How Does a Stylist Prepare for a Photoshoot?

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Don’t know how to prepare for a photoshoot successfully? Planning a photoshoot can take weeks, even months to prepare. And the more time you give yourself, the less stress and the better shape you will be on income shoot day. Here are the top tips on preparing for a photoshoot to ensure that it is a success.

What Is A Fashion Stylist?

A fashion stylist is a professional who coordinates all aspects of a person’s visual aesthetic to make them look as fashionable and appealing as possible.

Fashion stylists may be employed in a wide array of industries, and they may work with clients who are pretty famous or who want to look their best.

Some stylists are famous in their own right. Celebrity stylists often work with Hollywood A-listers, musicians, and high-profile clients.

How To Prepare For A Photoshoot?

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Create The Ultimate Styling Toolbox

Each stylist’s toolbox is unique to their craft, but you can find most supplies in your local craft shop. Everything from scissors to tape, pens to pins, putty, and levels should be in your stylist toolbox.

Have A Theme

The first and most crucial step before styling a photoshoot is knowing the theme of the photoshoot. If you’re shooting with a client, check your brief before you start planning your styling for the photoshoot.

Before you can make any styling decisions, you have to know what message or feeling you want to express with the photos. You’re trying to tell a story, so every element within the set should effectively follow that storyline and be cohesive.

If there are too many varying aspects in a photo, it can appear messy and fail to catch viewers’ attention. Failing to grasp the theme can break the success of a photoshoot.

Layer Your Images

Adding layers to your photos gives them depth and can make them more attractive to the eye. Do this by adding elements in the foreground and background around your subject.

Make sure that these elements are just complimentary, though, and don’t take away too much attention from the focus of the image. You could adjust the aperture on your camera to blur those outer elements for an added touch of depth.

Pay Attention To The Minor Details.

The smallest detail can make all the difference in your image. The difference between a forgettable photograph and a lasting image can come down to clothing choices.

This doesn’t mean you need to have an extravagant budget. Sometimes it’s about reading a client brief, understanding the theme, and bringing options on location. 

Use Complementary Backdrops

Typically, it is best to have a backdrop that contrasts with the subject just enough to make them stand out more. However, you don’t want a background that’s too overpowering.

Sometimes the best experience is simply a white table or white foam board. Or, try other things around your house like wooden boards, linens, or craft paper.

Be creative! Just remember to match the message of the shoot—for example, a solid background for something sleek or wood for a rustic feeling.

Avoid Logos At All Costs.

When styling a photoshoot, remove any recognizable or copyrighted brands, businesses, and logos from the backdrop. This can be anything from the model’s clothing to a sign in the background.

When all else fails, and you’re shooting in a busy environment, shoot in a narrow aperture to blur the backdrop and be prepared to photoshop unwanted logos out.

Decide On A Colour Palette.

Like shooting a theme, it’s essential to plan with a cohesive set of colours you want to use for the shoot.

You are doing so ties together all of the elements in the photos to help you get across a specific message or feeling when styling a photoshoot.

Your colour scheme could be completely monochromatic, it could consist only of pastels, or maybe you choose three colours that you think work nicely together.

Make sure to tie the colours into the overall theme of the shoot through and that they match the subject and brand you’re shooting for.

Adjust The Lighting

One way to easily change the mood of a photo is through the source of light. For added drama, introducing light just from one side or at an angle can create a strong shadow.

If you’re going for a softer feel, try using natural light or a diffuser. Another example is using warm lighting to bring a sense of coziness or laziness. The proper lighting can significantly enhance the message you’re trying to communicate. 

Style Products, Too

Shooting impeccable product photographs requires expert experience in lighting, styling, and the overall appeal of the image. Product photos are often simple, with little additional detail.

Styling is what makes the difference. Styling for product images relates to many different elements of the photographs, including reflections, compositions, and use of colour. “Generic” product images don’t mean “boring” product images. 

Less Is More

While having other elements in a photo adds interest, it’s important not to have too many different factors. You want there to be a straightforward subject in every photo you take.

Too many elements when styling a photoshoot can be distracting, and the viewer will have a hard time knowing where to look. Especially if you’re shooting for a client, you want the subject to be precise immediately upon seeing the image.

Create a Storyboard/Vision Board

What is your vision for the shoot? What is the mood you are looking to create? What will be the end-use of the shots? Are they going on your E-commerce website? Social media?

One of the most critical steps in preparing for a photoshoot is to take some time to think about where you will use the photos as it will play a massive role in the type and look of images you need. In most cases, you will want three types of shots: 

  • Flat Detail: Garment on the white ground laid out flat (with close up shots of important details) 
  • E-commerce: Garment on model with little to no accessories. You may want to grab a complete 360 view, as this can be used for various things later on. 
  • Styled/Glamour shots: Can be done in a park or outdoor setting, with more movement from the model. The idea is to show how these pieces can be used in everyday life and how good they make you feel when you have them on. 

You can then create a ‘Shot list’ of the shot looks you would like to emulate from this. You can even create a Pinterest board for this and share it with your photographer/stylist/models ahead of time.

Please have it printed out for the day or so. You and your stylist can easily reference it and mark off the ones you do as you go along. This will help to ensure that nothing is forgotten.

The worse thing is to go home after a long full day of shooting to realize that some key shots were never actually taken.

Select A Photographer

Be sure you select the RIGHT photographer. What does that mean? They should have experience in fashion photography, and they should be willing to listen to your vision/art direction.

The last thing you want is too many cooks in the kitchen! If you have one idea, and they have another, it won’t be easy to get the look you want in the end.

Be sure to review their portfolio ahead of time and see if they have the type of shots you like. Do you want blurred backgrounds, posed photos, candids, etc.?

Also, how are they charging you? By the hour? Is all the photoshop editing included? These are essential questions to ask as they could cost you more than you think in the end.

Host A Model Call

Now that you know what the vision and look is, you will select the suitable models best. Ask yourself- Do I want a redhead with freckles? Or maybe a short punky blonde?

Also, consider the number of models you will need. Depending on the number of looks/outfits you want to shoot, you may need more than one model, especially if you are trying not to take up too much time.

Think about if you want shots of the models together, dancing, walking down the street, etc. Be sure when creating flyers for your model casting that you include any specifics on measurements, the look you are going for, location, contact info, etc.

Don’t know where to find models? If you are on a budget, try to find new models willing to work for prints only. And don’t be afraid to call the top model agencies as they may be ready to send you some of their newer models who need work.

Select Hair And Makeup Artists

how does a stylist prepare for a photoshoot

As with a photographer, selecting hair and makeup artists can be tricky, especially today, where we live in a world full of youtube videos, and everyone thinks they can do makeup!

You will want your vision for hair and makeup to be followed, so again select someone willing to cooperate with you. Again be sure you see samples of their previous work before you book them.

They should have a lot of experience. Otherwise, you are taking a huge chance. Once you book them, I was hoping you could go over the look you want to achieve ahead of time with them (and no, I don’t mean the night before)!

You must show them pics of your models and inspiration photos at least two weeks in advance so they can plan what tools to bring and purchase any additional supplies they may need.

What if you don’t know any hair and makeup people? Ask your photographer as they are often great about recommending.

Discuss Location/Backgrounds

Plan out the locations you want to use way ahead of time as your site will play a massive role in your end shot look.

If you have your heart set on shooting with a cherry blossom tree, you will want to make sure that the park you select has those types of trees and that they will be in bloom on the date you decide to shoot.

So scout out your location ahead of time and plan the areas you will want to shoot.

Be sure to go at the time of day you expect to be shooting at as the sun position is crucial. Any good photographer will tell you that direct sunlight is the worst thing for photos as it creates shadows and squinty eyes.

Shaded areas are always best. For this reason, most outdoor shots are best done either very early morning or late afternoon/sunset time, which will be something to consider when planning your schedule, which I will get to in a bit.

Other things to consider with locations:

  • Will, there be a garment rack or place to hang your garments so they don’t get wrinkled? If not, I recommend bringing one yourself.
  • Is there a Bathroom close by?
  • Are there changing screens/rooms? If you are shooting outside, where is your model going to change? You may want to bring a large sheet that two people can hold up around her to change in. You won’t always have time to have her run to the bathroom each time.
  • Temperature? Are you shooting a bikini shoot in Dec? If so, your model will be cold, so you will need to be sure to bring a coat or something warm to wrap around her while she is waiting for in-between shots.

Plan Looks (I.E. Model Cards)

Planning the models’ outfits, accessories/shoes, etc., for each look is a necessity. Again you will want to do this at least a few weeks in advance. This is how you prepare for a photoshoot properly.

The easiest way to do this is to create what we call “Model Cards” in the industry. Start by taking full length and detailed photos of the outfits (either on a model or flat on the ground) and have each one printed out so you can attach them on a large poster board sheet.

You will want to take close up shots of all accessories (preferably showing how they are worn on the model, which hand, etc.)

Next to the photos, you will want to list all the items included in this look, along with any specific instructions for how the face is achieved. 

You will want these model cards to be as detailed as possible so that it is easy for your stylist/dresser/model to see what needs to be put on and how it should look.

As the designer, you will not have time to be dressing models yourself.

You can then add your model’s name at the top along with the order number and use a pant hanger to hang the card upon your clothing rack in front of the specific outfit it corresponds with.

Consider these things as well:

  • Do the models need to bring anything of their own? Makeup? Shoes? Extra clothes? Bras (strapless, nude, etc.). And please be sure they wear a nude seamless thong. Nothing is worse than lacy underwear showing through your clothes.
  • You may need to purchase some extra clothes, accessories, shoes, or props to round out your looks. Just keep the tags on them, and tape up the bottoms of your shoes so you can return them later.
  • If you have multiple models, you will need to decide AHEAD when outfits will go on which models. This is why making Model cards is an excellent way to keep track, as you can put the model’s name at the top of the card.
  • Think about clothing changes as you will want to plan the outfits so that there is the least amount of changing as possible. Changing time can eat into your shoot time so trying to minimize it as much as possible is best. Think about using the same top for two looks and only changing the pants, or throwing on a jacket over the look, etc.
  • Don’t plan too many shoe changes, as that can take a while as well. If the model can keep the same shoes and quickly change into the next outfit, try to do that.

Once you have all your model cards complete, you will want to number them in order of shot so that anyone can quickly go from one to the next (without your supervision)

Set A Schedule For The Day

DON’T SKIP THIS STEP! You must set a schedule for the day and plan to have enough time to accomplish your goals. Think about when you need everyone to arrive?

Photographers usually need time to set up cameras, lighting, props, etc. Also, allow ample time for hair and makeup if it is elaborate. It can easily take 1-2 hours for hair and makeup for each model.

If you are shooting both inside and outside photos, be sure to plan which will be first based on sunlight/temperature. And give yourself an excellent 30-45min lunch break as your models will need it.

Then once you have all of this plan, be sure to tell everyone their assigned time of arrival so they can prepare to be there when you need them to be. And then call them the day before to remind them, the last thing you need is someone forgetting or oversleeping!

Prep Samples

You will want to make sure that your samples are entirely ready and prepped ahead of time for the shoot.

This means no loose threads, all buttons sewn on tight, labels are in the right place, all tags and stickers have been removed or hidden from sight, etc.

Tip: If you have hanger loops, a good trick is to place a piece of double-sided tape on the inside underarm of the garment and press the hanger tape to it.

This will help ensure that it stays in place as the model moves around. Plus, your photographer will LOVE you as they won’t need to photoshop all those stupid straps hanging out. 

Your garments should also be pressed/steamed ahead of time and the morning of, as they often get wrinkled in moving them to the location.

They need to look pristine for the shoot. Place them neatly in plastic bags and then garment bags to protect them from snagging or getting ruined by anything. If you’re lending out your clothes for an editorial shoot, definitely be sure to have a complete letter!

Essential Tips To Succeed As A Fashion Stylist

Professional fashion styling is hard work. As a stylist, you must develop a:

  • Develop strong networking skills. As a stylist, you must create a client base, network with designers and industry professionals, and attend numerous industry events. If you fall behind, it can be hard to catch up—fashion is a notably cutthroat industry.
  • Develop close personal and professional relationships. Personal relationships are essential to attaining new style clients. While some fashion stylists may gain notice because a client appeared on a red carpet or in prominent fashion magazines, most business will come from friends and colleagues of existing clients.
  • Don’t be shy. To succeed, you can’t shy away from a bit of self-promotion. Try to get invited to parties or lunches, and don’t hesitate to ask your successful mentors for referrals as you build your own business.
  • Experience is more important than a diploma. Some fashion stylists possess a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree in terms of education. Still, when interviewing to be someone’s stylist, the topic of college may never come up. Years of experience in the industry will open more doors than a particular diploma.
  • Stay up to date. If you’re passionate about aesthetics, up to date on fashion trends, confident in your sense of style, have strong communication skills, and are willing to put in long hours for occasionally thankless work, a career as a fashion stylist may be ideal.


Once you have gone through these tips and steps, you are ready for your shoot! We hope these tips help you succeed the next time you’re styling a photoshoot. We can’t wait to see what you create next. 

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