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Photography Series, Part 1: Should you Hire A Stylist?

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You have completed your design project and scheduled a photo shoot date now with your photographer of choice. Now, the planning begins for the big day. As an interior designer, perhaps one of the biggest questions is whether you should work with a stylist. After all, you’re trained and experienced in creating stylish interiors, right? And hiring a stylist adds another expense. All things considered, it’s a fair question. And the answer is “yes, hire a stylist.”

Sascha Lafleur
Sascha Lafleur, West Of Main

Getting the right shot is much harder than snapping a quick pic on your phone for social media. It’s a showcase of your products or work, and has to hit all the right marks to make it a worthwhile investment that yields returns. Your photos have to achieve the right visual and aesthetic balance, ensuring the composition feels “real,” in spite of the styling process. In order to achieve this, a stylist will know exactly what props to add and what to remove, and where to find just the right light. They will see unconventional angles and notable details, and in many cases, can direct the shoot and help present the photo subject at its best. They can make your product or interiors come to life, and elevate your brand and tell its story.

 

You can be brilliant at adding accents and styling items when finishing a room for a client. Know that styling for the composition of a photograph is entirely different. The skills are related, but with alternate applications. A prop stylist who works with photographers is an expert at styling for the photograph. Designers tend to look at the entire whole room, while a stylist will zero-in on composing smaller-scale snapshots. Same room, but with an alternate, honed-in focus. This process is called “propping.”

Propping is a skill. Interior but perhaps equally important, is the product sourcing. Interior stylists know where to get specific items, have the contacts and can get hard-to-find items if needed.

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Stephani Buchman photo
Photo credit: Stephani Buchman

“Keep in mind when one is styling for a photograph, it’s not about arranging objects within the walls of the home but within the walls of the frame. The same design rules apply: scale, balance, harmony, and pattern, but in a new context. In interior photography, those principles are within the composition of the photograph.”

– Stephani Buchman, Toronto Interior Lifestyle Photography

 

Mike Chajecki photo_combo
Photo credit: Mike Chajecki

Many of our design clients have confessed that propping can be exhausting and very time consuming, not to mention hard physical labour involved in loading and uploading heavy items and moving them into place. Propping is a vastly time-consuming part of the shoot prep, and hiring an experienced stylist can certainly save a lot of time, frustration and money, while giving you the best final results.

The Stylist’s Job

It’s the stylist’s job to interpret a client’s brief and with their trained eye, come up with thoughtful direction and offer ideas and looks for the shoot. They work with the team to share a “mood concept,” can propose shots and ensure the look is right.

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Photo credit: Larry Arnal

“If styling yourself, one thing that can help ensure the day moves more smoothly and efficiently, is to have more décor than you think you’ll need. If you are working with a stylist, this can help in that regard as they typically come with significantly more props than we will need or photograph. They are well prepared in the event that something isn’t working from a perspective of scale, or perhaps looks too busy in the photo or a number of other reasons. You need to ensure you have additional items at the ready that we then add in, should we decide to quickly change out a piece or decorative item.”

–Larry Arnal, Interior Design Photographer North America

Your Legwork

Do some initial due diligence and take a closer look at the interior images found in your favourite magazines. Review the tabletops and displays for ideas and inspiration. If you’re shooting press images, avoid anything too seasonal or holiday-themed, which can quickly date your photos and make them usable for a short period of time. Instead, aim for the “essence.”

There are many options for hiring a stylist, prop stylist, photo stylist and the like. Look around and ask companies like ours for recommendations.

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Photo credit: Mike Chajecki

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An experienced stylist will not impose their style onto your brand, but will adapt and work with each individual client’s style, messaging and mood. Avoid judging the stylist by their own personal style, but judge them by their portfolio of work. Look at composition and creativity of displays.

Finally always confirm everything in writing before you ask the stylist to start prop shopping. Understand how they bill, and what is included in their fee. Be clear on what you are responsible for.  If you make changes after you’ve agreed to the concept, know that this will add more prep time and alter your day rate.