The next time you launch your phone’s front camera, reconsider its photographic potential.

That’s what fashion brands and magazines are doing now that social distancing measures have effectively made photoshoots impossible. Or, almost. Instead of shooting in a regular studio filled with photographers, models, stylists and makeup artists, the fashion world is adapting to the quarantine by creating content through their phones and laptops.

That was the case for Jacquemus’ Spring/Summer 2020 campaign, fronted by Bella Hadid and Euphoria star Barbie Ferreira. The low-res images, in which the models show off the French brand’s latest collection of sunglasses, knitwear and signature Chiquito bags, were shot entirely in their homes via FaceTime. They were captured by photographer Pierre-Ange Carlotti, with direction from designer Simon Porte Jacquemus.

That wasn’t Bella’s first FaceTime photoshoot, either. Earlier this month, the model had starred in an editorial for Vogue Italia’s April issue, which was also shot and styled through iPhone’s video calling app. On Instagram, photographer Brianna Capozzi shared that she had tested out poses with stylist Haley Wollens beforehand. During the shoot, they gave their directions over a call to Bella who, having done her own hair and makeup, mirrored their poses.

The virtual photoshoot is slowly becoming the norm as more fashion magazines follow suit. British title i-D, for example, has unveiled an online project helmed by photographer Willy Vanderperre, featuring a line-up of today’s top models such as Gigi Hadid, Adut Akech and Adwoa Aboah. “Some of them I consider to be real friends, so I thought a straightforward action, like Facetime, felt appropriate,” explained Vanderperre. “The techniques I used were also direct: a screengrab, a picture of the screen to record a video over the phone.”

Fellow photographer, Nick Knight, has also revealed that fashion brands are encouraging him to get inventive with their campaigns during the pandemic. “Rather than cancelling or postponing, we’re shifting to different formats, shooting campaigns on Zoom, Skype or using 3-D scanning,” said Knight.

Vogue Italia April 2020 (Photo credit: Bella Hadid / Instagram)
Vogue Italia April 2020 (Photo credit: Bella Hadid / Instagram)

Speaking of Zoom, Fear of God‘s Jerry Lorenzo has already made the case for the video conference app’s image-producing capabilities. For a lookbook of his sneaker collaboration with Nike, the Los Angeles-based streetwear designer teamed up with Pierre Toussaint, who captured Lorenzo’s son sporting the shoes all the way from Sydney though a video call.

Zoom was also the go-to medium for Russian photographer Elizaveta Porodina, who fulfilled her dream of shooting Chloë Sevigny via the app. In the actress’s cover story for The Cut, Porodina manages to retain the painterly quality of her enigmatic pictures, proving to photography purists that the digital app can highlight, not hinder, their craft.

Pandemic or not, it looks like the photoshoot will go on. After all, images are the most powerful form of communication in fashion, even more so than the clothes themselves. (This Instagram page illustrates just how much is lost in the brilliance of designs when they are shot with little to no effort.) Now that fashion shows are being cancelled and stores are closed, luxury brands are forced to rethink the way they engage with their audience.

But the fashion world is nothing if not creative, and the virtual photoshoot is proof. It even has its perks: “Compared to being on set and I say one thing, the client says another and then the creative director says let’s try that and it’s like which of the three poses is the model trying and you get some weird in between,” shared Capozzi. “Because it was so specific and there was no distraction we were really able to just get in the exact poses and get the exact idea across.”

The virtual photoshoot may be a necessary means for now, but it will likely linger long after the world has recovered from COVID-19. After all, fashion has always been one of the first to adapt innovative practices and technology even before the pandemic; brands have staged digital fashion shows, created downloadable clothing and even hired CGI models to star in their campaigns. As apps like FaceTime and Zoom inevitably become more advanced and produce sharper images, will there really be a need for a physical photoshoot, whose production often requires flights, excessive electricity, plastic packaging and other things that take a toll on the environment? Time (and FaceTime) will tell.

Pameyla Cambe
Senior Writer
Pameyla Cambe is a fashion and jewellery writer who believes that style and substance shouldn't be mutually exclusive. She makes sense of the world through Gothic novels, horror films and music. Lots of music.