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12 Steps to Bad Fashion Films

May 31, 2012 by Opinion, Photography

After watching Amberlie’s fashion film that Lou put up yesterday I’m happy to say that Amberlie and her creative team did a pretty good job in this evolving medium. I’ve been putting together a new workshop about fashion video and part of my research has been to watch hundreds of these videos on Vimeo. I love watching videos of beautiful women but next time, I would chose to just take a punch in the face and get it over with.

I realize that it’s not easy to make an engaging visual short that isn’t pretentious, bordering on porn, or that feels like an 80’s perfume ad. That being said, there’s a wide spectrum of possibility and potential that is often wasted by not understanding the dialog of motion or the limits of the medium (especially as shot with a DSLR and small crew). It’s fine to look at commercials and mimic the good parts in these 30-60 second spots but don’t try and make the Chanel Coco Mademoiselle spot with Keira Knightley unless you have a production team made of up hundreds of top professionals with the budget to match. Don’t get me wrong, this is a great spot and it should be aspired to and emulated but this mini-featurette was not made on a shoestring budget with a 3 person crew.

You might be surprised at what is possible with a small kit and photo crew. There are dozens of fashion films out there produced with limited resources that are shining examples of the medium. I’m starting to collect them on a PCN Fashion Film Channel here. These are the ones I found that don’t bore me and that don’t contain to many of the bad habits listed below.

Here is my rant list of bad production habits seen on Vimeo Fashion videos:

  • Out of focus shots – it’s lack of skill not art (read Your Bokeh is Confusing My Circles)
  • Light switches and plugs in the background – lazy and you wouldn’t do it for stills or you take it out in post. Nobody wants to see distracting elements/clutter in the background
  • Cars going by in the background – movement draws your eye and is a bad/lazy choice
  • Strobe effects – gives me a headache. I stop watching in the first 10 seconds
  • Long title and end credits – I have already moved on if your title credit takes more than 5 seconds of a 3 minute clip. Have very short front credits (this isn’t a full length feature film). Try not to have a black opening frame with credits – lay it over an image to grab viewers attention.
  • Unless you are shooting a spot for a shoe company, opening the clip on high heels walking away from the camera is an overused cliche.
  • Easy on the coloring effects. Making everything look like the Matrix with scratches won’t hide bad photography
  • Image overlays (ghosting) give me a headache when there is only a flash of fully formed clear imagery. The viewers eyes need to be able to rest on a frame occasionally.
  • Dancing in front of the camera is dancing not modeling or acting. Dancing can be fun to watch but just telling a model to dance in front of the camera is poor directing.
  • Frenetic writhing is annoying and hard to watch. Motion fashion should move slow and deliberate and not look like a fish flopping around
  • Assume the position. Whats wrong with photographer as a title credit? If you are just running the camera with a model dancing without giving any direction (take your top off doesn’t count) then you are probably more of a Director of Photography. Operating a camera for a behind the scenes video doesn’t make you a director either.
  • Having a sexy model who’s either topless or in lingerie flipping off the camera doesn’t make it an edgy video, it’s just a lame cliche trying to be edgy.

Watching fashion videos would be a much more enjoyable experience if these bad habits were diminished.

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