5 Tips For Landing Paid Fashion Photography Work

August 14, 2015

As we covered in our earlier guide to photography jobs, fashion photography is one of the most competitive niches you could ever hope to enter as a photographer.

In fact, it’s notoriously cutthroat to break into at a professional level, but those who overcome the hurdles can expect all the glitz and glamor that is associated with the industry, and a nice paycheck to boot (with the average earnings reported at being around $59,000 per year.)

So, how best to crack the fashion photography nut? Presenting:

5 Surefire Tips for Landing Paid Fashion Photography Work

fashion photography tips

1. Put Yourself in the Right Place

Location naturally plays a big part in the job prospects of any photographer, but this goes doubly so for those hoping to work in fashion.

You may be able to score gigs doing product photography for catalogs and websites all over the country, but if you want to get where the real action is – the photoshoots, the magazine spreads, the catwalk shows – you’ll need to consider moving towards one of the fashion hotbeds.


Throughout America (and in order of influence from top to bottom), the cities which have the most sway in the fashion industry are:

  • New York City
  • Los Angeles
  • Columbus
  • Nashville
  • San Francisco
  • Portland
  • San Diego
  • Seattle
  • Cincinnati
  • Providence

While it’s not strictly necessary to permanently relocate to one of the above cities, it certainly won’t hurt your chances to do so.

2. Your Portfolio is Everything

In an industry as competitive as this, you’ll want to instantly capture a prospective employer’s attention and hold it for as long as it takes to land the job.

Short of meeting him or her in person and grabbing them by the lapels, you’ve only got way of doing this: your portfolio. So you best make sure it’s a damn good one.

fashion photography portfolio

Don’t make your portfolio look like an “evolution” of your craft, with the images getting better and more advanced as the pages turn (a common pitfall.) Trim all the fat; leave only the excellent stuff. Get as many second pairs of eyes on it as possible so you can get better perspective on how it looks to an outsider before sending it off… and remember to pay close attention to their faces to pick up on their initial reactions to each shot. It’s a great way of figuring out which images are mediocre, and which make a genuine human impression.

3. Develop Your Own Eye

A layperson would be forgiven for assuming that it’s simply about taking snaps of nice clothes, but as a photographer, you’ll know that there are many layers of nuance and subtlety at play, as well as a deep sense of personality inherent in the photography.

Finding your own “voice” is an exceptionally long process, and you should be prepared to be in it for the long haul. But if you want to advance the pace and develop a deeper understanding of what works and, more importantly, why, attending photography school should be a serious consideration.


Oh, and don’t forget to list all of your academic achievements on your portfolio for maximum impact.

4. Don’t Just Shoot. Read.

The fashion industry is a fast-moving one. Styles change at a lightning pace, as does the gigantic list of people and entities in the business that you should be intimately aware of.

As such, you’ll need to throw yourself into the magazines. The glossies are a great place to start, but since they can be expensive, set up an RSS feed filled with fashion blogs and make sure you flick through it daily.

5. Get Paid Well.

Given the competitive nature of the industry, you’ll often be offered exposure in lieu of hard cash for your work and sold it as if it’s a great deal and you should be grateful.

Exposure doesn’t pay the bills.

While there’s nothing wrong with doing work for free when there really isn’t any budget and you’d love to do the gig anyway, recognize that there’s nearly always a budget for larger jobs or anywhere that products are being sold. Chances are, a lot of people are getting a healthy pay-off from the back of your work, and you should be the first person in line… and unapologetically so.


In short, it’s a tough road to walk but there are plenty of rewards to be reaped along the way. There’s no reason why that journey shouldn’t begin right now—best of luck!