The Importance of Understanding Genre as a Fashion Photographer

There is no shortage of educational material on the market for getting started in virtually any industry of photography. Moreover, fashion is one of the most crowded spaces in regards to this sort of education which can mean the volume of repetition offered from one educational video to another can become rather tiresome. In contrast, when an aspect of fashion photography sheds new light on an often ignored aspect of the industry, the viewer can enjoy a refreshing new look into well-covered ground.

In the first part of his latest pair of videos aimed at providing a unique take on a "Fashion 101" topic, Clinton Lubbe tackles the often rarely discussed topic of "genre" within an industry that has become far too muddled and confused over the years.

To get started Lubbe offers some unique and interesting anecdotes in terms of lens choice and other fashion basics, mostly re-paving a path already discussed ad nauseam. Lubbe's discussion on genre, however, is a critical study that virtually any fashion photographer can gain from learning about. Lubbe, drawing on his experience within the industry, breaks down the primary fashion genres while discussing how the perspective of the photographer changes when shooting each. By knowing exactly what is expected of image content created for a given genre, a photographer can tailor each shoot to meet the expectations of both the client and audience in order to maximize the impact and value of the images created during a shoot.

Understanding the topic of what you are shooting is a critical tool of any photographer, regardless of type. The fashion industry suffers far more confusion than most in this regard but Lubbe's words apply readily to all photographers looking to construct a business with the camera. Being able to shoot a gorgeous image simply isn't sufficient. Successful photographers know how to craft images that fit within the industry expectations of the genre they are shooting while still retaining a creative flare making each photo set unique to the given photographer's style. We could all benefit from taking the time to better define both our style and how that style fits into the industry we have chosen to pursue.

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10 Comments

Clinton Lubbe and Thomas Heaton are my favorite photographers on youtube. They actually take great photos and share real knowledge. Unlike other photographers who take boring pictures and peddle gear, especially that dude with the hat and his boring pictures.

Michael Aubrey's picture

Let me get this straight. The frame grab for the video about fashion photography is the one that the Lubbe explicitly says, "This is not fashion"???

Because breasts mean more views?

Great.

Ryan Cooper's picture

I suspect thats why he chose said image. Such is the reality of internet marketing. Sexy sells. (content is still great, regardless though)

William Howell's picture

That's why I clicked... boobies!

Leigh Smith's picture

Maybe because he is trying to attract the views of people who think they are shooting "fashion" to set them straight.

Tony Clark's picture

Clinton is a great resource, I've enjoyed watching his videos. I'm sure his assistants are some of the best equipped to go out and pursue their own work. I worked with John Chiasson, he was knowledgeable, very open about his experiences and encouraged me to pursue my own career.

Dan Howell's picture

I'm sorry, but I don't think he has a practical grasp on what commercial fashion is. Or at least he is having difficulty explaining it. Had the topic been high fashion or editorial fashion or fine art for that matter, I wouldn't feel compelled or qualified to comment, but commercial fashion is my primary professional pursuit and I have been doing it for years. There are numerous points I would disagree in his characterization. To properly examine and describe this as a genre would take more space than is appropriate on a response comment, but suffice to say a simple explanation is in the name.

Commercial fashion places a value on the aspect of getting visual information to the audience to inform their buying decisions and movtivate the sale of a garment or outfit. Most frequently that means the garment or outfit is clearly visible if not fully in each shot then selectively in a series of shots. Providing shape, texture, color and styling information is more important than mood.

I'm not saying that he doesn't know what it is or can't shoot it, but the way he is presenting the information is fundamentally flawed.

Leigh Smith's picture

I don't see how his explanation is flawed as you say. I think he was just focused more on the part of attracting the viewer, and not so much the part of displaying the product to them. Commercial photography has to do both. He just didn't go that in to depth with it.

Dan Howell's picture

Again, it is probably deserving of a whole article to dissect the differences between commercial and high fashion. My gut reaction is that he is using fashion marketing information and applying it to photographic stylistic techniques. Also I feel that his definition of high fashion (haute couture) is accurate in a strict linguistic sense, but there is an entire strata of the industry who identify as collection-level or even couture fashion which do not meet his definition--actually far more of the high fashion industry wouldn't meet that definition than those who would. They would very strongly argue their point. Using his own definition, the images he was showing to reference high fashion were very much not bespoke fashion from a very rarified and limited group of designers. As a definition it is at least a generation out of date.

His point would be better made with the term Editorial Fashion Photography. Then at least his point could be made about the photographic approach which is the point of his video. I would argue that editorial fashion photography is what a private commission client would reference as commonly as commercial fashion. What I think the description of those two 'genres' of fashion photography are laking is purpose behind the different styles.

Commercial photography at it's heart is to deliver real product (in this case apparel) information and motivate a sale. It can achieve this by different stylistic approaches, but the intent is for a sale. It is commonly thought of as catalog fashion, but that is unnecessarily limiting. Editorial fashion photography at it's heart is to convey the inspiration of the fashion or the mood (real or perceived) in wearing it. It can also use different stylistic approaches. To me, expounding on these two delineations of fashion photography would be more useful and have more relevance to the actual business and practice of fashion photography.

His label of look-book as a style of photography, especially as it relates to model portfolios and testing must be vastly different in his market than it is in NYC which is the market I know. Part of this might be a linguistic difference, but part of it does not comport with the industry as I have experienced it.

ah, the classic I'm going to apologize before ripping you apart.