DIY Fashion Photography: Your Guide to Shoots That Impress

DIY Fashion Photography: Your Guide to Shoots That Impress

There are different degrees of fashion shoots, it could be a personal shoot for your portfolio or one for Vogue Magazine. This format is for a personal fashion shoot, as you will most likely be in charge of putting everything together yourself.

I have done many personal fashion shoots for several reasons. At the beginning of my career, I had no photos, and no photos get you no jobs. So, the best thing to do is create your own, so you have images to put on your new fancy website. These shoots are called TFP (Trade For Print) or a “Test” shoot. Everyone that you hire is going to be in the same situation, needing photos for their portfolio, and they will work for free in exchange for photos.

The Vision: Mood Board 

I always start with an idea that turns into my vision and story, then I create a mood board. The mood board acts as a visual template for the location, model, and posing, wardrobe, hair, makeup, colors, and style. This is so everyone working on your shoot understands the mood or vibe of the shoot and will be on the same page. You can do this on Pinterest if you would like, but I create a Word document and pull photos from an internet search, magazines, and social media of images I think go along with the style of the shoot. Say it’s a 1980s street-style fashion shoot. You will look for images of clothing style, hair, and makeup, models, and then a location that fits in with the vibe. Once you have your team together, you will email the mood board to everyone. That way, people will know exactly what you’re looking for, or you can invite people to contribute their ideas… which I am always open to. I would suggest staying open to the team's ideas; hair and makeup know more than I do on hair and makeup, and stylists can usually add to each outfit perfectly.

Personal fashion shoot with male model

Casting a Model and Hiring the Team

This is the pre-production stage of your shoot, getting everything together. Because this is a personal shoot where no one is being paid or a TFP (Trade For Prints), everyone involved understands that in exchange for their work, they will get final, retouched images for their portfolio and social media. You can find your team and models on Craigslist, Model Mayhem, and social media. There are other options out there, but these are the ones I use and seem to work best. For the models, you can also contact local modeling agencies and ask if you can photograph their fresh faces; you will need a portfolio to show them as they want to be assured that you know what you’re doing. I have shot for many modeling agencies in LA, and it’s a great experience. Remember that they are new models, and you’re going to have to work with them to get what you want. When creating ads or contacting people directly, ask for their portfolio or Instagram accounts so you can see the work they have done in the past. If you’re just starting, know that you’re not going to get the best of the best; that is just the way it works. But as you build your portfolio and have really strong images in your portfolio, you will attract better people to work with, and it does make a difference in the quality of photos.

As far as wardrobe goes, have the model bring what they have, and if the model is the same sex as you, use your own clothing and mix and match. I would do this all the time, and I created some pretty cool looks. As you get more experience, you can get a stylist on board or even contact showrooms and borrow their clothing.

Women's fashion shoot

Location or Studio

I love working outdoors and I’m lucky to have a lot of different looks, textures, eras of architecture, and great weather here in L.A. I’m sure you can find the same wherever you live, and sometimes you have to think outside the box to make a location work; this is true for professional shoots as well. If you’re shooting studio shots and don’t have a studio, you can make your living room, bedroom, or garage work. I still use my living room for many of my shoots. Again, this is true in professional paid shoots all the time; work with what you have and be prepared for anything.

Shoot Day

Production starts; you have hired your team, model, found wardrobe, a location, and it’s time to get to work. I always have the hair and makeup show up about 20 minutes before the model so we can talk about details and they can get set up. Once the model arrives and you have introduced everyone, put the outfits together, see what works, and lay them out in order of what you want to shoot first to last. Wardrobe order will depend on makeup and hair for female models; the dressy, high-fashion, nighttime looks will be last as the makeup will be heavier for those looks, also hair will be more elaborate. Get the model into hair and makeup, and yes, you can get a Groomer for men too. Once they are finished, check to see if it’s what you want and then it is time to shoot. It will take a few minutes for you and the model to warm up and get into a groove; this is normal. Once one look is shot, it’s time for a wardrobe change and hair and makeup change if needed. Once you have all the looks shot and you’re happy with what you got, you’re done with the shoot.

Home studio fashion shoot


Begin with editing, which is going through hundreds of photos and picking your favorites, and where you will learn with time that you don’t want to take hundreds of photos because you will have to go through all of them, and it’s very time-consuming and can become daunting as they all start to look the same.

Once you pick your favorites, I would stick to two to six images from each look or even less. Now, retouching, this is where you can add creativity to your work, and you may have already documented the final look in your mood board. There are so many options in post-production, including different effects, black and white, adding color, or creating a fashion look to your photos. In the beginning, you are still figuring it out, so play with color, shadows, and presets; this will bring your photos to life. Once your favorite images are retouched, send them to the team for their portfolios and social media; don't forget to credit everyone involved in your post. This is your shoot; you have no client to answer to, so have fun and experiment; this is how you will learn and grow as a fashion photographer.

Korbin Bielski's picture

Korbin is a Fine Art, Fashion and Home Photographer living in Los Angeles. His love of photography began early while growing up in Detroit and eventually turning professional while living in L.A. Korbin's focus is on selling his prints, but is still very active in his other photography endeavors.

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