How to Become a Fashion Photographer

Four Methods:Assembling Your WorkMarketing Yourself for Photo JobsGetting Your Work SeenLearning About Fashion Photography

If becoming a fashion photographer is your dream, it's possible to achieve it with a lot of hard work, talent, and persistence. The field is notoriously tough to break into, but everything is possible, and there are ways to increase your chances for success.

Method 1
Assembling Your Work

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    Create a portfolio. This is essential if you want to become a fashion photographer. You will need to create a portfolio that showcases your professional work.
    • These days, many photographers are creating websites in order to showcase their best work. You can do this for free through sites like WordPress or get a website professionally done.[1]
    • Make sure that your website is updated with your freshest work and shows a variety of what you can do. You want to display your fashion photographs. If you have none to display yet, you need to work on taking some photos before you seek to book a shoot.
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    Make a photo book. Many people will want to see what is called a book. In this photo book, you will reprint your best photos to show to agents and magazines.
    • This book generally includes 4 X 5 inch transparencies to show off the work. Generally, you want to include 20 photos you’ve done in your book. Choose pictures that show your personality as a photographer. If your work has actually been in a magazine, show this.
    • Choose the images to match the job you’re seeking. You will want to tailor the choices and book for different jobs. Throw a few images into every book that demonstrate you have range, though.
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    Work for free at first. This is a great way to build a portfolio. You may have to do a few shoots for free for awhile. This is just the way it works. Many aspiring models would love to have you take photos of them because they are trying to make it in their field, too.[2]
    • Don’t do this forever or let yourself be taken constantly advantage of. However, you should consider working for free to practice and build your portfolio when you’re just starting out. Try to work alongside networked and very talented people.
    • How can you find places to work for free? Contact modeling agencies and non-profit organizations and offer your services. Use word-of-mouth to find aspiring models who need photos taken or advertise your services online (some people may be wary of such offers, though, so be prepared to provide your existing portfolio and explain your training in college and so forth). You could also ask a college fashion design program or beauty school if you could take photos.
    • Even if you’re not getting paid, you will learn a lot and make valuable connections that could lead to paying jobs. Networking is extremely important if you want to make it as a fashion photographer. If you work for free, you do gain the benefit of retaining creative control, and this can sometimes allow you to do your best work.
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    Get an internship in fashion photography. Another way you can build your portfolio when you are just starting out is to obtain an internship.
    • You can find many sites that list internships in fashion photography online. Simply Google the term "fashion photography internships" and many will come up. You may need to take a related internship in photography if you can't find something in fashion photography immediately.[3][4]
    • The typical posting for fashion photography may require you to have some portfolio samples (even if these are things you have done for free or through a college class) and they will often ask you to have your own equipment. You may need to relocate to New York or overseas for the best internships.[5]

Method 2
Marketing Yourself for Photo Jobs

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    Do your research. Before cold calling a photo editor in an attempt to get work, you should do your homework. Understand, for example, what the magazine does.
    • Know the name of the actual photo editor, rather than just referring to him or her generically. Call the magazine, and ask for the name and title. Pick a magazine that suits your style.
    • Label everything. You will want to make sure you include your name and phone number when sending in your work. Don’t send in original photos. Include a stamped, self-addressed envelope if you want to get the work sent back to you.
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    Get a photo agent. There are agencies that exist solely to help sell photographers’ work to clients. They can help get you jobs. The goal is to be booked for shoots, but some magazines will buy your stock photos too.
    • Some agencies will represent people who are just starting out. Getting an agent can save you time so that you can focus on your craft and let them do the negotiations.
    • Agents will often try to resell your work in different markets, too, and they may know the markets better than you do. Research the agent, and find one who doesn’t represent photographers who do exactly the same kind of work as you do. Otherwise the other photographers might feel too competitive. Act like your first contact with the agent is a job interview.
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    Market yourself. These days, good photographers get their work seen and get jobs by using social media as well as traditional portfolios.
    • Have a professional social media presence in which you focus on creating a brand for yourself and in which you present some of your best work.
    • Only put your best work out there into the world, though, whether it’s through social media or in a portfolio book. You must market yourself constantly in order to make it as a fashion photographer.
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    Start a fashion blog. A fashion blog is a great way to showcase your work and to even start branding yourself by building an online reputation for yourself.[6]
    • Pick your own domain name and make the mission of your blog clear. Keep the blog focused on your latest and your best work.[7]
    • You can create a blog through a free service like WordPress. Make sure you keep the blog up-to-date. It can help you come up when people search keywords. Make sure the blog photos are consistently professional, using proper lighting and backdrop. Think of it as an extension of your formal portfolio.[8]

Method 3
Getting Your Work Seen

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    Exhibit your photos in an art gallery. This is one way to get the attention of professionals who will pay you for your work or hire you for jobs.
    • Create a relationship with a photo gallery first. You can find listings of photo galleries through Photograph, which is a bimonthly listings guide, and through the Association of International Photography Art Dealers.[9] Typically the photographer gets 50 percent of the photo sale proceeds.
    • Telephone the gallery, and ask about submission policies. Galleries have different rules. Some will only review submissions several times a year. If they are interested, they will want to see a portfolio. When you are starting out, your work might be publicized as inventory versus getting its own show.
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    Focus on quality. It’s important that your work be consistent. This is very important. You should focus on making every photograph, especially those in your portfolio, the highest quality.
    • Be creative, though. Make trends, don’t just follow them. Create your own signature style that is true to yourself. Make sure to capture your subjects' emotions and personalities in your shoots. Your work will stand out more if you have a consistent style that is your own. You want people to know photos are your own simply because they have your own look.
    • Invest in good equipment to ensure quality. If you don’t have a good camera, you’re not going to take professional quality photos. Buy a few quality lenses, and learn to work with natural light. Be careful with the details. The clothes shouldn’t be wrinkled. The backdrop shouldn’t be dirty, and so forth.
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    Consider supplementing your income. It can be really hard to make a living as a struggling photographer when you’re starting out.
    • It’s often a good idea to have back-up plans to make money while you’re trying to get off the ground. You could take corporate photos or photos for weddings, for example.
    • You should assume you won’t make money for awhile, and you should consider whether this is the career for you as a result.[10]
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    Consider moving. Let’s be honest. If you really want to make it big as a fashion photographer, it’s the coasts where you will probably need to be.
    • New York and Los Angeles have thriving fashion scenes. Europe does too. If you want to stay in your small town, you’re probably not going to have many opportunities.[11]
    • It’s possible in some midsize cities to get work for catalogs or local modeling agencies, but being on the big city scene is the best way to network if you want to break it big.

Method 4
Learning About Fashion Photography

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    Take college courses. You may need to get professional training in fashion photography to learn how to advance from being an amateur to a professional. Schools in big cities with thriving fashion scenes, like London and New York, will be more likely to offer courses in fashion photography.[12]
    • Most university offer photography classes, and some also offer photography degrees. Research a university in your area and sign up. Professors sometimes also have good contacts in the industry. Some schools also offer fashion photography certificate programs.[13] You will be trained in every stage of a fashion shoot, from model direction to marketing.
    • Fashion photographers are not required to have college degrees, but you can learn a lot about lighting, digital photography and how the field works at university or trade school.
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    Learn editing. The best fashion photographers are experts at editing their photos to meet client needs, not just at taking the photos.
    • You will need to learn how to use computer software to crop photos, correct flaws in them and to alter images. You will need to be able to communicate clearly with clients about their needs and desires. Most professional photographers use editing software to improve the look of their photos.
    • You can learn these skills by taking a class in photo editing at a local college or technical school, unless you can find a way to learn them on your own.
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    Be persistent. There are a lot of people who want to become fashion photographers, so you should be aware that you will likely get a lot of rejection at first. Fashion photography is not an easy field.
    • Keep at it. Send out your work to many magazines and agents. Keep trying. Improve your photography with more practice to increase your chances of acceptance. Network!
    • Get a recommendation. Some magazines will only look at portfolios from people they know. So network! You can find someone who knows people in the places where you want to work if you become involved in the industry and industry functions.


  • You must be able to function well as a team member and team leader.
  • Work as an intern at a fashion photography studio or a fashion publication to gain hands-on experience.
  • Learn all you can about fashion and art. Knowing past and present trends will help you gain a better understanding of how to present your photographs.
  • You'll need artistic sensibility.
  • Organizational skills are essential for planning shoots and, if you want to be a freelancer, running your own business.

Article Info

Categories: People and Portrait Photography | Fashion Industry Careers