Types Of Fashion Photography

In the following, we will be discussing an important topic that is “Fashion Photography” and will discuss it in detail within the article. Fashion Photography is a genre of photography that is dedicated to displaying clothing and other fashion things. Fashion photography is most frequently conducted for advertisements or fashion magazines. Over a period of time, fashion photography has developed its own aesthetic in which the clothes, as well as fashions, are enhanced or increased by the presence of exotic locations or even accessories.

With its vast audience, high pay-checks and glamorous international lifestyle, fashion photography may seem like one of the world’s most sought-after professions. But for all fashion photographers who make it through the door of a top magazine, about 1000 others find their niche fashion advertising, celebrity portraiture, art photography, or even paparazzi work to make a living.

Types Of Fashion Photography

The kind of photography we all think about when we think of “fashion photography” is usually editorial photography (sometimes this is simply referred to as fashion photography or editorial fashion photography or just editorial). These are the type of images we might see in about four-ten page spreads that hold together as a “fashion story” near the back half of a fashion magazine. The purpose of this photography is to show or to indicate an editorial point of view – to sell a “story” or theme.

Often themes can center on trends, seasons, colors, popular culture, movies, art and/or literature. We make the distinction between editorial and fashion noting that fashion sells a lifestyle and editorial sells a story. Although often editorial and fashion are used interchangeably, the difference between an editorial and high fashion image is that editorial is generally more about lifestyle AND story. High fashion are those images that go beyond the average editorial and use models of elite proportions (think runway models) in eclectic, exaggerated looks and poses.

You might hear the term life-style in fashion photography. Mainly, it is showing above average looking, stylish people doing things in an environment. It is selling a lifestyle which is, in turn, is selling a product like coffee or shoes.

1. Fashion Editorials

Despite what people think, often there is little to no budget for editorials (with the exception of those commissioned by top of the heap fashion magazines) and photographers and their creative teams (makeup artists, hairstylists, set/prop stylists, photography assistants, wardrobe stylists as well as models) bear all the costs of the shoot. They do these shoots for the purpose of building their portfolios and getting exposure in hopes of landing commercial jobs.

2. Beauty Editorials

Fashion editorial spreads might also be beauty editorials. Beauty editorials are typically head and shoulders shots (or closer) and highlight the hair and/ or makeup or, at times, accessories like jewelry. Those are the spreads shown with a detailed list of the makeup and hair products that are used on the model.

3. Commissioned Editorials

A commissioned editorial is one that a magazine hires/commissions a photographer, model, and creative team to shoot for the magazine. There may or may not be an art director from the magazine on set to make sure the shoot is shaping up to what the magazine envisions. In this case, the magazine will typically provide the photographer with a commission letter to make it easier to procure a creative team and garments, accessories, and locations. In the best-case scenario, the publication will provide a letter of responsibility (LOR) stating that the publication will take responsibility for loss or damage of clothing and accessories.

4. Spec Shoots

Shooting on spec is when a team gets together to work for free in hopes of it getting published, sold, or seen by commercial clients. In today’s world of independent fashion magazines that can be printed on-demand, the opportunities to get published are much wider, but so, too, is the competition. Editorials come in from all over the world and you are competing with everyone else who is submitting for that particular issue. For a shoot on spec, typically a photographer will come up with a concept and gather her team together to bring it to fruition.

She acts as the art director, makes sure the shoot matches her vision, takes care of all the production issues like procuring a shoot location, and provides a mood board (collection of images that show the direction of the shoot) and call sheet (detailed list of all team members involved, contact info and call times) to the team so that everyone is on the same page.


Sometimes a photographer can contact a magazine with a concept or idea and mood board prior to shooting and the magazine can determine that the concept and style of her photography is a good fit. The publication might provide a pull letter to assist the photographer/stylist procure garments for the shoot. But even then, if the final images do not fit the standards of the publication it may not be published in it. However, the photographer is then free to submit the editorial to other publications.

5. Commercial Photography

Commercial Photography (sometimes called catalog) is produced for the purpose of selling clothes, makeup, accessories, hair products, etc. Typically there is a much better budget for this work than editorial photography. It is kind of the brass ring. Commercial jobs can be a small as working with local designers on a look book or local businesses needing photography or as big as a gig to shoot a designer label campaign, major makeup ad, or album cover.

Clients for commercial work generally notice a professional’s personal and editorial work, feel it is a good fit, and want a more toned down/salable version of it. That is the kind of shoot where everyone gets paid. How much, depends on the requirements of the job and the budget of the client.

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