5 Expert Tips To Shoot A Street Style Video That Stands Out
During my time over at the world renowned MR PORTER.COM, I was lucky enough to travel to over 40 countries, work with and meet some of the most innovative and successful men and women in fashion, and in reality, get my skinny ass onto catwalk front rows.
How the hell did I manage it? Quite frankly, it was down to handling a DSLR camera pretty well, and more specifically being able to press the red record button with confidence.
Yes, my role was pretty varied, but in a nutshell I took care of all the video content that MR PORTER produced, and was the main guy behind the lenses on set and on location. However, as the budgets changed and the cameras grew, I experienced the inevitable move away from camera handling, and morphed into the wanky guy that told people what to do without actually doing anything. Well, being the guy that doesn't actually like being a wanky guy, I still actually missed holding and operating the camera. I was and still am lucky enough to exercise this at bi annual fashion weeks around the world.
Fashion week is absolutely chaos. You're required to shoot vox pops, street style, pre-show interviews, show footage, post show content and direct to camera interviews. Throw in 10+ shows a day and add same day turnarounds for good measure (lets not even get into Instagram videos) and you can imagine what three back-to-back weeks are like.
Chaos and deadlines aside, one of my favourite aspects of fashion weeks is Street Style. When I was with MR PORTER, bloggers like Scott Schuman and Tommy Ton, had already become household names with their sites informing millions around the world on what was being worn on the streets during the show period.
One thing I noticed was that although the street style photographer army now rivalled that of the roman empire, those shooting street style video where far and few between. So I decided to start a series to capture what everyone was wearing and take advantage of the the void. Four years of shooting under the pace and pressure of fashion week later, I present the best ways to capture street style for film:
1. CARRY A PRACTICAL SET UP
Fashion week can be extremely demanding, and you’re often shooting in tight spaces with little time to capture as are often people rushing into shows and cars. Everything happens in a crazy rush, yet the length of the show schedule is gruelling - it’s a full days work. So, you need to be practical with your equipment choices. Go for a super light rig, a small backpack for extra batteries and CF cards, and maybe a two lens set up - a 24-70mm and 70-200. These too lenses will allow you to cover a range of focal lengths. The advantages of the zoom lenses too, allow you to stay further away so you can capture your subjects in their ‘natural’ states.
2. HOLD YOUR FRAMING
A rookie mistake is to actually try and follow your subjects. The best way to capture outfits and details is to simple hold your frame as long as possible. Let people walk in and out of frame. A quick tip is to count to 5 seconds for each shot. This really helps when you get to post production providing of great moments to cut to the next frame when edit.
3. GET LOW
Shoes are a massive thing in street style. However, to really capture them well, you need to get on the same level as piece of footwear. That means squatting down and keeping your camera as low as possible. A light follow focus works really well in these situations.
4. GET FRIENDLY
They say that the competition is fierce in street style. However as I was shooting film I was never a threat to anyone, and crews are always super cool, so that myth is bull. You’ll be spending a lot of time around fellow photographers and videographers, so if you’re a novice its always good to get to know your colleagues - I can’t count amount of times I’ve been helped out needing spare batters or cards! You'll also go far professionally if you introduce yourself. A friendly gesture goes a long way.
5. SPOT YOUR TRENDS
Use the morning to figure out what trends you want to cover. Colours, accessories, fabrics and patterns etc are always good categories to nail what's trending, so try and spot what is consistently showing up. Most of the show-goers tend to stay in the same outfit throughout the day (yea I know having to actually mention that, only in fashion, right?) - if you’re shooting womenswear though, you may have smaller time frames to capture a special item of clothing or look as the show-goers sometimes changed up to three times a day.
6. PRESS PASSES
Now we know street style is called street style for a reason. However, to those that are lucky enough to be invited and seated at the shows they’ll know that the venues can be; well pretty much a blank canvas for whatever the designers and dream up. That being said they can often provide great, if not better backdrops for street style shot opportunities than the streets themselves. So as important as knowing where the shows are situated, is actually receiving press passes to get into the venues. You may not be shooting the show, but being inside is where everyone gathers, and where it counts. So acquiring press passes allows you extra time and opportunities to shoot those crucial fashionistas. There isn’t any easy way around this, and it’s actually one of the longer more boring tasks. The best way to approach it is to email the PR companies that handle the press for the brands, they’d normally require proof of the publication or website you work for. So if you haven’t launched your site then pulling in a favour from someone who works at a magazine or has an established site is your next best bet.
7. CHECK YOUR DAYLIGHT TIMES
You’d think this is a bit of an obvious one, yet the number of times I’ve told myself, I’ll get that person later on in the day, only to realise that I’m shooting Autumn/Winter and the daylight in Paris during those months is pretty much next nothing. Checking your daylight times before you head out really does help you mentally plan out your day. By reminding yourself you only have a specific window to capture you’ll stay more alert and focused on catching everything you need.
Now this is a biggie. If you’re shooting fashion week it means that you’ll be trying to get from one side of town to the other in the space of a few minutes, usually during rush hour, and (if it’s Autumn/Winter) then it’s almost always raining (well in Paris at least). Now as I was working for MR PORTER, during my fashion week years I was lucky enough to be chauffeured in one of the infamous black Mercendez Benz cars. (Almost every big publication can’t been seen getting out of anything less than a blacked out benz) I did tell you this was a understated non egotistical industry right ? Anyhow as the years rolled by I realised that sometimes it was simply easier to take the metro/tube and in other cases even hop on a bike.
For most of you, you won’t have the luxury of the cars. So you’ll need to always have a metro map or app handy. By now you should already be familiar with the show schedule and so figuring out which station is closest should be a piece of cake. If you find yourself still struggling refer back to tip 4. Yup if all else fails get friendly with the other photographers and they’ll be happy to lend a helping hand.
There’s alway a debate as to which lens is ideal for shooting, and it usually falls into two camps: zooms vs primes. Zoom lenses provide the user with a greater focal range and although, prime lenses stick to one fixed range they provide a better quality image in general. I’ve gone through them all throughout the years and although I feel primes are probably better suited for stills photography, for shooting film I’d stick with zooms. As stated earlier in point 1 a combination of the 24-70-mm and 70-200mm will really cover you across all situations. And that’s the thing, fashion weeks are so fast paced, you’re often faced with various lighting conditions and gruelling weather that you really have to be prepared for everything. The best tip I could give is to start off in the morning with the 70-200mm. This will allow you to get shots from a distance without having to get to close to the action. Once you’ve got a feel for shooting and started to spot some of the looks you really want to nail, you can move in closer. Nows the time to swap over to your 24-70, by this time you’ll probably be aching from holding the heavy 70-200mm anyway so it’ll be a welcome change.
Finally, if you do have space in your small backpack, a great addition is the 100mm macro lens. This really works wonders when getting in close for fabric details, and once you’ve become a expert and know the type of shots you like, who to look out for and what you leave out; you can stick with these lens. It’s most definitely my favourite, but not one for beginners.
Once you’ve mastered all of the above you should really know what to look out for and what genuinely catches your eye. The great thing about the digital revolution is that it changes so rapidly. Equipment is become cheaper, software easier to master, so my final tip would be go out and experiment. Try out new kit, experiment with different editing techniques and best of all look for new places to shoot. Fashion week is a great place to practise as it’s always awash with great looks and interesting people. However, like all things it will become boring after a while (or maybe thats just me) so why not try new unexplored cities to focus your lens?
Once you’ve managed to master the tips above, you’ll be good to hit the streets with confidence. Just remember, like all creative fields, learning the rules are important, but not always essential. Once you’ve learnt them, then you've earned the right to break them too!
Now, make your street style stamp on the world.