ONE | Develop your story
It’s important to start your brainstorming with a story based on a theme. Put together a concept board and brainstorm, start a Pinterest board to gather ideas and then work to narrow down your distinct vision. You want to keep things simple but you need to be intentional about what you’re going to relay. For instance if you want to create a party tablescape you have to consider things like, Who is coming to this party? Why are they coming? What time are we hosting? These all effect what food you’ll be serving, how casual or formal you will want to get and what props you will need to start sourcing. Think through the story to create a realistic vignette so your audience can relate to it. Once you have defined your story, details fall into place and you can start making a list of the kinds of props you will need to source.
TWO | Come prepared
I have a tool kit filled to the brim of anything I could possibly need during a shoot. I stock it with five different types of tapes and glues, scissors, tools, cleaning agents, a water spray bottle, paper towels… everything under the sun. This saves me time even when I’m just styling a shoot at home also because everything is in one place and I don’t have to run around looking for things when I need it
THREE | Plan your shots
Sometimes this depends on the job but if possible; work with the photographer on the location, timing and arrangement. This allows you to get a full visual idea so you can start laying out your props and start deciding on all the details.
FOUR | Create your Focal Point
One of the things you’ll want to do repeatedly while constructing your visual display is to take a moment to step back and reexamine. When you do so, you’ll be able to determine a couple of really important factors, like where the cameras eye-level is going to be and how the light shadows and highlights and so on. It’ll also give you a good idea of where that central or focal point should be as well as how big the framing of your workable space will be.
FIVE | Balance
I like to arrange my focal point first and then start working around that. Group your remaining props by what works well with your focus. Play around with different lines, varieties of dark and light colors, lights and shadows, and so on until you find what you like. Your main focus will be to balance the different elements in order to create a pleasing aesthetic to the eye while keeping everything consistent with your brand/products and story. As always, trust your judgment and continue to step back and reassess to continually get a sense of what result you are looking to achieve.
SIX | Vary your perspective.
Think outside the box when shooting to capture a shot that will be interesting. Use a tripod at table level, stand on a chair to get an overhead shot, shoot at eye level. The more options you have the better.
SEVEN | Lighting is everything
If you’re shooting indoors, turn off your overhead lights, pull back your curtains and open your windows and even doors to create the best natural light possible. Always try to shoot when you have the most indirect natural light pouring in. .
EIGHT | More is MORE.
I’m not implying that you should over style a photo BUT you never know what you’ll need to make the perfect photo. It’s always nice to have several things to choose from to make it perfect. What looks great in your head may not look so great through the lens so bring a lot of options to rotate through.
NINE | Get Handsy
To keep a shot from feeling too stagnant, try giving it a more lifestyle feel by bringing hands into the shot. Try having the hands arranging, slicing the cake, and cutting the cake. This helps to make your story believable and adds a personal element to the image.
TEN | Keep it fresh
I always always bring a fresh element to my shoots whether its flowers, greenery, fresh fruit or herbs. I usually just pick some greens from the trees in my yard or stop by Trader Joes to grab a bundle of something fresh. This just gives your scene a pop of color and vibrancy.
ELEVEN | Change it up
Don’t keep the scene stagnate. If you’re serving dessert, try a shot of the cake whole, then slice the cake and scatter a few crumbs. By moving things around from tray to tray and changing the plates a bit, it adds more interest and helps tell the story.
TWELVE | That one weird thing
Give your photos some interest by adding something unique, collected, thrifted, handmade, personal or unusual to your photo. Make that pillow pop with a few giant handmade tassels to the corners, use that measuring cup as a succulent planter, give ordinary things unusual uses and its all those fun details that will keep things looking the right kind of weird.
THIRTEEN | Fake it
One of the first things you learn when styling pictures is its ok to fake it. Stylists are the first to admit that in photos, things are not always what they seem. Scoops of ice cream are actually vegetable shortening, powdered sugar, and cornstarch because ice cream melts and loses its shape quickly. If you don’t have the budget to spend on sets and accessories, find ways to fake it. A big part of photo styling is about tricking the eye. Shorten long curtains by duct taping the folded ends. If you only have a few oranges but you need to fill a bowl, stick another bowl upside down inside your bigger bowl and arrange the fruit around it. If your champagne is looking flat in the glass, add some antacid tablets for some fizz. Pin fabric onto the fronts of your throw pillows when you need a pop of pattern or color. Stuff your tin with paper towels and add some blueberries on top to make it look full and overflowing. Fake it, you get the picture!
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