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The Complete Guide to Location Fashion Shoots

Saturday, 18 April 2020

Instagram influencers make it look easy: a candid photo in what appears to be an effortlessly styled vintage Nike sweater from the 90s. It’s as if all they did was get their mate to quickly snap a photo of them strolling down some urban street and then on the spot, uploaded to their socials. However, fashion location shoots are not as smooth going and spontaneous as the photos may appear on social media and a lot more work goes into it than you may think.

Here at Cloth we’ve directed our fair share of outdoor fashion shoots and have faced the many issues that come along with them: from being unlucky with the weather, to something as simple as forgetting a belt for the models. Issues big and small do arise and it’s good to know what to do in these situations so you’re not left in the unknown. We’ve put together a few tips and tricks so you can get the most out of your location shoot and finish with the best results that get you all those likes on Instagram (because that dopamine rush is what we all crave in the end right?).

Preparation and research are vital when it comes to location photography and this is the same for all aspects of the photoshoot. To begin with, a mood board really helps to get a visual perspective of your ideas and thoughts on what you want from a shoot. It also helps to really identify your style and what you want to communicate with your brand. Our team are constantly scrolling on Pinterest, pinning whatever fits our brand ethos and generally what’s appealing to our eyes. Set up many different boards on your Pinterest, one for the kind of locations you want to shoot in, another for styling, and another for just general inspiration. Once you get to grips with your mood boards, they really help to refer back to and remind yourself what it is you want from your shoot. Another benefit of using Pinterest is how easy it is to link to others. We often link our Pinterest boards to our photographer and stylist so they can get a good idea of what it is we want to achieve.

A good relationship with your photographer is extremely important. We have worked with various photographers in the past, some that have gone impressively well, others not so much. From working with different photographers, we’ve learnt that communication and motivation is key. Building a relationship with your photographer beforehand means you can get to know each other’s personalities and be able to bounce ideas off one another but with none of that awkwardness you experience when you are both trying to be too polite.

Choosing the right photographer for you also requires a bit of research. Approach photographers whose Instagram’s stand out to you and shout exactly what it is you want your socials to look like. If your budget is tight, or you just want to test the waters with location shoots then a good idea is to approach photography students from your local uni as quite often they will happily work for free as they wish to build their own portfolio. Additionally, this also means they’ll work their ass off trying to impress you so they get asked to work with you again. Win-win really!

Photographers often have their own set of models that they are used to working with so it’s a good idea to bring this up as you’ll want to get an idea of what kind of vibe the models bring and whether it fits your brand. Don’t be afraid to reject models if they’re not what you’re looking for. After all it is your brand so you know it best and you don’t want a model to stand out like a thumb amongst the others.

As you’re scouting for photographers and models, it goes without saying that scouting for locations will really help you out on the day. You already have your location mood board so as you’re out and about in your city, actively look around and take photos or jot down the good spots you want to give a go on the day. This will mean you have a plan, so you’re not wasting yours and your team’s time getting lost and confused, searching for that perfect spot. However, don’t go getting anal about your planned locations; it helps to be spontaneous and take opportunities on the day as they arise.

Styling also needs a lot of preparation and research. If you’re confident you have a good eye for putting together fire outfits then there isn’t much need to reach out to third-party stylists. However, if you’re busy with other planning or perhaps you just don’t find joy in styling, then it might be a good idea to get a stylist on board. It really does make all the difference, even if you are going for that effortless, grungy look.

You’ll want to have seen your models before you or your stylist plans the outfits, for obvious reasons such how many female/male outfits you need and their sizes, but also to just get a general feel of their personality and how to bring this out in your clothes.

If your shoot has a theme, or is seasonal specific, communicate this to your stylist so the outfits stay in these guidelines. No matter how much you want that North Face 700 puffer jacket to be featured, it just won’t look right in a summer edit.

You’ll want your stylist to create as many outfits as possible; you don’t want to be left short on the day. There isn’t anything more irritating than getting banging shots in various locations but that feature the same outfits. These photos then become boring on your feed or website, begin to lack inspiration and may decrease attention.

Additionally, we believe the more accessories the better when it comes to styling. Hats, sunglasses and jewellery all add to the look and really bring a new feel to a vintage Tommy Hilfiger fleece. It also attracts more attention to your photo as you highlight different details of the overall outfit.

Now you have a general plan, research and everything else is suited and booted, it might be fair to think that everything will go smoothly on the day. Sometimes that is the case but of course there are still unforeseeable situations that can cause slight hiccups. The number one issue that can’t be controlled is the weather. Don’t be tempted to call off a shoot because its pissing it down and you’ve planned a spring/summer edit. This is where the talents of the photographer, models and stylist come to play. They know ways to work around it and there’s always a thing called Photoshop to help you get the final result.

Unfortunately, no-shows are a thing, especially when it comes to models and so be prepared to step in and show the world what you got. If you’re prepared for this and also have a good relationship with your photographer you shouldn’t feel too awkward in front of the camera. A positive to this is also that you know the look you want your brand to portray and being in the model’s shoes, lets you direct the other models more easily and comfortably.

What comes hand-in-hand with fashion street photography is of course the funny looks and stares from members of the public. The less experienced models may find this off-putting so perhaps begin in locations that are more secluded and then as their confidence builds, move into the busier areas.

Outdoor fashion shoots also cause the issue of where your models are to get changed. Being a vintage streetwear company, we tend to have a large quantity of outfits per shoot and so the models need to get changed on location to save time. Investing in something as simple as a pop-up changing room tent (easily found for cheap on Amazon and eBay etc.) means the models can comfortably get changed on the street. A surreal situation but you get used to it – trust us! A helping hand from a friend or an assistant also helps a ton when it comes to holding upcoming outfits or just assisting the changing of models.

One of the main responsibilities of your role as director is keeping up the morale of your team and making sure everyone stays on task. Having snacks on shoot of course keeps everyone happy but extra things such as going on coffee runs and allowing small breaks here and there really make a difference. You’re going to want to find a balance between having fun but also making sure everyone stays focused so your shoot is efficient and no one’s time is wasted.

All in all, what you want to remember on the day is to always shoot more than you think you need. One too many times have we come away from a shoot, thinking it was our most successful, to realise we only totalled 10 goldens out of 500 shots. You also don’t want to feel too defeated when shoots fail as this does happen. Understanding that failing is just part of the process and evaluating why things failed so you can improve for next time means that you’ll only get better and better.

Fashion location shoots may sound daunting and too much hassle but the outcomes are so worth it. The images work perfectly for your website (see how our homepage is mixed with location and studio shoots) as they stand out and bring more personality to your brand. Additionally, using them on social media helps customers visualise a lifestyle through your product as people aspire to have that exact look as they sit on some concrete steps.