Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week and Fashion Photography: Money

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. The crazy week that starts in New York today. You can tell when MBFW is coming up because social media tends to quiet down. If you do see them post something, it’s an image showing them rushing to get ready for the show. I can only imagine how crazy the show is.

With Attitude! Bold.

With Attitude! Bold.

But me, I wondered how much it cost for a designer to participate. I read once that the cost for a fashion show at MBFW starts at $100,000. I’m assuming this would be for one of the smaller venues and not prime time. You got to know that shows like Donna Karan or Tommy Hilfiger is going to cost a few times more. I’m extremely curious though how much of the cost of the show goes to Mercedes Benz show fees and how much is in actual production costs, marketing, staff and other logistical needs.

I applied to volunteer at this show this month. I’ve done more than my share of event organizing and helping in other logistical ways. On top of being a technology guru. But I guess they didn’t want to take a chance with someone having to fly out from California to volunteer. I tried getting in as a photographer. But no go! You really need to be there for the designer or be part of a big media outlet. Otherwise, forget it. And they’ve tightened down the participation list and made it even more exclusive. Which I totally support. Many people were complaining about the madhouse the event had become due to people who act inappropriately. People who should not have been invited. MBFW is an expensive, glamorous event with many networking and business opportunities. Earning your stripes includes knowing how to behave. It should be a privilege. Someday!

Love the look.

Love the look.

Not long after I picked up a camera, I learned that fashion photography was my game. I’ve always loved fashion and have been quite good at it. I was a bit intimidated but how expensive it looked to get in. I’ve heard of expensive photo shoots and such. Models getting paid $10,000 a day and all the production that goes along with that.

Brunette Female Model in Stark Black and White Lifestyle

One of my fave models. Modern and Noir at the same time.

Well yes. For bigger commercial shoots. But starting out, designers and everyone is on a budget too! Like day-job and working hours afterwards on your craft kind of budget. Which I think is good. Learning how to be resourceful and working every angle to save money. Just don’t be cheap. I’ve never seen being cheap be a good solution. But being resourceful rocks.

Which leads me to the series of images I created for my Facebook Page Cover Photo this month. Some of my favorite images in the last couple of years. What makes them so special? They cost almost nothing to produce. With some of those images, I didn’t even use external lighting. I used what was available. Which was good old-fashioned harsh sunlight!

Me, I love shooting without extra lighting. It’s a challenge. I heard someone way “An artist feels most alive when taking the biggest artistic challenges.” Totally true in my opinion.

The other great thing is that the models in each of the images did their own hair and makeup. Which is a huge advantage because good hair and makeup makes a difference. And it’s ‘photography’ makeup as well. Funny thing is, many women don’t know how to do good makeup. Even models. So if they can do their own, it’s amazing. One of the models in the images didn’t know good photography-makeup either. But some simple post-processing improved the image more than enough.

Model in Black and White Lifestyle with "The Look"

Model in Black and White Lifestyle with “The Look”

For low-cost and no-cost photo shoots, wardrobe can be another cost issue. If you’re working with a designer, you’re golden. Model, that can be tricky. Again, luckily, model’s I’ve worked with have had some very decent wardrobe. I’ve heard from many high-profile people in the business that it baffles them how poor a wardrobe models have. Models who make real money. I don’t get it. Decent looking women’s wardrobe can be inexpensive. It may not be durable, but certainly good enough to wear a few times and look good on camera. Maxi dresses are cheap. You can get good looking heels for $20. eBay anyone? You can get a VERY decent wedding dress on eBay for $100 or less…

If you don’t mind putting in the research or simply put serious thought into a production problem, there’s usually a way to save money. We’re business people after all and keeping costs down is critical.

I’d love to know how much it actually cost MBFW to put on the show and how the cost percentages are allocated.  I’m a numbers person after all. And the amazing things they do spend money on for production and tech. Putting on MBFW has got to cost millions.

Budget gives you options. Having a big option has got to be a big thrill and all the fantastic things you can do. But making it happen on almost a nothing budget is pretty damn satisfying too.

About the author

Ricardo Gomez is a Fashion Photographer based in New York City.

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