I’m learning, more and more, the importance of styling.

After studying the work of successful fashion photographers and trying to see what makes their photos stand out, I’ve started to realize that styling is what really brings a photo to the next level. They (or their stylist if they have one for the shoot) strategically choose the hair, the makeup, the outfit, the accessories, and the location. They make everything FIT. No matter what I do, if my model is wearing boring clothing, an outfit that just doesn’t fit the setting, or if I decide the hair is “eh, fine the way it is”, then I haven’t done my job in painting the whole picture and my inattention will shine right through.

You may get plenty of Facebook likes on a photo from people who know the model and think she looks great in the photo. But is the photo interesting enough to people who don’t know the model? This is what I’m starting to ask myself.

To understand the importance of styling, try this : look at every portrait you love in magazines or blogs or advertisements and imagine the person in it wearing just a plain black, non-fitted t-shirt. Imagine them with no accessories. Hair down, nothing notable. Or even worse, imagine them in some poorly fit Aeropostale shirt with dirty flip-flops and flare jeans.
Now, are these photos still as breathtaking as they were before? Maybe they are, or maybe now all you see is a random person standing near a wall.

Would the photo below, by the ever-talented Lara Jade, be as stunning without the colorful clothing, the crazy shoes, and the wild red hair?

Without the styling, the picture would become incredibly average. Just two girls sitting in front of a pretty wall.

I’ve been getting a little bit better at this. My Blair Witch shoot was one where I spent the extra bit on a dress and drove to a location. Some planning was involved and the shoot ended up being one of my most popular.

But my OLD photo shoots went something like this:
I’d tell someone to come over with no specific vision in mind. They would show up with a couple nice outfits or something. We’d rummage through my closet, put on something random and go shoot around my apartment building. Then maybe we’d come back inside, grab something off my shelf to use as a prop and take a few more pictures. These were definitely fun shoots and I learned a lot, but really, they made absolutely no sense. I have gorgeous people modeling for me, like Heidie as you can see below, but the alarm, for example came out of nowhere. It could have been a cool concept, but I completely half-assed it and just threw it in the frame…on top of a washing machine? I don’t even know.

I especially noticed in my self-portraits. I dress very plain, in only neutrals usually, and thought that would be fine for photos, but I realized that when I focused more on my styling, I could make my photos a whole lot more interesting.

I also just discovered an amazing photographer, basically my new idol, Amanda Diaz. I can’t believe I had never seen her work before, but she is a styling QUEEN. Her photos are great for many reasons, but again, if you take the flowers off of their heads, uncurl the hair, etc. you’re left with simple portraits. Every photo she takes is styled to a perfect T as you can see in the two photos below.
(Seriously, go look at her work)

So, my new goal is to step up my fashion, hair, makeup, and prop game. I eventually want to get to Amanda’s level of styling extravagance! And to do that I’ll need to spend more time on the following :

-Creating inspiration boards before a shoot
-Heading to the thrift store for props or outfits
-Spending a little extra on those items
-Really mapping out my concepts
-Visualizing what I’d like my end result to be

I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on the matter. Have a good weekend my dear friends!


(copyrights are that of each artist mentioned, Lara Jade & Amanda Diaz)

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