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Taking models on the catwalk is a skill that some take for granted, but few photographers do the job as well as they could. But your job at a fashion show is to somehow take perfect photos, while being in a crowd with other photographers, cliched like sardines in a bank, in a dark corner of a very hostile environment where most things are beyond your control.

Before we begin, remember that the purpose of catwalk photography is to provide a consistent set of quality images for designers or media publications covering an event in the fashion world. Qualitative!

how to photograph the catwalk fashion show

Now let’s move on to the specific ten tips (the order of significance is arbitrary).

Bring a telephoto zoom lens with you

To capture the podium, a sufficiently high shutter speed is required to capture moving models at the right time of their step (tip number 6), and also to minimize any blurring from holding the camera with almost one hand among all the photographers. A bright lens will allow you to open the aperture to f / 4 or f / 2.8. It should be open enough to fit in focus the full-length model and most of the podium.

Shoot in manual mode

Even at the best exhibitions in the world, lighting is not completely uniform from one end of the podium to the other. And sometimes this is done intentionally. In any case, you depend on the lighting designer (or sometimes its lack). This is a problem for automatic camera shooting modes, and if you rely on them, you may find that the settings vary significantly from shot to shot, which leads to a lot of extra work in post-processing to achieve uniformity. One of the main reasons why it is recommended to shoot in manual mode is the need for the integrity of all images.

In order to set up a camera for shooting a fashion show, you can start by setting the shutter speed based on the rule of thumb for the focal length for manual shooting. Using a 70-200 mm lens, set the speed somewhere to 1/200. Image stabilization is likely to slow down your shooting, but you should not take into account such “troubles.” Further it is necessary that the aperture be used near f / 2.8 – f / 4 in order to visually separate the background and the model. You can start with ISO 400 and raise it only if there is not enough light (read: the light completely sucks!).

The best lighting on the catwalk that you can find allows you to shoot with a shutter speed of 1/200 at f / 4 ISO 200, but most displays are not so generous in the light. However, if the lighting is decent, you can shoot at 1/125 f / 2.8 ISO 800. If you need more light, you will have no choice but to increase the ISO.

Come to the place of shooting in advance

Until you are one of the photographers hired by the designer himself, or you don’t have the support of an organization such as Getty, for example, you will have to come early to take a normal place for shooting. The fight for the best spots at the end of the podium is tough. Time is your friend!

Once you have won your place, do everything possible to protect it. The best way is constant security, but if you need to leave, try leaving some clear indicative sign, such as a camera case, a piece of tape with a name or, better yet, just leave an assistant or friend to take your place for reliability.

Fortunately, most photographers generally respect the requirements of others for space, but as the time approaches for the show, it often becomes very crowded.

How early is this “advance”? Depending on the quality and profile of the show, it is recommended to arrive 30 minutes (up to an hour) before the scheduled start. The local designer is likely to take less time, but Victoria’s Secret is much more. You will notice that there are always photographers trying to squeeze in at the end, who are usually greeted by the groans and grunts of those who came earlier. These latecomers are often forced to shoot from the extreme corners, sometimes getting in the end more viewers at the show in the frame than the podium itself.

So where is the best place? A good option would be to center the podium, as close to its surface as possible. For an unopened podium, this means on the floor, yes.

Leave the flash in the camera bag

Fashion show is not a place to use flash. Yes, in films only flash and blink at the end of the podium, however …

Let’s start with the most important: photography at a fashion show is usually not a solo activity, which means that you are not the only person who takes photos. If everyone adjusts their exposure manually depending on the surrounding lighting, then everyone can safely shoot the same subject at the same time, without interfering with each other. Peace and harmony at the end of the podium!

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