How to Plan and Shoot a Fashion Editorial for Publication: The Ultimate Guide
© Geoff Nichols Photography
If you're a fashion photographer, editorial fashion photography is likely one of your primary areas of interest. Fashion editorials are a crucial part of the fashion industry, providing a platform for photographers, models, stylists, and other industry professionals to showcase their work and creativity. However, creating a successful fashion editorial requires careful planning, collaboration, and attention to detail.
In this article, we'll provide a comprehensive guide on how to plan and shoot a fashion editorial that can get published in magazines. You need to be realistic too. Magazines like Vogue, Harper's Bazaar or Elle won't be publishing your work straight away – they commission photographers for their main magazines (US, UK, Italy, France etc) but there is the possibility of being published by their titles in other regions
Fashion editorials are an essential part of the fashion industry, providing a platform for photographers, models, stylists, and other industry professionals to showcase their work and creativity. To succeed in this field, you need to understand the nuances of the editorial process and what it takes to create a successful editorial. This guide will provide a step-by-step approach to planning and shooting a fashion editorial that can get you and your team's hard work to pay off by getting published.
Research and Inspiration
The first step in planning a fashion editorial is to conduct research and gather inspiration. As a fashion photographer, you should stay up to date with the latest fashion trends and styles by reading fashion magazines, attending fashion shows when possible, looking at established fashion influencers on social media and following the work of other fashion photographers. Additionally, you can explore other sources of inspiration, such as art, film, and music all of which influence the world of fashion.
Once you have gathered sufficient inspiration, create a mood board that captures the overall look and feel of the editorial. It needs to be created in such a way that anyone viewing it can immediately understand what it's about and the direction that the editorial needs to go. The mood board should include color palettes, textures, and other design elements that reflect the desired aesthetic. Pinterest can be a great source of research and elements to assist in creating a great mood board. Look for things like makeup, hair, and textures within fabrics to put it together. This will greatly help moving to the next stage.
The next step is to develop a concept for the editorial. The concept should define the theme and message of the editorial and should create a compelling storyline or narrative. Your concept should also align with the mood board created in the previous step.
When developing your concept, consider the target audience of the publication you're aiming to get published in. For example, if you're targeting a high-end fashion publication like Vogue, your concept should reflect the publication's luxury aesthetic and appeal to its audience. There is little point in shooting a gritty urban street vibe shoot if your intended publication is something which concentrates on high fashion and haute couture for instance.
The concept needs to be strong if you're to get it past the editor of the publication. It needs to convey emotion, resonate with the target demographic of the magazine and be easy to understand with a clear message.
© Geoff Nichols Photography
This was an editorial I produced for LA based fashion magazine Pump. It was during a brief respite in the lockdowns here in the UK. The title reflected the loneliness experienced by many people at the time and the images reflected the isolation in the middle of a beautiful summer.
Pitching to Magazines
Once you have developed your concept, it's time to identify appropriate publications to pitch your editorial to. Research fashion magazines that align with your concept and target audience. As well as the mainstream publications, there are thousands of independent magazines that will accept submissions.
When crafting your pitch, make sure to tailor it to the specific publication and highlight how your editorial aligns with its aesthetic and target audience. Make sure to understand the publication's requirements and guidelines for submissions and adhere to them.
Keep any pitch email short, accurate and to the point. Editors receive dozens and in some case triple figure pitches every day. They haven't got time to read through 5 paragraphs about your ideas. You are far more likely to get accepted if you keep it short and to the point instead of them hitting the delete button halfway through the second paragraph.
Finding and Working with Brands / Designers for the Shoot
Collaborating with brands and designers is essential in creating the desired look and feel of the editorial. Approach brands and designers that align with your concept and target audience and collaborate with them to create the desired look.
When working with brands and designers, make sure to understand the legal and ethical considerations, such as licensing and usage rights for images featuring their products. Always communicate clearly with brands and designers to avoid misunderstandings.
As a fashion photographer, you are far better to work with a stylist for the shoot who will likely have access to a wider range of brands and can offer their experience and advice as to what would suit the concept the best. Equally they may introduce you to a designer or brand which potentially could lead to more paid work in the future.
Location Scouting and Set Design
Finding the right location is crucial for a successful fashion editorial. It should complement the concept and theme of the shoot, and be able to provide the necessary backdrop and ambiance for the photographs.
One way to find suitable locations is to use a location scouting service, which can provide access to a wide range of options. Alternatively, you can conduct your own research and visit potential locations to get a better sense of their suitability.
When selecting a location, consider factors such as lighting, accessibility, and safety. You may also need to obtain permission from the property owner or local authorities, depending on the location and the requirements for the shoot.
Set design is also an important consideration for fashion editorials. It can help to create the right atmosphere and add visual interest to the photographs. Depending on the concept, you may need to create elaborate sets or simply make minor adjustments to the existing space.
Managing logistics and ensuring that everyone involved in the shoot is aware of the location and set design requirements is critical for a smooth and successful shoot.
If like me you are a London based fashion photographer, then there are literally hundreds, if not thousands of great locations to shoot across the capital. Just be aware, however, that you can't just go and shoot anywhere in London – all of the Royal Parks require a permit for any type of photo shoot or filming and it is expensive. For a crew of 1 to 5 to shoot a fashion editorial in Regents Park costs £504 inc VAT for between 4 and 8 hours. More information about filming in any of the Royal Parks can be found here
Anywhere under the control of the City of London Corporation deemed private property which include many famous landmarks including bridges will require specific permissions. Additionally the use of smoke, SFX or other materials deemed hazardous during the shoot, require the City of London Police to be present, for which you will have to pay a fee. Further info on photo shoots in the City of London can be found here
The casting process for a fashion editorial can be complex, as you need to choose models who fit the concept and theme of the shoot while also ensuring diversity and inclusivity. You may need to work with model agencies to find suitable models, or you can conduct your own casting call to source talent.
When selecting models, consider factors such as their height, body shape, skin tone, and overall look. It's also important to consider their experience and professionalism, as they will be representing your editorial and the brands or designers involved.
Managing relationships with models and their agencies is also crucial. Ensure that all parties are aware of the requirements and expectations for the shoot, including the schedule, styling, and hair and makeup requirements.
In every case you should create a call sheet for everyone involved which outlines the timings for the shoot. That way there can be no misunderstandings.
I would also advise on drawing up a contract for every shoot you carry out with a model. It will protect you and the model. Without a contract in place there is a possibility of a 'no show' on the day when the model is offered other work elsewhere. This even applies to tfp or collaboration shoots where no money changes hands. Without it, you leave yourself open as a photographer to being out of pocket and having your reputation damaged.
Hiring a Team
Creating a fashion editorial involves working with a team of professionals, including photographers, stylists, hair and makeup artists, and assistants. Assembling the right team is essential for a successful shoot.
When hiring a team, consider factors such as their experience, portfolio, and style. It's important to ensure that their style and approach aligns with the concept and theme of the shoot.
Managing the team effectively is also important. You should establish clear lines of communication and ensure that everyone is aware of their roles and responsibilities. Encourage collaboration and creativity, and be open to feedback and suggestions from your team.
The Shoot Day
The day of the shoot can be both exciting and nerve-wracking. However, with proper planning and preparation, you can ensure that everything runs smoothly. Here are some tips for the shoot day:
It is important to arrive at the location early to give yourself enough time to set up and make any last-minute adjustments. If you work with an assistant (on a fashion editorial, I will always work with an assistant) give them the call sheet and the shot list. They can then keep the timing of the shoot on track
Communicate with Your Team
Make sure you communicate with your team members, including models, stylists, hair and makeup artists, and assistants, to ensure everyone is on the same page.
Stick to the Schedule
Stick to the schedule as much as possible to ensure you have enough time to capture all the shots you need. Try not to get sidetracked with one look – it happens and then you end up with rushing the rest of the looks as a result.
It is important to stay focused and calm during the shoot, even if unexpected challenges arise. Don't panic if something doesn't quite go according to plan. If you understand your camera and equipment, then it's easy to find a workaround or come up with an alternative.
Taking breaks can help you and your team recharge and stay focused throughout the day. Make sure that you factor this into the shoot schedule. Always have a break for lunch – this gives everyone an opportunity to eat and refuel for an afternoon session.
Review Your Shots
Take time to review your shots throughout the day to ensure you are capturing the desired look and feel. If possible use a laptop or other monitor to be able to see the images in detail, checking for focus accuracy and lighting.
Sometimes unexpected challenges can arise during the shoot day. Be flexible and adapt to the situation to ensure you get the best shots possible. If a particular shot doesn't work as you had planned it, then reassess it, make any necessary changes and reshoot.
Post-Production & Submission
After the shoot, it is time to move on to the post-production phase. This is where you will select the best images, edit and retouch them, and prepare them for submission. Here are some steps to follow:
Select Your Images
Go through all the images from the shoot and select the best ones that fit the theme and message of the editorial.
Edit and Retouch
Once you have selected your images, it is time to edit and retouch them to ensure they are publication-ready. Make sure you maintain consistency in terms of color, lighting, and overall look and feel.
Prepare for Publication
Prepare your images for publication by formatting them according to the submission guidelines of the magazines you plan to pitch to.
Meet Submission Deadlines
It is important to meet submission deadlines to ensure your editorial is considered for publication.
In conclusion, creating a successful fashion editorial requires careful planning, collaboration, and attention to detail. By following the steps outlined in this guide, you can plan and shoot a fashion editorial that captures the essence of your concept and appeals to your target audience.
Remember to conduct thorough research and gather inspiration, develop a clear concept and message, pitch to appropriate magazines, work with brands and designers, scout locations and set design, cast the right models, hire a competent team, and prepare for the shoot day and post-production phase.
With patience, persistence, and passion, you can become a successful editorial fashion photographer in London or any other city. Stay up to date with the latest trends and techniques, and never stop learning and growing as a photographer.