Which Lens and Shooting Space are Required for a Fashion & Beauty Shoot? Part 1

Part 1: Fashion

The Studio for Fashion.

When preparing to embark on a Fashion or Beauty shoot, it is important to know what the environment  and shooting space you will be doing your project in is like.  For the sake of clarity, I will commence with a classic fashion shoot in a moderately sized studio and will follow with the beauty shoot in the same environment.

Location and Studio fashion shoots require very different approaches to the choosing of your focal length.  In both cases however it is important to be sufficiently prepared for all of the possible permutations that you may consider during the shoot.  However, when shooting in studio, you are often limited by the size of the workspace, the width of the background and the distance from the subject.  If you are in a small space using the standard back drop, you may find that you are compromising between the distance of the model from the background and the focal length required to get the entire subject in to the frame.  Not only is this a major constraint, but if you are thinking of back drop lighting as well as back lighting the model, the compromise between the focal length and getting the coverage required within the width and height of the backdrop may be problematic.

If you are in a position to work in a large space, these limitations will be pretty well eliminated except for the width of the backdrop.  If you have the luxury to work with a full “Cyclo” studio where you can paint the backdrop, then the possibilities become pretty well limitless.  In the most positive of conditions where space is not a limitation, the choice of focal length will have more to do with effect than necessity.  Your only limitation will be the height of the studio.  Ideally you will have a 5 meter high studio (18-20′).  This will allow you to sit on the floor and shoot up in to the subject if desired, without having to photoshop in the backdrop above the models head.

When shooting in a smaller studio using the standard backdrop and working within a distance of around 12-20 feet or 3-4 meters from the subject, I find that a 40-50mm APS or between approximately 50-80mm in Full Frame format to work very well for full silhouettes of a 178-180 cm 5′-9″-5′-11″ model to work quite well.  You will find that the model will be around 6 to10′ (1.5-2.5 meters) in front of the back drop, allowing you to light the background.  This is usually what I find works when attempting to get the model and backdrop in to the frame without having to Photoshop in the background texture.  Thus, a minimum of 25′ or 6 meters  in length is the minimum for a classic studio set up, for me at least.  More is always better of course.  You will need at least 15′ in width or around 3.5 meters to be able to set up side lights and back lights..

In the classic fashion shoot studio situation, one can get away with just three focal lengths from 24 through 35 to 50mm in APS format or 36-75mm.  Thus a good zoom might do the trick, like a Sigma 24-70 or any other brand with a constant aperture between 24-70mm.  In some cases, some of the better kit lenses  (18-55mm) can work quite well if stopped down to optimum aperture.

I also suggest that the backdrop go up in height to a minimum of 9′ or 2.5 meters. Ideally 12′ or 3.5 meters would be better.

I have just saved you a load of cash.  Shooting with your 24-70  or 18-55mm kit lens at the optimum performance of f5.6-f11.0 will give your 24-70 or 18-55mm close to prime focal lens quality.  You can show up to your shoot with a couple of bodies, one for back up, one lens and a flash meter, as I often do.

End of Part 1

About Benjamin Kanarek
Fashion and Beauty Photographer. Some of the magazines I have shot for include: VOGUE (China, Portugal, Brazil, Italia, Paris and South America & Mexico editions), RG VOGUE Brazil, Harper’s BAZAAR (China, en Español & Latin America, Hong Kong, Italy editions), L’Officiel Paris, ELLE (Spain, Portugal and Greece editions), Madame Figaro (France), Cosmopolitan (France and Italy editions), Glamour (France), Votre Beauté, Jardin des Modes, Dépêche Mode, New York Daily News, Fashion District News, New York Times Magazine, W (British edition), WWD, Fashion Magazine (Canada), Flare (Canada), Oyster, Tank, WestEast…