The Shed

A stylist’s eye

A pair of eyes interpreti­ng your shoot from a slightly different angle can be hugely beneficial to keeping your work ontrend. Aaron K discusses with lifestyle and interiors stylist Megan Harrison-Turner the role of a stylist

- Aaron K

As a fashion photograph­er, I know from personal experience what a huge impact a profession­al stylist can have on a shoot. Don’t ask me how they do it, but a great stylist can take a mundane or lacklustre scene and quickly turn it into something visually spectacula­r. Their in-depth knowledge of ‘what’s hot and what’s not’ can also prevent major embarrassm­ent (for the photograph­er, the subject, and the client) further down the line. In fact, for trend-sensitive assignment­s, I think it would be fair to say that having a stylist involved from the outset is absolutely essential.

So, for this issue’s column, I spoke with Megan Harrison-Turner, a very highly regarded lifestyle and interiors stylist who has spent over two decades working alongside some of New Zealand’s leading commercial photograph­ers. During this time, Harrison-Turner has styled dozens and dozens of editorials for well-known publicatio­ns, including Your Home & Garden, Home & Entertaini­ng, Cuisine, and Fashion Quarterly, and has been instrument­al in the developmen­t of distinctiv­e looks for many major brands, such as Levene and Ezibuy Home & Gifts. The Photograph­er’s Mail: Can you briefly explain the role of a stylist: what exactly do you do?

Megan Harrison-Turner: Well, ultimately, I’d like to think that what I do is help photograph­ers to create great images. On occasion, when I’m asked this question, I tell people that I go shopping for a living — but styling is obviously much more than that. As a stylist, I basically have to beg, borrow, buy, hire, make, invent, or do whatever else is required to assemble the most suitable items for the scene that we happen to be shooting. A big part of a stylist’s job is knowing where to find things.

During the shoot itself, I worry about all the little details. I really love what photograph­ers do with light and angles and compositio­n — they make the scene that I’ve put together look better. But I worry about different aspects of the shoot than the photograph­er — like the shape of a wine glass or the finish of a table surface. You really need to get these details right in order to ensure that the photos ‘make sense’ and are visually appealing to the client’s target demographi­c. I imagine acquiring this type of knowledge requires quite a bit of research.

Definitely. I’m constantly keeping an eye on what’s going on. For example, I’ll attend gift fairs or food expos so [that] I know what’s coming through to the market and what’s on its way out. I’ll visit the boutique stores because they stock the new, innovative products first — usually a year or two before those products become mainstream and end up in Briscoes.

I also follow a gazillion different blogs and pick up a lot of magazines — not necessaril­y

because I like them, but so [that] I know what’s already been done. When shooting an editorial for a magazine, it’s important that we don’t produce something which looks a month or two behind other magazines in the same genre. What can photograph­ers do to make your job easier and get the best results?

Having a detailed and concise brief really helps. Everything tends to run more smoothly when we have a clear understand­ing of what we’re aiming for.

It also helps if photograph­ers understand that when things change, for whatever reason, the original costs that were quoted may differ.

Working collaborat­ively is another important skill. Some photograph­ers act like a dictator on set, but there’s always more than one right answer to any problem that comes up, so, being willing to listen to suggestion­s from others can often be quite useful. When hiring a stylist, what attributes should photograph­ers be looking for?

Pick the right kind of stylist for the job. My background, knowledge, and expertise is in props and interiors — I don’t do fashion. I’m a big believer in horses for courses, so I leave the fashion styling to those who specialize in fashion.

Styling is a real job. Sometimes, when there’s a styling budget, it might be tempting to get a friend’s partner’s cousin (or whoever) to go out and find things for a shoot from the stores. But profession­al stylists, like myself, have spent years building relationsh­ips with suppliers, wholesaler­s, retailers, dealers, galleries, private collectors, and all sorts of people, so we know how to locate and acquire the right things at the right price in a much shorter time frame than a lay person. And a good stylist will be able to find items that you simply can’t get on the street.

I guess it comes back to profession­alism. If you want to be known as a profession­al photograph­er, it pays to work with other profession­als who you can count on to deliver a level of quality and service that will actually enhance your reputation and standing with clients.

You can find out more about Harrison-Turner and her stylist assignment­s at meganstyli­

 ??  ?? Cover image styled by Megan Harrison-Turner
Cover image styled by Megan Harrison-Turner
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