When I got back into photography I started doing a lot of concepts with fabrics. Initially, my thoughts were along the lines of minimizing copycat attempts. Fabric work is hard to shoot well (it is) because you have to know your stuff technically. It's definitely one of those props that you want to get looking right before you take the shot because fixing fabric in post is just a massively frustrating endeavor, to say the least. However, the more I shot with fabric the more I started to really enjoy the challenge and resulting imagery.
Fabric is extremely versatile, and not an expensive prop. Living in SoCal it's fairly easy to pop on over to the garment district to pick up a few bolts for a few bucks. There are also plenty of online options to order from too.
Actually, I think it may be time to update and refresh some fabric shots. Any models interested, just let me know! I'll share some tips and tricks I've learned working with fabric in an upcoming article.
Tension with fabric really helps highlight the model's shape and form by both hiding it and accentuating it. I personally love metallic fabrics for this that have a stretch factor. With metallic fabric, I've learned that you flip the emphasis on setting up the shot away from creating shadows for dramatic effect, and instead use the light reflected by the fabric. Kind of all-encompassing rim light.
Flow and Drape
Now I'm not usually the biggest fan of flowy or draped fabric shots. My aversion to flowing fabric is that it usually hides the body and limits the light and shadow play, but I did find ways to shoot it that I actually like. I will be honest and share that when shooting loose fabric I get super OCD trying to make sure it looks good before I take the shot because you cannot easily fix it in post and keep it looking natural.
Abstract and Depth
Probably my favorite type of shoot using fabrics is when I'm playing with creating depth or attempting an abstract look with the model and fabric. I usually have a loose idea of what I want to attempt at the start of a shoot but have found that the images resulting from active collaboration with the model during the shoot are usually the ones I like best. I've also learned that creating shapes with the fabric tends to be very time-consuming to secure the fabric to either the model, or the anchor off-camera, but I think the outcome is worth the effort.
To me at least, motion with fabric shots is the hardest to accomplish well. This is my personal opinion of course. My rationale is mainly based on the fact that you have less control when throwing that fabric all over the place. The image can turn out amazing, but I definitely have a higher percentage of misses for each good shot. It also takes some good communication and coordination with your model to get right.
Closing Thoughts on Fabric Shots
I definitely enjoy working fabric into a concept shoot and admire other photographers that work with it too.
I have a number of concepts I've been wanting to try, so maybe it is time to refresh my fabric images.