process of styling | part two

Marian ParsonsPhotography, Running a Business, Tutorials22 Comments

If you missed the first post on my styling process, you can find it HERE.   In this post, I’ll talk through how we styled this hand painted piece as a buffet as well as sharing my camera settings.

This is where I started with the styling…

process of styling | miss mustard seed

I’m shooting in my studio and I am working with a white wall as a backdrop.  I like shooting against white, but it feels a little stark without anything on the wall.  I used wooden breadboards to add height and warmth.  The wood chairs tie into the wood of the boards.  The white ironstone suggests this is a buffet and the green moss adds some color.  I was pretty happy with the way it looked, but called Kriste over for a second opinion.

She felt like the casserole was getting lost on the white wall, so she moved the breadboards over.  We also added some Bakelite flatware.  Again, it looked okay, but I thought the flatware was now getting lost in the lighter wood of the smaller wood and the wall just felt so blank.

process of styling | miss mustard seed

We tried adding a larger cutting board for some more height, but the shape just didn’t work at all.

process of styling | miss mustard seed

So, we reworked everything.  We brought in a footed cutting board to give height to the urn and hung Margot, the studio cow, over it.  We swapped out the casserole for a compote and stacked the small bowls on top, putting an ironstone mold in their old place.  With the smaller board scooted over, you can see the Bakelite handles better.

This one was the winner for us…

process of styling | miss mustard seed

Now, for the camera details.  I was shooting with my Nikon d800.  I upgraded to that camera a little over a year ago and I’m so glad I did.  I’ve really enjoyed it.  The lens I use for most of my furniture shoots is the 50mm f/1.4.  Here were the settings for all of these pictures…

ISO – 250, Aperture – f/5.6 and the shutter speed was 1/8 sec.

Straight out of the camera, the picture looks like this…

shot out of the camera | miss mustard seed

It’s not bad, but I like to brighten things up and increase the clarity and contrast.

When I switch to handheld shooting for the closeup shots, the settings change…

process of styling | miss mustard seed process of styling | miss mustard seed process of styling | miss mustard seed

I have to increase the ISO, so the shutter speed can be faster and my slight movements won’t make the picture blurry.  I also open the aperture more, so I’m highlighting what I want to be the subject of the picture by focusing on that and allowing the rest to be a little blurry.  The settings for these shots are…

ISO – 640, Aperture – f/2.8 and shutter speed is 1/60 sec.

If you’re totally confused, read the post where I explain these settings in non-technical terms.

Since these two posts were in response to reader questions, let me know what else you’d like to know…

process of styling | part two

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22 Comments on “process of styling | part two”

  1. I am LOVING this series on photo styling. I am so inspired by your photos, your furniture, and your talents! For some reason it blew my mind that you were shooting with a shutter speed of 1/8. It has never occured to me to go that slow. Keep the styling tips coming! 😉

    1. I felt the same way, April! Those are some SLOW shutter speeds. But she makes it work either by using a tripod or a steady hand! Well done.

      1. Yes, since I’m shooting items that aren’t in motion, I slow the shutter speed and use a tripod, so I can shoot in lower light with a low ISO.

  2. This is great! I always wondered how your pics look so crisp. I love to hear your thought process too. Much thanks. Keep up the good work. Where do you find all your beautiful cutting boards?

    1. Jeff and I make some of them out of random pieces of old wood I find and I pick up the rest at antique stores, yard sales and auctions.

  3. Loving your new studio, styling can be lots of fun, different people given the same objects could have lots of different results. As Tim Gunn says “Make it Work”

  4. Miss Mustard Seed, this is one of the most helpful posts I’ve ever read when it comes to photography for blogs. Thank you for taking the time to do this. I’d love to see a post about shooting interiors with low light if that’s possible. My blog is still a toddler and I love learning how to make it better.

    1. Yes, definitely! I would have loved a post like that when I was first starting out. It seemed like most of the photography tips I could find were for portraits.

  5. Miss Mustard Seed!! I have been a fan of yours for a while now and am absolutely amazed at your photos you take. I know you mentioned what camera you use and I love how it takes photographs (I clicked on the link and saw how much it is)! That price is way out of my budget but can you recommend any other brand cameras that can do really good quality pictures without breaking the bank? I’m in infancy blog stage and can’t seem to take a decent picture (ugg!) but my birthday is around the corner and I was hoping to get a camera that captures those amazing pictures! BTW, you are so awesome and I strive to be you each and every day! LOL!

    1. Oh, I know it was a huge splurge for me, but my camera is my bread and butter along with my computer, so I’ve learned those are worth the investment. Before that, I shot with the more moderately priced Nikon d7000 (around $1100 at the time) and before that, I shot with a refurbished Nikon d50 ($300). I shot for magazines with the d50, so something like that can definitely do the trick!

      1. Lisa, I would also suggest asking for photography classes for your birthday. Anyone can buy an expensive camera, but as Marilyn’s pictures show, a well-developed eye and lots of practice are what really help to make her shots special. I shoot with an older generation camera, on automatic, without a tripod and still feel proud of my photography. Photo editing tools, which help brighten up shots and tweak them to perfection, are free and can easily be learned in less than an hour. Picasa and Picmonkey are two to check into, although I know there are many others out there. Check with your local university or community college for reasonably priced photography classes – they are a great resource to get one-on-one help to develop your skills! Good luck!

  6. I really know nothing about photography, but loved learning a little here! Question: What really is the difference between ISO (film speed) and shutter speed? It almost sounds like it is the same thing? Thank you for another great post, once again!

    1. No, it’s not the same thing. Shutter speed is how fast your camera “blinks”. It can blink quickly to catch a split second of movement or slowly to allow lots of light in. Film speed is relates to that, but until digital cameras, it wasn’t a setting on the camera, but something that was determined by the kind of film you put in the camera. The higher the ISO, the faster the film speed is, but the grainier it is as well. As you get into higher end cameras, that correct that, so you can shoot at a high ISO without a lot of grain.

  7. Excellent post! I can really see what you mean about how a few alterations can make a big difference.

    If you didn’t have a lot of room to store props and liked a clutter free home. What do you think would be the most important prop items to have on hand? Maybe pretty white dishware, green (boxwood), natural wood pieces, metals? Looks like there would also need to be some items to add height and different levels to the styling. I only style for furniture sales. I am sure blogs would need to have more variety. Your items are always so unique and beautiful.

    Thank you for sharing your wealth of information with us!

  8. I LOVE everything you post and read daily! However, are you SURE what you call “bakelite” is truly bakelite – not celluloid also called “French ivory”?

    1. I know that some of the pieces I have are Bakelite, but some are probably “French Ivory” and I think I may even have a few bone pieces. I just refer to it all as Bakelite, since it’s easier than trying to qualify each one! 🙂

  9. I also love antiques and do some sales, but have difficutly pulling my booth together. You showed a picture of how you would style your display versus a photo shoot, but I would love a posting on how you approach setting up and placement of items within the booth, as well as how you determine what you will purchase for resale? You always seem so cohesive and I feel I’m all over the place. Thanks bunches for all your very helpful information!

  10. Thanks so much for these excellent photo styling and photography tips! I have learned so much from reading your blog! This really inspires me to get out my camera and practice…….

  11. Thanks for this!! I just started shooting in manual and this post (along with several others of yours) are very helpful! Your work is really beautiful and you do an amazing job of capturing it with your photos!

  12. Please do more of these posts! I learned so much just from these two examples. I’m sure it’s work to assemble the photos and explain everything, but I found it fascinating to look at this scene through your eyes. Thanks!

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