In case you missed last week’s workshop brought to you by AdoramaPro. Here are my notes from the evening’s seminar on how to boost your skills in runway fashion photography with instructors Udor, house photographer for Launch NYC, and Charles Beckwith, executive director of the Fashion Media Center at Manufacture NY.
With over 1,000 runway shows under his belt, Udor gained experience by shooting varying types of runways, often types under bad conditions. He explains that “most are not well-lit. Runway photography is a completely different animal to other types of photography. With studio work you have control, not on the runway.” Most runway event coordinators do not have the photographer in mind when planning a runway show.
Your biggest challenge will be lighting. Look out for shadows on the runway. Sometimes they are not evenly lit, so be sure to seek out the best light. Look at the color temperature of the light you will be working with before the event begins. Do not use automatic color temperature settings here. Manual settings give you more control over your end result. White balance is key. You will need to freeze the motion on the runway so setting your camera to 250th of a second or higher is ideal.
Never shoot runway with a flash. If you are the only photographer there, maybe, but otherwise, don’t do it. The reason being that all photographers will likely be going for the same shot at the same time. Another photographer’s flash will blow out your photo or add color to it which would make your photos useless. For the most part, you will also be shooting with a zoom lens from a distance rendering you flash useless as well. So no flash in runway photography is the rule.
Always check your settings before every show and again in between shows. Especially if you are going from one show to the next. It is possible that someone could have bumped into you or something shifted in your camera bag and your settings changed. So check and then double-check.
Make sure you review your photos after the first 3-4 shots you take because you want to make sure you are not too hot or too dark. This way you can adjust your settings even while the model is still walking and have time to capture the look flawlessly. Any free moment you get, check your work in camera. Adjust if you need to and you will always be sure that your images will be perfect.
You can use burst but keep in mind that you will have more work in post production. You’ll have more photos to sort through, use more disk space and depending on your camera, more battery life. Also, keep in mind if, for example, a model blinks too much during her walk you can adjust accordingly in manual. Burst will make this more difficult.
It is best to use portrait as opposed to landscape. However, avoid auto-rotation on your camera because this will prevent you from using the entire screen when reviewing your photos. It is possible to zoom in on your camera to review but you want to save as much time as possible while working.
Every runway photographer uses a monopod. Your setup can get heavy and after 35-40 looks your arms are going to get tired and your hands will shake. The monopod helps to keep you steady while you concentrate on the model as she comes towards you.
Set your focal point on the model’s face but keep your eyes on their feet so you can judge when he/she will be stepping down with their front foot. You should look for the foot of the model to touch down on the floor in front of them. If they are not in this position, the photograph is useless. This pose makes the garment look its best, it elongates the figure and is most flattering to the model. This is the pose editors look for so be sure to nail it.
The thing that will take the longest to master is your rhythm. The average photographer usually takes 2 years of continuous runway shooting in order for an editor to choose their shots. Runway photography is not a gift it is a skill that you acquire through practice.
Zoom in as much as possible but keep in mind you want to see the entire body head to toe. Often times there is debris on the ground, you can get rid of that by keeping the frame as tight as possible without having to edit in post.
Once the model gets closer you can take a bodice shot, where you capture the look from the hip up.
Keep in mind you will want to capture the back of the model as well because a designer might have designed something eye-catching on the back and you want to capture that for the designer.
Lastly, if you’re working with a team of say two photographers, one of you can do the more technical photos while the other takes more editorial shots where you can take a bit of artistic license with your shots.
All photographs were taken by attendees of the workshop.