Edyta Szyszlo Photography

August 10, 2009

Part 2: A Graphic Designer’s Photography Tips on Improving the Appeal of Lifestyle Brands & Products!

Guest Posts,Product Photography — Edyta @ 12:14 PM

new stationery photo styling

Photo: Edyta Szyszlo Photography

Good morning Monday!  Hope everyone had a fabulous weekend! Excited about today’s guest post from Lisa of Step Brightly - photo and prop styling! My personal fav :)

Hello all! For the second installment of my how to and tips series, I will be focusing on how to prepare for your photo shoot from a graphic designer’s perspective. I have experience art directing and styling photos for Crate and Barrel, Paper Source and other lifestyle brands and have had many great mentors in the process. I am going to highlight a few key steps that are needed to insure your photo shoot is beautiful, successful and most of all on brand.

boutique brand photo styling

Photos: Edyta Szyszlo Photography

Step 1: Setting the mood and budget.

All projects starts with the client’s vision for their business, brand, new product line, or marketing idea. The vision is visually translated by the design team into creative direction for the brand, and in this case, the photo shoot. As I mentioned in the first segment – mood boards are an essential step in your design process. It enables all parties to visually see what direction the look and feel of the shoot is going to be. Once created, I take my mood boards to meetings with the photographer, stylist and producer to make sure everyone understands the final goal of the shoot. This is the time to sit down with your photographer and ask for their pricing and scheduling. I suggest working closely with trusted professionals, or get recommendations and send a proposal to a few photographers and stylists to get back estimates.

hello designers

Lets talk about styling.

I was lucky enough to learn how to style photography from a creative art direction perspective as well as in front of the camera as a stylist. There are many types of professional stylists and set designers who do gorgeous work like Rebecca Thuss and Joe Maer who has worked with Williams Sonoma and Crate and Barrel.  Styling is an art which is generally overlooked by the public, simply because they are unaware of the delicate nature of prepping that goes into most everything they see on TV, in advertising and direct mail. Great styling is a combination of vision, artful styling and photography.

boutique brand photo styling

Photos: Edyta Szyszlo Photography

I am a do-it-yourself kind of gal, which Edyta can attest too, so at a photo shoot I am doing everything from the creative to the styling to the design work. I juggle a lot of elements at each shoot and let me warn you in advance, it isn’t easy! You have to work smart and fast to keep the client happy and on budget.

stationery photo styling

Photo: Edyta Szyszlo Photography

Step 2: Now the mood is set, what do I bring?

Depending on what you are shooting; stationery products, home furnishings, lifestyle settings, or interior shots you need to plan what types of props will be needed. The look and feel of your shoot is already set in the early design stages, but now you need to actually find the tangible pieces to make it happen. Here are some of my favorite places to start the hunt.

Elephant Props – Michele Michael’s Elephant Props is a full-service prop rental house in Manhattan’s Chelsea district. You can look online through their inventory which is extremely helpful in generating ideas. Thank you Robin Zachary of Prop Closet for the reference.

Any and all Thrift Stores or Goodwills work wonders, plus you will feel good about supporting your local Goodwill.

Calumet, a professional photography resource in Chicago with various locations around the country like New York and San Francisco, has props to rent and buy like fake snow and ice, a must have for winter! They also carry a lot of products from Trengove Studio, a prop house in NYC that carries a wide variety of props and styling products.

And, last by not least: Target, you can’t beat the $1 bins.  Consider normal everyday props like pencils, a cup of tea, an apple, a passport, real flowers and fabric for backdrops.

behind the scenes photo styling

Photos: Edyta Szyszlo Photography

Step 3: Tools needed to prop your product.

- A tool belt or cute apron (I am constantly misplacing my tape and scissors, keep them all in one location-around your waist-for easy access.)

- Single and double-sided tape

- Scissors

- Binder clips-these help level and hold paper and other materials that won’t stand up on their own

- A brush or spray air can for dust

BlueStik-a must have removable, no mess sticky goo that is great for hanging props or keeping them in place without adding holes to your walls

- A tape measure and ruler

- Xacto knife

Wooden blocks-these will help you add depth to your table top and flat sets. You can also pick up wood scraps from a Home Depot

stationery photo styling

Photo: Edyta Szyszlo Photography

Step 4: Relax and Improvise.

On the day of your shoot, a variety of mishaps could happen – things may not work, sets won’t look good under the camera, you may forget an essential product back at your studio. My suggestion is to breathe, relax and improvise. You understand the end goal from a creative and marketing standpoint, so you must think through the shot in a different light. Without fail, I almost always reorganize my shots from my original layout. Maybe it’s because I am from the Show-Me state, but really, I need to see what the set looks like through the camera under the lights. If you are shooting for the front cover of your catalog, provide your photographer with the size ratio of the page so they can help you see the crop on set too. It does wonders to see everything in place.

boutique brand photo styling

Photos: Edyta Szyszlo Photography

There is so much more to talk about like lighting, working with models, post-production techniques to truly make your work shine.

Most of all, I hope you have a better understanding of a few of the steps to kicking off a photo shoot. If you would like to talk through some of these ideas and how it would work for your product or brand I would love too – lisa@hellodesigners.com

Stay tuned for my third segment about creating and maintaining brand consistency in your business highlighting branding identity and website design.