Sometimes you see me post #bts behind the scenes photos as I am working on styling jobs.
I love a pretty mess, and when you’re on set, pretty messes happen regularly, but sometimes they are not so pretty. One of the things that is most important when you work as a stylist is logistics. That means you have to be super organized. I cannot tell you how many times I have people want to follow me and when I tell them to organize and load props, they completely fall apart. ALL my interns for the most part want to “style.” When I explain to them that the “styling” is the minor part of our job, they NEVER seem to understand until much later down the road.
So for all you interns and stylists in training out there, here are a few rules for aspiring photostylists to think about before delving into the world of production and styling:
Ask yourself these questions::
1. Am I organized? Clients expect you to be organized and have everything at your fingertips on a photo shoot.
2. Am I physically fit? As a stylist your are a schlepper; you will be carrying, loading, unloading, and moving large pieces of furniture and backdrops, so workout. It’s imperative to your work.
3. Am I a good listener? Can’t tell you how many times I have asked an intern to do something, and they don’t hear me and mess up.
4. Am I a problem solver? Logistics and problem solving are the key component to being a great producer/stylist way before being creative!!! Being creative is the easy part.
5. Am I patient? No you will not be touching the set to style for about 3 years. Learning to style takes patience, and in this “instant” generation, that’s a really hard concept to grasp.
Quick true story:: I recently took someone along on a shoot. She/he had never been on a “real photo shoot” before and made 3 big mistakes:
1.When I said load “your” car and head to the location ahead of me and unload, she/he loaded my car instead of theirs and headed to the studio ahead of me. She/he was not doing #3: being a good listener or #4: being a problem solver.
2. In the middle of the shoot, we had our photo subject pouring Champagne…mind you the subject had been an experienced pourer. My new intern took it upon herself/himself to jump in and “show” our subject “How to pour Champagne”; a cringe worthy move that made the whole team and the subject super uncomfortable. Lesson here: Don’t jump in as the expert. You’re the intern. Stand aside, observe, and be quiet.
3.Later in the day the intern asked me if she/he should style up a a shot? WHAT??? “Why sure, I really want to wait around for a couple hours watching while you style up a shot for one of my clients. Um, no thank you.” I was gobsmacked at the arrogance. This person thought they could just waltz in having never been on a shoot, and having never styled in their life??? No.
6. Are you willing to shut up? When you’re on a shoot as an intern, your JOB is to help. That means clean-up, be aware, be organized, and BE QUIET. Your opinion is not needed. If you have styling questions for me, save them. I am happy to talk about the shoot as we are loading up.
I know this all sounds very harsh, but lately with the interns and people that want to “follow” me, I have to be blunt. These are my clients, and your behavior on set is a reflection on me. Be professional, and you’ll be invited back. For all you stylists out there wanting to learn, remember it takes time to learn a skill, especially with a profession with a million tips and tricks like styling.
Justin has been my styling assistant for over 4 years. He’s an amazing example of someone that is willing to put in his time and understands the value of being patient. I am happy to say that he will be styling all summer for one of my clients while I am in Italy teaching my styling and photography workshop, and I am sure he will shine and style with confidence and ease. I am so proud of him.
Just remember, assisting is worth all the time you invest; it will benefit you greatly. I have seen so many people come in and out of my styling life, and the ones that stay the longest really thrive and go on to have great styling producing careers.
Let me know if you have any questions about styling as a career; I am happy to answer them because ultimately my goal is to help all those who want to pursue this amazing and creatively fulfilling career.
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