What’s your flavour? Categories in Fashion Photography – Part I

There is power in photography and fashion and it isn’t simply about showing pretty clothes; it’s about telling a story. In whichever form one chooses, the photographer is an artist and his medium is the image at the end – whether it is in its raw form or with some post-editing work. There is an end goal to photography. The key is to understand what you want to communicate and in what way or style would best be suited. This is where we get into the different styles/categories of fashion photography. So as a photographer, you can select the one you prefer the most and perfect it working with different clients. So you can decide to be a beauty photographer or a high fashion photographer. As a designer, you can select which style you need for the purpose it serves. Do you need photos for your e-commerce website or for your lookbook or just social media?

So, let’s get into it. We want to share with you 6 different categories and how you should use them. These are catalogue, lookbook, editorial, high fashion, portraits and product photography.


Catalogue photography is also referred to as commercial photography. The rationale for this type of photography is to showcase the clothes or accessories in the most basic way possible without pump and glamour with the sole purpose of selling that item. We can call this the “hard-sell” shoot (using advertising lingo) where the aim is to sell the clothes or accessory. These shots tend to be in studios and take into consideration lighting and clarity of the image as paramount because the consumer looking at the photo needs to see it all and be able to make a judgment call to buy it or not without being distracted. Another factor to consider in the clarity element is to have a non-fussy background so the eye see’s the product directly. That is why catalogue photos tend to be done against a white, black or grey background (or any other plain colour). The other important factor to consider is that the product needs to be seen. So when choosing an image for catalogue, either the photographers or creative director or client will look to see that the products are all visible because that is what is being sold. If the background or model or other extras take away from the shot then the purpose has been lost. Here are some examples of catalogue shoots.

See Woolworths South Africa Catalogue Photoshoot – Introducing 6 exciting new designers to the StyleBySA SS17 collaboration: Droomer, Ephymol, iFele, Gert-Johan Coetzee, Lukhanyo Mdinigi and Sindiso Khumalo join AKJP, Maria McCloy, Selfi, Rich Mnisi and Thebe Magugu for this season’s dose of high-voltage local style. (c)Woolworths

Joan Smalls for Studio W- Woolworths – (c)Big Sky Productions


What is the purpose of a lookbook? Simple. To showcase the brand, the brand essence, the story of the brand and the styling of the brand’s looks from head to toe so the consumer or buyer gets a real feel for the brand and what you are trying to communicate. There is a difference between a lookbook and a line sheet. The lookbook is more informative and lifestyle shoot based whereas the line sheet is factual. The reason we have brought up the line sheet is because sometimes these two are combined. Now, for photography, a lookbook without the line sheet is more editorial in nature (we will get into that next).

The line sheet is factual so the photography is different. In this instance, the photos tend to be of a model looking straight on, hands on the side, a profile of the model, the back image and the other side – getting a complete non-fluffed up sense of the clothing or bag from all angles. For the buyer, this is crucial because they need to see the items so clearly and together with the facts below the image (ie material, sizes available, colour options, wholesale prices.. etc..) to make the decision to buy or not to buy. As a photographer, you will need to be clear with your client what the purpose is and take the image to fit that need. Find out if the client wants buyers or wants to communicate their brand essence because those two shoots are different. See the difference below.

Rich Mnisi – South African Designer- Lookbook – Spring Summer 2016

Photographer: Paul Samuel
Producer: Kelly Fung
MUA: Kelly-Jean Gilbert/Liezl Leach
Assistant: Siphesihle Zondo
Photographer’s Assistant: Siviwe James
Models: Luke van der Burg, William Nkuna, Gladys Brown, Tommie Fourie & Refiloe Seretlo

Here is a lookbook/linesheet

Example of a Line Sheet - (c)LUCASS15

Example of a Line Sheet – (c)LUCASS15

(c)Callahan Spring Summer 2016


These are the images we see the most in fashion magazine spreads. An editorial is an opportunity to tell a story or communicate a message using location, designer’s collections, and lighting for mood, props and any other means to sell a desired lifestyle. The models are asked to embody a character in a particular story, vibe, mood or live through a particular character to be captured. In this instance, you want to communicate a message and these can be from simply showcasing a lifestyle or glamour to speaking out against sexual violence. Editorials get the consumer to be immersed into the brand and it’s message imagining themselves in it or buying into the message being advocated for. The sky is the limit with this type of photography in how you want to spread your message.

The idea here is to sell the clothes or accessories or make-up by taking people on a journey and creating an emotive association behind the brand. Here is our favourite fashion editorial from 2017 – Anyango Mpinga – Proverbial Dreamer. This collection seeks to show the journey made by a girl transitioning from puberty to adulthood through the old common traditional practice of scarification. The prints in this collection are adapted from actual scarification patterns from various African tribes. Presenting “the Proverbial Dreamer” who is on a quest to “free herself from the bounds of societies’ self-imposed standards of beauty, pride and identity.”

©AnyangoMpinga – Proverbial Dreamer Collection 2017

©AnyangoMpinga – Proverbial Dreamer Collection 2017

©AnyangoMpinga – Proverbial Dreamer Collection 2017

©AnyangoMpinga – Proverbial Dreamer Collection 2017

©AnyangoMpinga – Proverbial Dreamer Collection 2017

©AnyangoMpinga – Proverbial Dreamer Collection 2017

Why don’t you think about all this first. Part II coming up…stay tuned.

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