Shooting Fashion on the Runway by Kaye Ford/Fordtography
London Fashion Week is the whole fashion world’s highlight. Any fashion week is. Designers, models and PRs scramble around to make the perfect show. Buyers, Press and bloggers all want to be FROW to see what is coming for the next season.
But what is it like to actually photograph the imagery you all then see in magazines?
I have photographed both front of house on the runway and backstage at fashion shows such as Temperley London, House of Holland, Topshop Unique and many many others. Front of House is such a buzz, But a really packed into a sardines can kind of buzz. You see all the celebrities come in, sometimes you are up there photographing them on FROW before rushing back to the press pit once the lights dim and the show is about to start. That is one mad panic. You need to be in that space before the show starts and you miss shots and ruin others. It can be difficult getting into that space because it is literally jam packed. I am only small, but I am often sitting shoulder to shoulder with other photographers and you can feel them breathing against you.
You aren’t always guaranteed a centre spot, but to be honest, the better creativity in your images can be found off to the side rather than being dead centre. Those spots are normally reserved for the ‘house’ photographer who is shooting for the PR and the designer. They want images devoid of people and any interruptions so that you focus on the clothing. You can try and go for a centre spot, but there is a hierarchy when in the press pit. I was always happily welcomed by others, but I know people who haven’t been and have been kicked out by security. If you are off to the side, you have a better chance at seeing it all in a different way and getting highly creative images that stand yours out from the crowd.
When shooting front of house, a long lens is always needed. Most popular is a 70-200mm. The further at the back you are, the more people start to use a fixed 300mm. I always used a 70-200mm f2.8 IS lens and I use Canon. The 2.8 aperture means I can really focus on the model, but the distance also means I can catch her walking out right up until she is standing in front of the photographers and I can get close ups through to full body shots. A nice varied range on each outfit that comes down the runway. With these kinds of lenses, you’d definitely need a monopod to help steady your camera and take the brunt of the weight so that your arms don’t start to struggle. I used to do anywhere from 8-15 shows in one day and if I was handholding a big full frame DSLR AND a 70-200mm lens at each show, my arms would be dead by the 3rd show. A monopod helps me hold that weight but also to keep my camera steady, therefore meaning my shots are steady and I can concentrate on getting those shots.
You also ideally need an idea about White balance and Kelvin temperatures on your camera. Not all fashion shows are held in the same venue and the lighting will often run on different kelvin temperatures. One show could be daylight balanced, another could be warmer. The lighting techs will know which kelvin the lights are, so all you have to do is ask and punch that in to your camera to make sure all the colours are natural and you can see the colouring of the fabric normally.
You never ever ever need flash. Only if you are shooting the celebrities turning up, so NEVER put a flashgun on your camera thinking you will use it. The designers and PRs will make sure the show is lit enough for you to see everything, and if you were to put a flash on your camera and use it, you will just get ejected by the other photographers!