I Love Shooting Fashion Shows

Before we dive in with beautiful photographs of models doing fashion show, allow me to make a public service announcement.

Olympus E-System and PEN Comprehensive Workshop 
Date                : 14th December 2012 (Friday) 
Time                : 7pm - 10pm 
Venue          : Unit No.10-8, Menara 1MK, Kompleks '1 Mont' Kiara', No. 1, Jalan Kiara, Mont' Kiara, 50480    Kuala Lumpur. 
Speaker           : Mr. Sanjitpaal Sigh (IPA winner) 
Fees                : RM25 (for Olympus user), RM50 (for non Olympus user) 
Kindly log on to http://home.olympusimage.com.my/workshop.html for registration and RSVP by 12th Dec 2012 (Wednesday) if you are interested to join. 
Sanjit is a great friend, and an amazing photographer whom I admire. We have worked together on several occasions, and one notable project was the Olympus OM-D E-M5 review (he did the video part). He has recently won an international award in IPA. 
Basic photography controls of the camera, and technical execution/understanding are very important. Do give this workshop a consideration if you intend to maximize the use of your gear. Depending on my work schedule, I might make it to the workshop !

There was a time not too long ago, when the only camera I had with me was the faithful Olympus DSLR E-520, I always kept an eye out for any free public fashion shows happening in major shopping malls, and religiously would shoot them as if I was the paid photographer for the events. I think it is difficult to explain the thrill and fun of shooting fashion shows, of beautiful models doing their thing walking down the runway. I also understand that most free shows were not exactly up to the standard of glitz and glamour as prominently highlighted in the fashion world (I know not much of that alien planet) but being a young photographer, and being a boy who appreciates female beauty, I find fashion shows very, very attractive, and an immense joy to shoot. 

I came across an old archive of unprocessed photographs of a fashion show held in July 2010 at Pavilion KL. The Olympus E-5 was not even out then. It was also the time when I just started exploring street photography (and produced almost all crappy images at that time). I think I must have just acquired the 50mm F2 lens, and I remembered myself wishing that I have brought along the 40-150mm F3.5-4.5 telephoto zoom lens instead. Nonetheless, looking through this set of photographs, it brought back a lot of memories, and surely I do miss taking fashion show photographs. Perhaps I should start hunting again. 

All images were taken with Olympus E-520 and Zuiko Digital 50mm F2 macro lens

The images may appear simple and straightforward but it was not as easy as it seemed. There was that constant backlight problem, surely affecting the overall metering of the camera. Use of flash was very necessary to balance the strong backlit and ensure properly exposed skin tone, not only exposure balance but also color balance. I mounted the Olympus FL-36R flash on my E-520 and fired at all times, with TTL set to +0.7 or +1.0 EV to overpower the strong backlight. The models were moving very fast, hence fast shutter speed was needed to freeze them while they were on their tracks. I did not just want to shoot them as the posed at the end of the runway, I intended to have shots of them while they were walking down the runway, as they gazed straight ahead, with confidence and that "glamour" look. The main complain I had for the day was not standing at the dead center facing the runway, because the spot was taken by the official photographer of the event (a valid excuse), but surprisingly many models actually took the time to look at my direction, and I got plenty of good eye contact. 

It was amazing how reliable the old E-520 was, even though the models were constantly moving, and I was using one of the slowest autofocusing Olympus lenses ever produced, the 50mm F2 macro. I thought I had more missed focus shots, but as I reviewed the entire set, about 80% of the shots were in focus (not all were perfectly sharp, but very usable). Yes, 20% is a high miss rate, but I also know that with the newer and more capable E-5, I would have gotten away with higher percentage of keepers. It was not a paid assignment, so nobody got hurt in the process. 

Once upon a time there was a professional photographer who believed only in available light photography that he would condemn anyone who uses flash in shooting. I strongly disagreed with his notion, and I voiced up my opinion, stating that while I acknowledge it is usually important to maximize the use of available light whenever possible, sometimes, in very difficult situations, flash can become a necessity, and can save lives. Flash is not an enemy, with proper understanding and good execution, it is your friend, and will improve your photographs, and open up a world of possibilities when available light fails. Unfortunately, that friend somehow got ticked off, and started to become so defensive. 

The one example I gave him was shooting fashion shows. I was a very new photographer back then, hence I merely conveyed what I saw, and observed when I was shooting fashion shows in public. Even full frame camera users, such as Canon 5Dmk2, 1D series, and Nikon D3 or D700, there were always external flash units attached on the camera, always. It was not difficult to see the importance of using flash for fashion photography, and all the benefits it brings. However, being a stubborn and not wanting to acknowledge the significance of flash photography, that friend taunted me and said "let me show you what a full frame camera can do, lets have a drink, seriously a full frame camera can shoot at ISO6400 and go away with no noise". This conversation did not just stop at fashion photography, but he also hinted that people use flash for macro photography because their cameras are not capable enough to handle available light shooting. 

I was new, and fresh to photography so I kept silent, and just let the friend preached. Not only was my eagerness to explore flash photography being questioned and challenged, but I was being looked down for using an entry level DSLR camera that was not capable of shooting clean ISO6400 images. 

Thank goodness I can make my own judgement, and differentiate the facts from fiction. I believe being an engineer helps, especially when it comes to technical execution part of photography. The sooner you embrace flash into your photography, the sooner you will discover that there is so much more you can do. There is a reason why flash was invented in the first place !!

Sometimes, listening to the right guru/advise is important. We have to filter out what works and what do not, and the information rubbish from the constructive comments which will help us improve. 

Anyone else here love to shoot fashion shows? Do share your thoughts !! It would be nice to have real paid assignment, shooting real (non-public) fashion shows. Nonetheless, I also acknowledge that my photography skills may not be sufficient to produce anything professional worthy at this moment to be delivered. But hey, no pressure, I am slowly getting there. We all improve, and we will get better and better in what we do, if we keep trying and do not give up.


  1. *hadi nik*
    Its new for me..never use flash before..actually not understand how to manipulate d flash condition..try before this but arrgghhhh..still learn how tu use it..from ur blog i understad now what to do with it..thnx again..will try after this..

    1. Hey Hadi Nik,
      Its easier if I share with you in person. A bit hard to type lah !! But I have no experience with Sony flash yet. General knowledge only. I have been using Olympus system as my main gear all this time. But I believe the main concepts and ideas are the same.
      I think Sony has flash photography workshop also right? I am looking forward to join also. My flash techniques are very, very basic and simple only. Still a lot to learn.

    2. Yup..sony also has a workshop for flash photography..unfortunately i cant attend d workshop last 2 week coz anak i bersunat..hehehe..for sure i need to share with u about this flash condition..i really appreciate..its easy for me to hear n do some praktikal with u..for me i like to do with praktikal session rather than theory session..its easy to understand with it..will see u next session..thnx..*hadi nik*

  2. I can only share from the old days, many, many moons ago, when I was young. I had the opportunity and honor to be able to shoot together with a then rather famous European fashion shooter. He shot Hassy 6x6, I did Fuji 6x9 with a mild telephoto. The fastest (acceptable) film then was ISO 400. You would need assistants to keep changing roll film, and a series of powerful flashes with softboxes and the fastest lenses money can buy. And you'd keep breaking your neck over the flash sync cables, we didn't have reliable radio triggers.

    The biggest trouble however was with a few of the models, they were dancers, and so skinny (from starvation diets, mind you) that some of them kept fainting. I was completely horrified. But it can be fun when one has "normal", well-fed models. I liked your shots. Some mild noise, as can be expected at these extreme ISO numbers, but completely useable. The model in the 2nd. 3rd and 4th shot was special, IMHO.

    1. Thanks Andre for the kind words, and also thanks for sharing your experience from your older days. Goodness gracious, for the sake of fashion, there are indeed plenty of horror stories !! The length people would go to... indescribable. I did not notice anything of that sort happening so far !!
      Some of the images I shot were underexposed (flash was not powerful enough/recharged fast enough), hence I needed to compensate the exposure in post-processing. That brought out some noise, which could be easily cleaned up by any software, if some effort is put into it.

  3. Hi Robin,
    You are one lucky guy to be able to shoot these fashion shows. Two words: Lovely! Sexy!
    However good a camera or lens might be, it still needs light to work, hence the 'flash'.... I'm still contemplating to buy my first real flash!

    1. Hey Johan !!
      Thanks for the kind words.
      You were spot on when you mentioned light is important, without light there is no photography. Get yourself a flash !! You won't regret it.

  4. Robin, just do it!!!

    Read Millisa Rodwell's blog http://www.fashionphotographyblog.com/ to learn about the world of fashion photography. Look at the Fashion Gone Rogue site to see all the lastet Editorial and Ad photos http://fashiongonerogue.com/daily-blog/ Read the local Vogue magazine to learn about your market.

    Now get a model and go shoot!!! Your first model can be a friend. Than work your way up to better models. Start with available light and/or on-camera-flash (something you already know), before moving to studio lighting.

    Good luck.


  5. Great work. I am shy when it comes to use flash, because I do not feel comfortable. Lack of knowledge, every time I use it the light is to harsh.

    1. Flash is not that difficult for basic usage. Of course there are more advanced techniques, which I would also need to learn.

  6. Love the pose you captured. I shot some Fashion shows this year including the behind the scenes stuff and it was a blast.

    1. Thanks atmtx !! Glad to see you enjoy shooting fashion shows too !

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