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How to become a photographic stylist

photographic stylist careers

What does a photographic stylist do?

Photographic stylists work with photographers in fashion, advertising or editorial photography and are largely responsible for the look and mood of a photograph.

After discussions with the photographer, stylists arrange the set, deciding what kind of atmosphere photos should have. They use the models, clothes and props available to best create this effect.

Photographic stylists usually specialise in particular areas, such as fashion, interior design, advertisements or catalogues. They need to have a clear understanding of the image they are trying to create and the message they are sending to their audience. So they must understand and research the needs and interests of that audience.

 

What's the working environment like for a photographic stylist?

Stylists usually work in offices or studios, although some may work from home. When working for larger employers, office hours are the norm, although some flexibility may be necessary to suit clients’ demands. Full- time and part-time employment is usually available, and self-employed stylists work on a daily or hourly contract basis.

The work may involve climbing ladders to arrange sets, lifting, and working with paint, glue and fabric. Some travelling to locations may be involved.

What does it take to become a photographic stylist?

To be a photographic stylist you should:

  • have strong artistic skills
  • have an interest and knowledge of fashion and design
  • have a basic understanding of photographic techniques and processes
  • develop the practical skills to set up equipment and sets, and create displays
  • be well organised and a good communicator
  • be patient and tactful.

This is a role where both experience and academic knowledge is valued. It's important to have a portfolio of work to show a willingness to gain experience. You can build your portfolio through assisting photographers and stylists, work placements on shoots, magazines and newspapers and helping with visual design in fashion-related environments. 

If you choose to get some qualifications to support your journey into becoming a photographic stylist, foundation degrees and HNDs are available in the following subjects that would be relevant:

  • Fashion styling
  • Fashion journalism
  • Interior design
  • Visual merchandising

Photographic stylist career opportunities

After accumulating experience, you could move on to work with larger advertising and PR agencies, retail stores and design houses. Well known stylists are also sought out by print publications. 

Courses to help you become a photographic stylist