NYFW is like Christmas for fashion photographers - they flock from across the country and around the world to capture the most stylish individuals and styles in the fashion game. Gaining access to NYFW can seem daunting, but easier than you think with a little know how.
The main types of NYFW photographers include:
You may find you enjoy doing only one type of NYFW photography, or may choose to combine them all during the week - it's not uncommon for some photographers to mix two or more into their NYFW shooting schedule. Personally, while shooting runway and being backstage is exhilarating and awe inspiring, I enjoy the creativity and flexibility of doing street style and blogger shoots during NYFW. If this is your first season, I encourage you to try and dabble in as many types as you are able to, as to figure out what you enjoy shooting! Then the next season you can finesse your shooting schedule to exactly what you want to shoot.
So what are each of these photography types all about and how can you be one?
What it is: Stand on the coveted press riser for runway shows to capture those iconic shots of the shows.
How to do it: The only way to get in is to apply for press credentials. Each set of shows has their own application process, some will charge a fee and others are free. The main ones include NYFW The Shows, Art Hearts Fashion, and The Society Fashion Week. Have your work examples and links ready, and if you're working for a media outlet, have a letter from the company verifying you are working with them.
Receiving credentials as a freelancer is rare, especially for NYFW The Shows. Due to capacity issues, shows mostly award credentials to photographers and videographers affiliated with media publications. My best tip is to get on the email list of each show, watch for announcement of press credential applications, and apply early.
Pro tip: Arrive early! Most runway photographers and videographers will arrive up to two hours before a show starts to claim a prime spot and set up their gear. If you want the coveted, centered shots where the models look like they're staring into your fashion soul, get there early, stake out a spot, bring something to do, and meet the people you'll be hanging out with for the show.
For the AHF Opening Night and Dan Liu shows, I got onto the press riser super last minute and could only squeeze in on the sides, hence the side angles. However, for the CAAFD showcase at Pier 59, I arrived an hour and a half early and claimed a central spot on their riser.
What it is: Get a sneak peak of what goes on behind the scenes of NYFW runway shows! Backstage is always high energy and full of models, hair and makeup artists, designers, and other photographers preparing for the show.
How to do it: Most of the time, backstage access comes with runway press passes. When you check in it will be clear whether or not you have backstage access as well. This is the case at Pier 59 and Industrial shows.
Pro tip: If you want to get shots of models getting their hair and makeup done, bring a telephoto lens. Most of the hair and makeup areas are packed so it can be hard to get close.
What it is: Be the paparazzi for a week and capture the trendiest attendees as they walk into the shows and events! You will meet street photographers who are out there for a myriad of reasons and differing styles. Some shoot for their personal portfolio, some shoot for publications. Some shoot wide angle, some shoot with a telephoto lens. Some shoot specific details, some shoot full body outfits. Some shoot candid, some shoot poses. The list goes on and on.
How to do it: Just show up. Shooting street style is the easiest to break into, but depending on your shooting style, can be the hardest to master. Most street style photographers show up 30-40 minutes before and stay 15-20 minutes after a show starts to catch as many people as they can. You can either stop people walking into shows and ask them to pose for you, or catch them in action strutting their style. Either way, most of the attendees know they will be photographed and are prepared to perform for the cameras.
Pro tip: Share your shots with the influencers, models etc.! They will appreciate it so much. Swap contact info with someone you shoot (have business cards or your Instagram ready), or find them through hashtags and location tags so you can email or DM them after the show.
What it is: Help fashion influencers and bloggers capture the outfits they wear to the shows! Usually these blogger shoots aim to mimic street style shots, but result in more images, details, and control on behalf of both the influencer and the photographer. These shoots are ideal for bloggers who plan to create whole blog posts about their outfit.
How to do it: Reach out to influencers and bloggers who either live in NYC or say they are attending NYFW. Communicate your rates, schedule, and any other relevant information to your shooting style. Start contacting influencers 4-6 weeks beforehand letting them know you will be available, and don't forget to follow up closer to the shows because many influencers will not know their show schedule/be able to schedule shoots until the week before. Flexibility is key!
Pro tip: If you also want to do any of the aforementioned photography types and/or your client is attending shows, schedule your blogger shoots near the venue and at least an hour and a half before the show is slated to start. This way your client can get in line on time, and you can either get backstage/on the press riser or catch some street style outside.
Are you interested in photographing NYFW next season? Have any other questions? Comment down below!
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Karya Schanilec is a Seattle based photographer specializing in fashion, portrait, and performance photography.