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How to Light a Fashion Shot

The difference between a good fashion shoot and a great one isn’t the model — it’s the lighting.


  • : When shooting on location, special permits or permission may be required. Check with the property owner or governing body at your specific location for details and requirements.
  • Step 1: Scout for interesting angles and light Once you have a location, scout for specific angles and interesting natural light. You can do this alone and well in advance of your shoot date.
  • Step 2: Set up a date and time Set up a date and time far enough out to acquire your assistant, model, and any permits you may need to shoot in your desired location.
  • TIP: The hours right after sunrise and just before sunset are considered the 'Golden Hour' for photographers, because of the richness of the light. Try to set up your shoot to happen or encompass this time frame.
  • Step 3: Arrive first Be the first to arrive at the shoot. Bring coffee and breakfast items for the crew and models. You’re a professional, after all.
  • Step 4: Pose model Get the first model set up in the desired position.
  • Step 5: Position model to face light Position the model facing the main light source. If you’re using natural light, this is the sun.
  • Step 6: Fill light at shadows Have your assistant hold the light reflector to shine some 'fill light' wherever there may be shadows on the model. Point the reflector toward the darker areas by catching the natural light and reflecting it onto the model.
  • TIP: The lighter the portion of the reflector, the softer the light. Try the white before you go to gold or silver.
  • Step 7: Compose your shot Compose your shot.
  • Step 8: Focus on subject Focus on subject.
  • Step 9: Take light reading Take a light reading by metering the subject.
  • TIP: For simplicity’s sake, utilize all the natural light you can by placing the sun to either side of the model.
  • Step 10: Select settings based on readings Select your shutter speed and aperture, based on your readings.
  • TIP: To get very fashion-esque shots, try using a short depth-of-field, blurring out all but the model herself.
  • Step 11: Start shooting Start shooting while having the model gloriously showing off what is being modeled. Don’t be afraid to shout direction and ideas toward her.
  • Step 12: Keep shooting Shoot until you run out of disk space or film, and when you’re content you have the desired 'shot.'
  • FACT: There are pending court cases on whether photographers can use private buildings as backdrops.

You Will Need

  • Camera
  • Model
  • Fashion items or accessories
  • Light disk or reflector
  • Natural light
  • And an assistant

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