How to become a fashion photographer
In the ever-expanding world of fashion, more and more brands require professional photos for advertising campaigns, catalogues, magazines and online webpages, which means that fashion photographers are in high demand.
Essentially, being a fashion photographer means you’re responsible for how clothes are presented to the consumer – whether they’re on a model or not – using everything in your skill set to capture the perfect shot. More experienced fashion photographers will work directly with clients to design the look and feel of a catalogue.
This highly competitive, mobile and client-facing profession is all about skill, knowledge and creativity, with the most committed and flexible practitioners rising to the top.
What sort of salary can I expect as a fashion photographer?
As with any creative profession, the salary expectations of fashion photographers differ wildly depending on experience, client base and ability. In most cases, you’ll start out as a freelancer or, at the very least, in an entry level or assistant role.
Freelancer rates can vary, but the average charge per hour is usually between £25 and £30. Obviously, your annual income will depend on how many clients you have, how often you work, and your agreed fee. Entry level roles for fashion photographers tend to pay around £15,000 to £18,000 per annum, but again, this depends highly on your location and the employer.
Even at high levels of experience, the salaries can fluctuate. If you develop skills in design and photography, such as the use of Adobe Photoshop, you can expect to earn around £35,000 or above, while the average for most fashion photographers with more than a years’ experience is just above £21,000.
How do I become a fashion photographer?
There’s no tried and tested route to becoming a fashion photographer. Like with many creative and competitive vocations, it can be a long process. There are, however, a few steps you can take to improve your chances of breaking into the industry:
- One of the best starts you can give yourself is to study some form of photography. Whether it’s at college, university or in your spare time, gaining a fundamental understanding of the art of photography – from lighting to shot composition – can be incredibly helpful. Equally, having a solid understanding of editing software is just as important.
- Another essential part of becoming a fashion photographer is building a portfolio. This doesn’t strictly have to be for paid work, but it should certainly reflect your style and ambition. In fact, most employers will want to see some form of portfolio during the hiring process, regardless of your level, so it’s an important thing to have. Also, having an online portfolio or website can be a good way to attract freelance work.
- Finally, it’s important to make yourself available for work. Clients may require you at inconvenient times, but it’s important to meet their needs and be flexible in the early stages of your career.
What qualifications do I need?
Technically, it’s not essential for you to have any form of qualification to make it in the world of fashion photography. Indeed, you can be self-taught, have a professional portfolio and still receive plenty of freelance work. However, for traditional employment opportunities it’s preferential to have some form of bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in photography.
Obviously, if there’s a focus on fashion photography, that’s a huge bonus. By taking a course in photography, you’ll learn the intricacies of the form, as well as the editing skills that will make you stand out.
Who are the best-known fashion photographers?
The world of fashion photography has produced talents that are as famous, if not more so, than the models they artfully capture in their photos. If you’re serious about becoming a fashion photographer, these are the big names of the industry – both past and present – that you really should know:
- Helmut Newton
- David LaChapelle
- Kai Z Feng
- Annie Leibovitz
While it’s a difficult field to break into, the potential rewards are enormous. So, what are you waiting for!