Let’s face it, all of us who do creative work do so because we have good taste. Sometimes it’s hard to translate it into our work immediately, (the so called gap that Ira Glass wrote about) but through practice we’ll get to the point where we’re not frustrated with our work anymore, and our output finally meets our standards. If you’ve reached that point, congratulations!
I find that the best way to practice composition and editing, and to build your confidence, is not immediately through design work, but through styling. (Yes, the two are different.) As you play around with objects (desk accessories, or your own coffee table), you can discover your own style, and figure out what works and what doesn’t.
Take elements that you did not create (you know, like props or decorative items), and arrange them in vignettes until you are happy with the result. You have good taste, you know when it looks good. Play around with symmetry, balance, randomness, contrast — all those things you instinctively know. I do this all the time in my home, which has seen so many re-stylings and rearrangements my kids don’t know what to expect anymore when they come home from school. I know, the trauma I’m inflicting on them! lol.
A couple of months ago, I had the distinct pleasure of putting these skills into practice when I helped style the photoshoot of a local client, Sam of Lifework Coaching. She hired me to design her logo and website, and when I knew she was having her brand photoshoot done by my friend Silke, I volunteered to go and helped style her props as well. Prop styling isn’t just about flatlays (although those are important), it’s all about creating an atmosphere, the feeling you want to evoke. We started by gathering props in her brand colors, and making sure they all fit the aesthetic of her brand.
Silke is a genius at very polished, light-filled brand photography. Everything came out really nicely, and we had more than enough from Sam’s website.
Here are some of my favourites from the shoot: