• Nicole Parkes

What I learnt from photographing my first London Fashion Week

London Fashion Week is one of four clothing trade shows that happen along with New York, Milan and Paris. It takes place twice a year, in February and September, showcasing over 200 designers to global audiences of influential media and retailers.


To get into one of these shows, you need an exclusive invite from the designers or team themselves. This is why in most cases like mine, Photographers will stand outside the shows to photograph the high profile attendees in hopes of getting that money maker shot which they can later sell to magazines and anyone who may see the value of the photograph, or to use in a blog or their portfolio like me.


Attending for my first time ever, there is no denying that I turned up extremely unprepared, but where there is a lesson to be learnt, I make my notes so that both you and I can go in full force and ready to thrive for the future. So, where do I begin?


1. Bring SPARE BATTERIES


As a Photographer, there is actually no reason that this number one rule would come as any shock to you. Spare batteries is a must in every circumstance. The same way as a girl (or guy!) we never leave our lipgloss behind, or going to the club you can never forget your ID, if you need your camera BRING SPARE BATTERIES. I missed out on some amazing image opportunities outside of the Richard Quinn Fashion show, like taking photographs of Kate Moss, Boy George, Mabel, Mahalia (one of my top artists) and a few TikTok stars and Athletes. Nevertheless, this didn't stop me, and instead I turned to plan B which was to get Instagram Reel and Tiktok content of my favourite outfits using my Iphone. Don't judge me, I had a shoot the day before and left my charger at home, and due to not returning home to prepare for this, I couldn't charge my batteries beforehand.


Portable phone chargers are also included in this rule, as if you are going from one Fashion Show to another, it's unlikely you will have time to hunt down a charging port, especially if you want to be the first to arrive.


2. Get your elevator pitch on lock


An elevator pitch is a short description that helps someone to understand who you are, what you do and what you are selling or offering as a service, in a short space of time; hence the name elevator pitch. You need to be quick, concise and confident for it to be of any success. This will be of huge help in cases where you have only a short moment to introduce yourself and network with some of the Fashion worlds most important faces.


Imagine being asked by the Editor-In-Chief of Wonderland Magazine what your name is and what you do, and you completely crumble and stutter, then apologise because you are nervous in cases like this? A completely and utterly embarrassing situation which I CANNOT fathom even happened to me. Luckily, my work spoke for itself, and Toni Blaze reposted my work of her on her instagram page.


You may think I am confident, but this doesn't mean I like to speak about myself when asked to on the spot. So, if you are anything like me, work on an elevator pitch to save yourself the embarrassment.


3. Dear Photographers, MANNERS IS FREE!


It's so ironic because after witnessing the palava and the behaviour from the Photographers at the Met Gala, I promised myself that if I was ever to attend one of these events I'd never scream at another human all in the name of a Photograph. A week or so later, there I am amongst loud men, screaming at Fashion Icons demanding their attention for a shot. I backed away from this, deciding to test out the polite approach; walk up to them and ask them for permission to take a photograph. And it worked in my favour! Every person I asked, looked pleasantly surprised to be given the choice as to whether they wanted a photograph taken or not, rather than being screamed at like they are robots from a stranger to look their way. Not only this, but it's a more intimate experience and they are more likely to remember my face in the future because of this small encounter.


"It's all about first impressions, being kind and respectful will get you further in life" my mum had taught me this from young, it was a reminder from an Influencer herself that being treated with respect is more rewarding than going off of chance that they may pick you because they like your work. Nobody wants to remember or be around disrespect.


Do you know what else really had me standing back on the pavement in shock, we are still in the middle of a pandemic and Street Photographers do not know how to give people space. Here we are, Mabel and Mahalia exit their car looking absolutely stunning in these beautiful Richard Quinn Designs. A mob of photographers rush toward them, screaming their names left right and centre, up close and personal and not a mask in site. I would have sat back in the car and gone to the back entrance, not today hun. And even as I stood back, they all followed and eventually caught up with me, now involving me in this aggressive mob. The second hand embarrassment was real. After that, I didn't even bother going any closer. I understand a handful of photographers are being paid to get specific shots, but that does not justify the animal behaviour.


4. Dress in your most Fashionable outfit


Demand attention naturally with a nicely styled outfit. When I got out the Uber for the first one we attended, I strutted in my heels and Photographers started snapping away with the illusion that I was a model or someone of some sort of importance, attending the show. And just like that, without a word, people are now aware of you. When I took out my camera, it was then that they realised I was just one of them, but that didn't stop them from snapping away and catching off-guards of my outfit, allowing me to have an easy conversation starter with them and meet new people. Also, if you're lucky enough to get a moment to speak to any attendees, the outfit compliments are an easy way to gain some sort of trust that as a Fashion Photographer, you know what looks good.


5. Fast Shutter speed, High Speed Shooting and Stand your ground


When you are standing there waiting for the next person to photograph, you never know which direction they are coming from, or walking to. Always shoot on a fast shutter speed and on a High Speed shooting setting so that you can choose the best shots and they are in focus. The worst thing is getting home and realising when you open up the photograph on your laptop that it is not in focus, and if you're working for a magazine, this could cost you your job! Make sure that you are standing with your feet apart so that if anyone barges or pushes you, you can stand your ground firmly.


6. Wait till the end


If you miss any photo opportunities when the guests are on there way into the venue, don't panic. Wait till the end, because thats your final opportunity to capture what you missed. Fashion shows can last anywhere between 5-20 minutes so the wait isn't that long. Use the waiting time to mingle with other people who are waiting outside the show, you never know who is standing next to you! This is your opportunity to network and get your name out there.


7. Aim to post your pictures when the show is still relevant


The guests, magazines and people interested in the show are searching up and looking out for the best photographs and earliest sightings of people attending, which means you have to be on the ball! Unless they have a personal photographer already, celebrities are looking for those fire outfit pictures to repost on their page. Use relevant hashtags for the shows, and tag them in it to get their attention.


8. If you don't know where the locations are, ask around


This year, London Fashion Week shows were not in the usual places such as Somerset House and Temple, which meant finding locations were quite difficult. Walking around Central London in heels, with cameras in our bags (not a very practical outfit for Street Photography, but you know how extra I am) we found that instagram hashtag stalking can only get us so far...WE NEEDED A LIST OF ADDRESSES PLEASE! By simply asking one of the drivers outside a fancy Mayfair hotel, we snagged ourselves the list for the final two days.


9. Business Cards


Now that covid is over and outside is open, the need for business cards are more important than ever. Yes, everything is online, but you come across more professional when you can slip someone a card. In addition to this, if they are on the move, it's easier to hand it to them so that they have your details to use at a later time.


10. Zoom Lens is better than a Prime lens


Switching between both a 24-70mm and 70-200mm lens proved the most versatile. Shooting with a low aperture also gives you that beautiful blurry background, to help you focus on the subject, details and get rid of background noise. Although, with the longer lenses they tend to be heavier, which means you need to either already be good at or sharpen up on your camera stabilisation skills otherwise you'll be met with blurry images.


London Fashion week was a huge eye opener for me. You HAVE to be prepared to be prepared for fast pace photography. It is completely different for those who are used to shooting in a studio or with slower time restraints, with street photography you have no more than a few seconds to get your shot. The next London Fashion show is less than 4 months away, do you now feel more prepared?


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