Several years ago, I met a fellow photographer – albeit, he was an amateur, a very
good one (the difference is not the quality of the work . the difference is that one
does it for love, the other does it for money). He is now a new friend and fellow
photographer named Marco, an Italian. His day job is as a top children’s heart
surgeon. His passion for photographing people takes him all over the world,
seeking out that special face, interesting enough to be captured on film/file.
During our brief encounter in my brother’s hairdressing salon, we had found
common ground and a need to explore each other’s pictures. He asked me if I would
visit his photographic society to meet the other members and discuss the possibility
of me giving a talk about my fashion photography. I said to Marco, “Whatever will I
Well, first off, he said, there is something very magical in the expressions of my
models and in the atmosphere of my pictures that he would love to have in his. He
asked me how do you achieve this. Shocked at his remark, I said, “No, I can’t,
because I don’t know myself.” You have to find out he said because this is what you
should talk about. We spent the next couple of hours disgussing photography and
the feelings and techniques of managing your subjects whilst shooting.
During my visit to his camera club, we arranged for my talk to be done nearly 9
months later, so I had time to think about my talk and to get myself prepared.
For days, I looked at my work and examined myself whilst shooting assignments. It
was maybe 6 months later whilst photographing a bridal-wear collection for one of
my clients that something clicked. (No pun intended!)
I had decided that I would like to start shooting with wider lenses to change the
style of my bridal-wear pictures. I shoot for so many bridal-wear designers, so I
have to make them look and feel different to the each other. It also helps to use a
short zoom, because during most of my shoots, I can take a variety of images from
full length to portrait shots from the same distance, so my client gets much more
usage out of the shots.
While moving in closer to my model, I noticed a big difference in the expressions in
her face and her body language – they changed, as I got closer. I experimented
more and began to play with this for the rest of this shoot. Not only could I see
better, it also created a much better flow of the energy and communication between
my model and myself. For years, I have been shooting fashion pictures using
medium-length telephotos, at times so far away that my models could not hear me
directing them. An amazing thing had happened. I could see and control so much
more in my pictures. Not to say that I will never use long lenses, just that I prefer
the new results that I am getting with wide lenses. In fact, most of my recent
projects I have shot with a wide zoom.
I find that by doing the poses and expressions in my face that I want, my models
seem to mirror mine. If I act daft, they act daft. If I laugh, they laugh. If I pull a sad
face, they pull a sad face – which always makes them smile 🙂
Since this experiment, I have been adapting my directions to my models in much the
same way, obviously changing my energy levels to match the levels I want in my
pictures. If I want a nice soft and gentle feel, I express this in my voice and my
manor and my body. If I want high energy, I do high energy. If I want my model to
leap, I will leap.
Think about this as if you were a conductor. The next time you attend a concert,
watch him or her, and watch the orchestra. They mirror him – fast tempo, slow
tempo, and medium tempo. You can do the same with your models.
Fashion pictures for me have RHYTHM and TEMPO. If you want to express high
energy or tempo in a picture, the shoot has to be high energy or tempo, or visa-
I look at pictures and sometimes wonder how boring the shoot must have been. I
love to change the tempo up and down whilst I’m shooting, I would hate it if anyone
viewing my pictures did not feel this energy. This is why I strive to make my shoots
exciting for myself, my model, the other members of my team, and, most important,
for my clients.
As a photographer, you are the conductor, your models are your orchestra, and your
clients or viewers of the pictures are the audience. So you have to direct and
entertain. Your performance will reflect in your pictures.
I want you to try a little experiment. The next time you have people over to your
house or you get a moment with some people at work, pick a volunteer. Face each
other, one or two feet apart, don’t speak, and don’t look at each other. In fact, do
your best to imagine they are not there. Stay like this for 30 seconds and remember
how this feels. Stay in this position but hold each other’s hands, look into each
other’s eyes, smile at each other, don’t speak. Instead of imagining they are not
there, do the opposite. Try and send them all of your good energy. Stay like this for
30 seconds. Remember how this feels, and compare the feelings. Ask your friend or
colleague and the others to explain how it felt for them. The next time you are
shooting pictures, remember all of these feelings.
Bruce runs courses, master classes and workshops that give students an insight
into the fascinating world of fashion photography. Instructor and photographer
Bruce Smith teaches the fundamentals of preparing for a fashion shoot and
setting up and photographing a shoot. “Introduction to Fashion
Photography” is intended for anyone who wishes to shoot fashion images for fun in
order to impress family and friends or for those who have a burning desire to
become a professional fashion photographer.
Bruce’s objective is to helps young photographers, initially to produce single fashion
shots and eventually to produce fashion stories that would not look out of place in
today’s fashion magazines.
With a fashion photography career spanning 30 years, Bruce has shot projects in
many parts of the world from Alaska to Thailand. For the past 3 years he has been
giving workshops, lectures and talks in various parts of the UK as well as abroad,
teaching hands-on the skills and techniques he has learned during his professional
There are several variations to the courses that photographers can take, from an
online 8 week intense practical asignments course to 5 day master classes in
beautiful settings in the South of France and Italy. Bruce teaches studio photography
on his fashion and beauty or Glamour and Fine Artistic Figure and Nude
photography workshops, held every month in fabulous studios in South West
London. Students can expect to learn a lot of the secrets behind Bruces amazing
fashion, beauty, glamour and fine artistic figure and nude photographs.
His work can be seen on his web sites:
You can read the many letters of thanks from his former students. There is also a
students gallery where you can see the standard of photography his students are
achieving in a short period of time whilst attending his photography master
classes and workshops.