Posing behind a phone screen – The future of fashion photography

“Can you bring more light in to your room? Move to the left. Now move to the right. Oh great… you’ve frozen.” 

The glamour of bright flashing lights, impressive lenses and enthusiastic crews working together in face-to-face shoots is lost in the world of lockdown, where portrait photographers are having to compose photo-shoots from the comfort of their own homes over video calls. Competing with lagging technology and poor quality screenshots to adapt to the current social distancing guidelines, the world of fashion has become a fast changing place online.

The beginning of FaceTime photoshoots made an appearance professionally early on in lockdown, with models styling their own hair and makeup and posing in their bedrooms for remote stylish shoots. Bella Hadid is one of many models seen involved in photoshoots, with Vogue Italia and for Jacquemus Summer 2020 campaign, appearing elegant and chic despite being shot through a screenshot of a small screen. It’s undeniable however for student and professional photographers alike, being away from the model when shooting from home is both challenging and less sociable than shooting face-to-face. 

Daisy Easterby-Sands, Fashion Photography student at London College of Fashion, is used to taking good quality images with proper cameras but with all of her cameras stuck in university accommodation as she isolates in Cornwall, photo-shoots over FaceTime remain her only option.

“We have to be our own directors, style the model verbally and ask them to sort out a specific natural lighting and set. It’s challenging as I’m quite a perfectionist.” Without being able to take photos in person and physically move a model around to create the most appealing image, the future of photography for Daisy among others requires more verbal communication and a considerate amount of patience.

Focusing less on her perfectionism and taking remote shoots for a matter of convenience, Daisy admits she was surprised to find an element of her project aesthetically appealing, emulating the appearance of film photography. “I’ve been quite impressed. There’s something about them that mirror what’s happening right now.” Although she admitted, “it’s not quite the same as a glossy fashion shoot,” she sees potential for the future as it hadn’t previously been explored.

Isabella Akers, Editorial and Advertising Photography student at the University of Gloucestershire agrees: “It has really surprised me how well the images have actually turned out. I do love that face-to-face contact with people and it’s difficult over FaceTime” but suggested it has it’s place in the current climate.

Izzy started her portrait project before lockdown, taking anonymous photographs of herself and other ordinary women. She says:“A lot of what we see on social media and in fashion is so unrealistic and people can’t relate to it. I want to show people what real bodies look like.” She’s passionate about the message being heard and as a result decided to continue shoot over video calls when social distancing guidance was put in place.

Although both photographers acknowledged that the quality is not comparable to that of a high quality image from a long-lensed camera, they both agreed that the screenshots taken were far better images than they first expected. Like all creative industries, photography has not been alone in adapting to new technologies among the restrictions of isolation, and has found the positives in this new practice. With this new found phenomena revealing the potential of screenshot photography, the question still stands: Will video call photoshoots be a thing of the past once social distancing is eased further?

In terms of convenience, it seems likely that portrait photographers will continue to create content in this way in the future. Like with most creative careers, the photography industry has had evolve under the circumstances and have recognised they can adapt easily to the technology they have at hand. After having surprising successes in lockdown, Izzy says: “If there’s people wanting to get involved in a project who lives really far away and I couldn’t see them in person, it would work really well. If it came to it I definitely would shoot over video calls again.”

While many photographers are probably dying to get back to their old habits, for some brands we could see a change in the way their marketing is done. For fast fashion websites that have embraced influencer style shoots for promoting their items, it’s possible we will continue to see FaceTime shoots in the future as it suitably matches their style. Daisy personally believes “influencers at-home photos fit the aesthetic of the brand better” and can see it continuing in to the future but sees it unlikely for bigger fashion brands to follow suit.

With so much technology out there to create optimum shoots for successful marketing, it’d be surprising if it was entirely taken over by a FaceTime alternative, but potentially we will see more creativity and a wider variation in branded shoots moving forward.

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