angles to the subject focussing a bit only on the face of the model. The fill light is less powerful compared to the main light and provides adequate illumination for retaining shadow details. In the same way, the back light provides adequate illumination for separating the subject from the backdrop.
Reflectors and Outdoor Shooting
You could achieve a wide array of effects by varying the location as well as the intensity of the 3 primary sources of illumination. Reflectors are powerful tools of the fashion photographers and they help to replace a fill light in low key photography for bouncing the main illumination onto the shadowed portion of the model. While shooting outdoors, the sun is used typically as the main light. A small camera flash or reflector could be used as a fill. The sun also takes care of the duties of the back light.
Diffusion is actually the most flattering lighting for fashion photography. It is usually accepted to be a soft light created by spreading a small source of illumination across the surface of a big light. The soft boxes and the umbrellas of the photographers are created for this purpose. Reflectors could be just a white card. They could also be covered with gold foil or silver for getting a more intense effect.
Breaking the Rules
Even if there are specific formulas to set up the basic illumination of the fashion photography you could break the rules if you like. Try to play with the illumination position, the intensity of illumination as well as the location of reflectors. Opt for outdoor shooting on cloudy days, sunny days or in extreme weather conditions. Many photographers like to shoot in the early morning, just after the sunrise when a few people remain even in the most crowded places. Remember that taking pictures is all about drawing with the illumination. If you are using the illumination in a unique way, it will also be reflected in your pictures.
Understanding the significant aspects of illumination techniques for fashion photography will surely boost up your confidence in taking pictures related to fashion. Learn the lighting techniques by undertaking one of the best fashion photography classes and add to your expertise in taking fashion photographs.
Tristan Taylor is a fashion photographer. He is associated with various cinematography workshops, seminars and spark sessions. Tristan conducts training courses for the beginners and also for the advanced level. In his latest articles on fashion photography classes Dubai he shares some interesting ideas and helpful resources. Tristan found Gulf Photo Plus extremely helpful to extract information regarding photography.