What is it really like to capture the high-paced drama of a fashion show? Uncover the reality behind the glitz and glamor of the runway as these photographers share what shooting fashion is really like.

During Fashion Week, runway photographers can spend as many as eighteen hours on their feet. To get their shot, they have to get creative. At major shows, fashion photographers have been known to compete for the best place in the pit, to climb unsteady ladders, and to loudly instruct audience members to uncross their legs, all for a better view. After the show, there’s no time to rest: it’s a race to get the photos online.

Shooting runways is demanding for any photographer, but luckily, there’s a community of professionals who’ve been there, done that, and are ready to show others the way. We asked seven photographers from around the world to share their best tips for photographing runways, whether it’s a small, intimate show or one of the busiest and biggest events of the year.


1. “My advice is to get backstage and interact with the models and the staff.”

Ovidiu Hrubaru

Surprising Runway Secrets from Fashion Photographers — Eliminate Distracting Elements

Image by Ovidiu Hrubaru. Gear: Canon 1DX camera, Canon 300mm 2.8 IS USM II lens. Settings: Exposure 1/640 sec; f7.1.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This photo was taken during the rehearsal for the Tom Ford show for the 2018 Spring/Summer collection. As you can see, the designer Tom Ford was discussing the last details of the show with one of his crew members. We talked backstage, so he remembered me when I took the photo. I converted it to black and white to eliminate the distracting elements. It’s all about the expression, not about technical camera details. You have to interact with the person in front of the camera to get a good photo.

Surprising Runway Secrets from Fashion Photographers — Head Backstage for Genuine Images

Image by Ovidiu Hrubaru.

What tips would you give to other photographers about shooting runway shows?

In my experience, the best shots from runway shows come from backstage. They’re the shots that capture the interaction between models or between models and the staff working on the show. My advice is to get backstage and interact with the models and the staff. Don’t just walk around and snap photos. Stay backstage as much as possible. That way, you can catch some photos of the models wearing the new collection before the show starts.

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2. “I would suggest arriving at the venue at least one hour before the show so you can choose the best spot.”

Gordana Sermek

Surprising Runway Secrets from Fashion Photographers — Arrive to the Show Early

Image by Gordana Sermek. Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, Canon EF70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. Settings: Focal length 200mm2; exposure 1/200 sec; f3.2; ISO 2000.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This is the silhouette of the last fashion model leaving the catwalk and returning backstage at the end of a Cro-A-Porter show on October 19th, 2012 in Zagreb, Croatia. All the lights on the catwalk went off, leaving the audience in the dark. Only the background screen was lit, showing this beautiful architectural detail and the light bulbs lining the letter in the left corner. The model was so elegant wearing this beautiful, long tulle dress and ballerina-like bun.

Gordana Sermek.
Gordana Sermek.

Pictured: [1] Gordana Sermek. [2] Gordana Sermek.

What tips would you give to other photographers about shooting runway shows?

I would suggest arriving at the venue at least one hour before the show so you can choose the best spot. They run rehearsals and practice the choreography beforehand, so it’s the perfect chance to test the light and find the best angle for your photos. Before the show starts, you can also check the temperature of the light with the light technician to help you set the white balance. Shots should be taken at the beginning/end of every stride, which usually happens in sync with the music. When you’re composing your photos, be sure you don’t crop the model off at the joints.

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3. “Carry a small, handy chair or stool to use to sit down in front of other photographers or stand up behind them.”

Tania Volobueva

Surprising Runway Secrets from Fashion Photographers — Be Innovative with Your Tools

Image by Tania Volobueva. Gear: Canon 5D Mark II camera, 70-200mm F4 lens. Settings: Exposure 1/200 sec; f4; ISO 1000.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This picture is from the Genny fashion show during Milan Fashion Week. I took a wide view of the runway with the lights, the audience, and a few different models.

Surprising Runway Secrets from Fashion Photographers — Take Unique Images

Image by Tania Volobueva.

What tips would you give to other photographers about shooting runway shows?

The best place to shoot runways is in the middle of the crowd of photographers, but there are usually official photographers for the brand present, so you’ll need to come one hour before to make sure you get a spot. Carry a small, handy chair or stool to use to sit down in front of other photographers or stand up behind them. Interesting and different shots, like close-up photos of shoes and bags or other details that are difficult to find elsewhere online, could interest clients.

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4. “You have to be nice and polite, and you have to understand that all photographers want to get their shots.”

Lev Radin

Surprising Runway Secrets from Fashion Photographers — Politeness Will Get You Far

Image by Lev Radin. Gear: Canon EOS 5D Mark II camera, 70-200 F/4.0 L IS USM lens. Settings: Focal length 200mm; exposure 1/200 sec; f4.5; ISO 1250.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This image was taken during the Victoria’s Secret show. Heidi Klum has a friendly and patient attitude towards photographers, and she is very nice. I like how professional she has been on all the occasions I’ve had an opportunity to shoot her.

Lev Radin.
Lev Radin.
Lev Radin.

Pictured: [1] Lev Radin. [2] Lev Radin. [3] Lev Radin.

What tips would you give to other photographers about shooting runway shows?

The most important thing is not one’s gear but one’s attitude towards other photographers. You have to be nice and polite, and you have to understand that all photographers want to get their shots. Don’t be rude, and everyone else will be kind to you.

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5. “Do your homework before the show. Study the designer and his or her style.”

Humberto Vidal

Surprising Runway Secrets from Fashion Photographers — Study the Designer

Image by Humberto Vidal. Gear: Canon 5D Mark II camera, Canon 85mm f/1,2 lens. Settings: Exposure 1/1600 sec; f1.2; ISO 200.

What’s the story behind this photo?

During any major Fashion Week like New York, there are days and times when there are two or more important shows to cover. So, which one do you go to? I usually go to the most attractive show from an aesthetic point of view. That could be a show from a foreign designer, as they usually have less coverage than the local designers, or maybe I pick the most interesting venue, etc. In this case, I decided to cover Del Pozo from Spain at Pier 59 Studios. Since there was another big show in town, there were maybe just ten photographers at Del Pozo. I had perfect light and a perfect spot in the pit, and then I saw her, alone, not even texting, with nobody shooting her: Chiara Ferragni. I talked with her, and she posed for me.

Surprising Runway Secrets from Fashion Photographers — Know the Models

Image by Humberto Vidal.

What tips would you give to other photographers about shooting runway shows?

Do your homework before the show. Study the designer and his or her style. Learn about his or her muse. Designers usually repeat the same models, and this way, you know what to expect. Sometimes you will have the “show-list” before the event, so you can Google the models or find them on Instagram and see how they walk, pose, etc.

Travel light. I have noticed that most photographers go to shows with a “small studio,” which makes it hard for them to move quickly from one show or one venue to the other. I just carry two bodies, three lenses, a flash, cards, and batteries in a messenger bag. I am usually the first to exit from one show and the first to arrive at the next one. Do not overshoot. At the beginning, I used to shoot maybe 600-800 frames in a 32-look show. I now try to get just three to four good pictures from every look, and I’ve lowered my total number of pictures from a show to 200-300. It saves me time, memory cards, batteries, and most importantly, hard drives or cloud space.

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6. “You need to get to the venue one to two hours before the show to book your space or mark your name on the floor.”

ThaiCatwalk

Surprising Runway Secrets from Fashion Photographers — Don't Miss Anything

Image by ThaiCatwalk. Gear: Canon EOS 6D camera, 70-200 f2.8 lens. Settings: Focal length 70mm; exposure 1/200 sec; f4.0; ISO 800.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This was a show for Sirivannavari, the brand of the fashion designer and Princess of Thailand Sirivannavari Nariratana. Only selected guests, media, and press could attend this specific event. The show was very glamorous, and I am proud to have covered her Highness’s collections. I built ThaiCatwalk.Com to promote Thai Fashion Shows and their incredible creativity.

ThaiCatwalk.
ThaiCatwalk.

Pictured: [1] ThaiCatwalk. [2] ThaiCatwalk.

What tips would you give to other photographers about shooting runway shows?

You need to get to the venue one to two hours before the show to book your space or mark your name on the floor. Fashion shows are generally about fifteen to twenty minutes, but you can’t miss anything because customers want photographs of every outfit on the runway.

For runway shoots, you can’t control anything but the camera. You sometimes don’t know what the lighting will be until the first model walks onto the runway. After you see that first light go on, adjust your camera in two seconds; otherwise, you will miss that first outfit, and it will not come back for you to reshoot.

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7. “…I prefer my position to be slightly off-center. It makes my photos feel more alive.”

Sam Aronov

Surprising Runway Secrets from Fashion Photographers — Consider Your Position

Image by Sam Aronov. Gear: Canon EOS Mark II camera, Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II lens. Settings: Focal length 80mm; exposure 1/250 sec; f3.5; ISO 400.

What’s the story behind this photo?

This is one of my bestselling images from Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Fall/Winter 2011. It was a show for the designer Farah Angsana.

Surprising Runway Secrets from Fashion Photographers — Don't Fear Being Different

Image by Sam Aronov.

What tips would you give to other photographers about shooting runway shows?

This was my second year shooting New York Fashion Week, and it was very important to choose the right position on the riser. Most photographers like to shoot in the center, but I prefer my position to be slightly off-center. It makes my photos feel more alive.

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Top Image by Gordana Sermek.