Getting the Shot: Stylist and Photographer Teamwork
March 30, 2016
Text by Karin Lidbeck Brent
After years of working at New England Home with the most talented photographers in the country, I was really honored with this tribute from photographer Jim Westphalen in New England Home’s ten-year anniversary issue.
While I was touched by Jim’s words, I know it’s really the teamwork of photographer and stylist that makes it all come together. Here are some of my favorite photographs for the magazine, and each one has an interesting back-story.
I love styling breakfast scenes—stacks of plates, cut cantaloupe, a newspaper, coffee, and a dreamy bunch of hydrangeas. Little things like the arrangement of the chairs are important in the layout. You can’t believe how photographers and stylists play with chairs! With its dappled light and Jim Westphalen’s dream-like focus on the tabletop, this simply styled scene became an artful image.
Some rooms cause greater challenges than others like this family room on Lake Champlain in Vermont. The vertical architecture of this room was dramatic, but the furniture was pushed together awkwardly, and needed rearranging to be photo-ready.
It took some quick thinking to rearrange the furniture and rug, then bring in the cool chairs with the British flag motif. The balance of light captures both the interior and exterior lakeside setting.
My favorite room to style in any house is the kitchen. I like to create the feeling of something culinary happening without it being messy and too distracting. It’s a balance that is hard to achieve. While photographer John Bessler was getting all technical lighting issues figured out, I ran around moving props, bowls, cutting boards, food, and flowers. The placement of everything is crucial to create a balance that feels right.
Once John and I agreed on all the props, John focused on the lighting. John made everything sparkle; the beautiful light and the reflection on the floor and ceiling are no accident. Styling does not go very far without beautiful lighting.
My favorite styled shots feel as if someone is in the middle of doing something and just walked out of the room. I worked with photographer Rob Benson on this gorgeous Vermont timber frame home. I knew from the scouting shots that we needed to dress-up this informal hang-out room, so I brought all the accessories along with me. Imagining myself reading magazines with my morning coffee, I created the organized chaos you see.
It was at the end of a perfect summer day when I styled this house with photographer Laura Moss. We were winding and not even sure shooting this simple porch was worth it. Though a charming space, the table and chairs alone were not as interesting compared to the rest of well decorated home. This is where styling really made a difference.
For fun I started working on the table to make an impromptu setting. I cut the zinnias and gathered grape tomatoes from the immense vegetable garden to make a loose centerpiece. I grabbed plates from the kitchen with casually placed napkins and cutlery.
The open screen door added a suggestive note (imagine how different it would be with the screen door closed).
When Laura put her camera on the scene it didn’t take long for us to all fall in love with the shot. Her beautiful inside outside lighting captured that quintessential summers eve!
Here I set out to create a unique idea for a garden inspired centerpiece: After an initial sketch was approved by my editors, I headed out to gather all the right props to style the idea. Photographer Michael Partenio and I have shot hundreds of floral projects together. I loved the way he romanced this project with luminous light that brings the project to the foreground, and the background fading away to soft focus.
Styling is about making art. For me it’s the push-and-pull of many object until it’s just right. The photographers lighting gives the room, and the props, their form and illumination, which is the real dealmaker.
I’m fortunate to be able to work with the many great photographers that work for New England Home. I’m already planning my summer assignments for 2016, and I look forward to all the beautiful images we will be creating.