Sometimes all it takes to rejuvenate a shoot is a quick wardrobe change. Learn how to maximize your wardrobe’s impact with styling tips from six established photographers.

For fashion photographers, the smallest detail can make all the difference. In 1947, for example, Richard Avedon made a statement by photographing a woman in Place de la Concorde, Paris; though we can’t see her face in the picture, her flowing Dior skirt remains iconic to this day. Similarly, in 1965, the photographer Helmut Newton took a once-in-a-lifetime shot for French Vogue; we still remember the Yves Saint Laurent tuxedo his model wore. And at around the same time, Guy Bourdin made surrealist compositions using Charles Jourdan shoes.

Often, the difference between a forgettable photograph and an enduring one comes down to the clothing. We reached out to six photographers to see what exactly goes into finding those special, one-of-a-kind garments. As it turns out, there’s no need for an extravagant budget. In fact, some of the best pictures can be made without spending a dime; all you need is a bit of resourcefulness and creativity. Read on to learn the tricks of the trade.

1. “Don’t be afraid to experiment with a few bright colors for your outfit.”

Victoria Chudinova

6 Styling Tips for Photographers Who Want to Save Time and Money — Experiment with Color

Image by Victoria Chudinova. Gear: Nikon D610 camera, Nikkor 85 1.8g lens. Settings: Exposure 1/200 sec; f4,5; ISO 200.

What’s the story behind this photo?

Knowledge of trends and color theory allowed me to combine several bold colors into one harmonious outfit. I chose a neutral background to emphasize the bright look even more. In addition, this image is an example of creating a stylish look without spending a lot of money.

Part of this outfit I bought for my own wardrobe. The shoes, bag, blazer, and glasses were bought during sales; the kerchief, which we turned into a headband, the blouse, and trousers were found at different times in different flea markets. No more than $40 was spent on the whole outfit.

Victoria Chudinova
Victoria Chudinova
Victoria Chudinova

Pictured: [1] Victoria Chudinova [2] Victoria Chudinova [3] Victoria Chudinova

Pro Tip

If you decide to style your shoot yourself, be ready to learn the basic rules of styling. These skills will always come in handy. Researching fashion trends is the best way to create relevant outfits. Viewing and analyzing pictures in magazines, fashion blogs, and movies—and even watching well-dressed strangers on the street—will help you understand how to create a perfect combination of clothing and accessories. Train your eyes as often as possible, and soon you will be able not only to notice the fashion trends but also to predict them.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with a few bright colors for your outfit. Follow the principles of color theory. When in doubt, I use Itten’s color wheel or other cheat sheets for color matching. Try to include accents. If the outfit consists of simple clothes, you can add one or several attractive details, such as an extraordinary pair of shoes or accessories, to make the image more interesting.

Your own wardrobe, things your relatives and friends wear, and the model’s own outfits are your first sources for clothing and inspiration. Even if all the pieces are of different sizes, that can be cleverly hidden. And sometimes a stylish, oversize garment can become a special accent in your look. If you have a well-developed fashion sense and well-trained eyes, you are sure to find unique things for your shoots at outlets, seasonal sales, cheap stores, and flea markets.

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2. “Find people who understand your work and are ready for experiments.”

KOBRIN PHOTO

6 Styling Tips for Photographers Who Want to Save Time and Money — Work with People Who Understand You

Image by KOBRIN PHOTO. Gear: Canon 6d camera, Canon 100mm lens. Settings: Exposure 1/125 sec; f14; ISO 125.

What’s the story behind this photo?

Every season is an occasion for inspiration. This frame was shot in early spring, when I wanted something bright and floral. We rarely buy expensive jewelry and accessories for shooting. Anything in the house can become an integral part of the image. Even if something seems unnecessary, always think before discarding it.

This time, it was these small flowers, designed for manicures, which had been stored for a long time in a cosmetic bag. The frame was shot in the studio with one light source (most often, it’s a beauty dish) and a reflector directed at the neck of the model to avoid sharp shadows.

6 Styling Tips for Photographers Who Want to Save Time and Money — Work with People Who Will Try New Things

Image by KOBRIN PHOTO.

Pro Tip

Every photographer must have his or her own team! Find people who understand your work and are ready for experiments. If you are a beginning photographer, look for stylists, designers, make-up artists who are also beginners, and develop your skills together. The higher your level, the more creative people will want to work with you. Never stop learning; there is no limit to perfection. The saddest thing is when a professional stops developing.

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3. “It is important to look for a team to work with.”

Elena Kharichkina

6 Styling Tips for Photographers Who Want to Save Time and Money — Look for a Team

Image by Elena Kharichkina. Gear: Nikon d750 camera, 24.0-85.0mm f/2.8-4.0 lens. Settings: Focal length 32mm; exposure 1/100 sec; f5.6; ISO 200.

What’s the story behind this photo?

We were in my studio in my country house, and initially, I was shooting a different topic. We took pictures for a couple of hours, and then I climbed into my wardrobe and saw this dress, which my friend had once left me. This dress had not fit any model, and I offered it to Nadia. It fit perfectly, and we went to the garden for fifteen minutes and made a series of beautiful pictures in my wild grapes. Thanks to one unexpected discovery, these photos were born.

Elena Kharichkina
Elena Kharichkina

Pictured: [1] Elena Kharichkina [2] Elena Kharichkina

Pro Tip

It is important to look for a team to work with. Any novice photographer needs to find beginning makeup artists and stylists; this will help you save on styling and also help you to grow your personal team for the future.

If you do not have a stylist, then it’s worthwhile to check out the wardrobe of your model, as there is always something suitable there. Some accessories I find in flea markets, and others come from my wardrobe; sometimes, I buy something specifically for filming. Most often, I use the models’ clothes; however, in the case of bigger shoots, I use the services of stylists.

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4. “When planning your shoots, think about what would work best for your collaborators as well as yourself.”

Marcin Sylwia Ciesielski

6 Styling Tips for Photographers Who Want to Save Time and Money — Think about Your Collaborators

Image by Marcin Sylwia Ciesielski. Gear: Nikon D600 camera, 500mm 1.8 lens. Settings: Exposure 1/160 sec; f10; ISO 100. Photographers’ Note: This is the metadata for the photos of the model. This picture is a composite of multiple photos taken in a studio and post-imposed into a woodland background. The model was shot twice, once in each of the dresses. The studio light was a Paul C. Buff Einstein with a softened beauty-dish positioned in the top-front of the camera. We used hot-shoe flashes on remote triggers to add splashes of red and yellow. The black dress was shot in the same space and with the same settings but without the beauty-dish to exaggerate the colorful side-lighting. The fire is burning barbecue lighting fluid shot on a piece of glass on a black background. The forest is a byproduct of one of our afternoon walks.

What’s the story behind this photo?

The inspiration for this photo was a moment in one of the Hunger Games movies when a white wedding dress bursts into flames and turns into a black one, as if made from ashes. The photo was part of a series depicting a wizard’s apprentice playing with fire. The girl is dressed in a “Phoenix Dress” by Ewa Jobko in different shades of yellow, red and purple. The dress is on fire, and as it burns, it turns into a black dress by the same designer. For this concept, we specifically selected a red-haired model.

6 Styling Tips for Photographers Who Want to Save Time and Money — Start with the Basics

Image by Marcin Sylwia Ciesielski.

Pro Tip

It’s worth investing in a few good pieces at first and then modifying them by adding elements, mixing, and matching. To start, these pieces should not be extremely specific. As your wardrobe grows, it’ll become easier and easier to create looks precisely to your liking.

Also, try to build a network of fashion designers, prop makers, and designers. Put effort into making beautiful pictures for them so they can benefit from your work as much as you can benefit from theirs. When planning your shoots, think about what would work best for your collaborators as well as yourself.

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5. “In my shoots, I often use wardrobe pieces and accessories by local designers.”

Svitlana Sokolova

6 Styling Tips for Photographers Who Want to Save Time and Money — Try Local Designers

Image by Svitlana Sokolova. Gear: Canon 5D Mark III camera, Canon EF 35mm 1.4 lens. Settings: Exposure 1/1600 sec, f 1/6, ISO 100.

What’s the story behind this photo?

As soon as I saw this girl, I immediately imagined her in this summer outfit with a bouquet of flowers in her hands. It is important to imagine the mood and atmosphere of every shoot in your head. Imagine the whole picture.

I shared my thoughts and ideas with the model, and we left the city to find this amazing, lonely beach. We had very little time, but I had already imagined what I wanted to see. The main thing here was light. It was the last few minutes of sunset, and, as you can see, the result was perfect.

Svitlana Sokolova
Svitlana Sokolova
Svitlana Sokolova

Pictured: [1] Svitlana Sokolova [2] Svitlana Sokolova [3] Svitlana Sokolova

Pro Tip

In my shoots, I often use wardrobe pieces and accessories by local designers. I also have quite a large collection of hats and bags I’ve brought home from different journeys and a huge collection of glasses. I sometimes also use clothes from my friends to help me complete an outfit.

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6. “I recommend you find local amateur designers and stylists who need professional photos for their portfolio.”

Maksim Shmeljov

6 Styling Tips for Photographers Who Want to Save Time and Money — Trade Time for Prints

Image by Maksim Shmeljov. Gear: Sony a99v camera, 50mm lens. Settings: Exposure 1/125 sec, f7.1, ISO 200.

What’s the story behind this photo?

There was a portrait and lingerie session in our studio, but our model by chance wore a dress from the Estonian designer Olga Bykova, and the dress was used in some of our scenes. This image became the most popular from the shoot and also one of the most popular in my portfolio for a long time.

6 Styling Tips for Photographers Who Want to Save Time and Money — Check Your Model's Wardrobe

Image by Maksim Shmeljov.

Pro Tip

First of all, I recommend you find local amateur designers and stylists who need professional photos for their portfolio. That way, you can set up a TFP (time for prints) collaboration. Another thing you can do is take a look in your model’s wardrobe. All you need is to ask them to send you some pictures. Sometimes I find beautiful things that can be used in our shoots that way. You can also make a trip to a local second-hand shop. It might sound unbelievable, but amazing things can be found almost for free.

Top image by Maksim Shmeljov.