Explore The Mind of Stylist Meagan Camp

August 12, 2011

Are you ready to get inside the mind of a professional stylist today? I thought I’d interview the very talented Meagan Camp in Northern California today, but this isn’t your typical interview… What I’ve done is I’ve selected imagery from her portfolio that she styled and then asked her to explain the thought process behind each shot. I love her answers and think you’ll find Ms. Camp most inspiring… so let’s get started!

Explore The Mind of Stylist Meagan Camp

Hi Meagan! Can you tell us how you got into styling?
I laugh to admit that it all started with a Barbie “Dream House”! But I do remember intensely studying design books, magazines and catalogs and carefully observing how the items in each image were laid out, lit, and arranged. I had no idea what a stylist was at that time but I was always creating vignettes. As a kid, my bedroom was my design studio and I still vividly remember “casually tossing” a straw hat at the end of my bed over and over again trying to make it look effortless. It wasn’t until attending college at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York that I figured it out. My major was Display and Exhibit Design, but I was most energized while helping classmates prop their photo shoots.

What is the difference between styling and decorating?
A Decorator creates spaces that are livable, functional and intended to endure a longer amount of time for specific needs of their client. A Stylist works with a photographer to develop set-ups intended for photography. At times styling can be “smoke-and-mirrors” — we’re taping, pinning, and rigging items for the photo. That one shot is to create a “moment in time” within a beautiful image and not necessarily for real life.

Explore The Mind of Stylist Meagan Camp

Do you take photos or only style for them?
In addition to Display and Exhibit Design, I also studied Photography at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC so that I could learn the technical aspects of the industry — a huge part of styling is lighting, composition and exposure. But studying photography was only to gain the knowledge of the medium and I never intended to be a photographer. I did have one professor who told me to stop wasting my money and to “go get a book on photography” Nice guy, huh? Having knowledge of the photographic process helps me technically visualize an image and allows me to have an educated conversation with the photographer on what I’m trying to achieve stylistically.

What are you trying to create when styling for Fashion? For Products? For Interiors?
I think it’s the same for all projects, to create a visual conversation between the viewer and image. It’s a bit tougher when Product styling because it’s less about a “moment” and more about selling a certain item. But as long as I can get someone to look twice and be intrigued with the image, I’ve done my job!

Can you give some advice to budding stylists to help them get started?
My advice is simple: Do now, think later. As artists and visual people, we have a natural tendency to second-guess ourselves and to hold off on putting our work and ourselves out there until just the right moment. You can’t get work unless you have work to show. It’s an evil-circle but you have to start somewhere. Shoot with as many people as you can, work with as many people as you can, and get involved with as many projects as you can. Cold-call emails don’t hurt either!

Explore The Mind of Stylist Meagan Camp

If someone wants to be a stylist but lives in the most boring town in the world, how can they still begin locally? Should they practice at home? In a local shop doing windows? Thoughts?
About a year ago I moved from New York to a small town in Northern California, all the while thinking it was career suicide. If you spoke to me during that time I would have told you that being in a city is crucial to being a stylist, but that may have been the New Yorker inside of me speaking! And you know what? Moving out of a city wasn’t career suicide; moving and changing directions in life allowed me to see the world differently and quite possibly gave me another perspective on my work. One of my favorite quotes is Anais Nin‘s, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are,” and styling just like any other art, is going to come out of you no matter where you live. We also have the opportunity to benefit from a changing industry with a strong online presence. Having a blog, being on twitter and most importantly, having an online portfolio essentially means you can live wherever you choose!

Where are stylists generally needed?

There’s a need for this profession everywhere, be it styling for parties, events, weddings, creating window displays and installations for stores, designing tablescapes and centerpieces for restaurants and hotels, to helping home owners and real estate agents in staging and beautifying homes and properties. You may have to work harder at selling yourself and your skills rather than being in a city where people come directly to you, but there is no lack of respect for the benefits a stylist can bring to a variety of different projects.

What is your favorite – fashion, food, products/still or interiors and if you could be known as “the Best ___ Stylist”, what would that ____ be? Why?
Going back to my “roots” as a young girl with piles of design magazines and catalogs, my true love is creating beautiful Interior-based imagery. Understanding a sense of light, pattern and color realized through props comes naturally to me, it’s my happy place and when I’m on set and in the zone, there’s no place I’d rather be.

Explore The Mind of Stylist Meagan Camp

Who are some of your favorite names working today?
Prop and Interior stylists who can tread the line between perfectly undone and overly messy constantly fascinate me. There’s beauty in the everyday and a good stylist knows how to bring that out. Sibella Court, Lili Diallo and Olga Naimen are constant inspirations; their work has an element of quirkiness and whimsy that I’m always trying to re-create in my own styling.

What inspires you when it comes to the work of your peers?
There’s nothing more inspiring to me than a photograph which makes me want to jump into that photo and live vicariously in that image. When styling, I’m constantly thinking about how to achieve more than just a pretty picture, but a world in which viewers can become a part. To me styling with a sense of life, trueness, and often times something being a bit “off,” is far more interesting than everything looking too perfect and “just so.”

Explore The Mind of Stylist Meagan Camp

Explore The Mind of Stylist Meagan Camp

Explore The Mind of Stylist Meagan Camp

Three B/W Photos above: Andrew DeFrancesco

What do you think will be the next trend – seems all the rage is on food styling these days…
I’m excited to see an emergence of “real life” incorporated into photography, be it with food, people, or a more casual approach to styling. I’m not sure if it’s due to the economic downfall, Architectural Digest’s newly appointed Editor Margaret Russell’s quest to bring life back into the pages, or perhaps it seems fresh and current, but it’s a challenge I’ll gladly take on!

There are many ways to approach a styling job depending on the client. If it’s a magazine, you need to plan ahead. For interiors, it’s often very different with less preparation. What is the more challenging scenario?
For most jobs I’ve found that the client usually sets the tone for the shoot. Whether the client is a publication, a design company or a “real” person, each job comes with a unique set of challenges and triumphs. Pulling items months in advance, unpacking, then packing them back up again is certainly a big task; you have to think about upcoming trends, upcoming seasons, and the date in which the project goes live… not to mention the labor involved with moving a bunch of boxes around! I think the most challenging jobs are those that require shooting in someone’s home. Whenever you enter someones personal space, there’s a level of respect you must uphold — it’s a very vulnerable thing to let a team of people into your home. On these types of jobs, I think about how to best showcase the beauty of the space while also keeping in mind the specific requirements for the client, the whole time I’m aware that I’m also a guest in someone else’s home.

My job is to create a one-dimensional image for a photograph, and in many cases, I’m helping to tell a story through these images. It may be multi-layered or highly edited, but what may look like too much (or too little) in person comes across as a styled image ready to be captured by the camera. I often find myself educating the client about this process and instilling trust that my job is to make everything look good!

In these four photos below, can you explain the following:

Explore The Mind of Stylist Meagan Camp
Image One: Photography By Jamie Beck

1. Why the cabbage?
This image was part of a stylized editorial based on the Dutch still life paintings for Rue Magazine’s Jan/Feb 2011 issue. These paintings depicted stylized vignettes of flowers, fruit, vegetables and bugs with the idea that all life has an ending and must go through a deodorization process. We shot at a beautiful and historic Estate in Rhinebeck New York that was built by Dutch immigrants in the late 1600’s and the interior architecture and lighting had the same feeling as these paintings. I loved the idea of recreating this ripeness and replicating these Dutch Master’s work in a modern way.
2. You have a lot going on but yet it doesn’t feel cluttered – why is that?
I think creating tightly stylized vignettes and overlapping objects helps to unify all the pieces. There’s also a visual flow to this image with the weight in the center (the stack of books) and lightness on all four corners: the lampshade, the highlight on the cabbage and shells, the open book and the framed butterfly. The repetition of color, white and cobalt blue, is also key in balancing the image.
3. Did you bring these props in or did you use what the homeowner had? Did the homeowner already have everything in place and you tweaked or did you create this look on your own?
Many of the family’s items were removed as the estate was up for sale, and except for a few larger pieces, most of the props were brought in. Because this shoot had a very distinct concept, each item needed to have a connection to these Dutch paintings.

Explore The Mind of Stylist Meagan Camp
Image Two: Photography By Shanna Ravindra

1. What was this shoot for?
The photographer had access to a dilapidated mansion on Long Island and the team was eager to shoot and then see what happens. We spent the day shooting all over the house and ended up creating some really beautiful work for our books.
2. What was the mood you were going for?
The concept of the shoot was about a young girl who was trapped in this huge, run-down house, the state of the house consuming her. It was to feel mysterious, dark and a bit creepy. This specific shot was held in the attic that had beautiful light streaming in through the only window. I gave the model a fake crow to hold (one of my favorite Halloween props!) and there was a moment when she was adjusting the bird and then, boom, it all just worked.

Explore The Mind of Stylist Meagan Camp
Image Three: Photography By Jamie Beck

1. I notice the same butterflies that you used in the first image – what is your thought on reusing props for the same shoot in different rooms? How can a props stylist reuse things without it being obvious?
I think reusing props is fine if it continues the visual story of the shoot. The butterflies were part of the overall concept and using some of the same elements for each shot allowed for an overall consistency. In a more abstract way, these butterflies could have easily “flown” into each of the shots, where something inanimate like a pillow or book should probably remain in one set-up or it may seem like the stylist ran out of props to use.
2. When photographing candles, wicks used or new? I say used but I’ve seen some stylists use new ones.
I like to use old wicks, or at least burn them for a bit to look used. Even if you never use the candles and they’re only for display, burning them adds an understated elegance to a room.
3. What was the mood you were going for with this windowsill still life?
There’s a quiet sensibility in this photo, a feeling of a world gone by. The whole shoot had this feeling, similar to the paintings that inspired the shoot. I also wanted to highlight the deep windowsills indicative to an old Dutch house.

Explore The Mind of Stylist Meagan Camp
Image Four: Photography By Jamie Beck

1. What mood were you going for – I love all of the things that you’ve used!
Thank you! It was a lot of Anthropologie pieces mixed in with vintage. When styling Tableau’s I love the messy yet an artfully arranged composition and wanted this shot to feel casual yet elegant. The light pouring in through the window illuminated each object with the shiny pieces seeming to pop off the rustic wooden table.
2. Did you make the veggie arrangement and if so, do you have tips on using cabbage indoors?
As this shoot was inspired by the Dutch still life paintings, I wanted to create a modern take on the flower arrangements that were so often painted. I stuck dowels in the vegetables and used dried hydrangeas and herbs that I imagine would be in a Dutch home circa the 1600’s. I added some tulips and of course, a few little butterflies! I was constantly spritzing this arrangement throughout the shoot with water to keep it fresh, although I don’t know how much longer it would have lasted beyond shooting. The elements of life depicted in these paintings were symbolic of fleeting beauty and I wanted this arrangement to look almost “too” ripe.

Wow Meagan, this has been a most inspiring interview for me and I’m sure decor8 readers have loved getting inside of your head for a bit. Thank you so much for being very generous with your explanations — you explained something that can sometimes be a very hard subject to explain, so well.

(images: andrew defrancesco, jamie beck and shanna ravindra.)


  • Reply desiree - vosgesparis August 12, 2011 at 1:07 am

    I saw you talking on Twitter about this.. it looks like a great interview and a I love the different approach ;) First thing in the morning I will read this with a nice coffee and maybe even some croissants … gosh how I miss my Parisian croissants ;)
    bonne nuit

  • Reply CHICKYTHING August 12, 2011 at 1:09 am

    So inspiring and informative. Thanks so much!

  • Reply Kate @ Songs Kate Sang August 12, 2011 at 1:26 am

    Thank you so much for this interview. So interesting and great information on composition.

  • Reply elizabeth demos August 12, 2011 at 1:31 am

    Love, love, love. Great interview. Beautiful work. I style interiors and I TOTALLY agree with Meagan about the delicate line you walk when you enter someone’s home. Thank you Holly for sharing Meagan with your readers.

  • Reply Christine August 12, 2011 at 1:31 am

    Thank you so much for this post! I have always admired Meagan’s work and love that she was able to explain how she became a props stylist (one of the best jobs in the world, I think), her process, and why and how she styled a particular photo. I learned so much!


  • Reply Meesh August 12, 2011 at 2:44 am

    Thanks Holly and Meagan! What a refreshing take on an interview. Part tutorial, part interview….a TUTORTERVIEW! LOL! Serioulsy…so informative, I loved it!

  • Reply Crystal @ Rue August 12, 2011 at 3:07 am

    Thanks so much for bring us this fabulous interview, ladies! I have adored working with Meagan on Rue shoots – not only is she super talented (as her portfolio shows), but such a sweetheart!

  • Reply BODIE and FOU August 12, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Thank you so much for this post Holly, most inspiring! I loved Megan’s insightful honesty for this job and her advices. I’m seriously getting into stylism. Since I worked with photographer Michael Paul, I have realised how important a stylist touch creates an image….wonderful profession and Megan is v. talented. Have a great weekend

  • Reply tinajo August 12, 2011 at 7:55 am

    I love to read this – so fun to see the thoughts behind! :-)

  • Reply Penelope@thirdroomstudio August 12, 2011 at 8:16 am

    Great questions! It’s so fascinating to read about the process and the thought that goes into some seemingly thrown together looks.

  • Reply KAAM August 12, 2011 at 9:01 am

    Another great interview I can learn a lot from the answers, thank you so much.

  • Reply desiree - vosgesparis August 12, 2011 at 11:18 am

    I enjoyed every line! I love how she see things and how she see things happen if you got it in you. Very encouraging words.
    Thank you Holly

  • Reply Nina Lamb August 12, 2011 at 1:58 pm

    Holly, this has been such a great interview. You asked just the right questions. I loved hearing the reasoning behind why Meagan chose certain props and styled pictures in a particular way. Learning about how someone started out is always very inspiring to me as well. Thank you so much! Have a lovely weekend and all the best for your upcoming trip back home. Take care, Nina

  • Reply Haley August 12, 2011 at 3:46 pm

    This interview was so insightful. Thank you both!!! I want to go and arrange some things :)

  • Reply Julia August 12, 2011 at 3:59 pm

    Finally! I’ve been wanting to hear a stylist’s (as opposed to a decorator’s) thoughts for quite some time and this is right up my alley!

    Thank you Holly and Meagan!

  • Reply Jadyn August 12, 2011 at 5:16 pm

    Thanks for this, such great questions and insightful answers! I love how she talked about using, light, pattern and color all together to create the story and the idea of making things look just a bit off to create the feel of a world you can step into rather than just a flat image. I am bookmarking this to read again.

  • Reply Tara August 12, 2011 at 6:38 pm

    Awesome interview! I love how she says “…As a kid, my bedroom was my design studio..” This reminds me of my own daughter who always tells me her bedroom is her office and re-organizes and re-decorates her entire room every Sunday…maybe one day she will be a Stylist as well.

  • Reply Lisa August 12, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    Such visually stunning images – great details. The swirling candle smoke really got me – and I have to say, I would love to live in any of these photos.

    Great interview! Inspiring and beautiful! Thank you!

  • Reply cristin @ simplified bee August 13, 2011 at 1:02 am

    Thank you for the introduction! She does an amazing work.


  • Reply Laura M. August 13, 2011 at 3:18 am

    Thank you Holly and Meagan for this wonderful post! It is so generous, informative, and above all inspiring. So much to think about…. I have been “styling” all my life — maybe this will push me out into the big world.
    Have a wonderful and relaxing weekend!

  • Reply Steph Bond Hutkin (Bondville) August 14, 2011 at 6:17 am

    Thank you do much for this inspiring, informative interview. One of my very favourite posts on Decor8 x

  • Reply Alex August 15, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    Lovely interview!
    This is an awesome approach. Most of the time those kind of interviews tend to lean a little too much on the “I love challenges” and “Everything can be my inspiration” kind of Q&A, so to actually hear something about the concrete process behind a particular image is very insightful.
    I’d really love to read more interviews of that kind here on decor8.
    Thank you both so much for this!

  • Reply Traveling Mama August 15, 2011 at 3:03 pm

    I finally found a minute to come back to this post and I am so glad I did. This is brilliant! Hands down one of my favorite posts ever! Thanks so much for an inspiring and beautiful post!

  • Reply Kia Perry August 29, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    Love, love, love this interview! As an aspiring stylist, it was very inspiring and I will now be following Meagan’s work through her blog! Thank you so much!

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