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Making Your Best Fashion Photographs with Dixie Dixon

To get in sync with Fashion Week events happening around the globe in major cities during February and March, we decided to host our own stylish shoot. We teamed with photographer Dixie Dixon, who finds her work as a commercial fashion and lifestyle photographer to be pure self-expression: “No matter what you dream up, you have the power to create a vision in a single or series of images that tell your story.”

Dixon located a picturesque lakeside home in Austin, Texas, as a backdrop. Grabbing the compact Nikon D5500 and AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G plus AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G lenses, she runs through several tips and pointers that will help you get started making your own beautiful fashion photographs. Interested in lifestyle blogging, fashion or portrait photography? Catch her two videos and read on to see what she has to share.

Know Your Settings: Nikon D5500 and the AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G lens

Shooting fashion is all about making the subject look great while bringing out the unique beauty of the clothing and accessories. For success, learn how to make the most of your gear—camera and lenses. Second, create a good rapport with your model.

Black & White can give your images a timeless and edgy editorial look. You can easily shoot in B&W by setting the camera to Monochrome Picture Control. © Dixie Dixon

Black & White can give your images a timeless and edgy editorial look. You can easily shoot in B&W by setting the camera to Monochrome Picture Control. © Dixie Dixon

The D5500—plus many other Nikon bodies—is able to do a lot of the heavy lifting. I love shooting in manual mode so I can control all my settings, but if you are just starting out, the easiest way to make great images in camera is to start with Creative Modes and Scene Modes. Say for example you have a colorful outfit you wish to play up. Dial the Creative Mode setting to Vivid and the colors will definitely pop. Maybe you want an edgy black and white editorial vibe; set the camera to Monochrome. Other settings you can utilize quickly and easily are Scene Modes. Look through and note what’s available—from Portrait to Snow to Close Up and more. Scene Modes will automatically adjust key camera settings so all you have to do is frame and press the shutter.

As you advance in your photography you might try Aperture Priority so that you gain more control over the final image. Try a wide aperture, such as f/1.4 on the 35mm f/1.4G or f/1.8 on the 50mm f/1.8G. What results is a photo that draws more emphasis to your subject and clothes, then blurs the background beautifully. Just be sure to place your point of focus right on the model’s eye. When I was starting out and learning how to use my camera I worked in Aperture Priority so that I could fully focus on my connection with [my] subject.

The more relaxed and comfortable your model is in front of the camera, the more genuine your images will look. © Dixie Dixon

The more relaxed and comfortable your model is in front of the camera, the more genuine your images will look. © Dixie Dixon

Speaking more about lenses, I absolutely love the AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G. With fashion photography I favor prime lenses and this one is ridiculously sharp. With 35mm I can capture a full length fashion shot by taking a few steps back. For close ups, I walk in a few paces. This glass is also great when I have to work within a confined space.

Know your Model

Fashion photography is an intimate experience; so find a way to relate to your model to truly capture his or her soul in your imagery. The more relaxed and comfortable your model is in front of the camera, the more genuine your images will look. Before any session I learn as much as I can about my model. I check his or her social media pages, look over online photo and modeling profiles. I also try to find out what type of music he or she likes. Playing tunes while we work eases things, and it can also open up conversation.

Naturally the Best Light

Now let’s talk about the environment. I suggest doing your session to coincide with the most flattering light. I love early morning and just before sunset—both times when the sun is low on the horizon. At these hours you can work with direct light or backlight. Direct light is when the sunlight falls right onto the model from straight in front. Since the sun is lower in the sky you avoid harsh shadows; illumination softly fills the face. I suggest setting the D5500 to Aperture Priority and putting focus on the model by selecting a shallow depth of field (for example, an f/1.8 or f/2 as opposed to an f/8 or f/9). This gives softness to your background and maximum focus on the fashion item and model.

When photographing with backlight, either adjust your settings manually to avoid a dark silhouette, or bounce in light with a reflector or soft flash.  © Dixie Dixon

When photographing with backlight, either adjust your settings manually to avoid a dark silhouette, or bounce in light with a reflector or flash. © Dixie Dixon

Shooting with the sun behind your subject can make great photos as well. Backlighting adds a soft, dreamy and feminine feel. When photographing with backlight, either adjust your settings manually to avoid a dark silhouette, or bounce in light with a reflector or soft flash. The simplest way to create a beautiful backlit image without having to change your settings is to pop on the Nikon SB-500 AF Speedlight to brighten not only features, but clothes and accessories. After all, you really want to emphasize those items in a fashion photograph.

Get Lots of Complements

Clothing and accessories should really pop in a stylish image. For garments, be sure pieces are clean, pressed and hang well on the body. Pin clothes in the back to make them look more form fitting.

To showcase colors, think in terms of complements—go to your color wheel and pair opposites in the camera’s frame. For example, play up a red dress or red accessories by having the model stand within a brilliant green field.

The Perfect Camera for Fashion / Lifestyle Bloggers, Frustrated Cell Phone Users

Our photo shoot was a total blast. We created beautiful fashion images that were immediately ready to share on social media platforms thanks to the built-in Wi-Fi® from the Nikon D5500. These days I tuck the D5500 camera into my purse and take it along on all my adventures. This is a super camera for bloggers, social media stars, and anyone who wants fantastic lifestyle images from a small and compact DSLR. I absolutely love the touch screen access that lets me view my shots instantly.

For client work I primarily shoot with the Nikon D810, but when I travel and have time to explore creatively and capture for my own blog, I choose the Nikon D5500. It is compact and the image quality is incredible. In fact, I have placed photographs that I created for the Nikon D5500 campaign into my fashion portfolio. The D5500 is an easy upgrade for anyone who’s tired of cell phone camera limitations and is looking for stunning image quality.

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About The Contributor

Dixie-bio

Dixie Dixon

Nikon Ambassador Dixie Dixon is a Texas native and commercial fashion photographer. Having earned her camera skills through both time spent within a darkroom and while assisting a top London fashion photographer, Dixon started her own studio in 2007. She is incredibly inspired by the beautiful illusions of fashion and commercial photography, and enjoys creating imagery for clients such as Florsheim Shoes, Macadamia Professional, Virgin, AXS Television, Advanced Beauty, Spencer Fine Jewelry and others. Her work has taken her to Cannes, Toronto, Vancouver, Ibiza, Brazil and more to create looks for brands, television shows, commercial campaigns and editorial projects. In 2013 she was named Emerging Photographer of the Year by GraphiStudio. www.dixiedixon.com


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