” … Making sure this DOESN’T happen is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job.”
It is absolutely amazing how many times I have heard this complaint from clients, photographers and directors alike, which is incredible considering making sure this DOESN’T HAPPEN is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the job.
This complaint, that consistently floats to my ears in an exasperated tone from the mouths of new clients, is the reason why they are MY new clients and not calling back the last stylist they worked with. Although it’s clearly an issue for directors, it doesn’t seem to be hitting the ears of the people who need to hear it most, perhaps because they don’t make it back on the same set. So here I am, letting you know the possible reason why you may not have gotten that call back, hopefully, before you make the same mistake that could cost you another booking.
The number one complaint that I consistently hear is how stylists only bring the number of looks that they’ve been asked for. Wait what?! Hear me out. What I’m saying is that although you may have been hired to conceptualize and pull X number of looks for a specific job, what you absolutely DO NOT want to do is only bring X number of looks to said job.
For instance, if you’ve been asked for 4 looks that is 4 FINAL looks, after conceptualization, the fitting, collaborating with the team and the client, that’s after things have been tried together and tried separately and tried on and situated and finalized. That is NOT how many looks you bring to figure out what the 4 final looks will end up being. ESPECIALLY if the fitting is taking place the same day as the shoot. It is 4 looks you’ve been asked for, NOT 4 options.
Clients need options, you need options. Options allow you breathing space and peace of mind that if something doesn’t work, there is something else that will. Options let you widen your scope and communicate your perspective and interpretation of the project by having multiple choices that may include options that the client/director may not have initially visualized (they hire you for your expertise afterall). Options show that you are prepared and methodical and respectful of the clients needs. Options show that you are a professional. Options save your ass.
You may think you’ve got the moodboard nailed down and the direction zipped up, you’ve got all the right sizes, heck, maybe you even have ESP and have literally seen into the clients’ mind. It doesn’t matter, even with your highly developed psychic abilities, pulling a myriad of options is not just a good idea, it’s a must. There are so many reasons that you should never bring only what you were asked for. Let’s talk about all the things that could possibly go wrong and make you wish you had more options.
So you have the model’s comp card or maybe the talent’s measurements and you head out into pulling bliss with not a worry in sight. HOLD ON. Although a model’s comp card is typically correct, mainly because they are measured, monitored and updated on the regular by their agencies, slips still do happen. And that talent’s measurements (that they filled out themselves) and handed into production could be WAY OFF. Not many talent know how to take measurements properly, or even have a measuring tape, so they base their sizing on whichever retail store they shop at most (hello psychological sizing) and if you’re not shopping at that store you may not be getting the right sizes for them. If I had a dime for everytime talent came to the set looking completely different than their measurements said, well, I’d have a lot of dimes. Represented models typically have up to date measurements because their agency really keeps on top of it, but if you’re working with actors or lifestyle talent, they are typically asked to take and record their own measurements, and guess what? Taking measurements is not a common skill, heck, owning a measuring tape isn’t all that common.
Combat this problem by pulling more than only what you think will fit the talent, if calling the talent to verify measurements (and sometimes guiding them through taking measurements) isn’t feasible. I pull the size below and the size above whenever I suspect fit may be a possible issue because if it doesn’t fit, it’s not an option.
There aren’t many scenarios worse than the one that involves you telling the director that nothing fits. It doesn’t matter whether it’s because they gave you the wrong measurements or not, having the talent fit into the clothing is kind of like your entire job. So be prepared for the talent that may have lost 20 pounds since the last time they measured, the talent that recorded the sizes they want to be instead of the ones that they actually are or the talent that shops at the one store that everything runs large at and so when you show up with all size 2’s you wish you had gotten 6’s.
It gets distorted
The client asks for a green top so ‘One green top coming right up!’. Except, on the day of the shoot the set has changed and now the green doesn’t look right in it and the tone doesn’t suit the model and that pistachio green, the exact shade that was requested, actually translates to more of a puke green on camera. Now what. Hopefully you didn’t bring just the one green top is what. If there are specific colours being asked for PULL THEM but ensure that you pull multiple shades and saturation; one person’s green can be another person’s teal and if it’s not the shade the client had in mind (and there are no specific swatches on the moodboard to reference) a lot can be lost in translation. Plus, things can change and things translate differently on camera, shades may lighten or darken and tones get distorted, so it’s better to have options in case something doesn’t come across as good on camera. It’s entirely possible (and common) for something to look great in real life and look awful when captured through a lens.
It just doesn’t look good
This happens, and not because you didn’t put together a bang on look. Occasionally, what you envision is just not what you get. Maybe it doesn’t feel right within the context, perhaps it’s not a good fit for their personality or they can’t carry the concept. Maybe it just doesn’t look as good on a human as it does on the rack (sometimes it’s the complete opposite). Either way, the worst thing that you can do is forge ahead with a look that doesn’t work just because you don’t have any other options. Justifying bad looks is way more work than pulling more looks.
The client doesn’t like it
You’ve been hired for your expertise, 100%, and clients want your consultation, but no matter what you’ve pulled for, unless you’re the creative / art director on the job, whoever hired you or is directing the shoot will have the final word on what makes it in front of the camera and if they don’t like one of the looks, it’s not going to fly that you don’t have a back up. Period.
Speaking of back ups. For anything in motion, there is ALWAYS a backup. Going back to that whole not everything translates thing, things may not, well, translate on camera. Plus, things get ripped, torn, spilled on, misplaced and damaged and if you don’t have something as a backup then you won’t have another booking.
Back Ups Continued
No matter how vigilant we can be, the catering can be tempting, and people like to eat on set … in your clothes (please try not to let them). Coffee dribbles and ketchup dollops are not trendy fabric finishes and snagged fabrics don’t look cute on camera so make sure you’ve got a backup for sneaky snack attacks that may not come out with a Tide Pen. And have an initial disclaimer to everyone that eating in the clothes they came in is preferred. Because no matter whether it’s your fault or not a sweater is now tie-dyed with grape juice, you will be the one held responsible if there is no other option.
Math time! If the client wants 4 looks, you bring 4 looks and 1 look doesn’t fit / doesn’t work / client doesn’t like it / model spills her lunch on it / the beautiful green looks like puke green on camera / it gets ripped / insert any other nightmare scenario you can conjure up here, how many looks does that leave you with? Not enough.
Regardless of how much research and collaboration was done beforehand, how you envision and see something may be different than what the client has imagined, so have multiple options for quick pivots just in case your perspective differs from the client’s enough that there needs to be some record time creative changes.
And spread the word, because photographers and clients everywhere are yelling from the rooftops “WE WANT MORE OPTIONS!.”