The Cost and Death of Fashion Photography

The life of a fashion photographer — ah, shooting gorgeous male and female models all day long sounds like a dream job come true. Imagine being in a studio and hearing music blaring in the background as loudly as Abercrombie and Fitch, fog machines going off, and seeing Victoria Secrets-looking models posing in all possible angles. And then to make life even more amazing you see all these huge fashion photographers being invited to all these extreme parties in Los Angeles, New York, Milan and etc. Sounds like the life!

Well, I’m going to tell you the hard truth now, so take a deep breathe. Did you breath? It’s not really like that for 99% of fashion photographers. The lucky 1% have made it up there alongside the other major fashion photography Gods. The most partying I do is drinking a martini by myself  in front of a computer screen going through a million photos a day.

Fashion photography is without a doubt one of the most popular areas of photography, and unfortunately, it is also one of most over-saturated and misunderstood area of photography.

I’m going to discuss some things on this blog post that many may not agree with, so everything here is completely subjective and can obviously be left to any interpretation. Please leave any comments or questions you may have below and I will quickly answer them.

What is fashion photography?
I have noticed that a lot of newer photographers and even potential clients can’t seem to tell a clear difference between a portrait and a fashion photograph. So when it comes time to booking they get all shocked at the price for a fashion session because that’s what they really want to have done versus a traditional portrait photograph.

I strongly believe there’s a clear line between these two distinct styles of photography and if any other photographer says otherwise I strongly urge you muff them. When it comes to portrait photography your only concern is to capture the essence and beauty of your subject with a clear focus on their eyes and face.

With fashion photography there is a focus on the subject obviously, but the more important goal is to capture the clothing, makeup, and hair in such a way that makes the photo in itself tell a story that a portrait photograph never will and never can. Fashion photography is about selling stuff whether it be a purse, a watch, or a Versace gown. If you can’t make the stuff you’re selling look attractive enough for people to want to buy and gawk over it, than you have failed your client.

Fashion photography is usually done in a team setup that can vary in size depending on the budget and the size of the production. At any given time you can have multiple individuals doing hair, makeup, styling, and if the production value is there and budgeted correctly you’ll also have digital techs, 1st and 2nd assistants, set designers, and etc.

Modeling, how much does fashion photography cost?
Fashion photography is serious business and takes a lot of time and a great amount of teamwork involve as I mentioned above.

Just like you don’t go into an interview with a bad haircut and ratchet clothes, you wouldn’t want to go to an agency go-see with some ratchet photographs of yourself. If you’re an upcoming model looking to hire a great professional fashion photographer don’t expect to spend any less than $650 for a few retouched images. Remember, the photos you present to your potential agency does matter and if you look like you want it enough and present yourself well then you may end up getting that contract with them.

Established fashion photographers that have made it to the point where they can say “don’t call us, we’ll call you” literally charge anywhere between $10,000-$50,000 and if they are shooting for a magazine like Vogue or Vanity Fair they can make up to $500,000 per shoot (before expenses of course). But at this point the models will be coming from a modeling agency anyway so we won’t take our discussion towards that direction yet.

Choosing the right fashion photographer
I’m not saying that most photographers are liars, cause I’m not one, but becareful because I have seen a lot of shadiness in this business and it’s not the pretty  color of the rainbow.

Be extremely careful with the photographer you start scouting. There’s a million photographers out there, some that are hella cheap and some that will cost you a newborn baby. More than likely most new models would opt to go for the cheap photographer, which is okay, but always keep work quality and professionalism in mind when going to these people.

Most cheap photographers in my experience are either pervs, shoot with cheap equipment, or are complete creepers whose uncle bought them a camera in hopes of making them stop being socially awkward.

With that being said, yes, the photographer’s personality also does matter and will determine if your shoot is a huge success or a total flop. You wouldn’t want to work with a total bitch, right? Get to know your photographer before you make that booking deposit. Google them, research them, hell even facebook message them and ask all the questions you want! If you two can’t seem to agree and there seem to be some awkwardness and tons of miscommunications, that photographer probably isn’t for you.

What process is involved in fashion photography?
Fashion photography generally requires pre-prep time before the actual shoot date which usually consist of three or more skype conferences. This process involves booking and budgeting, location scouting, styling, and then story boarding.

Working with the right photographer with industry connections to an amazing stylist, makeup artist, and hair guru is key to delivering great images for you and your agency. “Great” doesn’t always come cheap, however, so this is also another factor to consider when looking for your photographer.

Most established photographers generally have a team they usually work with time after time. This is usually due to the fact that they can get along and know what to expect from each others’ work. It’s always best to try and book the team instead of booking each individual yourself.

I personally also try to visit the shoot location a day before and setup and play with lighting just to get an idea of layout and resolve any issues I might have before the actual shoot date that way we aren’t wasting anyone’s time and money.

EVIL – Beware of Fauxtogs!
With the cheap prices of entry level dSLRs nowadays anyone can pick up a camera and call themselves a photographer. Whether or not you’re smart enough to differentiate the work of a beginner to a professional is entirely up to you and your pocketbook.

Fauxtogs, aka, wannabe photographers, is destroying photography as a profession and crosses the allowed boundaries and ethics, and harnesses the bad stereotypes of photographers. Many professional photographers spend years shaping their craft and technique to come up with a unique style. These upcoming fauxtogs are destroying it by copying these professionals and charging almost nothing,  giving a low quality, badly misrepresented photo.

Here’s a very great website that showcases some work of fauxtogs:

Well, I hope you all enjoyed this mini-essay of mine. If you have any questions please leave them in the comment section below and I’ll try my best to address them in a response or in a new blog post.

Here’s a preview from my shoot this past weekend (CLICK ON IT):
Fashion Photography

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