Fashion Show Lighting


Fashion shows are more than just watching models walk the runway. They forecast trends, push boundaries, and often pivot the current sartorial climate in a new direction.

Many world-renowned clothiers today create elaborate, themed stage designs with details such as backdrops, color schemes, and manipulating shadow and light to make the clothes appear as the designer initially envisioned. 

One commonly overlooked fashion show production necessity is professional lighting. With all eyes on the runway, you may wonder how to capture every intricate and subtle detail that fashion designers spend months or years creating.

In this article, we’ll share a number of fashion show lighting tips and tracks to help those preparing for a fashion show.

Why Lighting Is Fundamental for Every Fashion Show

Why Lighting Is Fundamental for Every Fashion Show

Designers often utilize motifs throughout their collections, showcasing specific textures, colors, embellishments, and logos throughout each piece – primarily for cohesion. A few examples of clothiers with signature patterns include Iris Van Herpen (known for her 3D-printed designs) and Jean Paul Gaultier with his iconic corsets.

The laces on his corsets and the 3D-printed fabrics would go unnoticed if not for the professional lighting during the show. Lighting impacts the overall effect of the designs presented on the runway, as well as the following: 

  • Lighting can obstruct the true nature of the clothes. Inadequate lighting can manipulate the hue of colors, cast disruptive shadows, and miss important details artists want people to see.

  • Proper fashion runway lighting is imperative for taking crystal clear, high-quality photos and is particularly paramount for business-related functions since photography is integral to marketing, advertising, and social media

  • Lighting will also affect the ambiance of the fashion show. Manipulating the atmosphere through various lighting techniques can change the mood and improve the overall audience reception.

Getting Started

Professional lighting designers are not cheapHowever, the expertise and high-quality work of a lighting designer plays a principal role in ensuring everything runs smoothly.

Without the right help, your fashion show may come off as unprofessional, crude, and impromptu. Bad fashion lighting is also bad for prospective business deals and won’t favor the marketing team.

Choosing the Right Equipment

Choosing the Right Equipment

In addition to having a professional hand aiding in your endeavors, you’re also going to need some essential pieces of equipment:

Ellipsoidal Lights

Some of the best light rigs you can have are ellipsoidal fixtures. Ellipsoidal lights are the most common spotlights used on stages and runways. They are ideal for illuminating your fashion show models with one of the most natural colors you can have (second only to sunlight).

A suitable wattage for your ellipsoidal lights is 200 watts. 

DMX Controlled Lighting

You can’t have manual light controls in the middle of a performance, so you’ll most likely want to acquire an excellent DMX controller for your lighting design. 

A DMX fixture will allow you to control multiple channels of lights, which you will need for the number of lights you will need to access.

Having DMX controls are also pretty convenient when you want to incorporate special effects into your show.

Gel Sheets

Gel sheets are a transparent colored material that are used in theater production, photography, videography and cinematography for altering the light tone as well as color correction.  They can help manipulate the hue of your ellipsoidal lights. They can also help with color correction and bring out the complexion of the presented clothes.

The necessity of them will depend on the type of lights you have and how well your runway stage projects light beams. The best way to determine what you need is to get a professional opinion based on your circumstances.


Gobos are pieces you place in front of your ellipsoidal lights in order to create patterns. This will control precisely where the beams shine and regulate unwanted shadows.

Gel and Gobo Holders

With the previously mentioned pieces of gear, you’ll need some gel holders and gobo holders. 

These items hold your gel sheets and gobos in front of your lighting rig and often allow you to adjust them with ease.

The Right Amount of Light

The Right Amount of Light

Getting the right amount of light is imperative to achieving a well-lit fashion show. 

The first thing to understand is the format of the catwalk and why it’s positioned the way it is. Unlike traditional stages, the runway is positioned in the middle of the audience. This is to convey every possible angle to viewers and is optimal for V-shaped bream positioning.

The second point is getting the perfect amount of lighting through diffusers, gobos, and positioning. Too much power/sloppy positioning and the lights can bleed into the audience, hindering those in the front row and interfering with photography.

Having too little light is also a problem for obvious reasons. If the stage isn’t well-lit, everyone will miss out regardless of where they’re watching.

The best lighting fixture will have evenly distributed spotlights along the runway that fall slightly off stage but not so much that they fall onto the people watching.

Angled Lighting To Prevent Unwanted Shadows

Angled Lighting To Prevent Unwanted Shadows

You’ll also need to position your lights so that they aren’t shining beams directly above the models walking down the runway. If you do, they’ll cast unruly shadows and disrupt the flow of your fashion show.

The best way to angle your lights is by crossing them in a way that they illuminate the front and back of the models as they walk to and from the front of the stage

Remember that the lighting fixtures are typically right overhead the runway, so every two spotlights should be angled towards each other in a V-shape

Adjusting the Color and Temperature

Adjusting the Color and Temperature

While most ellipsoidal lights will already have full-spectrum white lighting ideal for fashion shows, you may find that some LED lights and other alternatives lack this crucial element. Make sure you’re getting the right lights for the job, and don’t skimp on getting better equipment.

You also want to regulate the temperature of your lighting. You can’t have too much of one color, or else it can change the ambient lighting of your fashion show and disrupt the true color of the clothes being presented. 

Optimizing for Photo & Video

Photography and video are integral to your show’s success. Once the fashion show is over, all that’s left are the photos and videos from the event.

Dress Rehearsals

Organized dress rehearsals are useful for a number of reasons. Aside from getting the models accustomed to your runway, it’s also a good opportunity to check the lighting and make any necessary adjustments.

Pay close attention to the shadows, how much the light bleeds off the stage, and the temperature/hue of the lights.

Get Innovative With Your Lighting

Fashion shows are hubs for hipsters, bohemians, and artists who appreciate unique trends and styles that break norms and reshape societal conventions. 

To distinguish your show from the rest, you’ll have to employ different methods to create new ideas and innovate upon the traditional perception of a fashion show.

Utilizing Special Effects

Keep your ellipsoidal fixtures generally in the same position and explore additional special effects to elevate your fashion lighting game. 

Adding different colorations, image sequences, and sparkles in the background can take your show to the next level and pique viewer engagement during the performance. 

You can also have lighting sequences (that don’t interfere with the actual lighting of the show) to astonish and amaze. This could be as simple as moving spotlights around the models or as complex as creating a whole laser show.

Compliment Your Theme With Lights

Fashion shows generally have a theme to go along with them, and you can compliment yours with what you do with your lights. 

A more monochrome hue might be useful for a show with darker tones, but a show with illuminating or fairylike styles is going to necessitate bright temperature lighting and glittery special effects.

Ultimately, what you do with your fashion show lighting and how you apply certain techniques can make a world of difference, so don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment with any dashing new ideas you may have.

Takeaway Tips for Lighting a Successful Fashion Show

To sum everything up covered in this article, here are a few of the most important tips to takeaway:

  • Light positioning and distribution – ensure that your ellipsoidal lights are positioned directly over the runway in V-shaped alignments. The lights should not bleed into the audience and should be evenly distributed along the stage.

  • Adjust color and temperature – based on color correction needs and the tone of your show, use gel sheets and gobos to adjust the hue and temperature of your lighting.

  • Optimize for photography – photography is one of the essentials for your show’s success. Make sure the lighting is optimal for taking photographs by seeing how it looks through a camera lens before the actual fashion show.

  • Do a dress rehearsal – practicing the show beforehand will allow you to see any flaws within your lighting so that you can fix the kinks and guarantee that your show runs smoothly.
  • Be innovative – fashion is constantly changing and finding new ways to stand out. Don’t be left in the dust, and don’t be afraid to try out new things. You’ll find that taking innovative leaps creates trends and breeds success.


Running a fashion show isn’t easy. There are many challenges event planners, and lighting designers face when it comes to making sure the stage is optimally lit for performance. 

With regards to lighting, it’s easy to be overwhelmed and intimidated by everything that can go wrong. Just focus on the things covered in this guide, and you’ll be on your way.

If anything, always try to be organized, do everything with precision, and be bold with what you do.

When in doubt, a professional event lighting company can take care of all your lighting needs for you so you can focus on other aspects of getting your show ready.

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