Are Stylists Really That Important to Photography?

Most lifestyle product photo shoots are a bit more complex than some vendors imagine them to be. Before diving in, it’s important to note that while we’re focusing on a specific example or two, these principles easily apply to various other products. They can include modeled accessories like jewelry, shoes or socks. Or, even non-clothing items like electronics, housewares, and so on. Any of these photo shoots turn out more successful with proper stylist (defined here) on board. But, let’s look at clothing on a model, as an example.

First, the use of a professional model interacting with your product makes a product stand apart infinitely more than just the product laying against a white background. Yes, there is also an important role for products against a clean-white background. And, often this is a requirement of some ecommerce platforms, such as Amazon.com. To meet these requirements, a vendor could say they want their jeans photographed lying flat (flat lay) against an all-white background. It’s a style preference and not necessarily wrong. But, it cannot be ignored that it is more lifeless and more of an inaccurate depiction of how the jeans appear in real use. It’s probably ideal they primarily or also be photographed with a model wearing them. This way, a buyer can more easily visualize how they may appear on their selves. Once you’ve introduced a model into the scenario, you must start considering stylists to elevate the imagery: hair, makeup, and wardrobe. Headshots can also benefit from a hair stylist or make-up artist …

Why They Matter

Stylists matter because they are specialists at their craft, at making products look good or depicting them how they’re intended to be used, etc.… If a photo shoot session involves photographing full or half-body view of jeans, how a model’s hair or make-up looks matters. It impacts the overall quality and perception of the image – and your brand. Subconsciously or not, a customer will find a properly styled image more pleasing than one that is not. Side by side with a competing image, it can be the difference between which brand gets selected. Big brands understand this and so they shoot with creative directors, MUA, hair stylists, wardrobe stylists, etc.

Sometimes, vendors want to forego such expenses and just have the photographer manage it all. The problem is, it de-focuses the photographer from their task of taking great pictures. How many good commercial photographers can also be a good hair stylist. And, then also be a good make-up artist. And, then also be a good wardrobe stylist. And then, do all those things at the same time during a photo shoot… There is a reason any great movie doesn’t have the director also be the lead actor, and the lead writer, and the executive producer, and the supporting actor, and all at the same time. Great movies often have specific people tasked to do focused work. And, yes, it adds to the cost – often significantly. You must ask yourself, at what level do you want to play at?

Stylists play vital roles. While making sure their tasks are done to elevate the images and the brand, they help the photographer stay focused on the photography. This leads to overall better results from photo shoots. Sure, you don’t always need every type of stylist on all shoots. But, you should consider a stylist for any product photo shoot, particularly if you are using a model.

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