Milan plays host to some of the most fashionable people around. In the run-up to fashion week, we ventured to the uber-chic city with our guide, Jay McLaughlin, who shared his shoot secrets with us…

Image by Jay McLaughlin

There’s nothing I enjoy more as a photographer than shooting fashion editorials on location.

That’s when I’m in my element and really feel at home, even if I’m 1500km away in Milan! Editorial photo shoots give me the opportunity to be far more creative and spontaneous, and I’ve been fortunate enough to shoot for loads of magazines over the years, and have been published in all four corners of the globe. I got my first magazine cover three months after turning professional back in 2007, and I still get a buzz when I see my work out there in the wild.When shooting for a brand, retailer or designer, you can be faced with a lot of guidelines. However, magazine editorials give us the freedom to create more narrative, or feeling, and to put ourselves into our work. Some of my favourite shots from over the years have been from magazine editorials, often with a smaller team.

I love the interaction between myself and the people I shoot. When all the elements come together on a shoot and you get that chemistry right, it really is magical.

Image by Jay McLaughlin

Finding Inspiration

I’m a huge fan of mood boarding before a shoot. Even if I have a pretty strong idea of what I want to create in my head, it’s good to be able to show the rest of the team ideas, so that everyone is on the same page. It can be especially useful for finding locations if you’re shooting somewhere you’ve never been before.

My platform of choice for finding inspiration is Pinterest. It’s a great place for sourcing ideas, and you can collaborate with the rest of the team on secret boards. Before we headed off to Milan recently, I spent about an hour creating our Milan mood board, and it proved invaluable once we were there.

I already had a good idea of the locations I wanted to shoot in, and was able to do a recce that morning with the team, checking how busy places would be, and what the lighting was like. I had three ideas I wanted to shoot; this helped keep us all on track, and making the most of the time with our Italian model, Chiara Veronese.

While it’s great to have your references, it’s just as important not to get too invested in them. Copying is bad! I might show an image to my model at the beginning of the shoot, but after that, I hide them away. What I often find is that individual elements from various sources end up being combined in my own head to create something different to anything on my actual mood board, whilst still being consistent with the original vision.

Sharing mood boards and ideas with our model Chiara to build rapport.

Gear Up

Obviously, a photographer is nothing without photographic equipment, and there’s far more freedom than you might expect when choosing what gear to use. If my client wants me to shoot tethered, the OM-D E-M1 Mark II is my go-to body, but in all other situations, my camera of choice is the PEN-F. This is purely because I prefer the look and feel of it. Additionally, the off-centre rangefinder-style viewfinder allows me to keep less of my face covered, which allows me to maintain a rapport with my model far more easily.

Image by Jay McLaughlin

When it comes to lenses, there really is no right or wrong, and over the years, I’ve favoured shooting on long lenses like the M.ZUIKO 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO and really isolating my subject, whereas now I prefer wide lenses like the M.ZUIKO 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO, M.ZUIKO 12mm f/2.0 or the amazing M.ZUIKO 25mm f/1.2 PRO. There is plenty of choice, and it can be pretty subjective. Each one gives its own unique feel and look, and it all comes down to personal preference.

On location, I always take as little gear as possible. I like to be as mobile and agile as I can, often only carrying one or two lenses max. I’m also a big proponent of Adobe Lightroom Mobile on the iPad Pro.  

Shooting from lower down gives a sense of strength and empowerment.


  • Make a mood board
  • Be organised with your model and team
  • Build a rapport with your subject
  • Stop looking at the LCD screen
  • Get lower
  • Think about your output

Image by Jay McLaughlin

Article featured in Olympus Magazine Issue 59 – to see the latest copy of this free digital magazine click here.