Ever since I moved to Atlanta 3 years ago I have been working steadfastly toward a career as a photostylist. It's hard to articulate the many reasons why I love what I do, but one of them is that I am constantly learning something new with every shoot I am lucky to be on. I'm also learning from some of the best in the industry. This year I have been expanding my prop+ photo styling portfolio to pursue more experience on food shoots. I've had the privilege of working with one of the best food photographers, who for some reason, has kindly given me a shot when I am woefully green in this area. He and his colleagues have been doing this for 10-20 years. And they're good. I mean really good. Sometimes I find myself feeling discouraged because I don't quite speak their language yet and know all the tricks in the book. And with food photography there are about a million ways you need to be able to problem solve on an 8-10 hour day when you need two shots and you have a limited number of props to work with... trust me, it's amazing the kind of magic tricks food stylists have up their sleeves. I had a shoot this week where we hit a bit of a wall on the second shot, 7 hours after completing the first one. I might have even gone cross-eyed. I was really disappointed in myself because I couldn't come up with the solutions to make it work. I was a problem-solving failure. Thankfully the rest of the team snapped to it and found the right answer after a quick group effort of swapping out every possible moving part in the image.
I try and channel my mistakes into something positive. I critically evaluate my performance on every shoot and add new tools to my kit (literally and figuratively) and accept the growing pains as part of the process. I also hope that the more seasoned I become that I never lose the sense of wonder I feel toward the world of photostyling. Also, in turn, I promise I will share as many tips + tricks as I learn them. My 3 takeaways from this week's shoot:
1. Know your client's aesthetic and be humble enough to not impose your personal style on them. Deliver the kind of work that represents their brand and not your own.
2. More is more. You will never regret bringing too many options or too many tools. Also you will always want to present the art director with as many photo options for her to chose from. More is more.
3. Stay hungry in every way possible. Don't allow yourself to hit a wall. Continue to look at a scene with fresh eyes and be ready to offer suggestions of every possible prop you can swap out for another variation whether it be the forks, linens, surface, or stack of plates. Be the bamboo that bends not the oak that resists. Stubborness over a shot is just wasting everyone's precious and expensive time. Also, stay hungry in the sense of always wanting to improve and learn more. Be your own best student and teacher. Work with and for people who are better than you and be grateful for their wisdom and expertise.