Fashion and Portrait Photography Industry

For the project of Professional Practice I have decided to look at both fashion and portrait photography because, when looking at the images from last year and the images I am beginning to take this year, they seem to be a mixture of fashion and portraiture. By looking at both, during my research and in my own practical work, I believe I will be able to experiment more with both styles and really get an understanding of which one I like best. Another reason I have decided to look at both is that when David Ellis reviewed my portfolio during the London trip, he said I had a good eye for both fashion and portraiture and that both were shown in my portfolio and not just high-end fashion looking images. By looking at these two industries it will also open opportunities for job options after university and will help me decide how I want to brand myself. Do I want to  be identified  as a fashion photographer, or a fashion and portrait photographer?

What Is Fashion Photography?

Fashion photography is a subject within photography that was created to display clothing, accessories and other fashion items. Fashion photography is mostly used to document or sell the fashion items and are often advertised in fashion magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, Glamour etc. Over the years, fashion photography has come into question about the commercial intent to it and some people think that it lacks photographic and artistic integrity. However, most people believe is produces some of the most interesting and creative images and is presented to the viewer in interesting and intriguing ways that shows the buyer their dreams, desires, sexuality, values and self image. It is all designed to make the audience want to buy the items so that they can create that image for themselves. The fashion photography industry is always changing rapidly which means that it’s a genre of photography that will never die out as there will also be ways that new inventions and clothing that need to be photographed and advertised to encourage people to buy them.

Looking at fashion photography I decided to look up the range of different styles of fashion photography. I found that there are 3 main styles:

  • High fashion – Big fashion brands and labels often advertise their products using this style of photography. The photographs generally feature supermodels, famous actors and actresses. looking at the posing for this type of fashion photography it is normally over the top and exaggerated and all elements of the image are flawless
  • Editorial fashion photography – Most fashion magazines show this style of photography. Styling takes the forefront in most cases of editorial fashion photography. For this type, there is always a story shown throughout the images and this is normal shot thoughout the day with many outfit changes. This style I believe is to show a type of lifestyle saying that you can have this lifestyle if you buy the clothes.
  • Catalogue photography – This style is used by companies to show off their new clothes, often featured on the companies websites, or catalogues. the images are very simple using a generic pose and white or grey background or an unfussy location.  Most of these images are hassle free as the main focus is to show off the details of the clothes.


What is portrait photography?

Portrait photography Is one of the most common subjects within photography. It is the art of capturing a subject such as a person, or a group of people. This type of imagery is all about a person face looking at the facial features and expressions the person wears.

Looking at the different styles of portrait photography, from my perspective there are 5 main types:

  • Lifestyle portraits – show a certain style of living, showing the emotions and feeling of life experience of the subject. This stye is most commonly use in fashion, editorial and food industries to show off a certain life style the image often evoke emotions in viewers by depiction of desired life styles. It is common to see this style used in wedding and family portrait photography as well.
  • Glamour Portraits – this style is all about the quality of the image, maybe showing off high end clothing whilst showing off the sexy, romantic appeal the subject
  • Candid Portrait – A candid image is when the subject does not know the images is being taken. This then shows the subject true feelings in that moment rather than it appearing setup. This style is often used in photo journalism as well as event and street photography.
  • Environmental portrait – this type of image where the subject is photographed in person’s natural environment. For example, a builder photographed at a construction site or a teacher in a classroom. The surroundings are used to compliment the subject and show off their character.
  • Traditional Portrait – I would describe this type of portraiture as classic. The main focus of this image is the face of the subject. The purpose of the image is to show a visual representation of that person. The images is normally taken with the subject looking straight into the camera. This style is often used for head shots.

How has social media changed the photography industry?

There is no doubt that social media has changed the photography industry as a whole. One social media site for example Instagram is a great platform for any photographer to demonstrate their work. Some experts suggest that Instagram has helped, but others suggest it has also made the industry of photography a lot hard to get into are.

Making photography more accessible – Instagram has made photography a lot more accessible to a wider audience, and this is amazing for the industry as people all over the world can look at your work and a lot of people are being hired by people who have seen their photography Instagram portfolios. However, almost everyone can now take a great image on their smartphone, edit the image with various different filters, instead of using the likes of Photoshop. All this technology allows amateur photographers to share their images on this platform with a wide audience of people who nearly instantaneously give feedback on images. This makes people think that everyone is a photographer and can be a photographer. They don’t realise it’s not all about the images.

Social media has also changed how we see photography- Some photographers argue that it has changed photography from something which was special into something that is now common. Every day we are bombarded by new images, which means people are getting more and more accustomed to seeing them and so potentially it reduces the ‘value’ of a great photograph. People on Instagram who have a big following, though they might not have any professional experience with photography, are being asked to take images for their campaigns. The quality of photographs is becoming less important and instead it’s about how many people they reach and influence. Because of this, many photographers think that social media sites are devaluing photography and their images.

Looking at these two points I can see both sides of the argument. Though I can see how social media suites are shaping the industry, it also helps photographers who are just venturing out in to the industry and get noticed for their work. The times are changing, and so does the industry.

In the photography industry there are always plenty of debates on controversial subject matters that lead to critical debates among photographer and the media. Some of the subjects that create the biggest debates are Culture, religion, gender and sexuality. Looking at the media and the industry at the moment, I decided that I would look at a couple current issues in the fashion industry that I think are relevant.

Consumption – Lines and lines of new clothes are entering stores around the world on a weekly and monthly basis. It encourages fashion lovers to buy more and more clothes they don’t even need. While some people think this encouraged mindless consumerism is destroying our culture. Others think this is all harmless and/or a beneficial way to improve our economy.

Body Image – Body image has always been an important discussion within the industry. Many people believe that we should all look a certain way, to be pretty and to be accepted in to the world. Nearly all of the models who represent fashion houses are very thin, which then plays along with the persona and the preferences the public has. This then means it puts a lot of pressure on those that believe this is the only way they can be happy. The focus on very thin women has been blamed for causing eating disorders and poor body image among young men and women whose bodies don’t conform to this idealised image and size. Over the last couple of years the focus on body image is getting slightly better as more and more plus size models are being shown, but we still have a very long way to go.

Sexuality – gender and sexuality has always been an underlying debate within fashion with a recognised view on what and how being feminine and ‘masculine’ looks like and what each gender should wear in order to be accepted into culture. However, In recent years, brands and consumers have been starting to adopted the topic of ungendered fashion with a focus on unisex clothing. This has also led to the industry also slowly changing what it means to be feminine and masculine.

Environment– The world is highly impacted by the fashion industry because the impact all the materials, production and transportation has on the world around us. Though many of the materials we use are originally are from petroleum, there are many natural grown materials that are grown on land that harms the environment we live in, or where we could be using it for our food production.

Some other example of debates that are not just in the fashion industry, but throughout photography are:

  • Should you ask permission before taking someone’s photo?
  • Should you always pay someone who poses for you?
  • Are model release forms always needed?
  • Should post production be used and if so what is the limit?

As well as the 6 trends that Getty image trend that this project is about. There are also some of the other trends of this year:

  • High Contrast – Many brands are opting for punchier, harsher contrast images that are created with very little lighting. By have a high contrasted image it adds more drama and shadow to the image and you are seeing a lot of it this year.
  • Harsher light – Harsh light is making a comeback this year. By adding harsh light you are adding deeper shadows to the images which helps the image stand out from other photographers.
  • Direct Sunlight – This year direct sun light is becoming more popular. Though it’s common to only shoot at certain times of the day to get the best light, now shooting a various times means you will have a range of different harsh shadows shown on the model. As in the last two trends, the more contrast the better. Normally you will not see harsh light on a female model as it is said to be unflattering. But, as the way we view ourselves and how we want to be shown as women are changing, so are the images.
  • Authenticity – This year showing strong and driven women is a must and is in high demand, as the fashion industry is slowly moving away from it vintage over used stye to a more modern and re-establsihed look to go with the changes of the publics views. We are now slowly getting to see models who look like us in ads and magazines and not a fantasy.
  • post production – This year there has been many debates on altering body sizes and changing the way the models looks so much that she is not recognisable. Though this topic is starting to be confronted (and even in some countries a ban is being placed to not over-edit an image), people are slowly having a lighter approach to their editing. There is still a long way to go, but looking at the other trends this year more people are wanting to see the truth not an idealised look of someone.

I hope these trends keep on moving forward and start showing more of the truth and start using models who have a typical body size, instead of super skinny which not many people have or can have due to their body shapes. By adding ‘normal size’ it may lead to fewer body image problems in men and women who look up to models and wish they could be them.

After looking at both fashion and portrait photography, I am pleased with how the trends are slowly moving forward and it has given me more of an insight in the industry I want to make a career out of. I am looking forward to taking more images in both styles of photography and I hope I am starting to create my own unique and recognisable style of fashion and portrait photography.

At the end of this research I have decided to brand myself as a fashion and portrait photographer. I love both mediums and think they work hand in hand together. When starting to brand myself for this project I need to find out the best way to identify myself with both styles and look at what social media sites I should look at putting my work up on along with how other photographers brand themselves. Some sites I will need to look into either to rebrand myself on or to create an account are:

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Flicker
  • Tumbler
  • LinkedIn

During this project I will look more initially into all sites and work out which ones will help promote  my work best, But I also need to learn how best to make connections in these industries. Another thing I have started looking into is how to stay on top of the latest trends so that I am ahead in the industry and not falling behind, Some sites I have found that will help me with this are:

  • Fashion Photography Blog – This site is a great place to get tips about the industry, see interviews of photographers, trends, and much more. I think this site will be very useful to learn more about the industry and also get tips from more experienced photographers who specialise in my fields.
  • Fashionista – This site is all about the trends of this year, business, beauty, style, news and the industry.
  • Fashion Gone Rouge – This site looks very interesting and a great place to get tips and inspirations for my shoots. The site focusses on the fashion industry, helping photographers and other people see a live window into the world. This site shows images from current shoots, but also covers big events and knowledge about fashion week and the runways.

I think these sites will be really useful for inspiration for future shoots but also on how I should brand myself to catch the attention of people in this highly stylish and competitive industry.