How To Be A Stylist: It’s All About The Tzuj With Behind the Scenes Photo Shoot Fashion Stylist Tricks

A rare photo of me on a photo shoot and it’s becuase it was in a magazine! New Woman magazine did a feature story about me and here I am in a snippet photo as a stylist on the set with Brad Boles (FoS contributing editor at large) on makeup & North Rebis on hair. Yes, I still wear my Yoji Yamamoto shirt that I have on ! I kept my stylist scissors in a holster belt

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in so many aspects of being a fashion stylist during my career that’s spanned decades. In my continuing reprise of some of my greatest evergreen material leading up to the 15th anniversary year of online and the launch of my C’est Chic Crash Course, I want to spend this week’s review looking back at what REALLY  happens as a stylist behinds the scenes on a photoshoot.  Read on & revisit…15-years-Focusonstyle-anniversary-320x338-logo-copy

On a professional photo shoot knowing how to be a stylist is a lot more than selecting a pretty dress. Honesty is not completely the only policy when it comes to photographing clothing on a model for a commercial photo shoot and there is a craft to having things look “right” in the picture.

Let me share some behind the scenes fashion stylist tips and tricks on how to be a stylist to make ANYTHING look great in print learned  from the 15 years I spent on photo sets. – S.H.

Q: I don’t know if it’s just me but there have been so many times that I saw a picture of something that I thought I loved online or in a clothing catalog and then when the item finally arrived, I was terribly disappointed.

The garment didn’t fit me as well as it did on the model in the picture. It doesn’t hang the same way as in the photo let alone look like descent on me.

What I thought looked beautiful in the catalog only ends up to look cheesy in person– something that I would never consider buying let alone notice in a store.
Do I have too high expectations or am I on to something about clothing looking better in the photo than in real life? (via fashion advice)

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A:Guilty as charged! You know that I was a stylist for a long time with some advertising and catalog  jobs for department store and brands that were not usually of the same luxury quality as the top designer clothing that I would pull for editorial shoots, like magazine covers.Yes there were plenty of glamorous jobs and exotic location shoots, but I enjoyed styling mass clothing more than the high-priced items because there was the challenge to make something that really was not much of anything look so incredible that someone would fall in love with it and want to buy it.Just about anyone could make a couture gown and drop-dead jewels look great on a gorgeous model. But to make dreary clothing look extraordinary… well, that was a craft!

So much so that at the end of the shoot day, I would sometimes look at the model and think to myself that I wouldn’t mind having that outfit. Then, I would pull back and remember what we went through as a team to make that dreary dress look so great.

If the shoot is for a specific brand rather than an assortment of department store items there is a casting and fitting to make sure that the model has the right body to fit the clothes. If you are lucky or it is a live-action shoot, the clothes are then fitted on the model and a tailor tweaks the fit of the garment.

No time for a tailor? Well, that’s what a stylist prop kit is all about.

In the stylist kit is everything from bulldog clips or photographer clamps to fake a better fit from the rear, double-stick carpet tape to adhere those pesky fit issues, lots of straight pins to tighten up the back of a baggy sleeve, an assortment of sticky and pinchy tricks of the trade to alter a garment without leaving a trace once the shoot is complete! You only need to see something from one angle in a print shot, so the back could be completely rigged with the front looking like absolute perfection.

Once the fit is settled, there’s the look that most people think is only what a stylist job is about. There are racks and tables of additional items that it took days to pull from the right places just to find the perfect piece that works best on the set. Better quality or more interesting accessories and shoes tzuj up something simple. Like the average working girl really has a pair of $750 shoes to wear with the $65.00 dress, but it is the illusion that you are selling.

Some time spent in the hair and makeup chair and the model is made to look even more amazing—Brad Boles can tell you about some of those beauty tricks.

Around an 1/1/2 to 3 hours later it’s time for the photographer and his gorgeous and proven lightening to make sure that the product is shown in its best light and the model knows how to work it—that’s the magic that makes a purple polyester cha cha prom dress photograph to appear like it was off the runway!

What looked fantastic in the dressing room may not look that way on the set so a little more finagling is involved. If the outfit is still a total bust, you can also point a fan on the model for some movement or have her jump for an active shot. Once done, it’s next outfit, please…

If a model is not involved, well then you call the still life stylist, because she has her own bag of tricks.

A job well done is a job that doesn’t look like the crew was there; everything appears to have fallen in place naturally and simply. Is this deceptive? No, not exactly. It is having professionals do what they do to make something look as great as it can in a picture.

So the next time when you see the cheap skirt next to the better skirt in a photo it can be difficult to tell them apart. Does that mean the less expensive skirt will never look right on you? No, it means that you may need to work a bit harder to style it up.

The moral of this story is that it is NOT about the piece but about what YOU do with it. Style on and check the return policy!

Photo: New Woman Magazine profile story about me; photographer Ron Contarsy

Original Publish Date:  June 30, 2010