London Street Fashion Photography with Nikon 85mm f1.8 prime
May is one of the nicest months for London street fashion photography. As days get sunnier and grow longer, the city awakens with life after a long winter as crowds of people hang out in parks and drink outdoors till late.
As a studio photographer, I cherish the summer season in the British capital. Starting with the May blossoms until the heat of July and showers of August, these are the best months to grab your photography gear and head outdoors.
London street fashion photography is a fantastic way to break the monotony of indoor shooting during the winter months. And this year it started in May.
MODEL – Precious Muir
On this quick impromptu street fashion photoshoot I teamed up with Precious Muir – a professional international photo model with a strong sense of style and excellent posing skills. Her background is English mixed with Caribbean descent, and she is a true Londoner. She is great at both taking directions and showing her own initiative for poses and expressions, and overall she’s a lot of fun to work with.
London Old Street and Shoreditch
For our location we picked Shoreditch – a “hipster central” of East London, where extravagant and outlandish attire is the name of the game. The map of our 1.5-hour photoshoot can be found below :
*The Magenta section represents a popular graffiti spot
TIME – 4:30pm – 6:00pm
London street fashion photography requires some planning. A photo shoot can be easily ruined by sudden showers or a gray cloud, and ambient light can change very quickly.
On the day of our shoot the sun set at 8pm, and we planned ahead for it. Meeting 3 hours before the sunset allowed us to avoid the harsh downward sun of the early-mid afternoon, while maintaining shutter speeds above 500ms to capture motion.
We started at around 5pm as the sunlight was softening and becoming more diffuse, producing pleasant shadows on the face. Nonetheless, we shot mainly in the shade, or more precisely at the edge of shade. This eliminates the shadow on the face while still shedding enough light for a 500ms shutter.
Lens – Nikkor 85mm f1.8
Nikon 85mm f1.8 is a fantastic lens for portraiture, in other words for down to the waist shots. This was different though, as all shots had to be head-to-toe to showcase the entire outfit, including the shoes. The first Issue I ran into was the distance between me and the model. In order to get the entire body in the shot I had to maintain around a 4-5 meter distance from the model, and move in tandem with her. The photos were to be published on a fashion blog which requires clean uncluttered images with blurred background and the subject in sharp focus.
Therefore, I kept the aperture wide open between f1.8 and f2, shutter speed above 500ms and ISO at 64-100. Nikon 85mm f1.8G is somewhat soft when wide open, but bokeh and background blur definitely make up for it.
Back Button Focusing for Dynamic Shots
Interesting fact – this shoot was the first time I tried the back button focus technique, typically used by journalist photographers and photographers capturing fast moving action. Its not something I use in the studio, where the subject is usually static. This time I needed the flexibility of focusing quickly on the model which moved quickly. It was a success – using my thumb to focus and index finger to shoot, I manged to get most of the shots in sharp focus. I plan on perfecting this technique and using it from now on for all “action” style shoots.
Shooting with Nikon D810 I was able to take advantage of its excellent dynamic range to recover shadows in underexposed shots. And with minimal editing required, I didn’t forwent Photoshop, editing entirely in Camera Raw (Im not a fan of Lightroom and its slow speed).