How to: Shoot Fashion Editorials on a Budget

No matter who you are or where your career as a fashion photographer is, always come to a shoot prepared and organized. That means having a strong idea of the creative direction for the shoot, what clothes you are going to shoot, and a detailed shot list so that everyone knows what to be doing and when to be doing it.

You need to be thinking ten steps ahead — will you need any props for the model to hold? Do you need a fan or leaf blower to create a windswept look? Do you need to use multiple different lighting techniques or will one type suffice?

When starting out as a fashion photographer, you will need some help from your friends to build your portfolio. Choose friends who have a good selection of fashionable clothes and who look great in front of a camera — they will probably be flattered that you asked and more than willing to help. A fashion photographer always needs assistance on a shoot,

so utilize other friends to help set up shots, adjust the lighting, organize the clothes, or style the model.

Basics of running a fashion shoot Here are some things you need:

1. Complete looks — you can style them in advance if you know what you’re shooting
2. Complimentary items to shoot with your clothing line — for example: if you’re shooting leather jackets, your model needs to wear something underneath, you’ll need to decide what that is and get it in advance
3. Model & photographer (possibly a photographer who will also retouch photos afterwards
4. For the most part if it’s fashion it should be shot on a white or grey background — you’ll need an actual set for this

Concept and Styling Aesthetics

When I’m talking about styling. I’m talking about fashion and set design. Do you need to have people on set that do both? No. It would help, but ultimately no, you don’t need them. Having a stylist is ideal but budgets don’t always allow for that. If you research ahead of time, you can do great styling on your own.

Considering you have a budget of close to none, should be scouting for talent around you. With social media being such a big part of our life right now, there will always be someone who knows someone, who is married to someone and will fit the bill.

Contact them and let them know what you can offer. If you can’t pay, you can offer the photos for their use. Explain your conditions and plan on signing a model release

When working with models you’ll be amazed at what they already have in terms of wardrobe. It’s a great idea to put together style guides that help the models pull wardrobe they already own. Then ask them to send photos of wearing 2–3 outfits before the shoot.

This helps get a sense of what you’re shooting and decide any additional accessories or pieces you might need for the shoot.

Before any shoot that you are planning, keep in touch with your models all the while giving them their space. Keep them in the loop by explaining them what is going into the photo shoot you are planning so that they understand all the work you’ve been putting to pull one off. Without pressuring, carefully instill responsibility. Give them ample heads up before a photo shoot.

Planning something out of the blue might be good for your creative self, but your models might have different plans, Set design is about thinking creatively. You can grab textured boards, wallpaper tapestries etc. and do wonders. Again, it’s about that elbow grease. But if you schedule out your time you’ll have a few days before the shoot to create the backdrop that your client will like.

Any location might render useful as long as it connects with your idea and your concept. You can use your garage with couple of simple lights, a cloth backdrop or paper backdrops which are not going to cost you an arm and a leg.

If you already got yourself a fancy camera being a fashion photographer, it won’t cost much to invest in some lighting equipment. Until you are ready to build a serious studio, you can manage with “homemade” equipment as long as you know what you are doing. In a studio environment where the ambient light is virtually non-existent

When working with small budgets see what you can use around your house or even your friends places. I find that plants, textured blankets, crates etc can help a photo look more polished.


Unless you’re working with a fashion company as a fashion photographer, you will need to figure out how to tackle wardrobe and props.

Thrift Stores are basically donation-based shops run by charity-driven organizations. Members of the community donate used goods, including clothes, shoes, and accessories to the organizations running these stores. You can visit such stores and hunt for your requirements. Thrift shops are really cheap and have a huge accessory collection.

Consignment Stores which sell gently used clothes and accessories on behalf of the community members, also know as consignees and take a percentage of the sale price. These shops are comparatively expensive to Thrift stores but are sufficiently stocked with shoot-appropriate garments. If you are looking for something specific for your shoot then explore such places.

When searching I like to keep an eye out for props and accessories that can be used on a number of shoots. If you have your references, you’ll know what you’re looking for and what fits in your budget. No matter what the budget is, set a small percentage aside to cover wardrobe and props. This will help you later. Don’t assume you won’t need anything. You’re going to have to buy an accent or two to make your shoot work. You’ll be happy you did!

At the end of the day, whether you have a zero budget or an unlimited one, the best thing to do is to build your prop collection slowly. You’ll find that you will come across a lot of items once you start to see everything as a photo prop, but there’s no sense in adding them all to your library.

With practice, you’ll soon find out which items don’t photograph well and are just eating up valuable real estate. Don’t waste time or money on those duds. Keep your library streamlined and uncluttered. It’s better to have quality pieces that will work for a variety of scenarios than to have a bunch of things that you’ll struggle to make work.


when most fashion photographer envision their dream studio, they usually imagine a big, scary dollar sign next to it. The good news is that with a little resourcefulness, putting up your own studio doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg.

A little ingenuity goes a long way in putting together your photo studio. Say you found a great place for your studio, but you’re not willing to spend thousands on the rent — save money and time by setting up your studio in an unused room at home.

Instead of spending on a backdrop and lighting, you can make use of old sheets and materials you can buy from your local hardware store, such as PVC pipes, bulbs, and lamp holders, which will definitely cut your budget by more than half.

Many of the things you thought you had to invest on, you can make from things you already have at home. What’s even better about making your own equipment is that you can customize them so that you get exactly what it is that you need for your studio set-up.
If you’re up to the challenge, keep on reading to find out how you can put together your own DIY photo studio on a budget.

Those are just a few ways to get a high-quality look for you project on a small budget. If you see yourself doing photography for a while.As a fashion photographer, you should put the time into building your studio, styling and wardrobe closets.

Writer & Web Designer

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