Don’t despair if your budget won’t cover a professional stylist. Try these ten tips from experienced photographers on styling a photoshoot solo.

Styling a photoshoot is a skill any photographer should try to master, especially when shooting for stock. Knowing how to properly style a photoshoot will save you time and money, no matter what type of image you’re capturing.

Styling relates to a persons’ ability to arrange an aesthetically pleasing scene. When it comes to styling a photoshoot, that can mean everything from wardrobe to props, environment to backdrop, and even down to the nails.

Top Ten Best Practices for Styling Any Photoshoot — Man Colorblocking Orange
Image by Jacob Lund

Now, don’t get us wrong. Working with a professional stylist is a massive asset to a photographer. Not only will having a stylist on your team allow you to focus on your specialty — photography — but the stylist will provide another creative input into your photoshoot. A team can be really helpful to bounce ideas off of while on location.

But this article is for photographers who just happen to need to be stylists. Not every photoshoot has the budget to hire a stylist to style a perfect photoshoot. More often than not, you’re going to have to learn the basics involved with styling a photoshoot. In this article, we’re sharing the ultimate tips for you to reference when you are styling your next photoshoot. Use this guide as a reference before you arrange any prop, any model, or any backdrop on your next photoshoot.

Top Ten Best Practices for Styling Any Photoshoot — Smoothie Still Life
Image by Zamurovic Photography

Pro Tips on Styling a Photoshoot

Pro Tip #1: Create the ultimate styling toolbox

Each stylist’s toolbox is unique to their craft, but you can find most supplies in your local craft shop. Everything from scissors to tape, pens to pins, putty, and levels should be in your stylist toolbox.

Not sure where to start when building yours? Check out this great article before styling your next photoshoot.

Top Ten Best Practices for Styling Any Photoshoot — Flower in Studio
Image by LightField Studios

Pro Tip #2: Have a theme

The first and most important step before styling a photoshoot is knowing the theme of the photo shoot. If you’re shooting with a client, check your brief before you start planning your styling for the photoshoot. Before you can make any styling decisions, you have to know what message or feeling you want to express with the photos. You’re trying to tell a story, so every element within the set should effectively follow that storyline and be cohesive. If there are too many varying aspects in a photo, it can appear messy and fail to catch the attention of viewers. Failing to grasp the theme can break the success of a photoshoot.

Top Ten Best Practices for Styling Any Photoshoot — All-White Girl Jumping
Image by Jacob Lund

Pro Tip #3: Layer your images

Adding layers to your photos gives them depth and, therefore, can make them more interesting to the eye. Do this by adding elements in the foreground and/or background around your subject. Make sure that these elements are just complimentary though, and don’t take away too much attention from the focus of the image. For an added touch of depth, you could adjust the aperture on your camera to blur those outer elements.

Top Ten Best Practices for Styling Any Photoshoot — Dog in Glasses
Image by kamin Jaroensuk

Pro Tip #4: How to style lifestyle photography

The smallest detail can make all the difference in your image. The difference between a forgettable photograph and a lasting image can come down to the clothing choices.

This doesn’t mean you need to have an extravagant budget. Sometimes it’s about reading a client brief, understanding the theme, and bringing options on location. Check out this article for our top tips on styling for fashion or lifestyle images.

Top Ten Best Practices for Styling Any Photoshoot — Happy Couple on a Road Trip
Image by Kryvenok Anastasiia

Pro Tip #5: Use complementary backdrops

Typically, it is best to have a backdrop that contrasts with the subject just enough to make them stand out more. However, you don’t want a background that’s too overpowering. Sometimes the best background is simply a white table or white foam board. Or, try other things around your house like wooden boards, linens, or craft paper. Be creative! Just remember to match the message of the shoot. For example, a solid background for something sleek, or wood for a rustic feeling.

Top Ten Best Practices for Styling Any Photoshoot — LGBTQ Men on Colorful Backdrop
Image by Jose Luis Carrascosa

Pro Tip #6: Avoid logos at all costs

When styling a photoshoot, remove any recognizable or copyrighted brands, businesses, and logos from the backdrop. This can be anything from the models clothing to a sign in the background. When all else fails and you’re shooting in a busy environment, shoot in a narrow aperture to blur the backdrop and be prepared to photoshop unwanted logos out. For more tips on avoiding copyright issues, read this article.

Pro Tip #7: Decide on a color palette

Similar to shooting a theme, it’s important to plan ahead with a cohesive set of colors you want to use for the shoot. Doing so ties together all of the elements in the photos to help you get across a specific message or feeling when styling a photoshoot. Your color scheme could be completely monochromatic, it could consist only of pastels, or maybe you just choose three colors that you think work nicely together. Make sure to tie the colors into the overall theme of the shoot through and that they match the subject and/or brand you’re shooting for.

Top Ten Best Practices for Styling Any Photoshoot — Pink Strawberries
Image by WashDog

Pro Tip #8: Adjust the lighting

One way to easily change the mood of a photo is through the source of light. For added drama, introducing light just from one side or at an angle can create a strong shadow. If you’re going for a softer feel, try using natural light or a diffuser. Another example is using warm lighting to bring a sense of coziness or laziness. The right lighting can greatly enhance the message you’re trying to communicate. For more tips on lighting, check out this guide on artificial, natural, and mixed light.

Top Ten Best Practices for Styling Any Photoshoot — Green Interior
Image by

Pro Tip #9: How to style product photography

Shooting impeccable product photographs requires expert experience in lighting, styling, and overall appeal of the image. Product photos are often simple, with little additional detail. Styling is what makes the difference. Styling for product images relates to a lot of different elements of the photographs including reflections, compositions, and use of color. “Generic” product images don’t mean “boring” product images. Read this article to find out all the pro tips on styling product images in studio.

Pro Tip #10: Less is more

While having other elements in a photo adds interest, it’s important not to have too many other elements. You want there to be a clear subject in every photo you take. Too many elements when styling a photoshoot can be distracting, and the viewer will have a hard time knowing where to look. Especially if you’re shooting for a client, you want the subject to be clear immediately upon seeing the image.

Top Ten Best Practices for Styling Any Photoshoot — Detox Drinks
Image by Tatiana Bralnina

We hope these tips help you succeed the next time you’re styling a photoshoot. We can’t wait to see what you create next. Not a contributor yet? Click here to get started.

Featured Image by LStockStudio.

Looking for more pro tips for shooting client photos? Check out these articles: