Styling for photography is a funny beast. The needs are different for almost every client and every shoot. What looks incredible in real life might not work on camera. Every decision is based on what the camera sees and on the story we’re trying to tell with the images. It’s a flurry of running around, moving things in and out of frame, making tiny tweaks and then putting it all back together again. We work fast, chasing the light.
In an ideal world I get to scout the space along with a client or photographer. In the case of this James Wagman interior renovation on the Upper West side, I got to see the space well before the shoot and knew it was going to need some extra touches.
"An interesting object only works if you can tell what it is in the photo, or if it blends into the whole. Scale, color and shape are all really important."
This apartment was very zen and un-cluttered, but it risked looking a little stark in photographs. I focused on bringing in a few well-chosen pieces that would complement the existing furniture, like the classic Krenit bowls and the Case Study planters. We hung art from the homeowner’s collection. We wanted to keep it looking well-considered, but relaxed. Ty Cole photographed the space beautifully and my favorite part of the dining room image is the slant of light across the table.
Good trays and coffee table books are always great for adding layers without being distracting. One basic rule of styling is how things ‘read’ visually. We talk about it on set all the time- an interesting object only works if you can tell what it is in the photo, or if it blends into the whole. Scale, color and shape are all really important.
"It’s nice to get good vignettes in as well - tighter shots of more intimate spaces that provide little snapshots of lifestyle."
Plants and flowers are great additions and I spend a lot of time picking the right shapes, sizes and colors, trying to channel a homeowner’s personality even in something as basic as greenery and containers. We’re always aiming to land between ‘too staged’ and ‘too real’. We want to create the feeling that people live in the space, while making their lives look serene, though there’s usually a massive pile of empty boxes, wrapping materials and flower clippings just out of frame! It’s hard to imagine from final images how much stuff gets brought in, tried out and moved around.
Styling homes can involve lot of purging or a lot of filling in, depending on how long people have lived somewhere and whether or not the space is their full time residence. In this case the homeowners were so tired of being buried in books in their old place that there were still no books in the apartment on shoot day. We quickly realized the wall of built-in shelves in the living room would look wrong practically empty, so we wrangled an emergency book rental by-the-foot (a service the Strand thankfully provides), using messengers to truck those up to us. In future I’d probably double-check the book situation beforehand.
It’s nice to get good vignettes in as well - tighter shots of more intimate spaces that provide little snapshots of lifestyle. Those are often the most fun for me to style, and I love to work with a combination of things the homeowner has and things I’ve brought in. It offers a chance for something smaller like flowers, art or a book cover to really shine through in the story the images tell.