I wish I could say I designed every house in the book – like this one by Noah Riley, but I didn’t. It begs the question “what did you do then?” So I figured I’d start breaking down the styling process, showing how it looked when we arrived that morning, and what it takes to pull off the perfect shot – meanwhile you’ll get some peeks into the book and some behind the scenes.
First off I had help – I hired one of my best friend’s who also happens to be one of the best stylists, Scott Horne, to help style the book. Why, you might ask? Because I needed another set of eyes and another set of hands to keep up with the book as well as everything else that was happening – the blog, design clients, partnerships, etc. Flowers had to be purchased in the morning at 6am, things had to be schlepped and organized and cleaned, etc, and I just needed a pro who had done it a million times to handle all that stuff and take a first stab at shots.
Generally how it went was that Scott and I would scout the location together, make a list of potential things we would need and what we would shoot, then we would both prep/shop, and the day of the shoot he would do the flower market, the schlepping, etc, and load in and I’d show up about an hour later after the annoying stuff was done. Then he would typically take the first stab at the final shot while I worked on my computer and I would tweak/change depending on what I wanted to say about the shot and what I knew I was going to write about. I guess you could say I art directed it, but co-styling it is probably accurate, too. Overall he was there for about 80% of the shots (he was booked on other projects during the two months).
Once the camera is up we start taking shots and typically all these shots before the final get totally trashed, but I asked David (the amazing photographer) to keep all of the process shots so I could put together these posts.
We choose the angles together, he starts tweaking the lights and we get to work on the styling. For this one we didn’t want a ton of “stuff, ” we just wanted to 1.) create a sense of a person and 2.) add some texture and soft colors. This wasn’t going to be the time to bring in crazy colors or patterns, just a few tones to liven it up.
For every shot we move stuff around constantly – making sure that it feels balanced and that the composition is pleasing to the eye with enough negative space to keep it feeling calm. In this case we added the green (in the plants and sandals), the soft blue (the vase and the tea towel) and the yellow/gold (the pears, pot and gold planter).
Rooms always seem more inviting when there is a sense that a person was just there – when things aren’t so perfect, so we did two options to show you – one (above) that is totally clean and less staged and one (below, which was chosen as the final version) of the kitchen more styled out as if a person was just there. The above photo is more of a straight shot – styled but less “staged.”
And this below photo is the more ‘styled’ shot. You’ll notice the book open with a mug next to it, the stools slightly askew and fruit being cut near the sink.
Sometimes the adding of personal stuff can get kinda annoying, visually. Like when there are 9 glasses of rose poured, half eaten donuts, etc. You have to be kinda careful with it so it doesn’t look too forced or “try-hard.”
It may not seem like a huge difference but it’s the difference between a messy shot, a boring shot and then what it turned out to be – a really pretty styled shot. More of that GORGEOUS kitchen in the book – it’s one of my favorites. Nice job Noah Riley 🙂
*Photos by David Tsay for our book! Styling by Scott Horne.