Planning for any of the trips I take when styling a shoot is all about the detailed preparation beforehand, whether it’s something within New Zealand or overseas. Last year I travelled to Budapest, Hungary to style a week of shoots for destination wedding guide, Well Travelled Bride. For all of the shoots I work on I like to create a story, and this one was no exception.
Riding public transport around the city with the team
Having a strong narrative behind such creative shoots helps to keep everyone focused on what images you are looking to achieve. By almost giving the models characters or personas helps me make style decisions, who they are and what style choices would they make? Where will they get married, what will they wear and what sort of wedding style they would have? I like to have every detail thought through to create as much real-life detail as I can … sometimes, the couple even end up with pretend names for the shoot. Usually this is a spin off from the stationary we have printed for a shoot, but it’s also a fun way to create characters for the models to think about and take on, it always gets everyone laughing and carried away in the make believe.
The whole process of pre-production can be a long one – it can honestly take months of work. There’s a lot of coordination of other people, plus location scouting, and days of planning. Once the shoot days are in sight, it’s typically a week of “go, go, go” and then a couple of months for the images to come back before you can see all of the hard work come to fruition. For this type of shoot, I would expect to see approximately 1200 images and there are usually at least two photographers to make sure we’re capturing the story from every different angle.
As a stylist you work hard on a shoot like this. With a larger team, a lot of what you do would go unnoticed. I’m always trying to keep the flow of the day going by getting the next set ready, having the props ready in hand when they’re needed, and I also like being available to help the photographer as they direct what they want to shoot. Sometimes you do miss out on some of the fun as I’m usually packing up and preparing to leave so I can make it to the next location to set up in time for the next round of shooting.
Stylist’s Tip: With so much happening on locations I like to make sure I’m packed for the following day before I go to bed, that way my head can be clear as I go to sleep and I won’t be thinking about the props list.
There are often very early starts for hair and makeup so you can make the most of the full day shooting. It’s always good to give yourself time for on-set inspiration when you arrive, plus there are usually some things I change once I’m on location, you often see something other than the original idea that will work better. For example, we had a day in the country planned to shoot in Budapest, but after having trouble arranging suitable transport we decided there was so much of the city we hadn’t shot that we changed our plans and made our day work in town. It was actually the right call, as we managed to get around all the sights of the city that make it so uniquely Budapest.
The team enjoying a lunch as guests of the Michelin starred Costes Downtown
Shooting overseas certainly comes with its challenges! I’ve found it to be good fun, but you do have to be adept at searching for vendors and items you’ll need in a hurry online – this is when you realise how important a good web presence is for any business. Getting a team together over a long shoot can even be a challenge as most creative people have other bookings and clients to work with, you have to be flexible and make things work and it isn’t usually too hard if it’s a fun project.
As a stylist who doesn’t want to spend the week in luxurious settings, playing with gorgeous fashion, taking rides in speed boats etc. These larger projects always require good collaboration skills, you have to understand the needs of the team and each individual involved as well as making sure you get what you need from them and make sure you can deliver what you need to.
My fondest memory of this shoot would be working with Rose, Brendan the photographer’s wife. She is a florist and was accompanying him on the trip but it ended being so lovely to have someone who was into the same things as me on the trip. We shared a few BTS moments together looking at flowers and enjoying the surrounds. Rose was also so helpful in getting scenes ready and helping with the styling as she has a great eye.
Rose and I comparing phone pictures on the balcony of the Four Seasons
I enjoy all aspects of styling but what I like most are the moments when the hairs on my neck stand up, when you’re behind the photographer shooting and you just know it’s looking fabulous. It’s when all of the hard work, the months of planning, has come together in one magical moment for them capture. That’s when I like to get my phone out and do a little snap to WhatsApp to Mr. Edwards.
Taking a moment to rest my feet by the River Danube