If you’re interested in becoming an interior stylist, the way to start out is by assisting other stylists on their shoots. Being an interior stylist’s assistant is an awesome job – it’s so much fun being on set & learning how the industry works. You can pick up so much from working with experienced stylists, and if you get on well, it could help you get more work in future!
I’ve been assisting interior stylists for the last 6 months, and I’ve definitely learned a lot of lessons in that time. And what use are lessons if you can’t share them & learn from them?! I wish I’d found a post like this to help me out at the beginning. I hope you guys get something out of it & it helps you avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made! You may also want to check out the posts I wrote on 6 Signs That You’d Make A Great Interior Stylist and 5 Important Tips for Working on Shoots.
1. Standing around doing nothing
90% of the time, there will be something to do; whether it’s washing up coffee mugs, clearing up rubbish or tidying the set. I try to keep as busy as I can, because the more I get everything in order while the shoot is happening, the less I have to do at the end (when I’m tired and just want to get home haha!). If you really don’t think there’s anything left to do, just try and look busy 😉
2. Being too pro-active
I know this may sound a bit contradictory but hear me out! It’s good to use your initiative and get on with as much as you can without pestering, but don’t do too much without checking that’s it’s okay. I made the mistake a few weeks ago on set with the wonderful Andrea Mongenie; I got a bit over-zealous with the tidying and it turned out that lots of the maps and pieces of paper that I’d rolled up and put away had been left there intentionally to flatten out (oops!!). The same goes for putting props away – check that everything is finished with otherwise you’ll just waste time unpacking & re-packing them! All this said, I think it’s way better to get on with things than stand around twiddling your thumbs.
3. Not labelling props properly
For most shoots, there are props from lots of places; some will belong to the stylist, some will be hired from different prop house, some will be bought, and some will belong to the client. It is so, so important that as an assistant, you keep an inventory of all the items and where they came from. Especially the props hired from prop houses, as they often charge silly money for losses / late returns (I would know, I work in one!). It just saves so much time, hassle, and money if you’re organised from the start. I usually make a list and take photos to be on the safe side.
4. Giving your unsolicited opinion (sorry!)
If you’re asked for your opinion, by all means go ahead and give it, but I learned really quickly that in any other circumstance, no one wants to hear what you think! Harsh truth I know, sorry guys! I guess there’s a reason why the people we work with are stylists, and we’re their assistants 😉
5. Nudging the tripod
God help you if you do this. …….. I kid haha it’s not the end of the world, but it will probably result in the photographer having to spend 15 minutes re-configuring everything they’ve just done, which won’t make you flavour of the day. Just give all their equipment a wide berth!
6. Putting water in the iron
This may sound like a bit of a silly one, but it’s a rule I stick to now. Most studios have irons that you can use, and in my experience, most of these irons leak. It’s happened to me enough times now that I just don’t bother filling them with water because if it leaks on the tablecloth / bed linen / whatever it is you’re ironing, you may have to wait until it dries before you use it! This could end up holding up the whole shoot, so it’s best to just iron dry unless you know your iron well (only in this game….. haha) or carry a little spray bottle in your kit. Check out what’s in my kit bag here!
7. Packing hired props badly
As I said above, the hire houses will sting you for any mistreatment of their props, and this includes damage. The chances are that most of the time, props will be moved by couriers like Addison Lee who aren’t specialists in handling & packing, so make sure that anything from prop houses is really well packed with bubble wrap so you’ve covered yourself.
8. Throwing away bubble/packing
Never, ever throw away bubble wrap and packaging! Stylists will always have use for it, so they like to keep it. The same goes for packaging for any props, as unused things may be returned to shops, and PR samples may have to be sent back. It’s always safer to just keep all the packing in a box for the end of the shoot.
9. Packing the stylist’s kit up wrong
I always try to note how the stylist has packed their kit when I’m unpacking at the beginning of a shoot. That way, when I come to pack it all up at the end, I know what goes where. I didn’t really think about it much until one of the stylists I was working with said that on the last shoot she did, she had to spend two hours the next day unpacking and repacking everything… Eek! I definitely don’t want to be that guy.
10. Having a bad attitude
This one should probably go without saying, but having a good attitude is a must. There are so many people who are after assisting jobs, so don’t blow your chances with a stylist by moaning the whole time! At the end of the day, it’s our job to carry the heavy boxes up and down three flights of stairs, unpack everything, make the teas & coffees, iron the bedsheets, and get the sticky labels off props. The stylists we work with have all spent years doing those jobs – that’s how they’ve got to where they are – so try to enjoy every aspect & learn as much as you can!
Do you have any tips to add to the list? Lots of the points above are mistakes that I’ve learned the hard way 😉 I’d love to hear your stories from set in the comments!