Have you been invited to shoot at New York Fashion Week? Will it be your first time shooting a fashion show? Are you desperately looking for some tips and what to expect when you get there?
This year was my first year shooting the New York Fashion Show, and I was in your shoes. I had no idea what to expect, how it would work, what gear I should take, and even what I should wear! I spent a few hours reading various articles online, and asked a few fellow photographers, and off I went.
It was a great experience, and quite a whirlwind while I was there. So, I thought I'd like to share a few tips to help other first timers out.
Shooting New York Fashion Week - What Gear to Take
One of the first questions I had, was what should I take? How much space will I actually have in the pit?
The press pit at a fashion show will be packed with photographers, so don't take too much with you and pack light. Don't be that guy (especially if you're new and nobody knows you yet) that takes up a lot of space. This can help avoid some uncomfortable confrontations. Typically you should only need two lenses to cover the show, which includes a wide-angle zoom for backstage shots, and a telephoto zoom for the runway. Plan to take lenses that cover ranges of 24-70mm for backstage and 70-200mm for the runway. Take your fastest lenses. If you have a lens with a least an f/2.8 aperture take it. Don't worry if f4 is the fastest you have. The show should be fairly well lit once it starts, so you should be ok.
Backstage/BTS Shots - I'm currently a Canon shooter, so I used my Canon 24-70mm II for doing some of the behind the scenes shooting. I also used my 70-200mm II as well, when I wanted to get a little closer up, but not intrude on the MUA / Hair stylists doing their thing.Showtime - For the actual show, you'll want a fast zoom lens. I took my Canon 70-200mm 2.8 II specifically for this. As I looked around, 90% of the other photographers had the same lens, or a comparable version. This lens can be heavy, so I'd recommend a monopod. Don't take a tripod, as they can be bulky, and there's not much room to set them up in the pit.Post Show - If you're looking to shoot with models in a 1/1 scenario, take one of your standard portrait lenses. A 50mm, 85mm, 135mm, should work, or even the 24-70mm if you're looking to do more full length to showcase the designers work also.
What To Wear
I mean, it is Fashion Week, right? You'll want to wear something comfortable, year professional. Also, be mindful of the show your shooting. You'll see photographers wearing just about everything, but remember, this is your brand you're showing off. You can't go wrong with a business casual outfit, and all black. However, think about outfits that aren't too constrictive or uncomfortable, and will allow you to shoot and move with ease.
Picking Your Spot / Setting Up
This is probably the most important part - getting your spot in the pit. As a newcomer it can be intimidating, and you don't want to step on anyone's toes. Regardless of who they are/who they shoot for, the pit is first come first serve. Get there early to get a prime spot, and be prepared to sit and wait. You'll notice that photographers mark their spot with their camera bag, jacket, or something else in their spot/chair.
Don't plan on much of a personal bubble. Other photographers will come in after you and will try to find the next best spot, which can include sitting on the floor in front of you or lined up directly behind, or above you on ladders and boxes. They're there to do a job also, and it can be packed if it's a popular show. If someone is in your bubble - be respectful towards other photographers in the pit. Who knows, you may need to ask a favor of them or even work together with them in the future.
Arriving early will also allow you to have all your gear set up and test your settings before the show starts. Fashion shows move quickly once the models start coming out, and you don't want to still be deciding on what settings to use when the models start walking.
It kinda depends on the layout of the runway, but the standard prime positions are dead center at the end of the runway for strait runways, and on the first corner if it's a U shaped runway.
It will be tough to get the absolute best spot. You may not be able to get there early enough, or certain spots may be reserved. Don't fret, you'll still have an opportunity to get some awesome shots. One of the biggest keys to think about is being mindful of your background. While you're scoping your spot, check to see what's in the background, on the walls, etc.
Shooting A Fashion Show - What to Do
You're there to capture the designer's work, so it is important not miss a shot. As I mentioned earlier, make sure you have your gear/settings ready to go. For the show that I shot, I used the following settings: Manual Mode, 1/200, f5. I shoot full frame so I wasn't too worried about noise, and had my ISO around 2500. Looking back, I can probably shoot a little faster and decrease my ISO. But, I wanted to make sure I got the shot, even if it meant a little more post work.
Others will also suggest used Aperture-Priority (Av) mode as well. One trick if you're going to use Av, is setting your metering mode to Center-Weighted. This will help against stages that are typically very bright, and ensure the model you're shooting is properly exposed.
Keep in mind, as a photographer at Fashion Week your main job is to showcase the designer’s clothes. As with any event, there are some standard/typical shots and compositions that you'll need. But, as we all know, photography can be subjective, and should be fun. Some rules are meant to be broken, and help provide for more unique shots, helping you stand out from the crowd and maybe get invited to other shows.
Some Standard Shots Include:
Full-length shot of the model walking down the runway. One key I read about prior to the show was timing the shots (count the model’s steps to get the “beat”) so that both feet are flat on the floor, both arms are visible and eyes are open. This can be tricky, and maybe moreso based on your spot. It's also easy to forget this while shooting. I know I did, but luckily most of the shots I got from my spot they were stopped and posed.Try for a 3/4 length shot (head-and-shoulders portrait style) when the model stops.At the end of the show, the models will come out in single file, and this is also when the designer comes out. Again, depending on the designer, but be prepared for them to walk to the end of the runway, and pose for the photographers.Remember, this is New York Fashion Week. You never know who you'll see, so keep your eyes peeled for celebrities, uniquely dressed audience members, or someone who is commanding a crowd. If you're not sure who someone is, ask! The photographer beside me alerted me to several celebrities, including
Peach Carr from Project Runway.
So that's it. That was some of my experience during my first time shooting New York Fashion Week. You can view some of my images from the show here. Remember, it's a great experience, so have fun with it! Leave any comments or questions.