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Top Tips for Shooting Backstage at Fashion Shows

August 30, 2017

Whether you’re working in fashion, events, or any other genre of photography, chances are you might try your hand at shooting photos backstage at something such as a fashion runway show. After all, it’s a great way to practice new skills, gain experience, or even earn some additional money on the side!

Capturing photos of models, make-up artists, hair stylists, and the myriad of other things taking place backstage can be both fast-paced and exciting, but for those with little photography experience, it can also be daunting. When it seems like there are a hundred tasks going on all at once, what are you supposed to focus on?

Thankfully, we’ve put together this handy little guide for you today to offer our top tips for shooting backstage at fashion shows. Let’s get started!

Tips for Shooting Backstage at Fashion Shows

Know the Schedule

This little gem of advice comes from Simbarashe Cha, a professional photographer known for his backstage fashion show photography. He recommends knowing well in-advance the events or shows you want to capture and then being aware of what time you have to arrive to photograph the backstage action.

This tip is particularly useful if you’re photographing at a major fashion event such as Fashion Week, or even at a runway show that has a lengthy and hectic schedule (i.e. multiple designers showcasing within a short time frame).

Think About What You Want to Capture

Sure, it sounds simple enough: shoot some photos backstage. But what do you really want to photograph in order for your stint to be successful? Will you be focusing on close-ups of make-up looks, or do you want to capture the frantic nature of backstage? Will you want to photograph model’s portraits in order to capture their unique personalities, or is it all about focusing on the fashion designs as they’re quickly draped upon the models?

Photographers may be in the same place at the same time, but not all of them will have the same motive or idea as to exactly what they want to capture. Try to add your own unique spin for memorable results!

Tips for Shooting Backstage at Fashion Shows

Get to Know the Models

It’s understandable that everyone involved backstage at a fashion show will be fairly busy most of the time, but every now and then you’ll stumble upon models waiting around to have their hair or make-up done, or even to be dressed in their runway garbs. Don’t be afraid to strike up a quick conversation, or better yet, introduce yourself to them politely before you start snapping away.

If you start to become a regular at the backstage fashion show circuit, chances are you’ll also begin to see the same models over and over again. Establishing this rapport with them from the get-go will make them quickly feel at ease around you, helping you to capture your best work yet.

Tips for Shooting Backstage at Fashion Shows

Backstage Gear Recommendations

Backstage veterans might use different gear models to one another, but there’s one thing they can all agree on and that’s the basic requirements of a backstage photographer. When capturing backstage hair and makeup work, a wide-angle zoom (such as a 24-70mm lens), a flash, and a light modifier are all recommended. PopPhoto.com even advises that you can use a piece of cheesecloth attached with a rubber band to serve as a light diffuser if you don’t own one!

JPEG or RAW?

This is one of the most common dilemmas facing photographs at fashion shows, whether they’re backstage or in the media pit capturing the equally-as-fast-paced runway. Sure, you might want the additional control that shooting in RAW offers, but these days timing is everything at a fashion show. Clients (or the photographers themselves) will often want their images uploaded within a very short time frame (sometimes instantly) and JPEG really is the best format for doing this. It also makes it particularly easy to upload straight to social media, due to the smaller file size.

If you have the luxury of time on your side and feel more comfortable shooting in RAW – go for it! At the end of the day, it’s all about what works best for the individual photographer. But if immediacy is what you’re after, JPEG may very well be the way to go.

Tips for Shooting Backstage at Fashion Shows

Must-Have Shots

This will really depend on what you’re aiming to capture while backstage at the show, but nevertheless, you should still strive to take a variety of shots. For example, you might photograph a whole scene of people as they busily work their magic, along with some extreme close-ups on features to showcase make-up (such as eyes, just the mouth, etc.), a mid-shot of the model as she or he is sitting down having their hair and make-up done, and just about any other types of shots you can think of. Don’t simply limit yourself to one type of photograph – variety is always best.

Further Reading

There’s actually not a lot of information online in regards to tips for shooting backstage, but we’ve rounded-up some additional and helpful material below for those wanting to learn more!

How to: Shoot a Fashion Show Like a Pro by Popular Photography
5 Tips for Backstage Photography at New York Fashion Week by Shutterstock
Forum: How to take better photos backstage at fashion week? on Photo.net

Best of luck with your backstage photography endeavours!


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