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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Trendspotting Tips

I received an email from a reader seeking advice about how to succeed at fashion trendspotting, thus the idea for this post was born. For those who don't know, I have experience working as a trendspotter and fashion trend forecaster. Since my days as a burgeoning fashion trend forecasting intern, I've had a passion for watching trends develop. What I am fortunate enough to do involves all of the things that I love and enjoy: shopping, traveling, photography, window shopping, and research. In addition to the multitude of magazines and blogs that I read each week, I browse the websites of a handful of British retailers on a daily basis to get an idea of what's happening in Europe. Since trends often (but not always) seem to develop in Europe and Asia before moving on to the U.S. and other parts of the world, it's helpful to keep an eye on these markets. I also browse and shop regularly to see what trends are happening at the retail level and to photograph store window displays. (Tough work, I know, but somebody's got to do it.)
A large part of the trendspotting that I do includes store window photography. So what exactly does it take to be a successful trendspotter? I realized last week that although it may sound easy, something so simple as shooting store windows (which I do on a weekly basis) is not so simple. Here are a few key things I noticed about becoming successful with the photography:

1. Keep a keen eye for trends. The most important skill is to be able to see a display or a person on the street and instantly determine whether it's trendworthy or interesting. I rely upon instinct for this one, and I try to keep my personal taste out of the equation. Just because I dislike cheerleader skirts or gingham prints does not mean that they're not worth shooting one particular season. Right now, I'm shooting a lot of spring displays with mixed prints, such as florals mixed with stripes or bold graphics mixed with plaids.
2. Efficiency pays. This type of work can often involve being paid on a per photo basis. Therefore, it pays to be able to shoot a larger quantity of photos in a short amount of time. Having a fast camera and knowing how to use it are essential to this part of the job. I typically use Casio digital cameras because they are small and lightweight, and more importantly, because they go from powering up to shooting in under 2 seconds. This also allows me to shoot both quickly and discreetly when necessary.
3. It helps to practice patience. Shooting store windows or street style on a busy street or in less than ideal weather can take some patience. There are several factors to contend with: when to use a flash, reducing glare and reflections from lights, cars, or pedestrians, dealing with dirty windows, having distractions (such as people, pets, noise, and traffic), and using optimal angles for reducing reflections.
4. Can you follow directions and manage the details? Besides photographing the windows, there are a few details I have to remember. First, the industry generally uses photos for their trend reports in portrait (vs. landscape) orientation, so I'm accustomed to holding my camera vertically. Second, photos also have to be a minimum resolution, and they require very specific naming conventions. Additionally, while shooting, I have to shoot the store signs either before or after each store batch so that I can organize and name my photos properly once I've downloaded them to my computer. Lastly, shooting street style involves having the subject sign a model release/waiver so that there are no legal problems in the future.
5. Staying structured. This type of work may not be for someone who prefers a very structured work day, isn't good at managing their time, or enjoys sitting at a desk for long hours. Part of why I love it is due to its freedom, its ability to offer me inspiration and a creative outlet, and because I don't have to be stuck at a desk from 8 to 5.