A photo stylist is a professional who works with photographers to put together all the elements of an attractive, accessorized product scene to be photographed. There are no specific educational requirements to become a photo stylist, and skills and job expectations may vary depending on the specialization. Photo stylists may specialize in food, clothing, industrial items, everyday products, or other commercial items for magazine advertising. Some stylists have no specialty, but work with a variety of products and clients through an agent or as a freelancer.
Several skills are crucial when learning to become a photo stylist, no matter whether the stylist specializes or works on many types of projects. These professionals must have good coordination and time-management skills, so that all elements are in place and ready when the photo shoot begins. Photo stylists must have a sense of artistic design and the ability to translate a client’s vision into an appealing scene. Most importantly, the stylist must be familiar with photographic staging, lighting, focus, and angles. Photo stylists may gain these skills through work in a specific industry or through online or classroom courses in photo styling.
One path to becoming a photo stylist is through work as a photographer’s assistant. In this role, an assistant will learn all the elements that go in to a well-designed and eye-pleasing photo. The assistant may be responsible for finding props to make an attractive setting, and will begin to make contacts with suppliers and other photographers while learning more about photographic principles.
Often someone can become a photo stylist through entry-level work in a specific industry. For example, a fashion photo stylist may begin as an assistant to a famous designer, or a food stylist may begin by working in the kitchen of a popular restaurant. Some prop stylists are even more specialized, such as a professional in New York City who is known for her print ads of pens.
After learning the business, and obtaining the right props and tools, the stylist can put together a portfolio of work to show potential clients or an agency. If the stylist hasn’t done any magazine advertising yet, a few mock set-ups can be photographed for the portfolio. A professional will find it easier to become a photo stylist in a large city with many advertising companies. Once a stylist makes contacts and starts obtaining jobs, word of mouth will help locate new clients.