Everything Has Changed: 4 Steps to Becoming a Fashion Photographer in 2024

Everything Has Changed: 4 Steps to Becoming a Fashion Photographer in 2024

I consider fashion to be one of the most difficult industries to break into. There is no clear pathway, and you are not really taught how to do it. Moreover, every photographer has to almost invent their own pathway. In this article, I will talk about my path as a fresh fashion photographer and give tips on how to succeed in the industry.

I won’t lie; I don’t know if other genres of photography are as difficult to break into as fashion photography. There is quite a lot of gatekeeping going on in this industry, so your path will inevitably be longer than in headshot photography and family photography. Don’t ask me about landscape and wildlife, as I have no clue how one becomes a pro in those genres. Perhaps it’s even more difficult. Perhaps not. I would love to know in the comments!

In any case, let’s start with some background info. Born in Kyiv, Ukraine, I moved to Hungary at the age of 13, where I completed my school education. Still in middle school, I was already taking photographs. I went to a lot of abandoned buildings and found the architecture there quite interesting to photograph. Some people said that I was missing a human subject from my photographs, so I began asking my friends to pose for me in those settings. After some time, I became the photographer for school events and so on. Still shooting on film, I was quite mesmerized by people and their clothes. Perhaps the theatrical nature of high school performances drew me even closer to the craft. In any case, I was shooting and doing a lot of it. Then, just by mere luck, I saw a post on Facebook from a fashion photographer who was coming to shoot in Budapest (the city I lived in). I offered to lend her some of my gear, which was a single speedlight and a light stand. She accepted and allowed me to be on her shoot as an assistant of sorts. At the end of the shoot, I took some photos of the model just for me, and when I looked back on the images, I fell in love with the concept of photographing fashion. From then on, I’ve become a fashion photographer.


This is the way I was introduced to fashion photography, and this is the way I took my first fashion pictures. Assisting is one of those things that you should do, but for a little bit only. Quite a lot of people who want to become full-time photographers end up becoming really good assistants and shoot only on the side. It can give you good connections, but it takes time to get those, and the client is unlikely to hire an assistant over the photographer if they already have worked with the photographer and are happy with the work. Because of your association with the photographer, if the client doesn’t have a good time, they won’t hire you either. Assisting is something I recommend doing for a year maximum, as after that time, you will be forever an assistant to someone and won’t get out of the role. I’ve met people who have been assisting for longer than I’ve been shooting, and they have not done half of the work that I have.

Reach Out to Model Agencies in Your Area

As a new photographer, you need to build your portfolio. I've seen several approaches to this. Some people shoot commercial-looking work in hopes of getting the client by showing them what you’ve done. I am yet to hear a case where that worked. Another approach is shooting creative editorial work. This is better, but often shooting creative work involves just a little too much from every team member, and the images at the end are sub-par. The most reliable and easiest way to build your portfolio is by doing model tests. A genre not that well known, it is the ideal combination of creativity, as well as working to a brief. What's more, if you do it enough, you will become buddies with the model agencies and will know the state of the market like nobody else. I truly believe that everything in fashion is centered around model agencies. They book the models for every job in town and know the most people in town.

Travel, Travel, Travel

Traveling as a fashion photographer is one of the best ways to network your way up and meet new creatives. I traveled a lot in 2023, and it allowed me to work with some of the top names in the industry. Most notably, I had an opportunity to photograph the person who has been styling Madonna, Lady Gaga, and just about every other music and entertainment star. Traveling is quite easy if you’re based in Europe, as two hours on a plane gets you to a completely different environment and country. If you’re elsewhere, I recommend finding a couple of cities where the fashion people are located and becoming a frequent visitor there. Eventually, you will have business there, and will be able to move to those larger markets.

Attend Events and Network

This goes hand in hand with traveling. Networking is the only way up. You can't hide from it, and you shouldn’t. Networking gets quite fun once you get over the imposter syndrome and social anxiety. I have, or maybe had, both. At some point, it’s just like a game that you are part of. Chances are, you can talk to almost anyone at the event you are attending, exchange contact information, and then invite that particular person for a meeting. Networking also means being a pro at stalking people online. Knowing who does what jobs and who you should reach out to can bring a lot of new opportunities. Once again, it’s nothing weird, as people get approached by strangers online all the time. Just do it in a nice way and don’t seem too creepy about it.

Closing Thoughts

So, there we have it. Here are some of my tips on how to make it in the fashion world. In this case, I do as I say, and I am able to move up every season. Mind you, it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon. Building strong and meaningful relationships with the right people takes time. A great book I can recommend is "Never Eat Alone" if you want to learn how to network. Another recommendation is keeping up with the current trends and having magazine subscriptions. Besides supporting the dying print format, you will also be able to get a first-hand glimpse of what is being produced at the moment.

Illya Ovchar's picture

Illya aims to tell stories with clothes and light. Illya's work can be seen in magazines such as Vogue, Marie Claire, and InStyle.
LIGHTING COURSE: https://illyaovchar.com/lighting-course-1

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