Fashion and Beauty photographer, Tobi Sobowale, shares her guidance for photographing street style at Fashion Week. Paris Fashion Week is running from 25th September – 3rd October 2023 – so if you’re in the city why not try adding another string to your street photography bow!
I am a Beauty and Fashion photographer born and raised in London. Earlier this year in February, I decided to photograph streetstyle at London Fashion Week (LFW) and it was my first time shooting this kind of photography. I recently went to New York Fashion Week (NYFW) and will be attending the Paris one this week. Below I share some of the tips and tricks I’ve learnt whilst developing my skills in this area.
Top 10 tips for photographing street style at Fashion Week
Photographers opt for different lenses when photographing streetstyle, I used a Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8 at LFW. The zoom lens allowed me to have some versality in my photos. However, as a beauty photographer I also wanted to get closeups of people’s faces and details in their outfit. Because of the crowds of photographers and fans outside of the shows, it can be quite difficult to get close to people so I had some limitation with the 24-70mm.
For NYFW, I used a Canon RF 70-200mm for most of the week, and I enjoyed the capability of the zoom, especially when trying to capture details amongst a large crowd. However, it also meant that I was only able to capture full-body shots of guests at shows when there were not huge crowds. Ultimately, there is no wrong or right answer when it comes to lenses. The most important thing is that you understand what you want to photograph.
This is also another personal preference but it’s important to understand what you want to capture in your photos and how you would want to present it. I tend to set my f stop quite high (f8- f11) as I love to capture texture in people’s skin when photographing beauty. And when capturing streetstyle, I love showing the urban environment or the crowds of people surrounding the guests. However, if you want the focus to be on the guest and the clothes they’re wearing, then you may decide to lower your f stop.
What do you want your photos to focus on? Is it a full-body photo to show the whole outfit or do you want to capture details? Do you want your photos to have a documentary feel – where you’re capturing people passing by – or do you want them to stop and pose? These decisions will affect the lenses and focal points you choose to use.
Be quick and attentive! If you don’t focus, you can miss the moment.
Be mindful of others
There’s nothing more annoying than when a photographer steps in front of a crowd of the other photographers when taking a photo. I met a photographer at NYFW, who would take his photo and then move out of the way. It can be tempting to stand there and get as many photos as possible, but I think we should all try to be more like this New York photographer.
What is your style and how do you differentiate your work from other photographers? Just to be clear, when it comes to streetstyle, for me editing does not include retouching. I colour grade using Capture One, playing with the colours, highlights, and shadows. There are many photographers that are capturing streetstyle at fashion week and essentially, we’re all taking photos of the same person. Editing is one way to differentiate your work. However, the lens, composition, focal points, narrative also can contribute to individualising your work.
I went to NYFW with Whitley Isa, Esosa Cheryl and J.Pamela Stills. We are all members of the Black Women Photographers community, which was founded by Polly Irungu. I mention this here as engaging with people when taking their photos is something that they are all good at.
In the hustle and bustle of fashion week there is not always time but at the smaller events or slower shows, there is often an opportunity to give direction on posing, and sometimes to talk to people and learn more about them. If you want to get someone’s attention, be nice! A compliment often goes a long way, you can mention something about their work, if you know of the person or you can compliment their outfit.
Beware of fans!
At some shows such as Michael Kors, Christian Siriano, Altuzurra and Carolina Herrera, there are a lot of fans, often with iPhones in their hands. A lot of the shows at NYFW are at public locations so it can be difficult to navigate at times. This is when lenses such as the 70-200mm come in handy.
A big mistake I made at NYFW was not have some sort of external lighting. Some of the shows such as Tory Burch were in the evening, which meant it was pitch black outside. I mainly relied on the flashes going off from the other photographers’ cameras and borrowing a flash from a friend. However, I would recommend having a source of flash or continuous lighting.
Although hectic, I enjoy photographing streetstyle at fashion week, whether it’s talking to other photographers, running from location to location between shows or manoeuvring the crowds of fans. It’s important to have fun!
For further inspiration, here are some photographers to look at:
Yossy Akinsanya https://www.instagram.com/yossyakin/
Simbarashe Cha https://www.instagram.com/simbarashecha/
Emily White https://www.instagram.com/emilywhte/
Many thanks to MPB for the Canon RF 70-200mm f2.8 lens used in these photos.