Prop & Wardrobe Stylist Joanne Plana-Anderson Shares Her Essential Styling Tips

Very rarely do stylists adhere to rules. If anything, they appear to effortlessly mix disparate styles for a remarkably balanced look. It confounds the average person. So, what's their secret? According to busy Seattle-based prop and wardrobe stylist Joanne Plana-Anderson, there are a handful of guidelines aspiring stylists can follow to avoid potential mishaps. Joanne has built up an impressive clientele over the years ranging from heritage brands to Internet startups. And, while she obviously brings a natural talent and years of experience to the job, Joanne was happy to share some of her favorite “tricks of the trade.”

1.     Before you do anything, connect with the photographer. Talk over his or her vision and take time to understand the client's marketing strategy. This is the creative team’s chance to determine the message the images need to convey.

2.     Once the team is in synch, the stylist can get to work on the strategic “look” for the shoot. Getting started usually begins with lots of research. Search online, use magazine tears, shop for props or soak up nature — whatever inspires you!

3.     Now you’ve done your homework and you're ready to focus on the subject. Whether you're in the studio or out on location, working with a pair of denim or a small marble bowl, it’s important to ask, what is it about the subject that I want to make stand out? What additional props can I introduce to make the subject more appealing? 

The transition from prop selection to styling comes organically. Be sure to pay close attention to each element surrounding the subject and consider how one affects the other. Inevitably, the best shots are a result of a strong collaboration between the client, stylist, photographer and art director.

4.     Read your subject’s interaction with the light. Lighting can play with many things in a photograph including color, size, texture and movement. For example, when I'm styling soft goods such as stacked towels, intentional rippling can make a huge difference on how the lighting hits it. As much as you can, play with the body and shape of the subject and/or props. When you feel you’ve made the right change, step back and have the photographer take a shot.

5.     Remember:  Composition is everything. Without the right composition, the resulting image will be a fail. It’s a balance. A lot of planning and smart placement of props will make a composition work. Every touch, angle, direction a prop is placed in an image will impact the composition. That said, overworking a composition can hurt. Trust your gut. Lay your props out with a plan in mind, but don't be afraid to have fun! Exciting things happen when you tweak your props. 

Interested in learning more about Joanne? Visit


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