10 top tips for shooting fashion photography

Discover the secrets of high-impact fashion photography with expert tips and tricks that will elevate your portfolio to the next level.
A woman wearing an orange hoodie and orange socks sits on an orange chair against orange walls and floor, leaning forward to rest her elbows on her knees and looking at the camera. Taken by Jaroslav Monchak on a Canon EOS R5.

"I worked with a team that included a clothing stylist, make-up artist, hairdresser and photo shoot manager," explains fashion photographer and Canon Ambassador Jaroslav Monchak of this colourful shot. "I used one light source, which was a studio flash that was directed at the white wall to the left of us. This gave a soft light that reflected off the white wall. I quite often use this method to get a soft light that resembles daylight from a window." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM lens at 70mm, 1/125 sec, f/5.6 and ISO 125. © Jaroslav Monchak

Ukrainian fashion and commercial photographer Jaroslav Monchak specialises in tightly composed, superbly lit and stylish portraits infused with nuanced storytelling. His clients include international brands and top fashion magazines and, in order to deliver the high-end shots they demand, he needs to be on top of his game technically, particularly when it comes to lighting.

Based in Lviv, Ukraine, the Canon Ambassador started taking photographs in 2005, shooting mostly landscapes and macro images. "When I eventually tried portraits, I discovered they always offered me something new – new emotions, new people, new energy," he says. "I enjoyed it so much, I decided to take it to the next level and bought my first DSLR and a 50mm lens. After a while, I was able to turn pro and open my studio, where I taught myself how to work with light. Once you've mastered how to work with light, as well as how to handle the camera, everything else falls into place."

When it comes to capturing the essence of high fashion today, the Canon EOS R5 is the only camera for Jaroslav. "The overall fantastic image quality makes it possible to give the photos to the client immediately after the photo session, without even processing them!" he says. Jaroslav switches between the Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM lens, which allows him to shoot with a wide aperture – ideal for scenes cloaked in low light – and the Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM, which affords him the quality of a prime with the versatility of a zoom.

Jaroslav's photography school, Lighthouse, has helped thousands of students, so he knows a thing or two about getting the best out of both models and photographers. "I tell my students to start with a close-up, and encourage them to gradually pull out to include hands, shoulders, hips and legs in the frame. But always gradually; there's never a need to rush," he says. "Do not regret a single click! This method helps to gradually encourage a person's natural behaviour, behind, as well as in front of the camera."

Here, Jaroslav explains his techniques for fashion photography and shares 10 tips for capturing pro-level beauty and fashion shots.

A woman sits on a stool leaning forward and resting her elbows on her knees, in a photo taken by Jaroslav Monchak on a Canon EOS R5.

"This photo shoot was for a practical lesson at my photography school," says Jaroslav. "Here I worked with my team, which includes a clothing stylist, make-up artist, hairdresser and photo school administrator. We wanted to recreate the style of the 1980s, and every member of the team did their job perfectly. I used only the light from the window that was located to the right of us. This is my favourite light source." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM lens at 50mm, 1/250 sec, f/2.8 and ISO 800. © Jaroslav Monchak

A woman wearing a floaty white top stands outside, raising her arms above her head and facing away from the camera with her head turned slightly towards it and her eyes closed. Taken by Jaroslav Monchak on a Canon EOS R5.

"This photo was taken at a 24mm wide angle," explains Jaroslav. "This gave me the opportunity to get a kind of deformation of proportions, but at the same time gave the effect of perspective. I encourage fashion photographers to try shooting wide angle and low; sometimes this can create really dynamic compositions." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R and a Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens at 24mm, 1/2500 sec, f/2.8 and ISO 200. © Jaroslav Monchak

1. Keep lighting simple

"As a fashion photographer, it is very important to learn how to use light correctly. Lighting can make or break your picture, but that doesn't mean you need to spend a lot of money on professional lighting gear. For most of my photos, I use just one light source and a white reflector. Think simple: choose your location, see what you have to work with, then think about how to light it. If it is possible to shoot only in daylight then I will, and with just a reflector to enhance it. If I do need extra light, I'll use either constant artificial light, such as a Canon Speedlite, or a strobe. I never mix the two. I would advise only ever using one type of light source.

"My favourite light source is light from a window, and I really encourage you to learn how to work with daylight from a window, before you invest in a lighting kit. Ask your model – maybe a family member or friend to begin with – to stand or sit no more than two metres from the window. Shoot from all angles and sides to understand how the light falls on the model and how that affects the overall image. For example, if you want even light, without shadows, turn the model to face the window and stand with your back to it. This light is good, but not very interesting because it has no volume. Turn the model about 30 degrees and you should get interesting shadows which emphasise the shape of the face; try a 45-degree turn and you will see even more of a change in contrast."

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2. Go dark in the studio

"I prefer to work on location but sometimes it is necessary to work in a studio environment. If you want to create a studio environment, I recommend making the space as dark as possible, as it's important that daylight doesn't interfere with your scene. Use a strobe light or a Canon Speedlite to focus interest on the model, and the light from a pilot lamp to focus and see where the shadows and highlights are. In the studio, I usually shoot at shutter speeds of about 1/125 sec."

3. Experiment with artificial light

"I prefer to use a constant studio light or a studio strobe, but a ring light – usually a single circular fluorescent bulb or several connected small LED lights in the shape of a circle – can also be useful for shooting fashion and beauty. Lighting accessories, such as softboxes, umbrellas and reflectors, can affect the look and intensity of the light. Another useful technique is to play with the direction of the light and the distance between it and the model. All of these choices affect the character of the light that you create – and the best way to learn what works and what doesn't is to experiment. For soft light, I position large softboxes close to the model; for hard light, I use standard reflectors, 15-20cm in diameter, or a tube – although that can be harder to work with because it casts harsh shadows. The larger the softbox, the softer the light will be; the smaller the area, the harsher the light.

"If I'm out on location, or shooting in the street, I sometimes pair a 60 x 60cm portable softbox with a Canon Speedlite 430EX portable flash (now succeeded by the Canon Speedlite 430EX III-RT), which gives me interesting light in places where there is no access to mains power."

A close-up of a woman's lower face and chest, with her head tilted and her chin resting on her hand, taken by Jaroslav Monchak on a Canon EOS R5.

"This image was a commercial photo shoot for jewellery," expains Jaroslav. "I used studio flash and softboxes, which allowed me to get good detail, sharpness and clean white balance. In commercial photography, these are important factors." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM lens at 54mm, 1/125 sec, f/9 and ISO 125. © Jaroslav Monchak

4. Adjust white balance

"Modern Canon cameras, like the Canon EOS R5, make it possible to get accurate colours immediately, which do not require processing or filters. That said, I still recommend photographers make all possible and optimal exposure and white balance settings before and during the photo shoot. For example, one of the first things you need to do before you begin shooting is adjust the white balance, and reset it each time you move to a new location. The colours you see in real life will then be the same as the colours you see on screen and in print. The camera reproduces colours faithfully, but if you're in a scene where the light is particularly warm or cool, or with lighting from several sources, things can get tricky. If you're new to fashion photography, the camera presets are useful, but to shoot like a pro, take a shot of a grey card and tell the camera to set the white balance using the Custom WB setting."

5. Pick the right camera

"Choosing the right camera is just as important as lighting. I need cameras that can perform in all conditions and deliver high-quality results. When I need that extra high resolution, I opt for the 45MP resolution EOS R5. The image quality and colours produced are incredible and so true to life.

"For video shooting, I love how the EOS R5 gives me the opportunity to shoot in 4K and change the proportions in the finished video. For example, I can make a horizontal video vertical for social media, with minimal loss of quality."

A man in a room lit by blue and magenta neon light stares at his reflection in a circular mirror on the tiled wall. Taken on a Canon EOS R by Jaroslav Monchak.

"Mirrors are a great prop for playing with composition," says Jaroslav. "I loved the colours created by the neon light, so I relied solely on that, rather than add extra artificial light." Taken on a Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM lens at 1/160 sec, f/2.8 and ISO 5000. © Jaroslav Monchak

6. Experiment with different lenses

"For fashion and beauty shoots, I used to prefer the Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM lens. It was my first ever zoom and I'm just as happy with it today as I was the day I bought it. But nowadays, I usually prefer the Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM. This lens is incredible because it's kind of a mix of a fixed and a zoom lens. The f/2 aperture is almost like that of a prime, but at the same time it offers a really flexible range of focal lengths. These qualities make it convenient for all sorts of photography, not only fashion shoots.

"I'll also use the Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM because it's a lens that has very good sharpness and blurs the background at the same time. I get a good opportunity to highlight the model or the main object from the background.

"When it comes to composing the shot, I recommend experimenting with all the focal lengths you have at your disposal, which is especially convenient if you have zoom lenses. It's also a good idea to play with angles for something more unusual. For a more traditional shot, learn the basic rules of composition – the rule of thirds or the golden ratio, for example, but don't forget about creativity where breaking the rules can also produce an interesting result. Photography is creativity!"

7. Manual vs semi-automatic modes

"I mostly use manual mode, as it gives me greater control of how the picture turns out. That said, if you're shooting on location on a cloudy, windy day, with frequent changes in light intensity, switching to Aperture priority mode [Av on the mode dial on Canon cameras] gives you the ability to automatically adjust the exposure, which means you can concentrate on some of the other technical considerations – such as your model's pose, the emotions you want them to convey, and the composition of the shot."

A woman looks away from the camera as she sits at a pebbly beach while holding a pair of boots, taken on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV by Kid Circus.

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By adding full-frame mirrorless options to their fashion photography equipment, Kid Circus and Jaroslav Monchak are changing the way they shoot.

8. How to focus

"When you're shooting fashion and beauty photography, the focus, more often than not, should be on the model. That might mean a full body shot if you're highlighting an outfit on a fashion shoot, or just part of the model if you're shooting shoes, accessories or make-up. Autofocus is helpful, and fantastically reliable on the Canon EOS R5. If your subject is moving – jumping, walking away or dancing, for example – switching to Eye Detection and Tracking AF helps you to follow the model and keep them in focus. Autofocus speed is important in fashion photography, because you often have to take dynamic photos and the speed of autofocus becomes decisive, which is why features like eye tracking are so useful."

You can also use the Touch & drag AF settings on your EOS R5 which allow you to use your finger to change the focus point on the camera's LCD screen.

A woman wearing a suit pushing a pram is at the front of the frame, out of focus, while behind her and in focus are a lake and two mountains. Taken by Jaroslav Monchak on a Canon EOS R5.

"This image was for a commercial for a brand of baby prams," says Jaroslav. "It is unusual that here you can hardly see the stroller itself and it is not in focus at all, but this photo demonstrates and complements a whole series of photos where the main focus was the baby stroller. I like to use layering in the photo. For example, you can clearly see the first layer where the girl with the stroller is, then the second layer is the mountain on the left side, and the third layer is the mountain on the right side. Together, it creates volume and perspective." Taken on a Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM lens at 62mm, 1/1000 sec, f/6.3 and ISO 250. © Jaroslav Monchak

9. How to get the best out of the model

"I once photographed a female psychologist and told her to relax and not worry. After that, she advised me never to say to models in such situations, 'Relax, you're tense', because this makes the effect even worse, and the model starts to tense up even more. Instead, just start with some nice, simple natural poses and tell the model that everything is going great. After a few minutes, you will see how the model starts to pose and look more natural.

"Some photographers prefer to use fast continuous fire modes, but this is too fast for my style. I prefer to create photos with an interval of 2-3 photos for one second. This creates a more considered, calm approach, which also helps to settle the model."

Starting with a longer lens could also procvide a little more space for the model, and once you've gained more confidence, you could use a shorter lens with a wide aperture.

10. Leading a team

"If you, as the photographer, are the initiator of the project, then it has to be your responsibility and goal to motivate your team as much as possible. Stylists, make-up artists, the model, your assistants, everyone! You need to inspire them and convince them how important it is that everyone invests their energy to make the project happen, exactly as you want it. The whole team needs to be on the same page, and that comes down to you and how you manage your team. The easy thing here is you can pick your team – people you trust to do the job. To do this, I recommend you know what you want to get out of the photo shoot in advance. In many fashion projects, the process of preparation is very important. Make a mood board so you can communicate exactly what you want and need with the rest of the team. These visual aids will really help you to explain your vision.

"Other times, usually on big commercial projects for a creative agency that has been commissioned by a particular brand, the agency will pick the team – a large team consisting of contractors who you don't always know and who work for the creative agency, rather than you. But you still have to be able to lead and inspire people. Unfortunately, just taking good photos is not enough; you need to be a leader too."

"And that's it. Once you know how to work with light, the camera, the model and the team, you've got it!"

Jaroslav Monchak's kitbag

The key kit pros use to take their photographs

A Canon EOS R5 camera sits on a graffitied piece of concrete.


Canon EOS R5

Capturing 45MP pictures at up to 20 fps, the Canon EOS R5 combines quality, performance and power. "The JPG in this camera has good colours and the overall fantastic image quality makes it possible to give the photos to the client immediately after the photo session, without even processing them," says Jaroslav. "It also has a really reliable Wi-Fi connection quality, which is helpful as I often work with a laptop connected to the camera."


Canon RF 50mm F1.2L USM

This RF lens sets new standards in photographic performance, delivering supreme sharpness, extra creative control and a low-light performance that’s simply remarkable. "This lens allows me to work at a very open aperture, and in locations where there is little natural light," says Jaroslav. "This lens always gives a good result, and I really like the 50mm focal length."

Canon RF 28-70mm F2L USM

Offering exceptionally high levels of sharpness and low levels of distortion, this lens is a firm favourite of many photographers, especially fashion shooters. "This lens is incredible because it's kind of a mix of a fixed and a zoom lens," says Jaroslav. "These qualities make it very convenient for all sorts of photography."

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