Fashion photograhy: Shooting from the hip

Chris Moore has been photographing the international fashion shows for more than 50 years. On the first day of haute couture week in Paris, the 'King of the Catwalk' reveals his trade secrets
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The Independent Online

1 Running with the pack

The pack at the end of the catwalk has shrunk over the years. In the mid-Eighties, we had hundreds of people. Since digital has taken off, far fewer. But there is a hard core of guys who have been in it for a long time. We're a mafia, we look out for each other, and it's a nice atmosphere. Although I'm terribly old, one is always a schoolboy in a pack.

Here, the guy with the white beard in the right-hand corner is Bruno Rinaldi, from Vogue Italia; the guy in shades is Dan Lecca, from Harper's Bazaar US; immediately to my right is Jim Cochrane, of Condé Nast Asia, and the little guy to my left is Giovanni Giannoni, who shoots for Women's Wear Daily. For my company, Catwalking, there are two shooters, myself and Karl Prouse.

2 In camera

We use the super-duper new Nikon D3. Not to sound like I'm advertising it, but it is absolutely the camera of the moment. For a while, people have been saying the Canon is better but suddenly Nikon have overtaken Canon in the race and a lot of people who were using Canon before are switching to Nikon.

3 Glued to the spot

Each shooter has a "spot" in the pack. It sounds awfully grand but I do pay someone to go to each catwalk venue a couple of hours before to mark our spots with tape. Sometimes she sits there until we get there an hour before the show starts. The "spot" is about 2ft square. We have a trusty box to stand or sit on. I have a wooden box I found on the street in Farringdon about 30 years ago, which apparently was originally a microscope box. And it's all held together with tape, I'm for ever gluing it back together. There is a bit of a pecking order within the pack, when it comes to spots. The first thing to suss out is, who's doing the in-house pictures for the designer. You want to be as close to them as possible because they'll have the best spot. Generally somebody will find out which way the models are going to walk down catwalk. Usually, they come down the lefthand side and come up the right or vice versa.

4 French dressing

The Paris haute couture shows are much easier than the ready-to-wear collections, because there's so few of them. Dior is today, and that's the show I'm looking forward to. They put on a marvellous show. Makes good pictures. I do think about the clothes during the show. I sometimes think it's been a brilliant show but the fashion journalists pan it. I do think I have quite good taste, but I can be influenced by the music, the ambience, everything else, the models, you know.

5 The height of fashion

Some spots can be very high up. I recently fell off a podium at a Royal College of Art show two weeks ago and I don't know how it happened, but I fell very well, so no injuries. I keep telling everyone I'm good at falling: I keep my head out of the way and keep the camera up.

6 Picture perfect

As the models come down the catwalk, we probably do three or four full-length shots of each outfit, then do three or four crops and a close-up of the head. There are laws to the perfect catwalk photograph: the foot should be on the ground not sticking up in the air; the model should look as if she is looking at you, though she probably isn't; she should have her head reasonably upright; and you should see the clothes well, without them merging with the background. Simple as that.

7 The digital age

We went digital quite early on, in 1998. When we used to shoot film, after the shows you would meet the fashion editors and go through what "looks" they wanted sent back to their newspapers. Now we carry computers with us and download the digital images on to those, and, if need be, we wire straight away. If the last show is late, finishing at half nine or 10, people still want to see it up on the web. So, straight after a show, we go back to the hotel, edit and put it up. This is done before anyone goes to bed. So, digital hasn't made our lives easier, because everyone wants pictures immediately. Before, picture desks were prepared to wait. You could put the film in the lab and go and have dinner.

8 Video nasty

The use of video is edging us out a bit. People are asking me if I do video or if I would do video and I think I might have a go at some stage. I don't know if it would be easier than shooting. We are thinking about buying a video camera.

9 Model behaviour

The model Karen Elson is famous for never looking at the camera. She makes a point of not looking at the photographers. Naomi is going through a stage where she won't walk to the end of the catwalk and turns round as quickly as possible. That causes a problem. Kate Moss, that one, she is always very good. Christy Turlington would play to the pack. She would come to the end, turn around, walk a little and walk back. She was always very good, so you got good shots of her.

10 Swift exit

We need to get quickly from show to show, but we don't have a car – we use the Métro a lot. Sometimes Suzy Menkes [of the International Herald Tribune] gives us lifts. A marvellous thing about this job is that you do learn about foreign cities. When I'm in Paris, I stay in Hôtel Franklin D Roosevelt, which is just off the Champs-Elysées.

11 Designer sales

The website has been crucial for the survival of our business, and we've now got more than 200 regular clients worldwide. I kid people and say it's a bit like a Chinese takeaway. You look up a show, give us the numbers of the outfits and we send them to you. I think that we have a good business largely because we have this website.