What To Do and Not Do When You Can't Find Styling Props

Oct 04, 2023

We talk about the big dilemmas here ~ the negotiating your photo and prop styling rate questions, the what should be in your styling services contract questions and how to get more clients questions.  But, we also have to think of the "on set" (that seem small) dilemmas and scenarios that come up.  Like, What if you can't find a specific prop, wardrobe piece, speciality food product for a photo shoot and client?  It happens to us all!  You’re asked as a Stylist to find an item and you can’t find it  . . .  anywhere!  To become a stand out, hired again & again Photo and Prop Stylist, you have to make every effort (like, ends of the earth effort!) to find your items. (& actually, bring alot of extra items) But, sometimes you just can’t find something . . .

When you can’t find an item, be honest and let your client (or Photographer) know you’re having difficulty finding the item requested.   Or, if you are Assisting a Principal or Lead Stylist on an assignment and responsible for finding items ~ communicate with them ~ don’t “hope you will find it”.  Believe me!  I have been there with the "I hope I will find it"!


▪ Don’t wait until close to (or the day of!) assignment to tell your client.
▪ Say nothing and go to the photo shoot or assignment without the item.

▪ Say: You couldn’t find it.
▪ Say: It was over budget. (cost too much)  
▪ Say: You didn’t think it was really that important.

As a Stylist, I know you want to be the best and you want to find everything you need and were asked to get and bring the most fabulous items! (I feel you & right there with ya!)  Best policy is to:

Be honest and say you can’t find it, so others (on assignment and team) may be able to help find it.  While you may not want to admit you can’t find something because we are known to be the “master finders of everything”  Believe me, it's better than the alternative, which is:

▪ Disappointing a client with a “no show” on an item.
▪ Making them look bad in front of their client (Oftentimes, your clients client will be at shoot or assignment)
▪ Leading them not to trust you or hire you in the future.
▪ Leading them not to recommend you.

So, be honest and tell you client (Photographer) in plenty of time so it does not become a “panic or urgent” situation.  You do not want to get to photo shoot assignment with Photographer, Art Director, Creative Director, Production Team, Staff, etc. and be told “We can’t do the shoot without this item” and you have not communicated to anyone you couldn’t find or don’t have the item.

While this may seem like such a simple, "why of course I would not do that".  I've seen it time and time again with this being a scenario with Photo Stylists ~ because we really want to find the items!  I've seen it done and I have done it myself in a situation where I "cut it too close" to the time item will arrive to me via mail to the photo shoot date.  You don't want to tell clients ~ because you really think (& hope!) it will arrive before the photo shoot.  Your client and Photographer will understand that "things like that may happen" ~ they will not understand you not communicating the process of you not finding items. 

Bonnie ~


Image Credit | Mariah Gale Creative via Reverie.Boston

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