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How to Capture Diversity and Inclusion in Fashion Photography

Diversity is a hot topic in the fashion industry and photography with more brands trying to be inclusive in their representation. In fashion photography terms, diversity means showing models that represent a wide cross-section of the population. It can also mean having a photo shoot that features models with different physical attributes and styles. 

This may include race, age, gender identity, representation of different body types, abilities, and body size as well as hair color  and skin tone. With this definition in mind, you may have noticed that fashion photography’s traditional definition of beauty has been gradually shifting towards a more real aesthetic – however, there is still a long way to go. 

Many fashion photography studios still believe one specific look is beautiful (for example, thin or white), but it’s high time for the industry to accept and represent beauty in a way that resonates with every culture, group, and individual. As a fashion brand, it is important to represent beauty in a way that truly resonates with a wide array of audiences. 

As more fashion brands turn to modern photography practices and technology, finding and shooting eCommerce product photos with diverse models isn’t difficult. However, capturing diversity in an original way that doesn’t look forced can be challenging. 

The Importance of Diversity and Inclusion in Fashion Photography

Diversity and inclusion in fashion photography can mean a lot of different things. For some, it might be about representing a wider range of people in fashion photography. For others, it might be about making sure that everyone involved in the fashion industry – from models to photographers to stylists – feels included and represented.

It is important for fashion photographers to capture diversity and inclusion in their work. This helps to break down barriers and stereotypes, and ultimately leads to a more positive representation of different cultures in the media, while building trust with your customers. Inclusivity also allows for a wider range of people to identify with the images that they see. 

Basics of Creating a Diverse Photoshoot

When it comes to fashion photography, creating a diverse and inclusive shoot is essential to ensuring that all audiences can see themselves represented in your work. Here are some tips on how to capture diversity and inclusion in your fashion photos:

  • Choose a diverse cast of models

When selecting models for your shoot, be sure to choose a variety that represents the wide range of people that make up your target audience. Include different ethnicities, body types, ages, genders, and abilities in your shoot to ensure that everyone can feel connected with your brand.

  • Create a supportive and inclusive environment

Before starting the shoot, take some time to create a supportive and inclusive environment for all of your models. This means making sure everyone feels comfortable and respected throughout the process. If any model feels uncomfortable at any point, make sure to address the issue immediately.

  • Pay attention to detail

When it comes to styling your models and composing your shots, pay close attention to detail to ensure that each model is represented fairly and accurately. This means avoiding stereotypes and offensive language, as well as making sure that each model is properly lit and positioned in the frame.

Working with creatives like stylists and makeup artists that come from different backgrounds is pivotal to ensuring that all of your models are well prepared and confident. Working with a makeup artist who has experience with diverse models and skin tones is a significant advantage for everyone – your models will look their best, and your photos will turn out great.

  • Be aware of your own bias

While it’s important to be aware of the other people who are involved in a shoot and their feelings about the work, it’s also vital for the photographer or the fashion photography studio to recognize their own biases. For example, if you see yourself as an ally to women, take an active role in making sure that your models feel safe and respected while shooting.

  • Listen to feedback

Even if you’re confident that your images represent all of your models fairly and accurately, don’t be afraid to listen to feedback from others – such as your social media followers or the models themselves.

Examples of Good and Bad Images

There’s no doubt that fashion photography has come a long way in recent years in terms of diversity and inclusion. However, the majority of fashion photos you see on your feed every day still lean towards the cis-gendered, binary idea of beauty.

One area where fashion photography can sometimes fall short is in its portrayal of people of color. In many cases, people of color are either completely absent from fashion photography or they’re only included as token minorities. This is a big red flag for any fashion brand trying to connect with its audiences.

Source: Reformation
Source: Universal Standard

People of color should be included in fashion photography in a way that’s natural and unforced. They should be represented as equals, not as sidekicks or afterthoughts.

The same goes for other groups that have traditionally been underrepresented in fashion photography, such as plus-size women, older women, cultural minorities, and differently-abled bodies, and LGBTQIA+ models. Furthermore, while some brands have actively tried to include diverse models, they do this to evoke emotionality amongst the audience, while keeping the models on the sidelines. Diverse fashion photography must put the models at the center stage and truly represent the community they come from. 

As a fashion photography studio, it is critical to make an effort to capture diversity and inclusion in your work. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it will also make your photos more interesting and appealing to a larger audience.

How You Can Capture Diversity in Your Fashion Photoshoot

You have many options to experiment with to create a diverse and inclusive fashion catalog – 

  • Use a variety of models. Include models of different ages, sizes, races, genders, sexual orientations, cultures, and abilities. This can help to show that your brand or line is open to all types of people.
  • Shoot in a variety of locations. Choose locations that represent the diversity of your community. Lifestyle shots can be powerful in creating a visual story for your audiences to relate with. Changing up the background or location will help you pack a punch in your final photographs. 
  • Use props and wardrobe to add diversity. Pay attention to the details of your shoot to make sure all aspects are inclusive. This can help to add dimension to your photos and make them more interesting. It can be helpful to think about ways to use props and accessories to help convey the idea that your brand or line is open to everyone.
  • Be creative with your poses and compositions. Find unique ways to showcase the beauty of all types of people. For example, if you are taking a photo of a man in your line, you can have him pose with a different woman each time.
  • If you are only trying to capture one type of person, it’s helpful to look at other brands that feature models from this group as well. Think about what kinds of people represent your brand or line best. Do they fall into a certain age group or body type? Having a good idea about your target audience will help you streamline your research before going into the photoshoot. 
  • Do your research. Be sure to learn about the different cultures and groups that you wish to photograph. This will help you understand the nuances of their dress, body language, and other important cultural differences among your audience and create compelling product imagery for your fashion brand. 
  • Seek feedback. Ask people from diverse backgrounds for their input on your photos. What do they see? What does the image make them feel? This feedback can help you fine-tune your approach to photographing diverse cultures and models and create authentic product imagery for your fashion brand. 

Conclusion – Diversity and Inclusion Need to be at the Core Of Your Fashion Photography

Underrepresentation and lack of diversity in your fashion photography can be detrimental to your brand image and potential sales. Imagine someone browsing your eCommerce website and product catalog, and seeing only a certain body type or skin tone on most of your images. Not only does a lack of diversity in fashion photography hurt your audience’s perception of your brand, but it can make you look irresponsible as a business. 

Fashion photography studios today understand how fundamental diversity is in product imagery. Modern photography studios such as FlixStudio leverage the power of AI to render hundreds of on-model product images that cater to a wide range of audiences. With turnaround times as low as 48 hours, FlixStudio renders on-model product imagery that represents beauty in all its forms and helps fashion brands create impeccable product catalog images that are eCommerce-ready.

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Arunava Acharjee

(Product Marketing Manager)