IOP Student Stories

Fashion Portraiture in Action by Robert Young

IOP student Robert Young has shared some of his fashion portraiture with us along with some tips for producing professional website imagery.

Robert’s first love in photography is portraiture and we have been incredibly impressed with the results he’s producing in this genre.

In addition to having a grasp of the technical demands of this challenging genre, Robert’s creative flair and people skills are getting him noticed and the commissions are beginning to roll in.

His recent fashion shoot for WokeLondon was a great success and a huge confidence boost. Here, Robert reflects on his journey as a portrait photographer and discusses some choice shots from the WokeLondon shoot.

Robert said “My background is in portrait photography and this forms the backbone of my portfolio. It’s a genre I love. I first got into portraiture after taking some shots of my daughter. Then the world and his brother embarrassed me by saying “these are really good”.

I did little with that encouragement for some time but kept reading on the subject in the hope it would stick. Then I moved on to photographing portraits at a camera club night, which developed into subsequent modelling photoshoots at a local studio run by a friend of mine.  

My first ever model shoot was in my brother-in-law’s engineering workshop, which was organised as a charity fund-raiser. It’s become an annual event that I really enjoy. Last year the theme was smoke and powder paint. (Some images from that photoshoot can be seen on Robert’s Flickr page.)

That experience led me to do a few portrait shoots for local companies for their web sites – corporate headshots mainly. This is where I discovered the art of travelling light and keeping it simple when it comes to kit and technique.  

Woke London Model Shoot  

The commercial work is developing slowly and I’ve completed four photoshoots for Woke London.  

This group portrait was a 5am shoot. The plan was to get some images captured on the main road as it was wide and long. However, the kids had a different plan and that involved staying up late and getting up late. They turned up at 6 am! By now the buses had started to run and the traffic was building up fast. This group portrait was taken in a cul-de-sac off the main road. It took 10 minutes to set up the studio space and make sure everything looked right.  

This particular image was among the last couple of shots from this part of the session. I wanted to use the whole of the gated area originally but had to revise my plans due to all the signage and street furniture getting in the way. You have to think on your feet especially when managing a group of restless young fashion models! The aim of the portrayal was to get a feeling of ownership of the area but without conflict.  

The photoshoots with WokeLondon came mainly from word of mouth. The client had no real brief and no real idea of what they wanted. So, my main challenge now is to keep asking questions all the time and ensure the client likes what they see. And in this particular commission that worked very successfully.  

The models were great given they were amateurs and they really enjoyed the experience. With the photoshoot based on being able to move about and not be stuck in one place, this was shot using one off-camera flash Yongnuo 586EX in a small soft-box. I was using my Nikon D850 with a combination of lenses – Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8, Nikon 50mm f/1.4, and the Nikon 85mm f/1.8. I had three spare strobes for back-up as well in addition to a couple of reflectors which produced just enough light but could have used a second fill-in flash.  

This shot was captured in the afternoon sun using just a gold reflector, which also adds warmth and posed against a steel security fence. This was a spur of the moment shot as the sun just fell in the right place through some trees.  

In addition to the exterior location shots, we also had a session inside with the models.  

While I would have loved to have had a dedicated studio space to complete this part of the commission, that was not possible, so I had to create that impression in the large gym we used for the location. On top of this, the gym had a very low ceiling.

I had a PiXAPRO CITI600 TTL battery-powered studio flash and a deep parabolic light modifier, along with a white reflector and white backdrop. Once the settings were nailed and the light position that was essentially it. The basic setting remained almost the same throughout the photoshoot. There was something like 200 changes of clothing during this one session, so although it sounds like an easy shoot in terms of set-up it was quite a challenge and surprisingly more demanding than the outdoor session.  

You learn quickly and one important lesson learnt is not to try this alone. You need helpers there to stage-manage and organise the models to ensure they are kept in position and know what they’re being asked to do. Otherwise, you miss the shot. It’s also important not to be afraid of having an authoritative edge to your voice. With young adult models, it’s fun but you need to control the shoot. Everyone benefits from that approach in the end.”

All images supplied by Robert Young. See more of his portraiture here.

If you are an IOP Member and would like to take part in our Student Stories series and share your journey as a photographer, email

Robert Young is currently completing the IOP Professional Diploma in Photography. Enrol here.

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