Recently I was asked by Rosie Parsons from The Photography Parlour to talk about my first time shooting London Fashion Week. I really enjoy thinking and writing about my experiences in photography because it’s a great way to slow down for moment of reflection. A moment to go “hang on, what just happened?!” and “where am I going next?” 

Six years ago I was still working as a full-time secondary school teacher. My friends and family all knew that I had become obsessed with photography and an ex-colleague of mine had asked if I wanted to visit the school I used to teach at to photograph their Eco-themed, children’s fashion show TRASH.  It was fun and challenging and I gave it the same commitment that I would any paid job. At one point in the evening someone said to me, “it won’t be long before you’re shooting London Fashion Week” I laughed. In the back of my mind though, a seed had been sewn. It would be VERY cool to shoot London Fashion Week.

Fast-forward five years and the amazing production company Six Up are asking me if I can cover their five events both back stage and front of house for London Fashion Week. Pinch me now.
Though incredibly nerve-wracking, it was an amazing experience and one I’d jump at the chance to repeat. I learnt so much from those five days of intensive shooting and editing. Here’s four things I learnt from shooting London Fashion Week:

1. Shooting the catwalk for the fashion mags is even more high pressured than I first imaged.
Whilst the backstage areas are a frenzy of youngsters looking to build their portfolios, the end of the catwalk is reserved for the seasoned photographers and major players from the likes of Getty Images. Most photographers in the pit are shooting with a view to distribute images all over the world before today’s fashion becomes yesterday’s news. On learning that these guys generally shoot JPEG to be able to ship their images within 20 minutes, I was in compete awe. I on the other hand, had the luxury of a 48hr turnaround which meant I was able to shoot RAW and edit off-site.

2. Cover the range
Part of my signature style is working predominantly with prime lenses so I always have my Canon 35mm f1.4L, 50mm f1.4, and 85mm f1.8 with me. For those tight backstage set-ups though, my 16-35mm f2.8L was invaluable. I love shooting wide and it’s great for photographing venues so they look their biggest and best. For shows with a super-long catwalk, there was no way I could’ve got by without my 70-200mm f4L. It’s a lens I don’t often use, but for LFW it was spot on. As well as my lenses, I always carry two 5dMkii’s so I can work quickly and effectively.

3. Preparation is key.
Everything you can do or prepare in advance will make things flow much smoother on the day. Before an event, look up the venue online and try to work out the logistics of the space so there are no surprises. This helps you keep a clear head and focus on the photography. If I was unfamiliar with the fashion brand, I also found it also worth Googling the designer and any high-profile audience members rumoured to be in attendance so I knew who to look out for! To prepare for the show itself, the rehearsals were really important as they offered an opportunity to get used to the catwalk, choose an appropriate focal length, practise continuous focusing and set white balance. 

4. Don’t be afraid to try something different.
The classic catwalk shot is typically portrait, shot from straight in front, full-length, one leg just crossing the other. As in-house photographer for Six up, I left that classic capture to the seasoned catwalk photographers. I felt really fortunate that my role allowed me to be pretty creative and I loved exploring the angles and viewpoints to try to capture something a bit different. Although I have bills to pay just like everyone else, it’s really important to me that I aim to only take jobs that I feel will push my creativity button. So far so good and hope I can continue to maintain that happy balance between the two. I’ve already left one career that just wasn’t doing it for me anymore and I’d hate to fall out of love with photography. Otherwise, what’s the point?

Have you had any breakthrough moments lately with your photography? Have you recently got to grips with a new technique or area of photography? Let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you!

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