A stylist’s portfolio is a bit of a strange thing because unlike a photographer’s portfolio, it’s not completely representative of us. We can’t have an idea, and then go execute it on our own (photographers can’t a lot of the time too). It’s 100% a team collaboration and you’re only as good as your counterparts. This even goes for your personal work. For example, if the hair and make up is off, your styling will look equally as off because styling has to be cohesive. If the model is an amateur, the photo will look flat. If the photographer can’t light, you’re screwed because no creative will be able to see past it. This is why your goal should always be to work with the most talented people you can, even when testing for your portfolio.
You run into even more obstacles when you’re on a commissioned job because then you’re running into the opinion of the client you’re working for. When you get the assignment, the crew’s interpretation and the client’s interpretation may be very different of what you want the end result to be. The thing is, at the end of the day you’re working for them. A stylist’s voice is rarely the loudest on the shoot. You’re a hired gun. Hence, your portfolio isn’t 100% your vision, nor should it be.
Putting together my portfolio for my website brought up a lot of these realizations. It’s insane how long it takes to build a great stylist portfolio because a number of factors. First being, you often can’t use the image you slaved over for legal reasons that the client has, (this is very common). Secondly, some photographers, even after you email them a countless number of times, won’t send you the image. You can try to find it online, but often that file is too small to screen grab and use on your website. Thirdly, it’s a collaboration and a collaboration means that every crew member has to be on their game for it to be something you want to write home about.
Please don’t think I’m writing this post to make excuses or to say that I’m not super proud of my website. I’m very proud, but I always think and will always think that there is room for improvement. This is the nature of working in a creative field. The minute you become complacent is the minute things start to look like yesterday. I’m writing this to bring light to those who want to get into styling and think that things happen overnight. My advice is to go where the talent is because again, you’re only as talented as the people standing next to you.