I have been shooting for approximately three years now, I still consider myself very amateur, and new to the game. There are so many techniques with lighting, and photoshop I am still dying to figure out that I cannot seem to completely grasp yet. But for now, I am just going to share some of the photography tips I have learned over the years. I primarily shoot fashion, beauty, and glamour, so everything I am going to be talking about is going to be directed towards that style of photography. You can see my work at AndrewFashion.com, beModel.com, and FNGStudios.com.
1. Use white paper
All of these photos were done with plain white studio paper, nothing fancy, white paper and 3 lights. If you pull the subject 5-10 feet away from the paper, and point your rims away from the paper towards your subject, you will get a natural smooth light gray paper look, and it looks absolutely beautiful. White is a very easy to use paper, and can be used to create solid white, light gray, browns, etc... You can even use photoshop to tweak the paper color. Don't limit yourself to white, my favorite is various colors of Gray paper. But start with white, and master it before moving to Gray papers. Now all of us don't have the privilege of shooting on a Cyc Wall, I sure don't, so I have to deal with 8-9ft ceilings sometimes, and a small 9ft paper roll :). So I will include some of my paper techniques and lighting diagrams in future tutorials. (Click image for full size)
2. Don't use wide angles
Okay, I know this tip could be controversial or debatable, or whatever. But the fact remains, that shooting fashion in wide angles, 24mm or lower... Sometimes 24mm is even to wide of a focal length is going to warp your images and make it look distorted, same goes with the angle of shooting above the model and shooting down, I commonly called the "emo" angle. Just try not to get in the habit of shooting like this... I know, of course there will be times when this is acceptable maybe, but break the habit, you don't need 95% of the scene shooting at 20mm, and you sure as hell don't need to shoot emo angles and make your models like 3 feet tall.
3. Stay fully zoomed in
Okay this technique I did not learn for quite some time, so hopefully this helps you guys, I have always had a zoom lens, the 24-70L is my favorite by far, I also carry a 100mm macro lens, and that's it. I have no other prime lenses, or zoom lenses, I've gone through quite a few lenses, primes, and zooms. This technique does not apply to prime lenses since it has a set focal length. If you have a zoom lens such as 24-105, or 24-70, or anything in that range, I have started to notice shooting farther away and staying fully zoomed in to 70mm or close to that really gives a great depth of field and makes the subject and scene look that much better. Now if you are using the 70-200L, I wouldn't expect you to shoot from 50ft away, and zoom into 200mm. The point is, shooting around 70-80mm, and stepping back a little, gives a much more dramatic depth of field illusion, and you are closer up on your subject as well, this technique works perfect with studio and location. If you are having a hard time of understanding what I mean, just ask in a comment below. The more wide you go, the more you distort your subject. The more zoomed in you are, the more the subject is less distorted, and the DOF increases.
4. Use a makeup artist & hair stylist
Want to help step your photos up ten times? Use a stylist 100% of the time, relying on the model to do their own makeup and hair just does not work most of the time, you want killer fashion shots? You need a team, simple as that. Start with trade work, and find stylist who are willing to work trade, some makeup artists can do hair as well, but if not, try to get both. Sign up at beModel.com, and start searching for talent. Fashion photography is a team effort, not a one man team.
5. Use great wardrobe
For some reason, to this day I still cannot select quality wardrobe for women, so I rely on the entire team to put something creative together, if I get to frustrated with the outfit, I take the clothes off. Now I mean this in a totally professional manner, if I can't create a fashion outfit, I am not going to settle for senior casual portraits. If the outfit doesn't work, the photos are just going to look bland to me, were talking fashion here, not senior portraits. I'd rather shoot implied, artistic implied, artistic topless, or sexy glamour, or something similar to that... We didn't have an outfit for the photo above, so we did implied beauty shots. Simple.
6. Learn Awkward Fashion Poses
Chances are you're going to occasionally run into models are paid shoots who want fashion or beauty shots, but don't know how to pose worth a shit. Now this is extremely frustrating for me, because I am not the best "director," so I really had to step up my game with some directing skills. Do your homework, and learn some basic awkward fashion poses, and beauty poses, etc... Look around on beModel.com, or pick up a few magazines at the book store, and remember poses you really dig.
7. Set Your Camera To Neutral
When I first started, I would play with the picture settings on my camera like crazy, contrast, sharpness, saturation, etc... Just stop, keep them all at neutral, don't change the picture settings on the camera, use post-editing for that, it comes out much better neutral anyways. Most of the time, I keep the settings neutral and only play with color and curve adjustments in photoshop anyways. Also, for white balance, I always use Kelvin and nothing else. I usually shoot at 5400K, but if the person is abnormally tan, I'll kick the Kelvin down to 4800-5200K. Keep your settings neutral, and try shooting with Kelvin white balance.
8. Clear The Clutter
I'm sure everyone has heard the phrase "Less is more." The notion that simplicity and clarity lead to good design. The phrase is often associated with the architect and furniture designer Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe (1886-1969), one of the founders of modern architecture and a proponent of simplicity of style. And let me tell you, this guy was right on the dot. 90% of the time, I have to clean the scene, that's why you build sets, you know what you are going for, it's clean, it's simple, you don't build messy. Take a look at some professional fashion photographers work, and you will see that the sets, locations, and studios are all "less is more." This may be hard to see at first, but you will see what I mean with a little research. If you're doing a scene in a bedroom or something with a couch, clear the space and make it look clean, play with your depth of field, and make it look clean. Fashion is all about the clothing in a sense, that's what fashion photography is, clear the scene, so the scene is pretty, and the focus is the clothes.
9. Stop Using F/22
I probably shot F/22 90% of the time when first getting into photography. You probably know when shooting at F/22 you have more DOF, meaning the background is a lot more clearer. When you shoot at F/1.8, the background is naturally blurrier. Stop shooting at F/22, you are just revealing the clutter. I mean, don't do this all the time, their will probably be a lot of times when you absolutely need that detail or a low f/stop just doesn't work. But stop leaving your camera set around F/16-F/22. Practice your next photo shoot, making it a goal to only shoot at F/10, and then F/1.8, and then F/5.6, etc... Play around with your DOF.
10. Find Quality Spots
Location, location, location. Location has so much on me, if I don't like the wall, the furniture, the house, the alley, etc... It never seems to fully come together for me. Plan ahead, and find your spots if you have a great shoot coming up. Try to correlate with what you are shooting, if you are trying to do a glamour sexy hotel scene, get a dirty hotel for $30 a night, and shoot in the hotel, hotels are clean, you can find a dirty clean hotel, and pimp it up! I did this once, and it came out sick.
Keep in mind, these are all variable, anything can change, and everything is based on my personal opinion, my insights, and my experience over the years. Check out my work, if you like it, use these tips to your advantage if you like them, if you don't, then that's fine too. Take it or leave it! Just kidding... Anyways, I may be adjusting and adding to this, I feel this still might be in the rough stages, but I am going to submit this anyways. Feedback is always appreciated, and also if you have any questions, just let me know in the comments below!