Photographic stylists assist photographers in setting up props and other necessary materials which will form the subject of photo shoots. In many instances, this role will be performed by the photographer. However, stylists are usually an essential part of the team in shoots where the subject is food, fashion or other commercial products.
Photographic styling involves collecting the necessary materials and props from various suppliers, arranging objects in the desired fashion and setting up lights and special effects (e.g. fog, wind or rain).
You may also be required to maintain a comprehensive database of all the images taken on a shoot, so that they can be presented effectively online or in a catalogue.
Most stylists are also photographers-in-training, working as apprentices with established photographers, before setting up their own studio or working on a freelance basis.
Salary & benefits
Starting salaries for photographic stylists are very low, with many stylists earning below £10,000 at this level. With experience, salaries may increase to around £15,000 to £30,000, depending upon location, styling category and experience.
Many photographic stylists wear multiple hats (not literally, of course) and are usually employed by advertising agencies, public relations firms and large fashion houses.
Working hours are irregular and spread throughout the week, depending upon the campaign and photographer’s schedules. Travel is also frequent, specifically when you’re working on outdoor shoots, or if you’re working for a photographer with a national or international presence.
While academic qualifications are helpful, the emphasis is more on natural talent and creativity. Photography, fine art, design, digital imaging, graphics or other related technical disciplines are suitable choices for academic study. Previous work experience and training under an established photographer is essential to get started in this profession.
Training & progression
Training and career progression is driven by personal choices and the area of specialisation you decide to focus on. While print media, fashion or technical photography styling jobs may include some amount of structured training, the majority is largely driven by self-learning and building up an individual portfolio, which stands out from the rest of the competition.
Networking with other professionals in the industry and building successful relationships with prop suppliers, retailers and costumiers is critical, not only in terms of facilitating day-to-day work, but also in building an independent and successful career.