Crikey it’s been a while since i had time to upload anything for a blog – but i thought i’d post a few belated pictures from last Septembers London Fashion week.
So – how do you shoot a fashion runway or catwalk?…… What even happens at one of these shows?
At a major show like London there is fierce competition and you’re lining up with some very accomplished photographers from all over the world….. best charge your batteries and be on your best behaviour.
The set up is that spectators line the runway and photographers bunch together at the very end – the models therefore walk continuously towards you….head on & at a brisk pace before turning on their heels, casting a moody look, and motoring off back down the catwalk.
This alone tells you that you need a fast focusing camera and lens combination. At this even there were zero mirrorless cameras, and you can make of that whatever you will….. there’s a a whole heap of overworked, competitive, and well seasoned photographers sitting at the end of this runway and they want results all the way up the catwalk. The ladies move fast…. and through about a 25 metre distance in varying degrees of light and shade (more on that later).
To put it bluntly your camera focus and lens better keep up.
Ladies & Gentlemen – grab your positions
The floor at the end of the runway will have been marked out with tape into various little boxes. This has been done previously by the ‘House’ photographers and various agencies who, for reasons of editorial reach, will take some kind of precedence. But hey, various individual photographers can also tape-out a square for themselves and effectively stake a claim. Don’t do this square at the front and centre….. because the house photographer or videographer will simply ignore it….and they have the right to. What you can do if you’re willing to get there a little early is nestle down under the tripod of the house videographer though…..and this will give you a great ‘square on’ position looking right down the barrel of the runway.
There’s a lot of etiquette to these things…. but don’t despair if you can’t get front and centre…. some of the more interesting shots are often made when you arrive too late to get in the throng…. maybe even after the show has started ….. look for the big wide taking in the whole spectacle or an interesting long lens shot from a not so obvious angle. It’s all good.
At the end of the individual walkthroughs the models all troop through together and all of a sudden being to one side and off-set isn’t such a bad place to be. I was late to this show because it clashed with the previous one, so here i am at rear, offset to side and standing on a box. It’s still a nice shot that shows the atmosphere and size of the show.
A staple lens is 70-200mm which is used to track the model up the fashion runway. There is a lot of travel involved so focussing is going to be moving and continuously servo-driven. The good news is that there is a good degree of predictability to the subject movement, in that it’s linear and not erratic.
You will want a good wide angle (24-70mm) zoom to capture both wides and the models when they get close to you at the end of the runway…..and they WILL get close. To close for a 70-200mm to make much sense of.
Models start way back and sashay up the walkway – ending up very close to you and your long lens.
An agency photographer is not shooting raw. I man, they can be shooting raw – but they’ll be planning on using the paired jpg and getting it out fast.
You’ll be wanting to nail the settings then…..
The bad news is that despite being ‘lit’ by continuous lighting – those the runway lights aren’t particularly powerful and areas of the runway may be better lit than others. Consequently there will be varying areas of exposure value that you’ll have to ‘ride’ either manually ‘on the fly’ or using Av or Tv Priority. Personally i ride the exposure manually and that way i know what Dof and shutter speed i’m at.
Shutter speed will need to be pretty quick – 1/400 – 1/500 up the runway and possibly dropping sharply when the models hold position and pose momentarily at the end of the runway. The movement here is not so pronounced and you can drop to 1/100 or even 1/60 believe it or not… Risky though.
As you can see from the shot above as compared to the models in the background at the start of the runway, and at mid-point, the exposure is very different. This is still a relatively narrow aperture so i’ve dropped the shutter speed to provide a quick fix while the model isn’t moving too fast. It will sometimes be a toss-up between DoF and shutter speed … you pay your money and take your choice.
I try to get settings in my head for the start , middle and end points and capture those. The ‘grey’ areas in between are still useful and it’s not an exact science.
Whilst the lights vary in intensity – they don’t skew too much in colour temperature. You’ll set this in K by taking a few test shots before the models move down the runway. If in doubt ask another photographer what the light is at – they’ll most likely tell you.
Don’t be surprised to find the colour temperature is very warm….. set designers often use tungsten and at low intensity the tungsten is even more orange than usual. A K value between of 3000 – 3800 is not uncommon.
To be honest this last shot could still be at 70mm – but she’s close and therefore you do need to be prepared to grab another camera if you have one and use a wider lens.
Lights in the show above were bright – more uniform in intensity and closer to daylight…. but still tungsten.
Models above are making their way back down the runway in a long line….. there’s enough DoF to make it interesting but still ‘read’ the scene. The framing is uncropped and i think makes for an interesting quirky shot. Too much of the bottom on the left would make the picture wrong somehow. The show is basically finishing and you have all your fashion shots….. so there’s now time to be playful.
Congratulations – you are now one of the ‘beautiful’ people and may sip Campari and Soda on a gondola in Venice. Now when someone asks what you do you can tell them you shoot fashion and have every right to be wearing some kind of stuffed animal as a hat or a pair of leggings.