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Putting together a fashion or beauty shoot

I was recently asked how I put a fashion shoot together. I decided I’d write it down and share it on Model Mayhem.


Yulia Kharlapanova for Harper’s BAZAAR en Espanol © Benjamin Kanarek

The following example is for the purpose of being either published in a magazine for a fashion editorial, whether hard copy or the web, or for an advertising campaign.

The most important part of planning a shoot is assembling your team.

The team typically consists of the following:

  • Fashion Stylist
  • Hair Stylist
  • Make-Up Artist
  • Model(s)
  • Perhaps a Casting Director
  • Prop Stylist and Manicurist
  • Photographer
  • Assistant(s)

Deciding on a theme and story with the fashion stylist

A stylist is the person that chooses the clothing, shoes and accessories. The stylist is briefed before the shoot by the photographer. This briefing is a think tank session that is intended to garner a theme or story that will be the thread running through the whole shoot. It is like writing a storyboard.

For example, let’s say we want to do a ten page fashion story with the theme being “My Day at the Laundromat.” The shoot will be about a girl who has a huge pile of clothes to wash and is spending the whole day in the place while people are coming in and out, as she observes the procession. All good fashion stories start with a theme, from simple to complex. Since it’s fashion story, and not just another model portfolio shoot, the people (the models) are dressed in specific brands of clothing that should cover a range of designers or manufacturers.

All fashion magazines expect at least a six page story with a theme. Now how are you going to choreograph all of this? Plan to exceed the minimum—shoot for a ten page story. Plan accordingly… you can do two double pages and six single pages, or three double page spreads and four single pages. For the latter you will only have to shoot seven images—that being three horizontal images and four vertical. That could be done in one day, but two days would be preferable. Then you have to define each of the shots in the story.  Perhaps the first opening page could just be a picture of the Laundromat empty, and void of anything except the ugly fluorescent lights and the washers and dryers. That might be where the title would be. Let’s call the story “Living in a Laundromat”.

The next shot could be the star of the show who might be wearing a Miss Sixty pair of red jeans, an H&M blouse, a pair of Adidas shoes, a Viktor and Rolf Bag, and a Dior scarf. Remember that the magazine’s reason for existing is to catalog what the designers will be releasing in two or three months, so the stylist will have access to all of the press offices representing the designers in their showrooms.

The next image is the introduction of the first couple or individuals coming in to do their laundry. Perhaps one is passing dirty clothes to another, who is putting them in the wash. Perhaps it is being thrown and caught. Etc. The story continues with different amusing vignettes, and perhaps ends with a close up of the girl, still alone in the Laundromat, a close up on her sad face looking through the glass door on to the world outside…


Luana Tiefke for VOGUE Brazil © Benjamin Kanarek

Story all planned? Choose your team

Now that you have decided on the story, you have to decide on the rest of the team. Remember that the fashion stylist was chosen because she/he was appropriate for this kind of challenge, and in your estimation a think tank session with this person would result in an interesting treatment. Knowing the story, you both will have to find a hair and makeup artist—or one that is very good at both, but that’s rare. You will be doing your casting based on looking at books of hair and makeup people to see if their style conforms to your treatment (story). Now that you have found the support team, it is time to cast for the appropriate subjects.

In the story you decided that you needed, let’s say three models with acting skills, because you figure two of the five characters will look different in each image, so strong acting isn’t required for them. The casting is so important in re-enforcing the theme of the story. For me, stranger is better, but that is a matter of taste based on your being plugged-in to what the looks are that are happening today.


Amber Anderson for Harper’s Bazaar en Español © Benjamin Kanarek

Casting the models, conforming dates, sharing contact information

You will have the stylist or yourself call the model agencies and brief them with the criteria of your theme, and they will respond by sending you portfolios for the purpose of honing down the selection. Once selections are made you will call the agency to have them send the chosen finalists to come for a face to face casting. The casting should be attended by the whole team. The hair and make-up artists will, along with you and the fashion stylist, provide their own observations, so everyone can see the model from other perspectives.

Once the democratic decisions are made, you will have the final decision. Call the agency to confirm the shoot dates. If you are certain of the selection confirm immediately. That will guarantee their availability.

Set the time and place of the shoot and give everyone, including the agency, each other’s phone contact information.

Though condensed, that is basically how you plan for a shoot.

This article is republished from Benjamin Kanarek’s blog: How to put a Fashion or Beauty Shoot Together?

Benjamin Kanarek

Benjamin Kanarek

Benjamin Kanarek is an international fashion and beauty photographer. Ben is currently based in Paris, where he shoots for several of the International Editions of Harper's BAZAAR and VOGUE Magazines, and L’Officiel Paris etc. View more of his work at BenjaminKanarek.com and BenjaminKanarekBlog.com.

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