The Art of Fashion Photography by Dixie Dixon
As a fashion photographer, my ultimate passion is bringing out the beauty and soul of every subject I photograph, while also making the clothes stand out! If you’re looking to create iconic fashion portraits, you might try some of these simple techniques to make your images sing:
1. Find Inspiration: It is important to start out with a vision for your shoot. What story are you trying to tell? Come up with unique ideas for hair, makeup, and wardrobe beforehand that fit your story and communicate this vision to your subject.
2. Research your subject: Try to get to know your subject before you shoot. Research them on social media to find out their hobbies, favorite music, and interests so you have some topics to talk about when they arrive. This will help them feel more comfortable and at ease so you can capture their real, raw personality.
3. Lighting is everything: Try utilising natural sunlight. I always try to shoot at the most flattering times of day, so I’ll start shooting in the early morning and then break for lunch during harsh midday sun, and then shoot until the sun sets. Or if you are stuck shooting midday, always look for shade or create your own shade with a scrim. A subject’s skin will glow in magic hour and shade.
4. Check your white balance: Keep it simple and try using the auto white balances on your camera, such as the cloudy or shade setting. These tend to warm up skin tones and are flattering on most people.
5. Choose shallow depth of field: This basically means setting your cameras aperture to F2.8-3.5 (my personal sweet spot) so the background falls beautifully out of focus and draws more attention to you subject. At F2.8, the eyes will be tack sharp and you can see the bokeh in the background.
6. Overexpose skin tones to make skin glow: I personally overexpose my skin tones by about 1/3 to 1/2 a stop and the reason is that it tends to make my subject’s skin more glowy and luminous, and in return, there’s less retouching needed. You don’t have to go by exactly what your meter says, go by what looks great.
7. Use higher angles: For beauty headshots, I always shoot from a slightly higher angle. The reason for this is that whatever is closest to your lens will appear largest. So when you shoot from a slightly higher angle, the eyes of your subject will appear largest and stand out, while the chin is lessened! If you tried shooting a headshot from a low angle, the chin is closest to the lens and appears largest, which is not a flattering look and creates double chins.
8. Place your subject at an angle: Everyone loves looking thinner in photographs. A great way to do this in camera is to not shoot headshots straight on. Try angling your subject’s shoulders slightly away from camera to make their frame appear smaller.
9. Use a longer focal length lens: I always use longer lenses for beauty headshots. I absolutely love using the Nikkor 200mm f2 and 300mm f4 lenses, and the reason is that these longer lenses have a compression effect on faces and backgrounds. This is how I create all of my iconic beauty images. Never use wide-angle lenses for headshots because it will make the nose and forehead look much larger. For instance, if you have a 70-200mm lens, try backing up and zooming to 200mm and then taking your headshot. You’ll be amazed by the results.
10. Balance the colours: I love using complementary colors in my work—basically, colors that are across from each other on the color wheel. For example, try using color combinations like red and green, orange and blue, or yellow and purple. This gives your photograph a three-dimensional look. So if the background is green, try having your subject wear the color red so they stand out from the background.
11. Move your focus to the eyes: When I am photographing someone, I want the eyes to be the focal point of my portraits. So as I am shooting, I move the focus to the eyes to get them tack sharp.
12. Experiment with different compositions: Try placing your subject in different parts of the frame to see which one is strongest. Sometimes a perfectly centered image creates the most impact, and other times placing them slightly off center and leaving negative space creates a more dynamic look.
13. Make a connection: In beauty, the connection is everything. So once you’ve mastered your settings, lighting, and composition, then it is time to focus on getting great energy out of your subject. I always have music playing and give tons of positive feedback as I shoot. This helps me bring out my subject’s personality and confidence.
14. Always shoot through moments: I don’t do much posing when photographing people. I guide them through movements instead. It is important to keep the positive energy flowing and to keep shooting even if you’re not getting exactly what you need right away. When your subject hears that click, they think they are doing a good job, which builds confidence. So I may burn through some digital files in order to get the exact shot I am looking for, but it’s always worth it.
BIO: Dixie Dixon is a Texas born and bred commercial fashion photographer. Just a few years out of college, this 20-something’s career is unfolding one adventure after another.
She was given her first Nikon Camera, a Nikon FG, at just 12 years old, which piqued her curiosity in the field and served as her sidekick in exploring the world. She would continually clock seven to 10 hours in the darkroom without even realizing it. While in college she studied in London with a world-renowned fashion photographer and became deeply inspired by the beautiful illusion of fashion and commercial photography.
It has been said that her idealistic vision of the world is reflected into every single frame—full of life, beautiful energy, and most of all, Soul. Her passion has lead her to shoot internationally in places such as Cannes, Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Ibiza, and Barcelona recently for various brands, TV shows, commercial campaigns and editorial projects. Just this year she was named the 2013 Emerging Photographer of the Year by GraphiStudio.
“Honestly, I’m an incurable dreamer with a wild imagination. That’s what I truly love about fashion photography—there are no rules, no boundaries, just pure self-expression. Anything your mind can imagine, you have the power to bring to life in a single image or series of pictures. It makes me so happy to be able to work with such amazing creative people day in day out.”