From Client Brief to Shoot – A day(or Week) in the Life of An Interiors Stylist

I’m often asked what I do as an interiors stylist and the truth is very far removed from the perception that it is a very glamorous job for which I just get paid to shop & create pretty roomsets? If any of you read my last post here, I think any preconceived ideas have probably been dispelled by now?

For any of you thinking of becoming a stylist it is a great and very rewarding job, but glamorous couldn’t be further from the truth.

As there are lots of very interesting before and after blog posts featuring room make overs for residential properties, which I personally love reading, and I’m guessing you do too, I thought it might be interesting to get an insight into what goes into the job of creating a room set for a commercial photography shoot and how the role of an interior stylist contributes?  So kind of a before and after for a shoot?

The example I’ve used for this blog post, was a recent job I completed for a client and is pretty typical of an average job. I will take you through the steps of receiving the client brief to the completed shot. I know when I first decided it might be fun to be a stylist, after studying for my Interior Design degree, I had no idea what I was getting into really. If I had read a blog post like this first, it would have been really useful and so I thought why not share the knowledge I’ve picked up along the way?

So the first point of contact with the client usually involves them or an art director, giving you the brief. The brief may or may not include a set design. If not it is quite often the role of the stylist to design the set, along with lots of communication with the photographer and the set builder to ensure that your ideas are realistic. The photographer will be thinking about how he wants to light the set and will often ask for multiple windows or doors for light sources. The set builder will know how realistic some of your ideas are regarding the time frame or budget allowed. As well as designing the set, the stylist will also often be asked to source flooring and wall coverings, window dressings and paint colours. This will be determined by the look and feel the client has asked for.

In the example I’ve shown below, my brief was to create a coastal inspired bedroom to showcase the product which were white fitted wardrobes. The design board determines the look and feel and will help to confirm that your ideas are the same as those of the client.

I mainly use google sketchup for the set design and Photoshop for the design boards, so that they can be emailed to the client and any amendments easily changed until the idea and props have been approved by the client. There are also other ways of making simple mood boards, on apps such as Canva and morpholio.

A budget for props is confirmed and it’s important that you have a good source of props hire  and reliable independant retailers, who will hire their stock to you for a small percentage of the retail price. I also have a collection of my own props that are useful for bringing to shoots, such as neutral pottery, linen covered books and interesting salvaged pieces which I regularly pick up at boot sales and antique fairs.

As well as sourcing props, the client will usually ask me to collate a design board of pieces I am using, so that they can approve them.  They have to be quite comprehensive so that the client has a good understanding of the key pieces that are being used on the shoot.

There’s a lot to think about and as well as being creative an interiors stylist has to have an excellent background and knowledge of all interior styles and periods so that you can interpret the brief. It’s essential that once the sourced items have been put on the design board, that you can ensure that they will be in stock and available on the day of the shoot. It’s ok making pretty design boards to present but if you then can’t bring the goods to the shoot, you’re going to have a disappointed client?

You’ll also have to be resourceful and knowledgeable and able to make decisive decisions quickly. Sometimes when the client sees a key piece on set, they decide it’s not working as they imagined and you need to know where alternative key items can be bought. This happens, believe me.

Being a creative stylist is also being a team player and communication skills are vital, through your interpretations of the brief from the client to working on set with assistants,photographers, hair and make up professionals, models and the client and their team.

As well as bringing all the props to the shoot, it’s vital that you bring your own tool box as you can’t always be sure that every studio you work at will have the supply you need and of course if you’re on location, it’s imperative you come fully prepared for any eventuality.

So here’s a run down of what I bring in my tool kit. Again it’s not a comprehensive list and some stylists will have different essentials but this is usually what you can guarantee you’ll need in most situations.

  1. Staple gun and spare staples
  2. Fishing wire
  3. blue tac
  4. double sided tape
  5. masking tape
  6. tape measure
  7. small electric cordless drill
  8. pins
  9. spray starch
  10. needle & thread
  11. small hammer
  12. small panel pins and nails
  13. florists wire
  14. string for hanging pictures
  15. scissors
  16. set of allen keys
  17. hole punch
  18. small nail brush (great for smoothing the pile on velvet upholstery)

So from brief to finished shoot, this is the final result of all those hours of preparation.

I’d love to know what you thought about this post. Did you find it interesting and helpful? Are you surprised about what is expected of a stylist or is it just what you thought? I love to hear back from you, so do get in touch x

 

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