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Photographing Women: Posing, Lighting, and Shooting Techniques for Portrait and Fashion Photography


Open up any fashion magazine from the last 70-plus years (Vogue didn’t start using photographs until the late 1930s), and you’ll see amazing images produced by full production teams. Notice that I didn’t say photographers— that was intentional. In the commercial portrait photography industry, images are created by teams of creatives. Whether it’s fashion photography or beauty photography, these images are created through a combined effort of photographers, makeup artists, hairstylists, wardrobe stylists, art directors, and so on. As a fashion photographer, I’ve had the pleasure of photographing subjects who have worked with prestigious names in photography—including Steve McCurry, Bruce Weber, Mark Seliger, Mario Testino, and Terry Richardson, to name a few. Being the inquisitive (nosey) person that I am, I’m deeply fascinated by what being photographed by one of those photographers is like. What makes their artist perspective unique? What makes their direction different? Most, if not all, of my subjects have the same answer: they spend more time interacting with their subjects and less time worrying about production. I think that’s a very reasonable conclusion. Realistically, if you had a dedicated team to set up your lights, set up your camera, set up your background, produce the shoot—and even interns to run out and grab lunch for everyone—you’d probably have more time to spend with your clients. You’d have more time to focus on capturing energy and emotion and need less time for fiddling with lights—not to mention that those photographers aren’t in charge of selling their prints and licensing rights to clients at this stage in their careers. They’re literally hired to produce their vision, and they have the manpower to handle the rest. Must be nice, huh? Well, they’ve all earned it, in their own right. For the rest of us photographers, that’s not likely the case. Most of us are in charge of everything from producing the shoot to lighting and retouching our own images. Add that to accounting, marketing, business development, and professional development, and we have a ton of work on our plate. This is why I wholeheartedly believe in simplicity. The simpler the process, the more time you’ll have for the important things in life—like having fun. MY METHOD As you’ve probably gathered by now, minimalism is extremely important to me, and I believe that simplicity is thoroughly underrated. Simplicity has made my life as a photographer more manageable and has been the key factor in why I wake up in a great mood most mornings. Let me be clear and note that I’m specifically saying that I focus on what’s important in life and get rid of the rest. Photography isn’t any different. For instance, I often find that I can accomplish more with one light than I can with three lights on set. For every light that I add on set, I’m equally attentive about controlling the quality, power, and direction of each additional light and how it illuminates my subject. Each light that you add detracts from the time that you’re allocating to working with your subject. Even if it’s not possible to set up the lights before a subject arrives, most photographers will inevitably make micro-adjustments to each of those lights in order to complement their subject’s features. Remember that as photographers, we’re balancing many different jobs at once. By eliminating excess, we can focus on the most important aspects of our shoots: working with the talent. After all, there’s a person on the other side of that lens—not a mannequin with infinite patience. This book is written as a compilation of practical and replicable techniques to make your life photographing women easier. The concepts presented in this book are intended to broaden your expertise in the realm of women’s portrait, commercial, and fashion photography. I will explain how to best define every subject’s features, including face shapes and body types, and how to compensate for perceived flaws. I’ll then dive into the art of posing women so that your clients feel natural, feminine, and confident. I’ll discuss topics like body language and the impact that it can have on your audience. Finally, I’ll cover a variety of lighting techniques for portraits, commercial, and fashion images. Using the concepts presented in this book, you’ll develop the skills necessary to confidently approach the art of photographing women.

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