How to style with what you've got - part I

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How to style with what you've got - Part I

One of the most common struggles people have before they even start styling is to have a suitable space. But it doesn’t matter where you live, there are many ways to still be able to style as well as create content for your business or passion project. It is one of the key ideas I share in The Styling Masterclass.

But, first…

Have a clear understanding of what you want to create, and why. Do you want to showcase a product or a service? Do you want to style other people’s homes? Or create a business from your own place? Do you want to work with brands? Or for them? Consider the type of client you want to work for so you can know precisely the type of space that will suit your needs.

Easy ways to create a suitable space

No matter what stage you’re at there are some simple ways to be able to find or create a suitable space to style your product or service

1. Home base

The easiest place to style is often our own homes, and it doesn’t matter if they’re a rental or a work-in-progress. Often there is at least one room or area that can be used. Usually it’s a space that has great natural light probably because it’s close to a window. But if the flooring isn’t your preferred option then roll a rug on top. Jute or sisal is a great neutral option. If the skirting boards aren’t to your liking, you can always buy a length from a hardware store and prop it into place. If you don't like the wall colour ask your landlord if you can paint it, or do it anyway and just paint it back before you move out. You don’t need your whole house to be suitable just one area that can work as a studio for your styling needs. You can move furniture into place and rig up pendants to hang from broom handles. It’s possible to create most settings with a little imagination and some ingenuity.  

2. Portable backdrops

Stylists almost always use portable backdrops in studios, and there’s no reason why you can’t use them in your own home. A favourite is a linen sheet or painter’s drop cloth. They are a great way to create a neutral backdrop or hide what you don’t want to be seen. You can also use photographic paper rolls. These come in a range of widths and colours. This is great if you’re shooting product. If you want to deep-etch product create a curve or wave effect at the base (as opposed to forming a crease). If you are serious about styling from home you could also create portable flats. In studios these are held in place with c-stands and clamps. However, you could prop it against a wall or if you’re working with an assistant or friend have someone hold it in place. When styling the launch collection for Imprint House I didn’t have enough white walls and so we used a sheet of plasterboard behind a sofa, pictured above. 

3. Studio   

If you want to shoot a lot of content it might be worthwhile shooting a batch of it in a studio. Depending on the size of the products you want to style, you may only need a small space. This is a great idea when styling collections. It also forces you to be focussed and efficient. While it may involve packing and moving, you can be more intentional about your outcome. When hiring spaces, it's a good idea to create a shot list and sketch out the sets so you can make the most of your time.  

4. On location

If your home isn’t suitable then you can always style someone else’s. It may belong to a friend or family member, or someone within your creative community. It’s a good idea to find people who have a similar aesthetic to you, and are open to the process of having their furniture or personal objects moved around. Depending on your relationship, you may want to get them to sign an access deed or release form. 

5. Outdoors

There are many times when styling outdoors can be a great option. This might be at your own place - do you have a wall or door that could work as a suitable backdrop? Otherwise, if light is not great indoors then you can set up a drop sheet outside. You can also style dining settings in a garden or under a tree. Also consider heading out on location - to the beach or a nearby river or lake. However, check if you need permits, especially if you are working on a commercial project. 

6. Go tight

One of the oldest tricks in the book is to style within a tight space so that architectural details aren’t on show. You can style overhead onto a floor. If yours isn’t suitable place a rug underneath. You can also buy photographic backdrops in vinyl rolls that have the appearance of marble, concrete and timber. Or you can buy, make or hire tabletop style backdrops in a variety of finishes and colours - this is a favourite technique of food stylists who don’t usually style on top of tables but instead use backdrops on the floor. 

As you can see, there are many options to styling in a range of environments. Sometimes we just have to think outside the box. Other times we might need to call in favours. But if styling is something you want or need to pursue, there are many ways to achieve a result. The good news is that often when we are forced to think creatively, we get produce better work.

To learn how to style with confidence, enrolments are opening soon for The Styling Masterclass.








STYLINGNatalie Walton