Finding Unique Clothes

For many concepts, you can get away with using the clothes in your client's closet or having her search for particular clothes to purchase for a shoot. But if you and your client are looking for more avant-garde outfits to photograph, you will have to put a bit more effort and research into the search. Here are a few tips for finding this unique clothing.

If you live near a college, check whether it has a fashion design program. If so, you are in luck. These students have no doubt made interesting pieces that they would love to have photographed. In fact, many colleges require students to have their senior collection (final college project) professionally photographed to put together as a portfolio of their work. Figure 3.4 is an example of a high-fashion jacket created by a fashion design student at Syracuse University. Because the piece looked vampire-esque, I chose to illuminate the image with dramatic side lighting.

Figure 3.4

If you are looking for interesting pieces of clothing, consider contacting fashion students at a local college or university.

Figure 3.4

If you are looking for interesting pieces of clothing, consider contacting fashion students at a local college or university.

Keep in mind, however, that most of these students have designed their pieces for models, so they will run small. These unique pieces may only be appropriate for skinny young women, but this might be perfect if you shoot a lot of senior portraits.

You might also consider hiring one of these students as a fashion consultant for your business. If there is a student who has work you like, she can become your wardrobe stylist.

On high-end fashion shoots, an individual is solely in charge of clothing. This person, the wardrobe stylist, is not usually the fashion designer. She doesn't make the clothes. Instead, she helps you select clothing to achieve the concept of your editorial and put together a cohesive look, including shoes and accessories. Believe it or not, many (even most) fashion photographers are not particularly stylish. They are much more concerned with the expression of their idea and concept and treat clothing as one small part of the equation. They hire wardrobe stylists whom they respect and trust to handle all the clothing.

You can consider hiring a fashion student or professional wardrobe stylist to style shoots for you. For example, if you are photographing an engagement portrait with a vintage fashion twist, you might have this stylist go around to local vintage and used clothing stores to help you find clothing that will achieve your stylistic goals. If you are comfortable doing this yourself, even better. Don't worry, however, if you are not much of a stylist; there are people out there willing to help and collaborate.

There are several places to begin looking for clothes:

■ The client's closet (or her friend's closet). You can usually find what you need for a shoot right in the client's closet. If your client doesn't have the right look and feel, have her check with her friends. Many of my clients place a request in their Facebook status and soon find someone who has clothing to accomplish the desired look.

■ Local boutiques and clothing stores. Local boutiques often have a variety of higher-end and more interesting clothing items. Some boutiques even let you borrow clothes for a shoot in exchange for images. Be sure to show them samples of your work, and let them know the type and number of images they would receive in exchange for borrowing the clothes. Certain boutiques let you borrow the clothes as long as you leave your credit card information in case of damage or your not returning. In Figure 3.5, I was permitted to borrow this beautiful gown for a senior portrait shoot from a local bridal and boutique dress salon.

Figure 3.5

Local boutiques and clothing stores may allow you to borrow some of their high-end clothing for your shoots if you provide collateral or images as compensation.

Figure 3.5

Local boutiques and clothing stores may allow you to borrow some of their high-end clothing for your shoots if you provide collateral or images as compensation.

■ Local vintage or used clothing stores. Vintage stores and consignment shops are like the antique stores of clothing. You never know what you will find, but you just might find a treasure. When I did a lot of shooting in college, I frequently checked out the local consignment shop for interesting finds. It's logical that when I do a vintage-themed shoot, vintage stores are the place to be. If you have a particular concept in mind, you might consider bringing along an inspiration shot to show the store owner. If the owner is friendly, he might help you find just what you are looking for. I found the clothing in Figure 3.6 at a vintage shop in London. The wardrobe stylist created the custom hair piece, and I hired a hair stylist and makeup artist for the shoot. The visual requirements of the shoot would have been too demanding to do myself; they required professional expertise.

■ Fashion design students. As mentioned earlier, fashion design students are sure to have interesting clothing styles and a strong fashion sense to advise you on styling your clients.

■ Online clothing stores. Various online clothing stores can help you (and your client) find just the right look. Clothing stores like ShopBop provide hundreds of designer clothing items at less expensive prices.

■ eBay. Over the years I have found tons of great items on eBay. From hats, to dresses, to furs, this is a great resource for unusual finds.

Jacket Desigmer Names Expensive

Figure 3.6

For this fashion editorial, I acquired nearly all the clothes and accessories from vintage and used clothing stores.

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