I shoot several runway shows a year. They are a lot of fun, and a chance to see my fellow photogs – as we are all usually gathered in the same location at the end of the runway. But, as fun as it all may be, we are there to get the shot for the designers, models, and press. Some photogs think runway is easy to shoot. Guess what? It takes skill and practice like everything else – and you only have one opportunity to get the shot. Here’s some of my tips.
Runway shows are always packed with photographers and there is important etiquette to be aware of. Always make arrangements ahead of time with the producers/presenters. Often there is a designated “official photographer” or press photogs – and there is nothing more frustrating to them than an uninvited “snapper” trying to squeeze their way onto the photo platform – especially at the last minute when everyone else has been there for hours in advance. Be polite and gracious – it goes a long way!
Usually photographers are all assigned to stand in the same place. If you are allowed by the presenters, move around. You don’t want the same shot everyone else is getting. Look for a unique angle – but remember it’s about the clothes, so don’t get too experimental.
Keep it simple – there’s usually just enough room for you to stand in the crowded photo area – and no place for a ton of gear. A 70 – 200 f2.8 lens is best, allowing you to zoom in and out. I often shoot on a tripod or monopod because shows are long and the camera gets heavy – but mostly because I don’t want to worry about camera movement with a wide-open lens.
3. Lighting, White Balance and Exposure
You will come upon many different and unexpected lighting situations during a runway show. One part of the runway will always be “hotter” or brighter than another – often 1 or 2 stops – so be prepared to quickly change your exposure. The lighting can be a mix of tungsten and daylight. Get to the show early, preferably during the rehearsal, and take test shots to check your exposure. A 3200-degree tungsten white balance setting is usually best. But be prepared for mixed lighting or special effects, which means shooting on auto white balance.
NEVER USE A FLASH. Not only will you get unbecoming results, but it will ruin your fellow photogs images as well – and they will NOT be happy. Stage lighting is more than enough light. Aim for a shallow depth of field with a high shutter speed to capture motion. Change your ISO to get the right combo. I prefer spot metering in these situations and single shot AF.
4. Vertical or Horizontal?
Remember it is about the clothes, so vertical is the norm. Be sure to not cut off heads or feet! Give your subject room to breathe – there is often interesting things going on in the background, such as projections, other models entering or exiting, audience expressions, etc. Don’t forget to take a couple horizontals to show the sense of the show as a whole, when the designer takes a bow, and when all the models come out together. Aim for both close-ups and full-length shots.
5. Getting the Shot
When you look at runway images, what do you find most appealing? It’s usually the capture of the model’s walk. You always want an image where the model’s front foot is on the ground (no soles of shoes, please) and she is in mid-stride. This shows the movement of the garment and the model in swanky posture. Count to get the rhythm of the model’s stride and take short bursts.
Don’t forget about the back of the outfit! Designers present a “whole” outfit – not just something to be seen from the front. And, you can get beautiful images of gowns flowing as the models turn and walk away.
Many photogs don’t do post-production and I never understand why. With a good software like Adobe Lightroom, post is fast – and helps you produce the best final image for your client. Color correct what didn’t happen with auto white balance. Open up your exposure if your images are too dark. Take that extra step for your client – and your reputation.
Have fun shooting!