How to take better photos backstage at fashion week?

Discussion in 'Portraits and Fashion' started by milo_m|1, Aug 24, 2011.

  1. Hello,
    I'm a hobbyist, not a professional photographer, but I always take my camera backstage at New York Fashion Week. Unfortunately, most of my shots aren't turning out as sharp or properly lit as I'd like. I don't have a flash/speedlite, but I see lots of pro photographers backstage with ring flashes. I use a Canon xsi and have a 50mm 1.8, the kit lens EF-S 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, and EF 85mm 1.8 to work with. I also have a Canon s95 that seems to result in better pictures sometimes.
    Lighting is always unpredictable backstage, but most setups have large flood lights to illuminate the models' faces. The shots I get tend to be blown out when they're in front of the lights, and too fuzzy when they're not.
    I can find a lot of information on shooting front-of-house/runway, but haven't found any advice for getting better shots backstage.
    What gear do you think I should use (I'm open to renting a lens), and is it necessary to get a speedlite or ring flash? Are there any general suggestions on aperture or shutter speed? Any advice you have would be deeply appreciated, especially since this is probably my last season of having backstage access, and I'd like to make the most of it. Thank you.
  2. Here's an example of the typical backstage setup: lots of lights and mirrors.
  3. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I shoot backstage at all sorts of events, Fashion Week is not unique if there is makeup and costume being done, it's pretty much the same with lights and mirrors. What I do is almost always use flash, typically bouncing it off the ceiling, just to even it out. I use the mirrors as picture elements, this is something that is often particularly effective. I would get or rent at least a 430, preferably a 580EX2, and learn to use the flash as quickly as possible. I'm particularly partial to makeup shots, it's something that seems to make for interesting photos...
    Also, group shots backstage can be like a giant chessboard...
  4. I've used the Lumiquest Softbox III backstage at London Fashion Week - small and light, just velcro's around the flash head and gives a soft enough light, and not breakable so if someone bumps me its ok.
    I generally use my 85mm/f1.4, to get some nice isolation and normally turn down the flash compensation just to give a bit of fill if there is enough ambient. On my second body I have my 70-200 f/2.8 so I can get some candid shots without having to push through the crowd of MUAs and stylists.
    A friend of mine won the Canon London Fashion Week photo competition last year with a backstage shot - he uses a Quantum flash with their softbox. His winning shot is currently the first one on his opening page:
  5. Thanks, you guys. This is very helpful information. I've never worked with a big flash setup, so I think I will buy the Lumiquest and rent a 430 or 580. Going to see if I can take a second body, too — Rob, you make a good point about having the 70-200 and not getting in the way of Team Primp. Your advice has been incredibly helpful. Thanks!

Share This Page