A photographic stylist provides the props used in a photograph. These items may be purchased or hired but the assumption that a stylist does little more than go on glorified shopping expeditions under-values the very important contribution they make to the overall look of the finished shot.
The photographic stylist usually works very closely with the photographer and the Art Director. They are likely to meet before the shoot to discuss the concept (i.e. the specifications laid down by the Advertising Agency or Magazine Editor). This may be very specific (which is known as a 'tight brief') or a little more vague allowing for more creative freedom (known as a 'loose brief').
There are a variety of
photographic areas such as Advertising, Fashion, Room Set or Still
A stylist does not necessarily specialise in one area but it is likely that they will build a reputation for a certain kind of shot. For example, a Stylist who is happy on a fashion shoot working closely with models, pinning and pressing their clothes and accessorising garments (i.e. adding a scarf or a watch) may not enjoy helping a still-life photographer who could take all day to manipulate lights, reflectors and props in an attempt to create a perfectly balanced, eye catching image.
A photographic stylist working in mail order will help the photographer take a lot of photographs in a relatively short time by arranging the models to have the right clothes on in the right sequence.
It is not normal for a stylist to employ a full-time assistant. Therefore most stylists have worked within the photographic industry in another capacity. Many are ex-photographers' assistants. Some are ex-models.
Most stylists get their first experience working on test shots. This is very much a trial run where a photographer is trying out a model for the first time. These shots are not commissioned and the stylist helps out, perhaps buying the props in return for the experience, the chance to make contacts and to gain some shots for their portfolio.
Once a portfolio (or book) has been compiled it is up to the stylist to approach photographers, magazines, agencies and design groups in the hope of finding work.
is a useful source of names and addresses.
The photographic world operates to some extent on a 'who you know' basis. It is very much a game of contacts and it would be foolish to set up as a freelance stylist without some useful contacts (i.e. Art Directors, Magazine Picture Editors and Photographers). Therefore a foothold in the industry is vital. This can be gained by doing any relevant job.