Tim Walker

Above: Cierra Skye on Bosch hillock in Valentino cape, 2015. Credit: Tim Walker.

One Garment

One of the great pitfalls with fashion photography shoots is the session descending into a drawn-out dressing-up game. If an outfit is "not working" the photographer just calls for the next outfit, and out come more clothes--and then another hairstyle to match and on it goes...

My advice for neophyte fashion photographers is: just one (literally one) memorable, fresh and brilliantly realized fashion photo is the basic initial goal--not two-hundred mediocre-and-derivative images.

For me, to get the one good image, intense restriction is required. It's drastic, but I know it works: just one garment per shoot. The garment should be current season, or next season, if you can blag it from a label's press office. The aim is to beg-or-borrow the garment you have set your sights on--the killer garment, the to-die-for garment.

Remember, you only need the garment for around three-to-four hours and this might make a difference. Your richest friend (your new best-friend) might already own the garment. Or perhaps, you--super-fashionista--already own it. And if you do, so much the better, because you will be well aware of how it works on a human body.

Once the question of the garment is settled, the next step is to go into ideas and concept mode: what is your attack here? What is the purpose of the shoot? How are you going to handle lighting, props, models, hair, makeup?

The best way to start for this is to scrutinize the most recent fashion advertising campaign for the branded item that you intend to photograph, and critically appraise it. What is the basic brand idea: luxury, street, cool, ironic, elegant? How does your shoot fit in with, or conflict with, the current actually existing brand strategy? All this should be written down and considered with illustrations in your sketchbook.

In this photo (above) Tim's concept was to work from the inspiration of the dark and unsettling figures found in the work of fifteenth-century painter Hieronymus Bosch. Once he had the shoot idea, he then commissioned a decorative platform--which is actually a fairly ambitious piece of theatre-set type building. That platform would have been fabricated in advance and brought (delivered) to the location.

This image by Walker is a classic case-in-point as regards the one garment restriction: one garment; one amazing rich-and-original photo.

A single captivating and resonant image can jump-start your career in fashion photography. Every single person in fashion is highly visually literate, visually snobbish, and always on the look-out for something new-and-extraordinary. All you have to do is provide some fresh meat for the carnivores.

(30 January 2019)