Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Marketing Concept: Parking Ticket

Toward the end of the semester I assign a Self-Marketing project to my college styling students. They create a marketing style, some promotional pieces, a Website layout, and - to make it fun - a unique marketing concept. As an example, I tell them about the license plate frame I had made for my own car for under $20. (See photo at bottom.)

The ideas they come up with are great and while I don't want to exploit their ideas, there's one I just had to write about. It is Sandy Hunter's "faux parking ticket."

Here's her idea. She goes to downtown San Diego and covers an upscale block or two looking for cars parked at expired meters. She feeds the needed coins into the meter and leaves this promotional piece tucked under the windshield wiper. What really impressed me was that she called the San Diego police department to check on the legality of this!


Here's what the "ticket" says:
VIOLATION: Not saving enough on your styling needs
FINE: 50% off your next service
... and her name and business information (Fashion Hunter)

On the back of the "Parking Citation" it reads...
"This is not a parking ticket. However, we happened to be going by your car and noticed that your meter was ready to run out or had already done so. To help you avoid the hassle and expense of paying a fine, we've taken the liberty of puttting a little money in the meter for you. Compliments of Fashion Hunter!" More contact info follows and the name of the Website where the ticket can be redeemed. Brilliant!

This idea almost borders on the outrageous but then it's so nice. Imagine the good feeling that sweeps over someone when they discover that what looked like a ticket is really just a good deed with a 50% offer attached. It works because Sandy is going after individual styling clients, which can be just about anyone with an urban attitude; it wouldn't work for targeted clients such as photographers or art directors.

Other concepts from my class have included a mini-lint roller with the stylist's name attached, imprinted cocktail napkins, and a give-away makeup mirror. Here is my license plate frame which has been on my car for several years.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Tabletop Styling at Sundance Catalog

I happened to pick up a copy of Sundance catalog yesterday while getting my monthly pedicure, my habitual indulgence. I only stop reading magazines and catalogs long enough to appreciate the massage portion in concentrated bliss.

Valuing tabletop styling as I do, I enjoyed the jewelry shots which were propped with loosely wrapped gift boxes and ribbon. The boxes were sometimes used as a device for showing bracelets, watches, or necklaces. Sometimes the ribbon was run through a ring.

I visited the Sundance Website to see if the holiday shots were there too and discovered a very neat and attractive site. The navigation through varied categories of clothing, home products, and gifts, as well as jewelry was fun and easy. Many of the category pages featured some of the same well-styled tabletop shots such as this one.


Styling jewelry is fun and challenging in its intricacy and detail. I love doing it. And working with gift wrap is another aspect of my career. I have usually tried for crisp knife-edges on gift boxes, achieved by pressing a crease into the packaging with my fingers. I like the way that restriction was abandoned and the folds of the paper left loose.

Since these shots are completed for the most part in summer, it's part of the stylist's job to hunt for holiday wrapping and ribbons. One of my favorite sources is The Container Store. Now they are featuring their holiday gift wrap and clever tags but even in mid-summer there is an ample assortment of solid-colored gift wrap, along with gift boxes of all sizes and shapes.

I posted the following Tip of The Week on Photo Styling Workshops just this morning: Stock up on Holiday Props. If you have the space for storing, this is a great time to stock up on holiday props, gift, wrap, and ribbons for those shoots next summer. The selection of life-like garlands, generic stockings, gold, red, or blue wrapping paper, and subtle ornaments is at its best now.

But if you don't hit the stores now, you can still find the supplies you need for beautiful tabletop shots throughout the year. You just have to look harder.

Images courtesy of Sundance catalog

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Window Display Project

When my daughter gave me 12 empty white shopping bags recently (knowing that I like a challenge) I got an inspiration. How about asking for volunteers in my Fashion Photo Styling class at San Diego Mesa College? They could earn extra credit by creating a display in the fashion department's display window. They could use the bags to represent various courses offered in the department - and style them with materials related to that course. And they could use the skills they'd been learning about stuffing with fiberfill, suspending with monofilament, and analyzing how objects are positioned.

Four volunteers participated in the challenge and spent a few weeks meeting, planning, and creating their own bags. A Saturday on campus allowed them time to cover the tired old window with grey seamless paper and install the new display. This is what they created.

We asked the professors for prop contributions representing: Ethnic Costume, Millinery, Fashion History, Textiles, and of course, Styling. The entire window represented Visual Merchandising.

Thanks to Dominique Avila, Lizetth Durazo, Juhee Miller, and Steffi Weigand, four students who also have a great potential as future photo stylists, for their hard work planning and installing this window to promote our department. This photo was taken on a rainy day - I love what happened when the raindrops on the window reflected the camera flash.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Editorial Layouts by My Students

I have to say that I am especially lucky this year. I have always had great students during my four years of teaching Fashion Photo Styling at San Diego Mesa College. But this fall they have been especially enthusiastic. They are enthusiastic about styling and enthusiastic about fashion.

We had our on-campus photo shoot in October and have finally gotten all the images edited (shot by Fashion Photography students from Siobhan Ridgway's class at City College.) And then I put them into the mock editorial layouts that inspired them. And here they are!











This was the day we accomplished 12 fashion shoots with 24 student stylists and 4 models in 3 hours! Whew. But it was such fun. More recently they have collaborated with the City College photographers on complete printed Lookbooks. I'll write more about those soon.

Thanks to San Diego Model Management for working with us to find 4 fantastic models willing to help the students in exchange for portfolio images.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Hollywood Fashion Tape in a New Package

When I spotted this package of Hollywood Fashion Tape in a fabric store recently, I had to buy it. Even though I am not out of my last batch yet. It used to come in a little cardboard box which tended to get smashed up - and open - in my fashion kit. But this new tin is just darling!

A long-time staple of stylists, the double-sided tape is useful for many purposes in dressing talent. Listed on the package are:
  • Hide bra straps
  • Secure revealing necklines
  • Hold up strapless tops
  • Eliminate blouse gaps
  • Fix hems fast
  • Close wrap skirts
  • Keep scarves and accessories in place
  • Create costumes
  • Adhere body jewels
  • Anchor shoulder pads
The individual clear strips are 3" x 1/2". I love that the manufacturer (based in Minneapolis) keeps the funky style alive with the current packaging. http://www.hollywoodfashiontape.com/.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Spooky Plants


As Halloween approaches I've been remembering a window display I made some years ago. For about a year (1996) I had a plant store in Portland, Oregon, "The Window Garden" with a friend of mine. Since I'd been at the beginning of the house plant trend by opening a shop in Kent, Ohio in the early 70s, I'd always had dreams about doing it again. Literally. I still do - I discover an old greenhouse full of exotic plants on the edge of being alive. It is mine, I can have everything in it if I can bring them back to life. I have to do it. Or I discover that I've owned the store all along and I've forgotten about it, leaving it in the hands of assistants and forgetting how wonderful - and how much work - it all is.

So Cathy and I revived my dream and we were a few years, or maybe a decade, ahead of our time and it was not successful enough to make a go of it. I understand that now small garden stores are doing well leading big merchants like Target to close their garden centers.

At the Window Garden I had a great time creating window displays and my favorite was "Seven Spooky Plants." It featured mysterious plants like the Old Man Cactus, Pitcher Plants, Living Stones, and a Drunkard's Dream. The spooky title was written with white roll-on shoe polish on the glass. The most eerie moment of the month was when the sun reflecting on a car window caused a shadow image of "Spooky Plants" high on the interior wall of the store.

I'll present some other store displays when they become seasonally appropriate. Meanwhile, I'll just keep dreaming.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

To Match or Not?

I'm still struggling with the "new" fashion dictum that your clothes and accessories must never match. I grew up in the olden days when you would never dream of wearing black shoes with a brown belt. We even coordinated our gloves and hats! Now the idea of wearing off-white flats with a lacy black dress or carrying a yellow bag at the same time as wearing black shoes seems wrong. I know it's right, now, but it's a struggle.

This outfit that I wore to teach recently is an example of pushing the limits of the fashion rules, for me. I wore a brown/multicolored Fair Isle vest over charcoal gray pinstriped pants (brown and black together! prints and stripes together!). And instead of "pulling it all together" (a common phrase from those days and one I still find myself using) with a pair of brown boots, I went ahead and wore my off-white Keds wih red trim!


I recently recieved some 1965 McCall's magazines which I'll be posting about soon. You'll see what I mean about matching!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sardine Lunch

Once every few years throughout my adult life I get a craving for sardines with Ry-Krisp for lunch. It just happens. The day I bought these I also bought a can of salmon to make salmon cakes and a can of tuna. Must have been a nutritional need.




When I prepared to eat my sardine lunch (big sardines!) I realized how attractive the plate composition was so I got out the camera. I placed my vintage plate on the back of a Ouija board (masonite) for a neutral and contrasting background and shot it in natural patio light, using the flowers of an orchid as a flag to reduce glare. These three versions were only slightly different in fork placement but I rotated them to look at their layout appearance. What do you think?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Revisiting: Devon Poer, Editor of The Stylist Handbook

This is a re-posting of a bio I wrote two years ago. Devon Poer has come even further since 2010 in her quest to share the fashion styling profession. We will be interviewing her and updating her story soon - so I wanted to start with my initial discovery of her exceptional talents...

I was happy to discover a new E-magazine for stylists called The Stylist Handbook. Not only is it a virtually-slick publication with lots of information for stylists of all types, it looks like a great outlet for publishing fashion spreads created as test shoots. Edited by stylist/journalist Devon Poer, this can be an outstanding resource for all of us in the “invisible” industry of styling.

The second quarterly edition, Winter, is in the works right now. I look forward to seeing more articles and some cutting-edge fashion editorials.

Having a lot in common with our focus on sharing information about this career, Devon and I hit it off right away. I asked her some questions about The Stylist Handbook and her busy life.

Q. How did you decide to start the E-magazine? When?
May 2010! How I came to start the magazine... well I planned to do a book called The Stylist Handbook and after leaving my position as the Creative/Fashion Director for a travel magazine, I decided it was time to start my own magazine about my love of styling and to do something that wasn't being done and to help improve mine and others’ knowledge of the fashion styling world.

Q. What types of styling jobs have you done?
Editorial styling has been a huge amount of it, probably has something to do with me being a journalist as well, so lots of magazine work. I've done advertising campaigns for fashion and beauty, press imagery for celebrities and musicians, too. Also, a bit of wardrobe styling for celebrity and personal clients.

Q. How long have you been working as a stylist?
I've been a fashion stylist for about three and half years.


Q. What else do you do; is The Couture House an agency?
I run my company, which is more of a firm than an agency. Right now, I handle all the marketing, PR, and sales for Polaris Cosmetics, who is my sole client under The Couture House business development program. But my company also has a publishing department which is really a non-profit at the moment, we currently publish the e-magazine The Stylist Handbook. As well as a couple of blogs for fashion and beauty. My personal blog is devonpoer.com, I work on it a lot as well.

Q. You live in LA, right? Do you think most of the work in LA is fashion and wardrobe?
I go from Orange County to LA to the Valley. I don't really feel like I live in one place at the moment. Honestly, it depends on the type of styling work. If you want to work in the entertainment industry, go to LA. If you want to work in the editorial/magazine side, I think New York would be better suited. There is work within fashion and beauty in Los Angeles. It’s just about getting connected with the right circles.

Q. Does the magazine take a lot of your time? Do you do it out of a need to share your knowledge? Serve the styling community? Or what?
Yes! And I do it for three reasons, because I like helping people, especially young minds or those in need of a mentor, and I want to develop myself as a better person, and lastly I'm in love with fashion styling and journalism. It’s all exciting to me, that’s why I do it!

Stay tuned for the updated Devon news, coming soon! Meanwhile, her blog and accomplishments can be viewed at http://www.thestylisthandbook.com/.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Oops Food Photo Number 3

Thanks again to my local newspaper for providing more fodder. This is the third could-be-a-lot-better food shot that has caught my eye recently, though granted it's not as funny as the food monkey. This is a photo of some carrots cooked with fresh ginger. Not sure what they mean by 'real' carrots.

This could have been something quite colorful. But you'd have to take the glare off of the center carrot to set the tone. And the other carrots while you're at it. And maybe prop with a plate that is not black. How about white or off-white to help the vegetables pop against it instead of choosing a plate with reflections that look like melted grease?

Any more thoughts or brutal criticism?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Contest: My Favorite Styling Tool

Have you discovered the perfect styling tool or product? Something that makes your professional life surprisingly easy? Something you never expected would come in so handy? Whether you are a food, fashion, product or all-around stylist you know you have discovered a special tool. Show us the tool to be eligible to win.

This clear Museum Gel is my own favorite. Intended to stabilize items in museums or protect them during an earthquake, it is an invisible gel which is great for positioning items on a tabletop when putty would show. I first used it in a shot for some transparent Nike watches which were positioned against colored art paper.

Winner can enroll in any online course and pay no deposit - a $50 saving on a single course or a $100 saving on any two-course COMBO package. Winner will be determined by "the most interesting discovery of a styling tool." Plus we'll feature you and your styling tool on Photo Styling Workshops Website, Facebook page and this blog, The Invisible Stylist.

Submit your photo to me at susan@photostylingworkshops.com or upload on our FACEBOOK Friend Page. (You will have to be a member of Facebook to post them though. Just go to Facebook and sign up on our Fan Page.) Include your name, styling specialty, and why you love this tool.

Read contest details at Photo Styling Workshops/Contest. Winner will be selected by the Photo Styling Workshops instructors, based on "the most interesting discovery of a styling tool" and will win a discounted online class at Photo Styling Workshops (Deposit will not be charged. Value $50 to $100!). Deadline is September 30, 2010.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Little Museum of Lost Props

That's how the owner, Eva Radke, refers to her non-profit store Film Biz Recycling. I read about it in this morning's newspaper and checked out the Website, http://www.filmbizpropshop.org/. The shop in an industrial building in Queens, New York is filled with items used in television, commercials, and films which might have otherwise been discarded.

When I styled a project for Buick I found out that GM has a policy that all props must be donated after the shoot. Unlike small scale shoots with returns and a few items going home with the stylist, this is propping on a larger scale. And the items in the Film Biz Recycling shop are sold (or rented) affordably for other stylists and everyday consumers to snap up. Apple clock photo from the Film Biz Recycling Website

Monday, August 23, 2010

Aging in the Styling Profession

by Anne Ross

As a prop and wardrobe stylist nearing the big four oh, I am beginning to wonder how long a career in this field will last. I panicked as I realized that I really need to think about this. In my twenties, I spent my early career doing window displays in Chicago. I had so much fun but it was very physical work. We designed, built, and installed the displays. Then we’d dress the mannequins, style them and position them the old fashioned way with wire and nails (I think we called it “striking”) to complete the set. It was like working in a terrarium with the sun beating down, passers by always wanting to chat, smile, or play mime. That position segued into visual merchandising for some very creative companies involving design, store display, and lots and lots of furniture moving. In my current position as a photo stylist, I was recently rolling one of 6 completely overloaded rolling racks through the sidewalks of downtown L.A. I thought, “how much longer can I do this?” With a fervor, I remembered comments of older stylists -
”My back hurts!”
“Uggh…How long is this shoot going to go? I‘m tired!”
“I wear orthopedic insoles because I can’t stand all day anymore”
“WHAT’s our call time tomorrow??”

I would usually smile and try to stay somewhat positive but also realizing that MY back hurt too. And I could use some orthotics. And why DO we have a 4am call time? I too am aging.

During my last job, I began to survey the over forty crowd on their career direction. I’d ask how long they expected to stay in this field, what they thought would be a good segue career, and on and on. I enjoyed many conversations with reactions ranging anywhere from, “Hmmmm…..I never really thought about it” to “OH YEAH, we’re basically all f&*^ed! I mean how many old people do you see in production? NONE!”

As I paid more mind to my internal angst about my career direction, I started noticing some of my favorite new assistants and realizing I could be their mother! One assistant unintentionally horrified me by saying, “Oooh, I like your jeans! I should tell MY MOM to wear jeans like that!” These people are cute, energetic and in their 20’s. I began to realize how much they have to learn and really see strong potential in a lot of them. This is where life really gets fun….to be able to realize the amount of information and experience I have is such a gift to be able to pass on.

I’ve begun to see some amazing opportunities once I freed myself to think of what is possible for an aging stylist. There’s art direction, photo styling workshops, taking smaller jobs, taking bigger jobs and really training your assistants, and writing books. It’s just a matter of continuing to be creative but in a less physical way!

Anne Ross is a prop and wardrobe stylist based in Los Angeles. She has been styling for over ten years focusing primarily in advertising and lifestyle. While having experience in film and commercials, her favorite medium is print. She enjoys the artistry of capturing one moment in time.

Originating from Chicago, she began her career in visual merchandising creating window displays for various businesses including Marshall Fields, Anthropologie, Gucci, Prada, and Salvatore Ferragamo to name a few. The transition into photostyling was natural. She now works with many renowned photographers throughout the country both locally and on location. Examples of her work can be found on her website at http://www.anneross.com/

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sale on Quake Secure Putty

Having ordered from this company before, I received an email about a sale that Got Putty (www.gotputty.com) is holding on their Quake Secure putty. In my opinion it it the same as the hard-to-find photographers' putty that some stylists buy in South Africa. Retailing at only $4.99, a batch of putty packets was shipped to Got Putty at less than the stated package weight, so they're selling them up to 1/2 off the price. A good opportunity to stock up.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Purple Fashions for Men

Speaking of men's fashion, I have been noticing this trend toward purple in men's fashions for the past few months.

Purple ties mostly, but sometimes they are combined with a shirt and a jacket in a different shade of purple.


I've seen it primarily on newscasters, but also on sports figures and politicians. Sometimes quite garish.

It's gotten to be kind of joke in my house, pointing to the TV screen and hollering "Purple!" There is also a lot of the color being used in advertising, as much in logos and graphics as in fashions. Look, you'll see it too.

Footnote: My friend Cedric Chang says "OK I actually have the real reason why you are seeeing an abundance of purple on tv....with the invention of HD (high def) the camera and the television are actually able to give you a correct shade of purple whereas before shooting purple always read a weird shade of blue. Unfortunately this still occurs in still photography in RGB." Thanks, Cedric!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fashion Do's and Don'ts for Men

The Wall Street Journal recently announced its new men's fashion section with this ad. I love it! Do's and Don'ts for Men. Never wear short pants with no socks - you'll never compete.


I've always enjoyed the Do's and Don'ts page at the back of Glamour magazine, with real people looking bad and their eyes blacked out for anonymity. It'd be fun to see such a display for men, who in real life are more likely to be wearing baggy shorts, stained T-shirts and flip-flops on un-pedicured feet. These men could even be found on the streets of New York City!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Stying Before I Knew What Styling Was

I recently came across this image - a two-page spread - from my high school yearbook. My entire high school class seems to have re-connected on Facebook recenty and that's a lot of fun.


One generous classmate scanned and uploaded our yearbook. That year - OK, I'll admit it, it was 1966! - I was on the yearbook staff and had my earliest experiences with page layouts and photo shoots. This was for the Most Popular, etc. students and I do remember positioning them in the central courtyard of our school and looking over the photographer's shoulder. We were apparently in an upstairs classroom window.

Now I can see some things I would have done differently. Too much overlap in the couple on the right-hand page (top). And Penny's coat, falling off her shoulders like that! Maybe we can reshoot it?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Another OOPS Food Shot

This image appeared in a recent food article in our local paper, The San Diego Union-Tribune. It was a promotion for a local arts festival. Does it get your taste buds in the mood for sushi? No, me neither.

While this one doesn't resemble a homely animal it did remind us of a surgical procedure. I think there is just too much pink fish meat cascading away from the viewer. Too much. Too pink.

What would you have done differently? Any ideas?

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The New Beverage Pours

Lately, I've been observing more and more TV ads featuring beverage pours. Well, I admit I have been watching more and more TV, but there is definitely a trend toward animated pours. Think Ocean Spray. Print ads, packaging, televisions ads are all using dramatic swirling beverages.

This reminded me of a discussion Gregory Bertolini brought up at our San Diego Workshop last fall - that beverage pours are such a big part of the food photography industry that there are specialty studios that shoot nothing else. I asked Greg for more information on this topic and here's what he has to say:

"Pours. There are two basic kinds: the simple pour which consists of pouring a liquid and capturing/freezing it by simply using a fast shutter speed or strobe light to stop the action. This is what most beginners, and those that rarely need a pour shot, do. And the complex 'controlled' pour shot. This involves using laser beams, with micro-second timing delays attached to specialized high speed strobe lights. This is how the professionals who shoot ads for soft drink and alcohol companies do it. This process is complex, takes training and expensive equipment.

"I have shot both ways. But I would not consider myself an 'expert' in splash-pour photography. There are splash and pour studios in New York City that specialize in this field; these studios usually offer both still and film services and are closed-lipped about their techniques. They often use computers with custom software to control the capture of an image and to control slow motion effects in film and video."

I did a Web search for these New York pour studios and Greg's right, they're a secret! See if you start seeing the predominance of pours in the world around us, not just in beverage marketing but in many other ways.

Greg's work can be seen at his Website, http://www.gregorybertolini.com/. All four images shown are from one single issue of More magazine, July/August 2010. The bottom two are cosmetic ads.