Shooting a Fashion Show

Shutter: 1/125, Aperture: f/1.4, Lens: 50mm, ISO: 400
Chosen as Photo of the Day on

My co-winner from that trip to Africa a few years ago is an instructor at a local Paul Mitchell school for hair design (you should have seen her winning safari video). Last week the school had their second annual fashion show for the future professionals to show off their best designs to family, friends and potential prospects. I of course jumped at the chance to shoot something new. (Especially when it featured over 100 models). I’ve never shot a runway show before and it certainly came with it’s own challenges. Click below for more shots.

Shutter: 1/160, Aperture: f/1.4, Lens: 50mm, ISO: 400

I traveled down to the JMU campus before the show to get some shots of the prep being done. I live for stuff like this. Little moments before the spotlights and posing. The shot at the top obviously, is my favorite. I love the apprehension, and almost the lack of awareness (or specifically, lack of self-consciousness) in the model as she gets ready to walk out on stage. To be clear, the focus of the show was to feature upcoming graduates’ best hair designs, and the overall look, this was not a show featuring brand-new custom tailored outfits. As I was trying to get my footing getting comfortable with the group and the location (to put it bluntly, I was fabulously in the minority). A quick side note. If you’re shooting any type of event, such as a gala or a wedding, it’s typical to take some time at the very beginning not taking any photos, to get familiar with the space and the overall vibe of the evening. When I shot that New Year’s Eve party, it took about a half an hour until I was comfortable approaching people to take their photo. I was getting nervous that the whole evening would be awkward, but after some time had passed, it became thrilling. I recommend you pad plenty of time before the event start time to allow yourself to get comfortable without missing any great moments. Back to this photo. I love the jitteryness of the model. All of the models have over-the-top hairdos that command attention, and to be kind of shrinking into the corner and unsure of the situation really tickled me. I used the most shallow depth of field, at f/1.4 to really focus in on her feet, and to also give that tunnel vision that makes the moment a bit more secluded between the subject and the viewer.

Before the show
Shutter: 1/100, Aperture: f/2.8, Lens: 70-200mm, ISO: 400

I also really like this pre-event photo. Again, you have the contrast between a hairstyle that screams look-at-me, and a feeling of apprehension on the model. As opposed to the 50mm for the top photo, I used the long lens on this one to get more of a blurry foreground (there were a lot more people congregating in the hallway at this point). I like how this frames her a bit, and the tall orientation of the photo helps with framing of the height of her hair. The line of her hair, plus the path of out-of-focus people all lead the viewer down a path straight to the model’s eyes. I also like how the brightly-colored model just next to her is mostly obscured, just enough so she’s clearly not the subject of the photo.

Shutter: 1/100, Aperture: f/1.4, Lens: 50mm, ISO: 400

This one turned out way better than I had expected. Ever since I got that remote flash trigger, I’ve been a bit of snob about using my external flash directly on the hotshoe. I had it with me at the time, but not all connected so I decided just to fire away with the flash directly connected. Given the circumstances, I really like how the lighting played off of the DJ’s outfit and equipment. Of course, I think all photos taken with an on-camera flash (especially the pop-up) look like they were shot in a club scene, so it works.

Shutter: 1/160, Aperture: f/3.5, Lens: 70-200mm, ISO: 1600

It took me awhile to get the settings just right for the runway conditions. It was very dark, but there were two hotspots that the models would walk through. I had my flash, but didn’t use it because no one else there was shooting flash, and I was seated far enough away from the stage that the flash didn’t help at all (plus I didn’t want to be the one guy at the base of the stage firing flashes the whole time) I definitely recommend a flash for an event like this, especially if you’re shooting it from a journalistic standpoint. I was there to capture the hair-dos primarily, and if I got anything artsy out of it, that’s a bonus.

Shutter: 1/250, Aperture: f/2.8, Lens: 70-200mm, ISO: 1600

Is this cropping awkward? They say never to crop at the knees. The frame naturally cropped just above the knee so I think I’m ok. It’s rarely ever instinctual to me where to crop. I should have kept this diagram handy. Oh, it looks like I did alright here. Because it was so dark a lot of the backgrounds came out pretty grainy. Luckily, with the spotlights and focus, the models don’t look that grainy at all. From my distance, being zoomed in all the way at 200mm gave me a good head-shot, but zoomed out gave me a nice full-body shot with just a little bit of stage. Something interesting, I only occasionally play around with White Balance in camera, preferring to adjust later in post, but since I knew I’d have thousands of photos to go through, I found Tungsten gave me the most natural look. However, I found when I opened the photos in Photoshop, I had to select Tungsten yet again. Odd. I had assumed that As Shot would have been Tungsten. Regardless, selecting Auto sometimes did a decent job too. Maybe I wasn’t playing with it right on my laptop.

Shutter: 1/250, Aperture: f/4.0, Lens: 70-200mm,ISO: 1600

Something else I tried out tonight was sRAW. Basically it’s shooting RAW but at 1/4 the size (at least that’s true on my Canon 40D). I did some research on my phone just before the start of the show and most people seemed to think it was a gimmick. Because I was new to this shooting environment, I wanted to take a higher rate of photos than typical for me (spray’n pray, if you will). But I only had 16GB of memory, so shooting at a smaller file size was a plus but still allowing me to edit the RAW file later seemed ideal. In hindsight, I did alright. The photos would probably be a little less grainy if I had started with a larger image and then shrank them to this size anyway. It also supposedly helped lessen the amount of buffering I got (which has become a real problem to me lately). All in all, if in a pinch, it’s not a terrible idea to shoot in sRAW, but really, just get a bigger card. (I also need a faster card, 30Mb/s is slowing me down). You could always shoot to JPG mode, and if you’ve got the settings down and you know you won’t want play with them afterwards, go nuts, but I hate shooting to JPG. Once you go RAW, you’ll never go back.

Shutter: 1/160, Aperture: f/3.5, Lens: 70-200mm, ISO: 1600

I’m not an expert on what runway poses are the absolute best, but I know which images I liked after the fact. When they models were mid stride, there was some flow and dynamic energy. Those are always good, but you risk some blur unless you have a steady hand (I do, natch). But then there’s the expressions. Typically “I’m excited to be here!” is not one of the expressions you see at a fashion show. I like the smug distance, the vacant look in the eyes. This is one of my more successful photos, in that the hair and make up is crisp an in focus, it’s appropriately exposed, and the end result isn’t too grainy. The position of the model is fitting, and this looks like it was shot at a fashion show. Its just not particularly one of my favorite shots ever.

Shutter: 1/160, Aperture: f/3.5, Lens: 70-200mm, ISO: 1600

I like the silky flow of this model’s dress, and her position within the frame. She’s right in one of the mentioned stage hotspots, so I had the aperture dialed down a little. If I wasn’t such a stickler for shooting in full manual, you could get away with Tv mode for Shutter priority. The camera would adjust the ISO and aperture automatically based on the shutter speed you set. But then you don’t really learn anything, haha.

Shutter: 1/250, Aperture: f/5.0, Lens: 15mm, ISO: 1600

At the end of the show, each of the models came out for a final bow with their stylist. I got right up front and sat below the edge of the stage since from my original viewpoint, I’d only be getting one of the persons. You absolutely need a wide angle for shots like this. They don’t necessarily need to be fisheye, and I don’t think the distortion takes too much away from the image. I also don’t think the fisheye is the only “good” part of the image. I love the unrehearsed excitement and relief from these two girls. Twenty minutes ago, both were a pile of nerves, as the model walked the runaway, and the stylist watched from backstage, but now it’s all done, and we can relax. I hope the viewer can share or at least relate to that finish line moment here.

I typically include a gallery below my posts that have all of the images I highlighted, plus the rest from the gallery. But since I took hundreds of pictures to make sure each hairstyle was documented, I figured I wouldn’t bother. Here’s the gallery of pre-show moments that I really liked, and if you really must see all of the shots from the main event, you can check out my Gallery here.

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