Why is Styling Important In Commercial Photography?

When capturing images for use in brand marketing campaigns, an experienced commercial photographer knows exactly how to capture the subject in a way that is most appropriate for the purpose of the shoot and the brand ‘tone of voice’ of the client. Different lighting, different camera angles, lighting and different shooting techniques can do much to make an image interesting. But skilled as they might be photographers can only capture what’s put in front of them, they can’t take a picture of something that isn’t there.

For online, catalogue and product photography, the classic ‘product against a white background’ approach allows buyers to see what they’re getting, but little more than that. Such shots are informative but rarely emotive. In order for consumers to get a real feeling about how the product will fit into their lives a set is needed and also a setting. Simply positioning the product against the background of a photography set will do little to capture a mood, or the consumers attention, but placed in a set, which is styled with other accessories and props in the background, to make the subject look believable and attractive also makes it more relatable and more ‘real’. Styling photography sets is an art, requiring organisation, experience and tremendous attention to detail.


Styling commercial Photography Sets - Bringing Life to a Scene


What is a photography stylist? What do they do?

Photography stylists are often the unsung heroes of a commercial photoshoot. The set is the backdrop, the product is the subject, but everything else in the shot has to be placed there and arranged in such a ways as to enhance the appeal of the subject of the photoshoot, to create the correct mood and feel of a scene, to tell a story and to make it all attractive and believable. Achieving this is the role of the photography stylist.

Photography stylists are concerned with the details of the scene. For example, look at the banner image at the top of the page, a light airy living space which is chic, contemporary and casual. It looks inviting, bright, comfortable and spacious. It is, also, completely fabricated. This room is a set we were commissioned to build within our photography studio in Stockport, the walls, the windows, the shelves, the mezzanine and the flooring were all assembled even that country scene through the windows is just a backlit image.

While the set builders had finished with the construction of the set, it was the photography stylists role to make the empty room look believable and lived in. Every piece of furniture, every rug and drape, every book and ornament, even the casually draped magazine on the table was all placed there deliberately by the experienced hand of the photography stylist. The result speaks for itself, a room which looks attractive and lived in. The subject of the photograph is the furniture, but the rest of the set shows potential customers how that furniture will look in a home environment and the setting also communicates the upmarket nature of the furniture by placing it in a room which appears expensive, architecturally pleasing and tasteful.

Placing the props or ‘propping’ is the end of a carefully planned process. What props will be needed for a job? Where will they come from? Can they be obtained in time and to budget? Can they be borrowed? If so, from where and how will I keep track of them so they can be returned? These are all questions a stylist will ask of themselves and be required to answer when styling a set for a commercial photoshoot.


Styling Photography Sets - Bringing Life to a Scene