10 Questions: Jaime Stillman, Senior Stylist

by Amy Blackburn

In the world of commercial photography, designers and stylists are critical in achieving results that are not only on trend but also technically proficient. They work to resonate a brand’s image, reach the brands target audience and keep the brand relevant. Led by our Senior Vice President and Creative Director, Kristen Hiestand, our design team is highly aware of the critical role they play in their clients’ success. They go above and beyond to achieve a thoughtful exchange of ideas and to show their eagerness to discover the distinctive attributes of a client’s products and brand standards.

What does it take to be a good designer/stylist? How do you keep your team engaged in creativity and current on trends? We asked our Senior Stylist, Jaime Stillman these questions.

Jaime Stillman Stylist Commercial Photography

1: Tell us a bit about your background?

A: When I was younger, I was a bit of a tomboy, a little punk rock and rebellious, and I still am. My mom always said I’d grow out of it. Thankfully I didn’t. I loved my art classes and was good at drawing, but I was persuaded by my parents to not go to art school, they thought it was a waste of time. I earned a degree in Psychology, ended up not wanting to counsel people (I realized too late, I can’t listen to other people’s problems). So, after working for a number of years, I decided to go back to school and earned a 2 year design certificate from a local art school, Pennsylvania College of Art and Design. Less than 6 months after completing the course, I started working at Shadowlight. That was October 1, 2007.

2: How long have you been at Shadowlight?

A: Ten years as of October 1, 2017.

3: So, what does a photo stylist do?

A: I’ll try to keep it short. Stylists do a lot. It’s a little different than a designer. A designer handles the project from the very beginning to the very end. Which includes designing the set layout and construction, choosing materials and finishes, working with the client to create an aspirational look for the intended consumer based on current trends and popular styles. A stylist isn’t responsible for the set design or construction aspect. A stylist has very limited architectural and building code knowledge. Typically a stylist gets involved after the designer creates the space and designates the types of materials to be used. A stylist will coordinate color schemes and accessories and décor elements of the set to create an inviting, realistic and aspirational space.

4: What makes a good stylist and why are they important?

A: A good stylist makes a space and the décor elements in a space come alive. There is an artistic science to sitting things in a space that makes them feel like they are part of a moment you just walked in on, after someone just walked away. The props used and how they are placed show the people and or pets that make this space their home. Props are to stylists what lighting is to a photographer. They are used in creating a space that has balance contrast, texture, pattern and interest.

5: Is styling and designing for a set different than styling a person’s home?

A: Yes and no. The basic principles are the same. There is an agreed upon budget. The home owner shares the look and feel they want for their space, but instead of styling the space for a generic group of the population, the homeowner’s space is extremely personal. Their space isn’t going to be photographed, it’s going to be lived in and loved, so things that may not look perfect in the space will live there and be lovingly used every day.

6: What do you see your role as being with a client?

A: As a designer and stylist, I have many roles. I’m there to educate on architecture, building codes (realistic placement of receptacles, vanities, toilets, plumbing, etc.) and to act as a guide to what is on trend and popular at the time. Many clients don’t always know how to explain what they want, so I’m there to help, offer suggestions, send go-by’s, create sketches and color boards, so they can see the space we are creating for their product. I’m also there to coordinate patterns, metals and other décor elements that many people feel unconfident to do on their own.

7: Do you prefer to work on set or location?

A: Hands down on set. Location shoots are difficult, because of having to pack and unpack everything without causing damage to props and people’s homes, plus at the studio there are thousands of props to work with and on location, you only have what fits in the van. Prime example was Chillicothe. The spaces were very large and numerous. I was very thankful the home owner had elements I could use to prop her spaces.

8: How do you keep your creativity going outside of work?


A: I’m friends with many artistic people, art teachers, DIYers, tattoo artists, photographers, potters commercial designers and artists. My family is artistic and my partner is a tattoo artist and builds cigar box guitars. So, I couldn’t get away from creativity, if I wanted to : ) Also, spending time with my dog Lily allows me to relax which always helps creativity.

9: How do you keep up with trends and what trends do you see coming for 2018?

A: With social media, bloggers, podcasts, digital media (i.e. Refinery 29), pinterest, etc. there are so many resources to view upcoming trends, popular colors and the cool new furniture styles that are coming back into favor. Many of the styles we are seeing now are updated versions of previous decades. So for now, to see the future trends you have to look at the past.

10: If you won a million dollars, what would you do?

A: The first thing I would do, is make sure my family is being cared for and has what they need (invest for the future). The next thing on my list would be to donate to organizations that care for the animals of the world (domestic and wild). I’d like to see the end of animal abuse and neglect. More than likely, there’d be nothing left after that : )

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