When you think “fashion photo,” you might automatically assume something taken with DSLR camera. You imagine professional photographers that take shots with high-end Nikon or Canon products, with a dizzying array of lenses at their disposal. A Soonwell LED light panel, reflectors, a tripod, and other accessories might come to mind as well.
However, what if we told you that you didn’t need a high-end, professional-quality DSLR camera to take fashion photos? Now, don’t get us wrong. One of those beauties is still the ideal, if only because of the sheer number of options at hand. However, that doesn’t mean that if all you have is a smartphone, you should give up. In fact, there are ways to take great fashion shots with just a smartphone camera.
The Basics of Smartphone Photography
First, let’s go over the tips that help improve your smartphone photos. Consider these the basics, the groundwork that you build on when you take the harder fashion shots.
Hold your phone flat, because tilting it can distort the image of the subject. Natural light is still the best light source out there, though don’t hesitate to use the flash as a “counter” if there’s too much. Smartphone zoom is terrible, so don’t use it. Finally, remember the rule of threes and use the built-in grid to compose your shots properly. All of these details will help improve your smartphone photo quality in general.
Choose Your Location
The first key to great photos is the background, and that means you need to pick the perfect location. You want something that has good natural lighting, but also enough open shade to balance it out. Whenever possible, you want the colors and lines present to make it easier to frame and compose. At the same time, remember that the focus of a fashion photo is the clothes, not the background. Keep that in mind as you shoot.
Choose A Theme
Have a theme when you shoot. Before you start shooting, you might want to collect other fashion photos to give you an idea of what mood, lighting, and focus you want to achieve. There is nothing wrong with getting a little inspiration before you start. Doing this also helps you visualize what you’re going to do, as well as choosing the right hairstyles and outfits for your model.
The Importance of Lighting
We need to reiterate the importance of lighting. No matter how good the “night mode” of the camera is, a smartphone simply does not have the hardware for truly great low-light shots. This means that you have to work with the light as much as possible. This means that for the most part, you want to shoot in the afternoons or just after dawn while avoiding the harsh and excessive light of noon.
If you shoot indoors, avoid artificial light if you can. They are good if you have no other choice, but they don’t quite make skin and fabric “pop” as much as the light from the sun would.
One of the flaws of a smartphone camera is that you have no ability to focus on the camera’s lens. You’re forced to rely on the autofocus, which can be good or bad. Sometimes, the AF function can get it right, but other times it is so far off that you need to do things manually.
Most phones will let you tap on the “face” of the subject, letting the phone know that is the focus of the photo. Tamper with the settings of your phone to see if you can manipulate the auto-lock and auto-focus settings. More high-end phone cameras also let you tamper with the auto-exposure. Pick the focus of the photo, so the smartphone camera gets it right.
Talk to the model. This is something that is important in fashion photography, no matter what equipment you use. Make sure they know what you want and that they are comfortable. The more at ease they feel, the more fluid their poses and the more natural the photos will feel. This helps make the clothing look better.
Communication also helps you better clear up things like poses and expressions. Do you want the lady in the black dress to have an aloof expression? What about the girl in the sundress strolling in the sun? Should she be smiling, looking like she’s enjoying herself? The model is not the focus of the photo, but their face does help improve the overall feel and composition of the image.
Try New Angles
Experiment with angles. Sometimes, a dress and model look best when the picture is taken head-on. Other times, you want to show them off from the side as they interact with the background or other physical elements. You might want to take a shot from a lower angle, making the outfit and model seem more imposing or regal.
Sometimes, the simplest thing to do is the best. Many phones have a portrait mode, which gives the background a slight blur. If you have a phone that has dual cameras, you have access to this technique. If you don’t have dual rear cameras, your other choice is to try a similar function in Instagram, though the result isn’t quite as good as camera blurring.
Use props that work with your theme. In fashion photography, props often see use in helping frame the model or clothing. They’re at their most useful if you find the background is a little bland.
Fashion photography is best done with a proper camera. However, when all you have is a smartphone, you can still take great shots. It’s all a matter of knowing how to maximize what you have. You’d be surprised at what you can do if you’re willing to experiment a little.