Singapore has a really small market, but we have an exploding number of photographers, makeup artists and models, even model agencies. But we just never have enough stylists. I remember the difficulties in trying to get a team to work for portfolio purpose back when I was starting out, there were a lot of choices for makeup artists and models, but never enough for stylists. Of course I could always build up a portfolio with beautiful nude works, but that would unfortunately not quite help to get me any jobs from the fashion side, especially here in Singapore.
So I started digging through my wardrobe and attempted to do the styling myself.
It was tougher than I thought. I remembered when I first styled a model from agency, I was at a loss when what I envisioned just didn’t quite looked as good on her as compared to on the paper in my head. I looked back at it now and I cringed a bit, but nevertheless, we all started from somewhere. I started doing more, and looked at more commercial works to study how the materials worked with each other, and how the styling worked for the story.
After doing it for quite some time, I’m quite comfortable now with pulling out any look now for test shoots. I’m not an expert and nether am I ever a fashion stylists, I just know what works at the very least. Being a female is probably one of the advantages, hahaha. But I’d never call myself in anyway, a fashion stylist, considering how almost every pieces I used for my test shoots were from my own wardrobe.
I invested in building a wardrobe to be used for test shoots and personal projects. In some ways, I like to be totally in control in how the looks were supposed to be like, controlling the wardrobe allowed me to do that. Note that this only applies to test shoots and personal projects, even though that usually means I have to drag an additional suitcase to the set. There were also shoots when I borrowed from designers but that was rare, especially when I might even have to destroy a clothing piece for the shoot., like the one below.
The outer piece was completely destroyed by the sea and sand, and had retired into the trash bin right after the shoot.
Over the years I like to study commercial fashion images, because these were the kind of styling that sells. They weren’t over the top, sell a story well, and even sell a model well. It worked in a lot of ways that actually benefits all sides. I took a lot of references from household brands like H&M, ZARA, Mango, Forever21 etc. Ever since H&M launched in Singapore, I’ve been their regular whenever I needed anything for a shoot. They provide affordable prices for basic pieces, and sometimes you might even strike gold with a good piece of jacket that goes with almost anything. And their sales just cannot be missed, you can’t find anything more affordable with decent quality in town.
Below are some examples of what you can do with a good cheap and simple wardrobe. Yes you read that right, you do not need to break your bank to be able to style a good look.
Outlet stores are also good choices to find affordable fashion pieces to add to a shoot.
As a fashion photographer, or an aspiring one, knowing how to style is very important. You don’t need to be able to whip something like how a professional stylist is able to of course, but you’d be able to gain experience and knowledge via styling to understand how clothes affect the woman/man’s body or vice versa. And you will also learn to understand how a piece of clothing or even just accessories contribute to a story.
You don’t need to do it all the time, it’s always good to build up a team that includes a stylist, because you’d need his/her expertise as you advance further down the road. But whenever you can, go at it. Try out looks and have fun, like how you experiment different lighting techniques and have fun exploring possibilities on how you can utilize all the new knowledge you have gained.
Have fun shooting!