FASHION has a special place in photography. Although the subject matter is clothes, jewellery, dress accessories and make-up, it can also serve as an indicator of social behaviour.
Fashion photography is principally a professional concern. The market for this kind of image is commercial - as in advertisements and fashion magazines - and there is a strong element of elitism.
Fashion images call on the talents of art directors, fashion designers, models and stylists as well photographers, and considerably influences public taste as well trends.
Photographers require a strong sense of design (and one that is sufficiently flexible to move with changing fashion), fine attunement to the fashion ideal of the moment and an ability to stage-direct models.
Essentially, fashion features fashionability - regular seasonal changes are necessary in the industry. Thus, presentations of new fashions must exaggerate their stylistic differences (even minor ones).
Some of this burden falls on the photographer even as the art director is required to improvise frequently.
Indeed, the editorial pages of fashion magazines are filled with essentially similar subjects on similar themes. Usually, this means women's dresses and achieving a different look in each set of pictures are something of a perennial problem. Normally each set, which may be shot in one-to-two-hour sessions over a period of several days, has a definite theme.
Fortunately, this theme may be suggested by the dress collection. For instance, a particular colour combination or a new type of material. If not, one must be invented. It may be purely graphic: a compositional style, an overall colour arrangement or a motion-blur technique. Alternatively, the theme may be built around a setting or a collection of props.
Nowadays, a significant proportion of fashion shooting takes place on location, using unusual, exotic settings to give a stylistic identity or attitude.
When the photographic subject is clothing, the scale of the set calls for reasonably powerful lighting, except when it's standard lighting for beauty shots. However most portraiture is inclined towards conservative lighting.
The demand in fashion photography for that "different" style tends to produce a greater variety of techniques which favour experimentation and originality.
Within any one market there is usually a consensus of style at any one time, with certain photographers leading the way. The history of fashion photography, while showing pronounced differences, also displays consistency in its entirety.
The pronounced elitism in the fashion industry calls for much more critical judgment of style than in most other fields. This definitely defined assessment tends to suppress styles that are unpopular along the lines of its major opinion makers, that is, the principal couturiers and magazines.
Beauty photography almost exclusively spotlights women.
As the principal work done is that of the make-up artist and hairstylist, the photographic emphasis employs set-off techniques that enhance facial attractiveness. Lighting techniques which are designed, in portraiture, to flatter, are developed here to a high degree of sophistication. As the make-up can take some of the photographer's duty to shape the face, the lighting used is heavily diffused to give the make-up artist more flexibility.
A typical lighting arrangement employs a broad frontal light with a strong shadow. This gives an evenly lit area for the application of make- up even as it conveys some degree of structural form through very soft shadows.
Professional beauty shots often demonstrate new styles of make-up with models being chosen for the suitability of their faces for the particular style.
In non-professional beauty photography, the make-up usually has to make the subject look as attractive as possible, enhancing her best features and hiding the flaws. Large, well-spaced eyes are usually considered most attractive and make-up assists considerably to convey this impression.
Eye-shadow applied to the outer edges of the eyes, for instance, will help make them appear more widely spaced. Similarly, eyebrows can be re- shaped or re-drawn and lips made to appear fuller with lipstick.
Overall, the combined application of foundation, powders, highlighters, blushers, eye-shadow and various creams and make-up can re-model the structure, colour, texture, smoothness and tone of the face. For example, the cheekbones can be made to seem more prominent by lightening the upper ridges and darkening the area underneath to give an impression of very slight hollow in the cheeks. * Next fortnight: Architecture photography.