Planning and executing a fashion photography shoot

From concept through to model direction and editing, Canon Ambassador Evely Duis guides upcoming photographer Killian Jouffroy through a professional fashion shoot.
Two people study a page of fashion prints showing the same dark-haired model in a variety of outfits.

Killian Jouffroy joined seasoned fashion photographer Evely Duis on a professional shoot, which saw the mentor and mentee taking a series of images of model Zohra Sabbahi. "The shoot with Evely was a chance to try something out of my comfort zone," explains Killian, "and to learn the essentials of fashion photography from an expert." © Julian Vis

Fashion photography shoots require careful planning – from the choice of models, clothes, make-up and overall aesthetic, to the specific cameras, lenses and accessories used to capture proceedings. What are the key creative and practical steps that pros take to progress a fashion shoot from concept to final images? Here, professional fashion photographer Evely Duis mentors young pro Killian Jouffroy through the process.

Belgium-based Killian is nearing the end of a cinematography course in Brussels. Although he's passionate about the moving image, he also has a long-standing affection for stills photography. "I'm a photographer first, and then a cinematographer," he explains, "but both worlds help with each other. In stills photography you have to freeze the moment, whereas in video you have to capture more but still control your focus and framing."

Killian started his own portraiture and lifestyle photography business three years ago and has found himself increasingly busy. Working alone through the Covid-19 pandemic has had its drawbacks, however, especially for a young photographer eager to keep developing his skills and knowhow. So, when seasoned professional Evely offered Killian the chance to experience a fashion shoot for the first time, he leapt at the opportunity.

Born and based in the Netherlands, Evely runs her own fashion photography studio and has worked with some of the biggest fashion brands in the world. Renowned for her meticulous planning, creative flair and penchant for introducing pre-loved items into her imagery, Evely was excited to give Killian a glimpse into the world of fashion photography.

Two people stand in front of a laptop, both looking at the screen, with a Canon EOS R5 on the table next to it.

Evely and Killian began planning the shoot several weeks in advance, deciding on a style that complemented both of their approaches. "When I was searching online for 2022 catwalk looks, I noticed the 'Tinker, Tailor' style, which is a blend of feminine and masculine," says Evely. "Both Killian and I thought it would be good to blend the gender stereotypes." © Julian Vis

Step 1: Pre-shoot planning and preparation

Evely met Killian early one morning in her photography studio for the shoot, but preparation for the day actually began weeks before. "I like to plan the shoot ahead of time to make sure we have a clear direction on the day," Evely explains. "I start by gathering mood boards for styling, checking models and their availability, and looking for fashion trends."

The two photographers spent a few weeks putting together mood boards of different ideas for the shoot, settling on the boy-meets-girl 'Tinker, Tailer look', which appealed to the pair as a male and female duo working together and suited both of their photographic styles. Evely says she likes to create one main mood board full of trends, lighting and composition inspiration, with several smaller referential mood boards for areas such as clothing, styling choices, models with particular looks, and so on.

This long-term planning is very different to Killian's usual prep, which he says focuses more on the technical aspects of photography and lighting. "I mainly shoot portraiture and lifestyle images, so I put emphasis on finding the right location and lighting day-to-day for my business. My knowledge is more basic in terms of clothing, so it was interesting to learn more from Evely in that respect," he says.

A female model poses at a high tabletop underneath a beauty dish. A male photographer leans in to take a shot, and a woman stands to the side offering direction.

A beauty dish is used in fashion photography to concentrate light on the subject while creating diffuse, flattering shadows. Umbrellas work in the same way. © Julian Vis

A portrait of a female fashion model posing with her head tilted slightly to one side and her chin resting on her lace-gloved hand.

Killian was working with the Canon EOS R6 in the studio. "It's a great camera – especially with regards to the eye detection," says Evely. "It's possible to quickly switch up poses and you know that the image is in focus where it should be." Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens at 1/200 sec, f/8 and ISO100. © Killian Jouffroy

Step 2: Choosing cameras and lenses

After sharing screenshots and image inspiration, Evely and Killian got together for the day's shoot. As a full-time pro, Evely shoots with the Canon EOS R5, with her most-used lens being the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM. This L-series lens has incredible image sharpness, as well as a wide constant maximum aperture and 5-stops of image stabilisation for performance in all lighting conditions. She also uses the Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM due to its flattering compression and ability to produce a shallow depth of field.

Killian shot on the Canon EOS R6, using the same lenses as Evely throughout the day. Occasionally, they switched to the Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM, utilising its 1:1 magnification for closer crops and detail shots (above right).

Discussing her frequent use of the Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8L IS USM (and its EF counterpart) and the Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM, Evely highlighted that just because those lenses can shoot wide maximum apertures, she rarely does. "I'll shoot at f/5.6 or thereabouts 95% of the time," she says. "The fashion photograph is about the make-up, the hair, the styling, and most importantly the fashion items. It's no good shooting wide and having just the eye in focus when you need to have the clothing and make-up sharp too. This is what the client is most keen to capture."

This makes fashion photography particularly accessible to students and newcomers, because you can achieve a similar look with inexpensive lenses, such as the Canon RF 85mm F2 MACRO IS STM and Canon RF 24-240mm F4-6.3 IS USM.

Two people leaning in to look at the back of a Canon camera.

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A close-up of a model in colourful eye make-up, a jacket and a printed scarf around her neck, looking at the camera.

"For this image, I went for a more classic beauty photography approach," explains Evely. "The lighting is a setup that you see a lot in make-up campaigns. I added some movement in the hair and the scarf to add just that little bit extra to the image." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 100mm F2.8L MACRO IS USM lens at 1/200 sec, f/5.6 and ISO100. © Evely Duis

A model in colourful eye make-up, a jacket and a printed scarf around her neck, laughing and looking down to the side.

"Evely shot first, so I tried to create something a bit different," explains Killian. "Evely went more for a serious pose to make the make-up pop, but I wanted to focus on the overall look. The smile brings joy and the scarf makes the image come alive." Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 70mm, 1/200 sec, f/6.3 and ISO100. © Killian Jouffroy

Step 3: Test shots, styling and picking compositions

Evely and Killian began the day taking test shots of each other to check the lighting – something Evely rarely does with her model, as it saves time and money to have everything set up in advance.

In terms of styling, combining pre-loved and contemporary pieces is a constant theme in Evely's fashion work. By mixing a modern jacket with a vintage scarf (as seen above), she showed Killian that it's not all about the latest items when it comes to creating original images. Evely prefers starting with simple looks and working up to more complex setups as the day progresses. "She told me that it's easier for everyone this way," explains Killian. "The make-up artist can build their work in layers rather than continually stripping things back. Hair can be styled more quickly this way, too."

When composing images, Evely points out that there are distinct differences for shooting editorially and in print compared with capturing images for online use and social media. Shots where the model is larger in the frame – perhaps just a head and shoulders crop, such as the one pictured above left – would work better on social media because the size of the photo on the smartphone feed is bigger and more powerful when viewed on such a small device.

"For social media I use a 4x5 crop, however, when I shoot for magazines I must take into account the negative space around the model, where copy will appear over the images," she explains.

A fashion model, shot from the knees upwards, wearing a long black jacket over a short printed dress, and lit so her profile is just visible as a shadow on the pale background.

The shadows in this image were created using two v-flat light modifiers. "I chose black and white for this image to amplify the contrasts," explains Evely. Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/200 sec, f2.8 and ISO100. © Evely Duis

A full-length shot of a fashion model wearing a long black jacket over a short printed dress, lit so her pose casts a shadow on the pale background.

Shooting from different angles maximises photographic opportunities, even with the same model, backdrop and clothing. Sometimes a crouch down towards the ground, or standing up higher can produce multiple perspectives from one setup. "I'd seen this kind of contrast photography on the internet and I wanted to try it out," explains Killian. "You can do a lot of looks with one light source and I really like hard lighting. I made the shadows even darker in post-production to increase the overall contrast." Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 53mm, 1/200 sec, f/4 and ISO100. © Killian Jouffroy

Step 4: Directing the model

Killian finds his more successful photography sessions are those where the subjects take the lead, with him just giving gentle suggestions of moving the body and face to fine-tune the final look, rather than telling them a specific pose to strike. Interestingly, this isn't dissimilar to how Evely works.

"Professional models are usually great at translating my suggestions into their own style," she explains. "My directions are led by the styling of the clothes. A big flowing dress needs to be shown with movement, so we may shoot in a standing position. I'll talk to the model to discuss their thoughts on how they would naturally interpret this."

Evely and Killian agreed that the more they forced a pose onto a model, the more awkward and stiff the result would be. However, by going in with a strong concept and letting the model interpret that in their own way, they ended up with natural, flowing poses that complemented the clothing.

If you're working in a studio with a team around you, both the Canon EOS R5 and EOS R6 can be tethered to your PC or Mac via Wi-Fi or USB, so you can instantly see and review your images and make necessary adjustments. Both photographers shot tethered to a laptop, and found it helpful in a number of ways. Firstly, it removed the need to download the images later from the memory card, saving time editing; secondly, a bigger screen helped highlight mistakes, blemishes or anything that needed changing or correcting. "The whole team can look at the screen," explains Evely. "The model checks their posing and can make adjustments without direction, the make-up artist can make changes on-the-fly based on how the photos look, and even an art director or representative of the client can help direct the shoot creatively."

An androgynous long-haired model wearing a striped top and scarf lies on a bed.

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A person edits an image of a model on their laptop, while another person watches them. Behind the laptop is a large monitor showing a different image of the same model.

Evely rarely edits her fashion images on the same day as a shoot. If her deadline allows, she prefers to step away for a few weeks and return to them with fresh eyes. © Julian Vis

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Step 5: Editing the final selection

After the shoot, both photographers took some time away from the camera before getting together again on a different day to go through the images and make selections before editing.

"I'll take half an hour to edit an image, and if I have 10, 20 or more images to edit, I just can't fit it in at the end of a long day's shooting, so I take a break and edit on another day. I also find I get too involved with the shoot to do it straight after so, if possible, I prefer to edit a week or two later," says Evely. "I'm doing this all the time so while it might take me half an hour to edit an image, someone with less experience would need longer."

Killian and Evely first did a sweeping edit of their work, selecting their favourite images by making a series of passes to edit groups of good shots down to the very best. They gradually became more critical with each pass, checking for smaller details each time, until, finally, they had selected a few favourites that they would be proud to present to a client.

Prints from a fashion photoshoot are laid out, showing a dark-haired model in a variety of different outfits.

Killian and Evely used a Canon PIXMA PRO-200 to print out their favourite images, which they then compared and contrasted. "With prints, you can put a little more distance between yourself and the image than you can with a digital screen," explains Evely. "You see the image more clearly, and you notice different things." Killian's photographs from the shoot can be seen on the left, while Evely's are on the right. © Julian Vis

A model wearing a dress and printed blouse stands side on to the camera, turning her head to look at it.

Evely was particularly pleased with the lighting in this shot. "Killian used harsh light on the model's face to make it the main focus of the image," she explains. "The clothing is still well exposed, though, allowing us to see all the details – it's a fashion shoot after all, so that's very important." Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens at 125mm, 1/200 sec, f/5.6 and ISO100. © Killian Jouffroy

Killian's side-on portrait of the model in a printed blouse (above right) was one of Evely's favourites from the shoot. By moving in closer with a longer lens, Killian was able to isolate the model from the set and create an intimate portrait. "The contrast of the strong expression mixed with the cute clothing works great and provides a well-balanced image," says Evely. "The pose and expression will still be on point even 10 years from now, that's what I really like about it – it's timeless."

Killian adds: "For the lighting in this shot, Evely had a great idea to use a piece of cardboard to act as a light modifier. It took some time to get it right, but when every flash was set correctly, the lighting was insane. It is very different in each part of the picture. That, for me, is what makes the contrast in this image and the contrast is everything for me."

Jason Parnell-Brookes

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