Tips on Shooting a Runway Fashion Show / by Jamil Matheny

Are you preparing to photograph the catwalk? Want to get some good shots? Here are some tips that will help you to execute your photo skills in the fashion world.

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On the Catwalk

Here are some tips to improve your fashion/ catwalk photography

Be Prepared

When you go to any fashion event, it is always a great idea to check your camera bag to bring what is allowed in the venue. Also, for us media/press people, most events will have somebody in taking care of the media/ press to let everyone know what and what not to bring to their show(s). For instance, I’ve been to a few government buildings for a fashion show and had to clear everything out of my bag before entering the building. In this case, you may want to pack light.

What should you bring?

1 – 2 Camera Bodies

2 or 3 Lenses

Flash (if needed)

Monopod or Tripod

Notepad & Pen

Get to the venue as early as possible

If there’s anything that you should do first is to get to the venue as early as possible. Any fashion show, whether it's during fashion week or one event. If you’re invited to one of these events, it draws confusion to the staff to hand you your press pass at the door. If you’re not on the list, it’s time to make some calls. Being on time is really important as well since you’ll want to claim your spot in the photographer’s pit (aka the photo pit). If you show up late to a fashion show, you may not be able to claim a spot unless you know someone and they saved a spot for you. However, if you do show up on time and there’s still not enough space to sit or stand; bring a step stool. You don’t want to be sitting on the floor for a fashion show. Especially if you’re like me, I’m tall and have long legs. You’ll be able to capture some great images when you have a step stool to allow proper framing before the runway show.

Find the right white balance before the show

Assuming that you already know how to shoot in manual mode. Many fashion shows will have different fluorescent lighting. I strongly recommend checking the white balance and the lighting in the venue. You only have one chance to shoot this show. Don’t mess it up because you forgot to check your white balance. If you’re unsure of how to use your white balance; use auto. Not only that, the brand you’re shooting for may not like the results. Designers want to see their artwork sell and it’s your job to capture these moments for them the best way possible.

Bring fast glass

Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8

Great lens for Fashion photography

In my experience with attending fashion shows, I will highly suggest getting a fast lens. When I first started fashion photography, I was shooting everything in autofocus on my Nikon body with the kit lenses. Now I shoot with the Sigma 70-200mm f/2.8 for my Nikon. For runway photography, you can use a 70-200mm f/2.8 for runway shots of the models. Even though you don’t need to use f/2.8 at a fashion show, you can bump your aperture up to f/4. Just make sure to adjust your shutter speed and ISO when doing this. Now, this is where coming in early comes into play. If you show up early to the event, you will have a clear view of the model and will be able to show off the whole body in your frame. Whether you’re shooting full frame or crop sensor, make sure you find a good spot to see the show and get some great shots.

RAW or JPEG?

If this is your first fashion show, I would shoot in JPEG to get the hang of shooting the show itself. However, even if you’re a professional and you don’t want huge file sizes importing onto your computer; then use JPEG instead of RAW. Let’s face it, RAW files are massive, but give you an uncompressed format! Shooting in JPEG will compress the data sent to the camera. Just so you know the difference.

Show Camera Settings

Theoretically, there is no right or wrong way of adjusting your camera settings for a runway fashion show. The lighting in the venue should tell you how to adjust your camera settings accordingly. Typically, I have my camera settings on my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens @ f/3.2, ISO 400 and shutter speed 1/320, without flash. Never be afraid to bracket your camera settings to adjust the exposure to your camera. If you’ve arrived at the show early, you can take some test shots before the show begins.

Pad & Pen

Bringing a note pad and a pen is a must for cataloging your photos later. If you want to know who the designers, make up artists, hair stylists, directors, etc. Sure, the fashion show may have a program with most of the people involved behind the scenes, but not everyone may not be credited in the program. It’s a great way to build a rapport as a photographer with the fashion industry’s design experts for some future opportunities and partnerships.

Be Nice To The Team

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Even though, you’re probably new or a professional photographer. That’s great! At fashion events, there will be other news personnel such as writers, bloggers, photographers, videographers, etc. Now, be a great human being along with your skillset acquired and you’re good to go! Remember to take some jaw-dropping shots for your audience!

BONUS TIP: Keep track of your own belongings.