Outdoor Fashion Shoot – Lessons Learned

Post by TWiP Contributor: Dave Reynolds

My business partners and I are launching a new venture this fall which gave us an amazing experience in the photographic realm…a chance to do a fashion shoot, outdoors, in New York City. Although I'm a fairly competent photographer, we needed help for this one and teamed up with NYC area photographer Jenny Foley. She saved our butts in countless ways and here are some of the things we learned to make this type of shoot successful.

The Mission

The products in question were custom tailored men's suits. Our objective was to do a combination of product and environmental/action shots of the launch collection for use on the web site and for marketing purposes.

Early on, we decided that standard studio shots were not for us. We thought that images taken outdoors in an urban setting would be more engaging and tell a more compelling story behind our products. Little did we know what we were getting ourselves into!

The Shoot

We had selected two locations, one in Brooklyn and another in the Financial District of Manhattan. This required that we pack up and relocate everyone across the river for the afternoon shoot. We had selected our six models through www.modelmayhem.com. Because these were custom tailored suits, we first needed to have a measuring session with each model. Afterwards we had the suits made, conducted a brief fitting session, then regrouped two days later for the actual shoot.

The Lessons Learned

Always be prepared. Thanks to Jenny, we were in much better shape than we would have been otherwise going into the shoot. Here are a few tips we learned to make this type of shoot go a lot smoother.

1. Plan

We needed to take product shots of the various suits and their features. We also wanted to get some environmental and action shots of our models in the city. We made a lengthy list of specific shots we wanted to take. Having that plan in place beforehand was invaluable to us in executing the shots efficiently. Be sure to pad the amount of time you think you will need significantly. Something always goes wrong. In our case, New York's F-Train was behind schedule causing most of our models to be well over an hour late getting to the shoot location.

2. Scout the Location(s)

We scouted various locations in New York City. It's important to assess the light. In an all day outdoor shoot, you'll have to deal with harsh midday light for a good portion of the day. We went with locations where buildings and bridges provided plenty of shade. It's critical to get a feel for how much foot traffic is likely to be present during the shoot. We chose locations we thought would be relatively quiet during the hours we would be shooting.

Oh, and don't forget to check and see what, if any, permits are required at your shoot location.

3. Get a Stylist and Makeup Artist

And bring extra safety pins! We had a selection of shirts and ties to shoot. Some of the shirts were not perfect fits for the models. Our stylist was able to work some amazing magic with a few safety pins to make the shirt sleeves appear the right length and to accentuate the fit of the suit. He also made effective use of props in our action shots. Since we were photographing men in business suits, newspapers, iPads, briefcases and such were used to make the shots more interesting. Our makeup artist made the models look great despite wearing a wool suit in the middle of a hot Manhattan summer day.

4. Light Modifiers are Your Friends

Although we chose locations where we could avoid the harsh midday sun, we still made extensive use of slaved flashes, reflectors and diffusers. Reflectors were extremely effective for painting our models with nice light in the shaded areas. We also took several shots in a nearby park. It was a bright, hazy day so it seemed like harsh light was coming from all directions. A diffuser was a big help in making the available light a little less harsh in those shots.

5. Don't Neglect the Creature Comforts

Water, snacks, chairs and a collapsible changing booth were available for our shoot. If we didn't have those I'm sure that every one of our models would have looked like they had slept in an alley by the halfway point. These shoots are long and tedious at times for the models, particularly if there are multiple models being shot and a lot of waiting is involved. If the models are comfortable off camera, you'll get a big benefit in the form of better images.


TWiP Contributor: Dave Reynolds

Website: www.cluelessphoto.com and @cluelessphoto on Twitter


  1. Dont forget about the Apple logo on the iPad, dont want any infringements…. :-p

    Outdoor shoots are the time big packs, big heads, big monoblocks and big light modifiers. You guys are brave souls for venturing out with speedlights on a bright day! Kudos!

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