How to shoot your friends like fashion models

Fashion and beauty photographer Jade Keshia Gordon offers 6 simple tips for creating stylish shots for your social feeds or shopping sites.
A woman with long braids being photographed in the street by her friend, who is holding a Canon EOS R6.

Where do you start if you want to add a fashion edge to your Instagram feed or bring a more polished look to your pictures on fashion shopping sites? "Styling is key," says fashion pro Jade Keshia Gordon. "Everything from the clothes and location to the hair and makeup has to go hand in hand. It's all about creating a feeling. Most of the fashion model photos you see online are designed to get you in a buying mood, so think about how the photographers have achieved this using the light, location, colours and poses."

London-based fashion and beauty photographer Jade has been shooting professionally for 10 years, and has gained a reputation for delivering cool, contemporary concepts. As with many pros, she learned her craft doing photoshoots with friends.

Here, she shares six simple tips that can add a fashion model aesthetic to your portraits, whether you're shooting with an EOS camera, a Canon PowerShot or a smartphone.

1. Choose a location that complements the look

A portrait of a smiling woman with long braids wearing a blue tie dye t-shirt.

Your location can be just as important as your subject. If the background is busy, blur it by shooting at a low aperture on a prime lens. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/320 sec, f/2 and ISO320. © Jade Keshia Gordon

"It's important to choose a location that doesn't distract from the fashion on show and, ideally, that adds to the overall look," says Jade. "If the outfits you're photographing are loud and colourful, I would probably choose a plain backdrop.

"The main thing is to make sure your friend feels comfortable within the space. If they're a bit shy, you don't want to take them somewhere busy where everyone will be staring at them. Head to a quiet open space or car park instead.

If you've got enough space, you could even do the shoot in your bedroom or living room. There's a lot you can do against a simple white wall." Learn more about simple home photography studio setups in this article.

2. Come up with a running order

A woman with long braids wearing a pink cardigan.

Select your outfits beforehand and have an order in mind of when your subject will wear them. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/640 sec, f/1.4 and ISO320. © Jade Keshia Gordon

A woman with long braids sits facing away from the camera, with her head turned back towards it. She is wearing a matching tie-dye top and leggings.

You might want to plan the order of the shoot depending on the hairstyles, starting with the simplest first. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/200 sec, f/1.2 and ISO320. © Jade Keshia Gordon

Hair and makeup are as crucial to a fashion-style shoot as the clothes themselves. Jade recommends selecting the outfit first, then the hairstyle. "If you're planning on showing a few outfits, think about the running order. You want to make it easy for your model to transition from one hairstyle to the next. Decide which hairstyle will go with each outfit and then work out a running order, starting with the simplest hairstyle first."

3. Research some ideas for fashion poses

A woman with long braids poses on a pavement wearing a pink cropped cardigan and high-waisted grey jeans.

Your subject might find posing a bit awkward at first, so start with natural positions that they feel comfortable with. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/640 sec, f/1.4 and ISO320. © Jade Keshia Gordon

A woman wearing a blue tie-dye outfit flicks her long braids behind her.

Have fun with your poses. Jade asked her friend to flick her braids here, which adds movement and helps to create a striking fashion portrait. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/320 sec, f/2 and ISO320. © Jade Keshia Gordon

Jade recommends preparing a mood board to give your friend a feel for the type of look you're aiming for. "Nothing too overwhelming," she says. "Maybe a Pinterest board or a few magazine cutouts, showing a few posing ideas, hair and makeup suggestions and possible locations.

"If someone isn't used to posing like a fashion model, ask them to imagine they are trying on clothes in front of a mirror. It's often easier to assume the position yourself to demonstrate what you want. Just asking someone to walk towards you can be effective too. It will help them to relax and you'll be able to get some candid movement shots at the same time."

4. Use props to give your model something to focus on

A woman with long braids and glasses wearing a lilac jumper and a small blue satchel across her body.

The crossbody bag gives the model somewhere to put her hands. Taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark III (now succeeded by the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV) with a Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 USM lens at 1/125 sec, f/1.8 and ISO50. © Jade Keshia Gordon

A woman in a tie-dye t-shirt drinks from a takeaway cup.

Using everyday items as props can help to make poses appear more natural. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/400 sec, f/2 and ISO320. © Jade Keshia Gordon

"Find a prop – it could be a bag, a phone or even a cup of coffee – to give the hands something to do. When your model has warmed up, you can ask them to do the same thing again but without the prop. Sometimes I ask the model to take a seat and do a simple slouchy pose. It's all about providing a distraction and giving the model something to focus their attention on."

5. Experiment with different lenses and shooting positions

A woman crouches down wearing a matching blue tie-dye top and leggings and white trainers.

Adjust your shooting position and experiment with different angles to create dynamic and diverse portraits. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/320 sec, f/2 and ISO320. © Jade Keshia Gordon

A woman leans against a wall wearing a matching blue tie-dye top and leggings.

Crouching down to shoot from a lower angle is a great way to make your subject appear taller. Taken on a Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 85mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/250 sec, f/2 and ISO320. © Jade Keshia Gordon

Jade says that you really don't need a lot of kit when you're starting out in fashion-style portraits, with a standard EOS camera kit lens giving you lots of options for different looks. "An 18-55mm lens such as the EF-S 18-55mm f/4-5.6 IS STM is good because you can crop in tight on details and then zoom out to show the full outfit, including the shoes. If you want to take it to the next level, then an affordable portrait lens such as the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM, with its wide maximum aperture that makes it easy to blur backgrounds, is a great upgrade."

If you prefer mirrorless, the versatile Canon RF 35mm F1.8 Macro IS STM lens for the EOS R System cameras such as the Canon EOS RP is also ideal for street work and close-up photography. The Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM and Canon RF 85mm F2 Macro IS STM lenses are also great alternatives for portraits, while the all-purpose Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM is a compact and lightweight zoom lens for everyday use.

Standing back and zooming in on your friend will produce a more flattering portrait than if you stand close and zoom out wider. Your choice of camera angle also makes a difference. "Unless they're pretty tall already, most people like to look taller," says Jade. "You can do this by shooting from a low angle, which will make your friend's legs look longer. So don't be afraid to squat down and take some low shots!"

Whatever lens you're working with, Jade recommends starting with full-length shots before cropping in tighter. "Show them the first couple of shots, so that you can reassure them that they look really good. Then you can suggest some close-ups. Ask them to pull funny faces or play around with a scarf or hat. That will help your subject to loosen up.

6. Shoot videos alongside your photos

The back of a Canon EOS R6 showing a portrait of a woman on the touchscreen.

While you're taking photos, why not shoot some fashion portrait videos too? One of the big differences between shooting videos and photos, is that you need to think about your 'cut' points – where your video clip will start and finish, or where it cuts to another clip. Start recording before and after these points, to make it easier to edit clips together in video software.

Jade advises shooting video each outfit shot. "Your model will know how the outfit moves, which in turn will help them know how to move," she says. "When it comes to directing fashion videos, I want everyone to have fun. I asked our model to twirl, walk towards me, put her hand towards the camera and move away – she was even giving me some really cool high kicks. It just shows the fun we were having on that shoot."

Written by Marcus Hawkins

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