How to take exceptional outfit photos - by Guest Blogger, Jenni Marie

I met Jenni several years ago through work. We've since made several life changes, but recently reconnected via the blogosphere. Jenni is an amazing photographer, with plenty of tips and tricks on photography! Check her out over at www.jennimarie.com!

How to take exceptional outfit photos

To channel Audrey or imitate Marilyn, a fashionista spends valuable time shopping for the perfect pieces (whether at thrift shop or department store) then combines elements into clever outfits before marching out into the day's foray. Learning to skillfully document your fashion triumphs mimics the process of creating those fashion triumphs. 

1. Choose the camera as carefully as you would choose the outfit.
Planning to photograph an outfit is only the first part of the battle.  How often do you decide to wear the first outfit you try on in a morning? If you're like most women, it takes several options, many minutes, and a pile of clothes on the closet floor before the decision is made:  "on average women spend 16 minutes every weekday morning deciding what to wear and around 14 minutes on a Saturday or Sunday morning."   [Source: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/5783991/Women-spend-nearly-one-year-deciding-what-to-wear.html]

Why, then, would you expect to be able to purchase and use the first camera you find? Walking through a camera-shopping tutorial such as I wrote on JenniMarie.com will help you decide what you need for life & fashion photographs, save you money avoiding features you will not use, and be properly equipped for a photographic endeavor. 

2. Be the master of the camera. 
Regardless of which camera you choose to purchase (or already own): Learn your camera.  Learn your camera forward and backward, inside and out.  Whether it's an iPhone or a DSLR, KNOW IT and OWN IT until it's as comfortable as an old shoe. 

You know to wear the clothes instead of letting the clothes wear you, and the principle applies to your camera.  Oscar Wilde said it succinctly:  “You can never be overdressed or overeducated.”  Embrace your inner nerd and read the manual, research specific problems you're facing and embrace the solutions,  practice practice practice your photography to master the camera and hone your skill set.  

Learn what the camera sees and how it reacts to what it sees (this will mostly relate to lighting's direction and intensity and will affect what is shadowed and what is overexposed).  Your job is to either learn to manipulate the camera so the automatic settings produce fabulous images or to manipulate the settings of the camera so the images are exactly what you envisioned.  You probably won't have time for adjusting every setting manually (though that's the ultimate goal, if you have the capability) and many cameras don't allow for manual adjustment.  But if you're able to be smarter than the camera, wiser than the technology that you use, you can let the camera do the work for you but manipulate it within the boundaries you set.   This could mean ISO, it could mean changing position and paying attention to light, it could mean adjusting where the camera is focusing. Each camera is different, but the principle is the same: KNOW YOUR CAMERA.

3. Compose for success.  
“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous,” says Coco Chanel. For most of us, that means crafting outfits carefully and with an eye for detail.  Why photograph those classy and fabulous outfits any differently?  You've dressed for success, now compose for success. 

Pick a relevant location.  Let the background of your photographs complete the story of your outfits.  Wearing heels and pearls?  Probably not the best time to photograph in front of the neighborhood swing set.  (If, however, you're showcasing your best mommy-play-date outfit, the swing set would be completely suitable!)   Similarly, avoid background distractions in your photographs.  The WalMart sign?  Probably not helpful.  A pile of dirty laundry?  Likely what your viewers will see first! 

Keep an eye on the light.  An easy way to showcase your outfit will be to shoot in shaded areas with the main light source behind the camera.  Whether that inside a doorway or against a wall opposite a window or under a shade tree, the goal is to avoid the harsh shadows that deepen under-eye-trenches and add weight in unseemly places.  Too much sun in your eyes will make for a squinty mess.  Too much sun behind your outfit will require outsmarting the camera (a good skill to have, but not necessarily for beginnings). 

To paraphrase Coco Chanel:  "[Photograph] shabbily and they remember the [photograph]; [photograph] impeccably and they remember the woman."