Planning for Fashion Shoots

This class is part of a series of fashion photography classes where Karl teamed up with Next Model Management’s Kariss Craig, professional fashion stylist Bianca Swan and makeup artist and hair stylist Shanine Levrier for an intensive week of filming high-end fashion photography. The results form part of our newest fashion course, a new series, that details each and every step of fashion photography.

This initial chapter covers the planning required for a successful fashion shoot – from selecting the right model, sourcing the best outfits and sketching sets. Followed by further classes, this fashion photography course will equip you with all you need to know to conceptualize and successfully bring to life your creative and eye-catching ideas.


  1. Hello Karl,

    I have a question about comps. As an artist, I find it quite easy to make sketches prior to a shoot to get an idea of what I want. Sometimes they are simple, sometimes they are more complicated. Usually I start with a simple sketch to give me an idea what I want with the lighting. Then I will scout locations and clothes. After I have a good idea where I want it to be and what clothes are available, I make more refined sketches to nail down the colors I want. I also make an attempt at sketching out poses, but these are more for framing than poses because models usually do things I wouldn’t think of but that I prefer to what I have in my drawing. You can see some examples of these on my website:

    My first question is this: Should a photographer show their comps as part of their portfolio? I’m concerned it might be distracting or even misleading if the final shoot shot doesn’t look exactly like the sketch. I saw a comp you showed in one of your videos, a black and white stick figure or cartoon of an angry man breaking a golf club. That sketch was so rudimentary that I don’t see how anyone could expect you to make a photo that looked “exactly” like it, though it conveyed the idea well enough. In my case, the sketches are more realistic, making me wonder if I could lock myself in to a sketch prematurely from the client’s point of view. On my end, I sketch them out so that I can make a few decisions before I get to a shoot to save time, so I would make them regardless.

    Second: Can comps substitute for a mood board? I ask this primarily because I have always found mood boards to be somewhat irritating because they don’t represent exactly what one intends for a shoot but a number of related concepts. I prefer to find those and use them as reference for a comp where the disparate sources are integrated into a single image.

    1. Hi, the process you are following and the level of pre-visualisation is excellent as that will always result in a better outcome. I only show my sketches as part of the education platform to get people used to the idea of doing this, I don’t show them to clients. When working for art directors/agencies they provide me with the sketch, in fact the angry golfer was a client job with that sketch provided from the art director. Mood boards I think are always a good idea as a sketch is great for composition planning and working out lighting but a mood board with sample images gives you a better idea of the feeling of a shoot. Pintrest is a great resource for creating mood boards and I generally use them for the ‘feel’ of the lighting, colours, etc.

  2. Hello karl. This video has been out for a longtime, i don’t know if you are still notified with new comments.
    There s something that i don’t understand. Who was this fashion for? Was this only for your book or for a brand that paid you to do it? It seems that during this video you were figuring out what dress from what supplier you would choose, so that means it was not and order from those brand to purchase your services? So it was fir your own portfolio that you invested so mucj effort, people and ressources? How about your project in island? Was it the same?

    So much question, sorry mate.
    Have a winderful day and thank you as always for all your work. You had me progressed so much !

    1. Hi, there were three brands in this shoot, on of which i’d shot for before and another called Pronovias who the stylist has worked for and another brand I didn’t know. Our main objective was to shoot this for our own portfolio and for our tutorials. However this process of ‘calling’ for dresses through a stylist is common as many fashion shoots are editorial features in magazines and it’s the photographer and stylist that decide the shoot. It’s only the very big campaigns where the brands dictate what needs to be shown but even then they work with top stylists. Often big fashion brand adverts is more about the image and simply getting the brand name out there than any one particular piece of clothing, you’ll see this in every womans mag adverts. For a great example on professional fashion shots check out our live show replay with Daria Belikova. Cheers Karl.

  3. Hi Karl. Assuming Krissy isnt able to see this conversation, and now that the shoot is complete, can you talk about how you felt she worked out. You hinted at some concerns you had in the planning stage because she had a very limited range of expressions evident in her portfolio. I’m not talking about her specifically, buy can you talk about how you knew that, how you tried to address it on the shoot, and whether or not you were successful. A lot of us are going to be working with amateur models less experienced even than Krissy and so we are very likely going to face some of the same issues. In my experience good models are more like good actors and have to be able to take on personalities and moods that the shot calls for. But this is a rare talent. So I think learning how to coax the best results from our models is an important part of a successful shoot.

    1. Hi Paul, you raise some very good points, I’ve also always said then good models are great actors. With Kariss and it’s no problem if she reads this, is she is in the new faces section at Next Model Management which means exactly that, she is new but with a lot of potential. Next Models are one of the big players and they only hire the best or best potential talent and they spotted this in Kariss. She has had experience on several fashion shoots and most fashion shoots require a rather ‘disconnected’ or ‘indifferent’ expression from the models. Other agencies such as BMA models or MOT Models that I’ve used cater more for ‘Lifestyle’ models and you would expect that they can smile or take on a ‘role’ too. However if I was hiring from Next’s main board I would expect this too. The key thing with Kariss was helping her to understand the character that I wanted her to become and it comes down to my ability to explain what I want clearly and get the model on board with the ideas. And I reitterate she did this superbly in all the following shoots, but in the initial meeting with my stylist I did have my concerns because there was nothing in her earlier portfolio to demonstrate this. Once I showed her my mood boards and previous work and engaged with her then I felt she delivered perfectly, so the bottom line is clearly explain the brief to the model, give her ideas, give her the characters to imagine, show mood boards and direct and encourage them on the shoot. At the end of the day though, no matter how beautiful the model it always comes down to their personal confidence. Without that it is very hard to get something from them.

  4. Hello Karl, I been following your work for years and added some of your techniques to my workflow years ago. I’m so happy to officially be one of your students although I been shooting since the nineties. I want to shoot solely medium format because of the detail I get from these systems, and I just prefer to shoot with that type of camera. I’m I wrong to feel that way?

    1. Hi Fareed, thank you for joining our platform. In answer to your question yes the larger the format generally the higher the quality as you will recognise from the days of film. In my opinion the Hasselblad Medium Format is the best reproduction possible and currently the 100mp is my camera of choice.

  5. Hi Karl, I’m very interested in this series as I’m starting to incorporate models with my pet photography. My question is for some one starting out with limited funds, what advise do you have for approaching designers to possibly rent outfits for shoots? All of my photography with dogs is for personal project, so I do not get any funding for these shoots. Thank you.

  6. Hi Karl. Unsure if you cover this in the upcomming episodes, but i’m really curious about this: is it you and your team alone who decides the creative look and approach of the shoot, or is the client “ demanding” . Are you suggesting your approach with the client before doing anything or are you given free hand and is the client happy whatever the outcome ( trusting your professionalism) As you can see on my question: i have no experience in fashion shoots but it looks extreme interesting

    1. Hi Letsdoit, it depends some clients have very specific requirements and others like to work with the photographer on ideas. In fashion photography there is obviously the style of the clothes (urban, high fashion, chic, luxurious, street, sexy, regal, business etc etc) and that will often dictate the story or mood boards. For example you are not going to photography ultra tech scifi style fashion in a barn with a cowboy hat. This is why mood boards and sketches are an important part. Also view the business course as we cover some of this in that to regarding specific art direction from clients.

Leave a Comment