Tag Archives: styling lessons

Lessons in Styling – How to be a producer

I am hoping these Friday styling lessons will act as a form of mentorship. Why should you have a mentor? Like many artistic professions prop styling has a knowledge base that is passed down by word of mouth. Sure you can have a good eye and have the ability to find great props, BUT there is no substitution for putting your time in and learning and observing someone that’s been in the business for many years. IMG_3163 Natalie (my former assistant, far left) with 2 interns on set with a chicken friend. Nat was with me for 5 years and is now a Senior Stylist with Ballard Designs (so proud of her). Book of Food 3-021 Lately I have been thinking about how I came up in the business. I was mentored by some amazing people. I assisted in a full service photo-studio (that means we shot editorial, commercial, food, fashion and interiors) for 3 years. I had the opportunity to work on all sorts of photo shoots. After about 3 years I slowly started my freelance business. I would still work in the photo studio and assist, it was always a place for me to hone my skills. Sinskey4 Sinskey2-1 _MG_0166_receipt_web _MG_0037 I have people email me every month about how to get started in the photo styling business. I used to have some pat answers but the landscape has changed… changed drastically. With the editorial magazine business in decline (have you seen how thin they are lately?) and the rise of so many great editorial resources on the web, the business of prop styling has changed for good.

With this rise of online resources there are more and more bloggers wearing many hats: writing, photographing and styling their own content. So with these styling lessons on Fridays I am hoping to reach out to those that want to improve, hone and learn more styling skills.

Today’s lesson is How to be a Producer (in other words, how to make your story hang together).

By now your blog has a point of view, if it doesn’t… it needs to. Your content should be original. I like to have at least 80% of my content be something I styled. Whether you are food, fashion, decor, or lifestyle driven what is your message? Everything on your blog should have your unique point of view. You should have a style opinion… a strong one.

Once you have established your point of view, producing photo-shoots should be easier. When I work for clients I need to know about the brand (their point of view) in order to produce a great story for them.

Treat your blog like it’s your own magazine and identify what your brand will be about. Everything from photography style to styling touches, your photographs should look like you (your brand) in other words when you produce a story it should have your style stamp on it.
a66c3fc598509bbaca684b11ac302568 8 tips on how to produce a story:

1. Come up with a theme.

2. Come up with the points you want to make. I like to keep it to 5.

3. Make a shot list. Here’s one from the Tradhome Online project that we shot a couple months ago:

Tradhome Sunday Suppers

 January 16th

Call time 9:00am

Photographer Deborah Whitlaw Llewlleyn

 Menu and Shot list

Casual Sunday Supper set up. Recipes to be included. Take away ideas for the table setting and interesting plating ideas.  Plenty of  photo options as far as angles and details.

Camponata with crostini.

Arugula Salad with wine with coaster  and wine glass.

Dinner plate with flank steak with pickled onions, farro, grapefruit and fennel salad.

Apple, pear, and rosemary cobbler with vanilla ice cream.

Menu card on the table with detail of the place setting.

Table setting – full table shot.

Close up cross table shot with the centerpiece idea.

Party Pantry shot as possible opener shot for Sunday Supper prep, before the party shot, setting the table. TBD

Location- Joseph’s home

You can see the full story here.

4. Make a list of all the props.

5. Order and collect props and shop for props.

6. Unpack and store all the props in one location. If transporting, pack and load everything then unpack in a staging area so that everything is easy to access and pull from.

7. Designate where you want to start shooting according to the best light. If you are lighting the location the sun light is not as crucial. You should know how to light artificially, I will say most bloggers depend on natural light (too much) photos appear blue and blown out. If you want to learn more about how to light check out my food/prop styling photography workshops.

8. Go through the shot list. Shoot everything on the list and a few extra details you see along the way.

Whether you are shooting for your blog or shooting for a client these 8 points apply.
80d0cb4aedb9f7f2a244c60d38798ec6 4 Big Pro Tips when working with a client:

1.Be on time… in fact be a little early to the location. You want to be fairly unpacked by the time the rest of the photo crew gets there.

2.Have too many props, in other words have many more props than you think you will need.
3.Be on set. I can’t tell you how many times I have had assistants hanging with the props and not on set, it’s a bad habit. If you’re not on set you cannot be ready for the next shot or help out with the shot that is being photographed. Plus you won’t learn anything hanging in the back and if you are the primary stylist you need to move things on set for the camera. Be present in all senses of the word.

4.Pack up as you go. Once a prop is used pack it up. More than likely you will not need it again and it makes for easier clean up at the end of the day.

Here’s Justin my current styling assistant on a ladder working it!
Hope this has helped. Please feel free to ask me any questions you might have, happy to help.

Until next week, happy styling xx

Photos by: Lauren Rubinstein, Helen Norman, Sarah Dorio

Styling : Tags: , , , ,

Lessons in Styling – Styling Kits

Let’s talk styling nut and bolts… literally. Today I will be sharing everything you need to create styling kits of your own. I have two that I will break down for you below. If you do not already have a well organized tool kit, put one together pronto. It’s a prop stylist essential. I store mine with my prop stash.

Tool Kit #1 – this kit is used for interior and entertaining stories as well as lifestyles and tabletop. It’s a big Fat Max filled with everything a stylist might need on the job. As you know being a stylist is a problem solving situation, so like a styling super hero you must be prepared. * Note: make sure you have everything organized so you know where to find it! Here’s a peek at my workshop on wheels, as well as a detailed list of items: OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Tool Kit #1:

1. Screwdrivers in several sizes
2. Clamps/Clothes pins
3. Pens and Pencils/Highlighter
4. Twine/String
5. Tape – all sorts including double sided tape and foam tape
6. Straight pins/ T pins
7. Picture Wire-Floral Wire
8. Scissors, several sizes including Pinking Shears
9. Nippers/Wire Cutters/ Garden Nippers for cutting branches on location
10. Hammer and Nails/Screws
11. Hole Punch
12. Apron
13. Museum Putty {we use this to level plates, or stop props from slipping on set}
14. Wedges- to level furniture
15. Level
16. Temporary picture hangers and hooks like these.
17. Paint brushes, all sizes and a couple disposables
18. Paint Scraper and Painters Tape
19. Paper towels, and all purpose cleaner
20. Goo Gone
21. Clorox Wipes
22. Hot glue gun
23. Staple gun
24. Chalk
25. Sewing kit, Lint Brush, Tide stain stick
26. Tape measure
27. Lighter/Candles – a pack of 12 plus cream tea candles
28. Batteries AA
29. Baking Parchment paper
30. Stainless Steel Wipes
31. Exact-o knife/blades
32. S hooks
33. 50 lb  Fishing line
34. Iron, I like to bring a Shark Steamer as well.
35. Cork screw – this comes in handy for more that just styling, great for the after party!
36. Plate holders for hanging plates on the wall

I have a travel kit as well, a small hard-case suitcase that can be checked at the airport. I love using clear plastic zip bags from The Container Store for my travel kits, it keeps everything together and organized plus you can see everything without rifling through each bag.

Tool-Kit #2 – this kit is used for food styling. This is a kit that has everything I need to make food appetizing for the camera. All the food I style is real, although when one is styling commercial shoots, there are a lot more manipulation food tricks you must know. Since most of you are here because you want to make food look delicious and professionally styled on your blog, I am not including all the “tricks” involved in commercial food styling today. uc_bag_large I store everything in this bucket tote from Utility Canvas.

Here’s my styling apron, I have a knife kit as well. As you can see a tweezers and brush with oil are very important pieces of the kit. I also use q-tips and a tiny scissors for cutting herbs and a small spray bottle for water or oil. 2014-02-23_08-36-15 2014-02-23_08-51-13 I hope this has helped you organize yourself like a pro. Please feel free to ask any questions you might have. I’ll be happy to answer.

Hope to see some of you at my styling workshops, be sure to check the blog and my instagram feed, facebook, and twitter for announcements and updates. Check the calendar on this site as well for updated information regarding styling workshops.

Happy Styling! xx

Styling : Tags: , ,

Stylist Resources – Where I Shop

Book of Food 3-098 While we are on the topic of shopping, I thought it only appropriate for this week’s styling lesson to show you how to shop like a stylist. Yesterday I shared one of my favorite resources (read about it here). Finding amazing resources in your own home town is not only fun but a requirement if you want to be the best prop-stylist that you can be. Your interest in finding unique stores, markets and dealers, artists and crafts people is not only your job it should be your passion. If you’re not a prop stylist, these tips will be great to use for decorating, styling photos for yourself, and entertaining. Everyone should be able to live a “styled life.” Below you will find my favorite resources which I will continue to add to! Book of Food 3-011 In Atlanta:

Scott’s Antiques Market is amazing.
Ballard Designs (we are lucky in Atlanta we have 2 outlets)
Star Provisions
Cutflower Wholesale. Great resource for ribbon and vases, too!
I attend wholesale markets all over the world. In Atlanta we have AmericasMart.

While In New York:

Fishs Eddie NYC
ABC Carpet NYC
Canvas NYC
Prop houses


Pottery Barn
World Market
Save on Crafts: one of the best selections of crafts. Amazing accessories, ribbons, linens, things for the garden and more!
Heeney Company: props and florals. Seasonal decor.

Shop outdoor markets:

I shop in Paris and in Italy.

Other Favorites:

Michaels and Hobby Lobby. Their websites are not that great, go to the store there’s a much bigger selection.
Fabric Stores like Joanns: I like to shop the discount table for tabletop shoots.
Hardware stores

**Buy from other prop stylists or trade, My favorite way to shop!

Most important stylist tip is to make relationships and find untapped resources in your town. Start a conversation with a vintage vendor and talk about where to find certain items. All the vendors in your town should know you.

I rent, borrow or buy and return. Returning I know, not good right? It is a best kept secret. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, it’s always my very last resort. Most of the time I know the staff at the stores so they let me borrow or rent and bring back.

Tell about some of your favorite haunts I would love to hear from you.

Happy Prop Shopping xx

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