July 10, 2016

A highly accomplished professional freelance photographer and film director, Christian Blanchard has shot global campaigns for clients including Mimco, Amstel, Cotton On and Loreal Paris and has been named one of Australia’s top 10 photographers by Capture Magazine in 2013. Christian presented an exciting Free Lunchtime Seminar on fashion photography and film making and has followed up with tips to help improve your own photography.

1. Get a camera in your hand.

It is always good idea to have a complete understanding of your tools before you set out to use them and a camera is no different.  I regularly get asked by friends and family for camera advice and always recommend they start with an entry level DSLR like the Nikon D3100 or the Nikon D7000 as these cameras are extremely simple to operate in manual or auto mode, create great quality shots and can also shoot HD video.  Next you will need some lenses and the simplest are always the best so I use and recommend prime lenses instead of zoom lenses.  These lenses give you sharper and better quality images and also perform better in low light situations when you do not want to use flash.  To start out I would recommend a 24mm or 50mm and a 85mm or 105mm lens.  The only other tools you will need are a tripod, memory card and possibly but not mandatory is a camera flash.

2. Keep it simple.

Don’t over do it by trying to combine a lot of ideas and technical tricks but instead focus on a simple emotion or expression and use natural light.  If indoors then make the most of window light and turn of any artificial room lights as tungsten lights will give a yellow tone and fluorescent lights will give a very unflattering green tone to your photos.  If outdoors it is best to avoid direct sunlight, especially in the middle of the day when the sun is directly overhead.  Instead try working in the shade as the light is much softer and more forgiving on blemishes and uneven skin.

3. Start at home.

When starting out ensure you are realistic with the goals you set out to achieve.  Rather than referencing an editorial from Italian Vogue with a super model wearing Chanel in Vienna on a $200,000 production budget try shooting an attractive friend in her own clothes with little to no makeup and messy hair in a house using what available light comes in from the windows.  For a box of roses and a bottle of wine most friends or friends parents should gladly lend you their house and if it turns out be a terribly ugly flash back from the 80’s you can always clear some furniture to the side and use the white walls to create a studio shoot.

4. Create rather than document.

Fashion photography is about creating and therefore requires some forethought before picking up the camera.  Instead of just going out and pointing your camera on rapid fire at a model on the street try create a brief or find some references for realisation of exactly what it is you want to achieve.  This material can be very helpful to show your subject and/or team before the shoot so everyone knows what you are working towards.  I find inspiration from fashion magazines, blogs, movies, music videos, books, song lyrics and every day scenes that unfold when people watching.  It is perfectly healthy to reference other shoots but make sure you always reinvent the wheel in the process.  

5. Test before you shoot.

Be sure to perform some testing/experimenting prior to your shoot.  You are better off encountering problems and ironing them out during testing than fumbling around and stressing in front of everyone on the day when things are not working out.  Go to the location before your shoot and establish where you want to shoot and what time of day the light looks best.  Bring a friend along and take some test shots to ensure you are getting the desired look you have set out to achieve.

6. Finding your team.

Fashion photography is about the sum of the whole and so it only takes 1 element to go bad to turn a great concept result into a disappointing outcome.  Therefore you need to do research and develop close relationships with your team that should at least include a makeup artist, stylist and a model.  A great starting point is a fashion network website called where you will find an array of different models and crew all around the world who are keen to collaborate.

However if you don’t want to work without a makeup artist and stylist then ask if your model can do her makeup/hair and purchase clothes from department stores that provide cash back refunds.  Just be careful not to get makeup on the clothing.  You stain it, you keep it.

7. People skills.

Fashion photography, unlike landscape, still life and product photography, involves dialog and interaction with the subject.  You need to relate and understand who your subject is and allow them to feel comfortable enough to express emotions in front of you and your camera. Essentially you need to be approachable, genuine and warm.

8. Have fun.

As a fashion photographer you are a team leader and need to lead by example when establishing a mood on set.  Over the years I assisted many different photographers with varying personalities and found that the cast and crew worked most efficiently when the photographer was having fun.  At the other end of the scale photographers that were easily agitated, temperamental and even threw their camera and laptops in anger never seemed to get good results.  For me the have fun philosophy is a way to safeguard my career as a photographer and ensure I will always love what I do.

9. The responsibility.

Along with the fun comes the responsibility of being the photographer.  Ensure your team feels appreciated by doing all the little things like organising and paying for coffees and lunch, providing everyone with copies of the photos on cd and ensuring your team knows well in advance all the key information such as where the shoot is taking place, how to get there and start/finish times.  

10. You are only as good as your last shoot.

Therefore constantly challenge yourself with varying styles of fashion photography.  Keep educating yourself in new techniques and approaches and be open enough to listen, learn and grow from those around you.  Photography is a life long lesson so be prepared for an exciting journey.

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