Fashion Photoshoots: How Can We Make Them Sustainable?

In the age of sustainable clothing, the rest of the fashion industry is having to find ways to keep up and improve their own sustainability.

At the beginning of 2020, Vogue Italia chose to ditch photoshoots for their January edition in order to make a statement about sustainability. For the first time ever, they used an illustrated cover instead of a photograph, with seven different variations available, as homage towards the origins of fashion in illustration and drawings.

Emanuele Farneti, Vogue Italia’s editor-in-chief explained that there was a “significant environmental impact associated with publishing a fashion magazine” and then went on to give details of all of the resources that go into creating a fashion photoshoot. He wrote “One hundred and fifty people involved. Twenty flights, ten trains. Forty machines available. Sixty international expeditions. At least 10 hours of light on continuously, partly powered by gasoline generators. Food waste from catering. Plastic to wrap clothes. Power to recharge phones, cameras…”.

Farneti’s statement shows the massive carbon footprint and environmental damage that fashion photoshoots alone can cause when they’re happening so frequently. So how can we make them more sustainable?

1) Using Sustainable Clothing and Accessories

Though using secondhand clothing is unlikely to be an option for the majority of fashion photoshoots, there are still many alternatives to allow for using sustainable clothing. Photoshoots can be used to showcase and promote brands that utilize sustainable materials and ethical working conditions, as well as brands that make an effort to reduce their carbon footprint and environmental impact.

2) Choosing Locations That Require Less Travel

Farneti stated how many planes, trains and “international expeditions” had been required for Vogue’s photoshoots. By using nearby locations more often or using a locally sourced team/equipment if the shoot location is further afield to reduce the amount of travel, brands could reduce the environmental impact of their photoshoots in a simpler way.

3) Respecting the Environment You’re In

It is extremely important to take care of the environment around you if you’re using it as the location for your photoshoot. Make the least amount of impact possible by ensuring there is no litter left behind, don’t damage any of the surroundings and respect any rules or regulations regarding your location.

4) Using Natural Light

Natural light can produce some of the most beautiful photos. Golden hour is often deemed as a budget-friendly way to get aesthetically pleasing results without having to use a variety of expensive lighting equipment. Moreover, this is also a way to reduce the environmental impact of a photoshoot. Fashion photoshoots often take anywhere from several hours to a few days, and powering lighting equipment can use a massive amount of energy, which may not always be necessary if natural light is utilised as much as possible.

5) Promote Culture, Not Consumption

Fashion photoshoots can often encourage their audience to buy more and consume more. Currently, fashion marketing is making a shift towards promoting culture over consumption, and making their advertising more towards the customer than the product. Moving away from the promotion of fast fashion to a culture of more ethical consumption is a great way for brands to improve their sustainability in the long run.


Overall, it is clear to see that there are many ways in which fashion photoshoots can make improvements towards becoming sustainable. It is promising to see some of the biggest brands in the industry, such as Vogue Italia starting to take steps in the right direction and promoting it to those smaller brands who can make efforts to follow in their footsteps.

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