How To Create a Successful Stylized Photo Shoot with Brian DeMint
This article will walk you through my process for Stylized Photo Shoot. When possible, don’t settle for shooting with whatever the client shows up with. In my region, that means they might show up dressed like a cast member of Hee Haw (Google it) or if I say “be creative” they tend to over style, showing up in a feather boa, fairy wings and antlers like some deranged mythical creature. Styling should be done with intention.
What’s the goal of the image? Are there single or multiple subjects? Are there existing parameters that I need to coordinate with? What is the budget? These are just a few questions you might need answered so you can style accordingly.
- All photographs tell a story. Let’s not have that story be, “We have no idea what we’re doing.”
- If there are multiple subjects, you want to coordinate, not match!
- Weather is an example of a parameter, like not shooting the model in a parka and snow boots in the desert (unless that model is my forever cold father-in-law).
- Backward or forward styling (my terminology). Styling backward is working within parameters to coordinate with existing aesthetics, be it the location, props, color scheme, theme, etc. Forward styling means working with little or no existing parameters. Get out the asbestos jumper and flamethrower.
Let me first supply you with a condensed typical walkthrough for stylists shooting fashion. Before the shoot, ask basic questions like those above to get a solid mindset of the shoot. Then research. Possibly organize a mood board or sketches. Next, source the garments and accessories. Moving on, do a fitting, decide on the look(s), coordinate with hair and makeup. Be ready on shoot day with the proper kit for adjusting the final look.
OK, this is where we leave the realm of sanity.
My version: For models I haven’t worked with previously, I don’t want to cram them into a pre-existing idea that they may not be suited for. Thus, for these folk, I don’t pre-plan jack shit. However, I have hundreds of garments, a surplus of jewelry, hats, gloves, stockings and more. Thus, I style on the fly. I meet the model in person and go with that first impression: “Hi, you look like… [an Indian princess, a drug addict, Snow White, a serial killer, or once, the Virgin Mary].” While shooting, “Mary” relayed some stories that would make the most promiscuous sailors have to steady themselves on the furniture. 100% she was not the Virgin Mary.
For models that I work with repeatedly, I often create something beforehand that I think will work with their look and posing style. Now, since a lot of models change their hair color daily, this can be either super fun or infuriating as hell. Green hair seems to be my kryptonite as high fashion leprechauns are not my jam.
My evolution in styling has been from starting with whatever the model brought, to encouraging the model to “bring the most bizarre crap you own,” to building a wardrobe of pieces, to now embellishing or making most everything I shoot.