Tips for Starting Out in Commercial Fashion Photography

Commercial and fashion photographs are some of the most commonly viewed images in today’s society. Making it as a commercial photographer is incredibly difficult, especially with competition from other photographers—not to mention the cost of gear and a crew. Tim Engle has been shooting for about 28 years since he first picked up a camera in middle school. Suffering from severe dyslexia, photography allowed him to be creative in ways he otherwise couldn’t be and gave him a social outlet, as well. Below is a complete interview with Engle about his work:

Equipment Needed for Commercial Fashion Photography

The first thing that Engle emphasizes is that equipment is not as important as it seems. If the subject is right, it does not matter whether you are shooting with Nikon, Canon, or an iPhone. When he is asked what equipment to buy, he advises to get what your friends have. That way, you can share lenses and gadgets with each other. He also recommends you master your camera and lens. The more hours you spend behind the lens, the more your images will improve.


Some of the gear in his camera bag includes a Nikon D4, a 24mm-70mm lens, various prime lenses, a Nikon SB Speedlight, and a trigger system. However, Engle has always been creative with the resources he uses. Especially at the beginning of his career, he did not have access to the most advanced gear.

How to Be Successful in Commercial Photography

Gear aside, Engle shared a few valuable tips on how to be successful as a commercial photographer. Here are just a few:

  • Try to be nice and helpful. It will pay off. The more relationships you develop, the more likely a job will come your way.
  • Remember the balance between commerce and art. If you want photography to be your job, you may sometimes have to sacrifice art for money.
  • Find inspiration. Engle often made binders of magazine pictures that he liked and dissected the lighting and composition so that he could incorporate the same elements in his shots.
  • Make your images as close to perfect from the start. Avoid the photographer’s dirty catchphrase, “I’ll fix it in Photoshop.”
  • Show what you can do before you are hired. Practice at the level at which you wish to work. Clients are often inspired by your work before coming to your for a job. You need to show them your best.
  • Don’t quit your day job to pursue photography. Become involved in the area that you are interested, and try to transition over. The photography industry can be brutal, and it’s not worth losing a job.
  • Direct your models. Do not expect your models to know what you want just because they are models. Don’t be afraid to be specific in your directions.

fashion portrait black and white photography

“There was a guy I was working with a couple of weeks ago and he was standing next to me shooting some stuff and he said, ‘How come your picture always comes out better than mine?’ And I said, ‘Because I screwed it up probably fifty more times than you did.’ And I think that’s really the key to trying to get better. There is no substitute to pushing that button and failing and screwing that shot up so you know what not to do next time.”

Like This Article?

Don't Miss The Next One!

Join over 100,000 photographers of all experience levels who receive our free photography tips and articles to stay current:

2 responses to “Tips for Starting Out in Commercial Fashion Photography”

  1. Vania Almeida says:

    Thank you for the excelent video by Tim Engle.
    I am just staringt to build my studio in my house ( area : 36 square meters, and 4 meters height ) and would be very interest in the details for the construction, such as the colour I shoud paint the walls, floor and floor. Could you give us some tips about this subject?

  2. tafavotha says:

    wow great and useful to me , so thanks

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

New! Want more photography tips? We now offer a free newsletter for photographers:

No, my photos are the best, close this forever