What It’s Really Like to Be a Fashion Party Photographer



We spend a lot of our time here at Who What Wear ogling fashion party pictures and, sometimes, attending those parties ourselves. As expected, these events are always filled with killer style, great music, and the coolest celebrities and It-girls in town. It’s thanks to a host of skilled photographers that we can sneak a peak into them all, their work allowing anyone with an Internet connection to feel like they were right there all along.

But is shooting a fashion party as fun and glamorous as attending one as a guest? It is work, after all. Curious to find out what it’s really like—and what, exactly, goes into the—job we spoke to Billy Farrell, co-founder of the fashion world’s favourite event photography agency, BFA. Find out what’s really going through his head at an event and who he would never photograph together, below!

Who What Wear: Shooting a fashion party seems fun and glamorous from afar, but what's the reality of the situation?

Billy Farrell: Fun is a word I only use to describe work in hindsight. When you're in it, you're not thinking about how much fun you're having—that happens after. You’re going through a massive mental checklist of objectives and shots you need to put together [and] all the while, you must fluidly socialise and stay vigilant and open to new opportunities to photograph. Add to that the fact that for any given event we are commissioned to photograph, we may have as many as five masters to answer to—clients that have [different] needs, wants, requests.  

WWW: What’s the most important thing to keep in mind when shooting an event?

BF: Always put the clients’ motivations first.

WWW: What's the biggest perk of being a fashion party photographer? How about the biggest challenge?

BF: The biggest perk is simple—I’m a party photographer, ‘nuff said. The biggest challenge is maintaining a work-life balance. Self-discipline is the key to making sure you don't burn out. 

WWW: What has been your craziest or funniest experience on the job? 

BF: One of the coolest jobs I've had the privilege to shoot was the Fendi fashion show that took place on the Great Wall of China just outside Beijing in 2007. Just me, Karl Lagerfeld, and 400 of our closest friends!  

WWW: What kind of preparation does a photographer need to do before an event?

BF: As in any profession, preparation yields the best results. It pays to know who you are shooting and their relationship to each other.  Does it make sense to force a photo of Glenda Bailey and Anna Wintour together? Probably not. 

WWW: How does shooting a fashion event/party differ from shooting your average event/party?

BF: Every event has an element of fashion, but a fashion event has more of it.

WWW: Do fashion party photos get edited at all or are they used as is?

BF: Every image that ends up on our website has been vetted. Our post-production process allows us to tweak images that need a little extra TLC.

WWW: What would you recommend someone do if they want to end up with this career?

BF: Work hard and call BFA.

Would you ever consider a career as a fashion event photographer? Sound off in the comments, and shop two of our favourite fashion photography books, below!