Every Photographer, of course, is different. Different disciplines of photography, levels of experience and preferences. Some will be very open in their expectations, some may not. This is why when I first begin to work with any photographer, I have a conversation with them about their preferences and thoughts of Stylists on set/location.
I once did a series with Photographers on the 3 things that they look for in a Stylist. All of them focused more on the type of stylists they were looking for in terms of aesthetic and style. None of them got into the preferences & “set behavior” of Stylists. I get it - they don’t want to insult anyone. But, you know I’m about telling you the “real deal” ;) here.
Also, they may feel comfortable, at some point, talking with you about how they feel about their Photo Assistant or Second Shooter and what “bugs them”. Really listen to that conversation, while they may not be telling you so you know too (and maybe not really realizing they are doing it) they are talking to you.
While, some may seem really obvious, you would be surprised to know, I see these below points all the time when I hire Assistant, Junior of even long-time career Stylists.
Have Pre-Shoot Conversation with Photographer. (Before you work with Photographer on set, talk to them about their preferences of you going into the shot to fix a styling element. This needs to be communicated. You don’t want to just go into the set while they are shooting - you could ruin a shot. Ask their preference . . . maybe say “going in” to signal them or “can I go in”?. They want you to fix whatever needs to be fixed. They are not always looking for those things. They rely on you, the stylist, for that. Don’t be shy - you may need to fix styling along the way. You (& Photographer) do not want to see final images with styling mistakes.
Arrive Early to Set Up. Never be late! (If you are late, never, never, arrive with a coffee and your phone in your hand) This just says . . . getting my coffee is more important that this job and I don’t respect the client, the team and your time.
Read Call Sheet and Creative Brief. Read everything about the shoot through and through before shoot. You do not want to miss any detail. Read Call Sheet, Creative Brief and review every email sent. You don't want to miss something that you need to get for shoot - that would hold up the shoot. No detail on the Brief is a "maybe we need it" - consider it a "must have" for the shoot, actually, it's alway great for you to over prepare.
Don’t Drink or Eat on Set. (Clothing, textiles, seamless paper can be damaged with food/drink.) Accidents happen . . . What if you spilled coffee on garment that is being photographed? What happens is: set is shut down (or the photographer has to post production work) and the team stops work. Time = Money. You don’t want to be the Stylist that stopped the shoot from food/drink being spilled.
Don’t Touch Photographers Equipment. (It’s expensive and at times, rented for the shoot)
Don’t Step on the Seamless Paper with your Shoes! (I always have a couple of pairs of socks/and disposable “booties” in my styling kit.) Same goes for any flooring. I was in studio/on set one time where a Stylist was styling an interior shot with a beautiful black lacquer floor. She had booties on - but she walking on and off set (into the dust/dirty studio) 😳 which of course transferred onto the floor (the camera can see that dust/dirt)
Be Mindful of (& Positive with) your Conversations with Photographers Client. (The photographer’s client oftentimes go to photo shoot) Don’t ask for more work from their client or be critical of anything on set. Or don't ever contact a Photographer's client directly - for anything! (without permission)
Don’t Embarrass a Photographer in Front of their Client. Talk to them discretely off set if you have something to say. You are their teammate and styling “advisor”. They will appreciate your being discrete. Also, just make sure it is very important.
Build in Extra Time in Case Shoot Goes Late. They don’t want to hear from the Stylist . . . “I have to go now”! You are a important part of the process. You need to be on set.
Don’t Share a Behind the Scenes (or any image) Without their Permission. While we as Stylists love to think the image is ours too (it is ;) !) Photographers do own copyright. (Client hired you to style images for their business. They need to release the photo.) It’s not ours to share. Get your tearsheets and permission when released and then post and put on your website.
Don’t Filter or Crop a Photographers Image. The only time I do this is when I do a collaborative personal styled shoot where we all (Photographer approves) agree to use images for marketing purpose or for our websites. I may crop and put a text overlay on these - because it was intended and approved that I can freely use images for my business marketing.
I hope you find this list helpful. Let me know your thoughts or add to this list over on our Instagram.
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