Become a Fashion Photographer: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Fashion photographers capture photos that highlight clothing design. In addition to taking pictures, fashion photographers must study photography, learn how to edit photos and build a portfolio. Let's learn more about this career and the career path. View article »

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  • 0:00 Should I Be a Fashion…
  • 1:11 Step 1: Study Photography
  • 1:59 Step 2: Build a Portfolio
  • 2:35 Step 3: Book Photo Shoots
  • 3:01 Step 4: Advance Your Career

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Video Transcript

Should I Become a Fashion Photographer?

Degree Level None; bachelor's or master's degrees are helpful
Degree Field(s) Photography
Key Skills Excellent understanding of digital photography and lighting; ability to work in Adobe Photoshop or other editing software to touch up and alter images; networking and good business sense
Salary $39,928 (2015 median for fashion photographers)

Sources: Payscale.com

Fashion photographers are responsible for photographing fashion shoots and editing the resulting images. Although fashion photographers are generally not the directors of the photo shoots, their skill set, including an eye for design and lighting as well as an understanding of the feel and purpose of the resulting photographs, makes them an integral part of fashion photography and portraiture. These professionals must have expertise in Adobe Photoshop or other editing software. There are no strict education requirements for fashion photographers. They're generally hired according to their portfolios, experience and connections within the industry. However, formal postsecondary is common among these professionals, and it provides training and connections necessary for success. The salary potential for fashion photographers also depends largely on their expertise and portfolios, but overall, fashion photographers earned a median salary of $39,928 as of May 2015. Now that you know more about a career in fashion photography, let's explore the steps you can take to enter the career.

Step 1: Study Photography

While fashion photographers are not required to have a degree, they can gain a greater understanding of the craft by studying photography at a college, university or trade school. Many schools offer a bachelor's degree in photography, which allows students to study photography history, lighting, digital photography, and fine arts. Fashion photographers may also attend graduate school or enroll in programs that focus on fashion photography.

During college, be sure to focus some of your studies on developing editing skills. Fashion photographers must be able to edit their work to meet their clients' needs. Photographers use Adobe Photoshop and other computer software to crop photos, correct flaws, and alter the images they have taken. Photographers may take courses in photo editing or develop skills on their own.

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Step 2: Build a Portfolio

Fashion photographers showcase their best work in a portfolio, a collection of the photographer's best work. Some photographers have physical portfolios, but it's necessary to also have digital portfolios displayed online. Early on in their careers, photographers typically include photos taken during college and the portfolio evolves and improves as the photographer gains more experience. Prospective clients choose a photographer based on the style and the skills exhibited in their portfolios. So, fashion photographers must keep their portfolio up-to-date and ensure that their abilities are well represented in the work they include.

Step 3: Book Photo Shoots

With a portfolio that attracts clients, it's time to start planning photo shoots. Booking photography shoots may include arranging travel, reserving a space, or working with publishers to make sure that the client's needs are met. These professionals must be flexible and be able to work in a variety of climates. While they may suggest certain styles, the fashion photographer must follow the direction of a client to ensure that photos meet their needs.

Step 4: Advance Your Career

Advancing in the field depends a lot on how fashion photographers manage their career duties. Most fashion photographers are self-employed, so they must also handle business and marketing matters, such as scheduling shoots, managing finances, and keeping up with clients by answering e-mails and phone calls. They also network and regularly meet with contacts in the industry.

Professional photographers may hire assistants to help them manage business matters. Additionally, photographers study and enforce copyright laws to ensure that their work is protected. Keep in mind that most photographers move on to other careers after 10 years of experience in fashion photography, according to Payscale.com. Individuals who choose to stay in the business may open their own small business or find more stable employment in a fashion marketing firm.

There are no strict requirements for fashion photographers, but they generally have formal postsecondary training in photography and demonstrate their skills and experience through a portfolio.

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