Our special guest this week has had an incredible creative career in photographic styling and art direction and lives in Chelsea, New York City. As well as living in a dream location, Robin Zachary has what most of us would likely consider the perfect job - dreaming up ideas for photo shoots and scouring boutiques and markets for the perfect props. We had a chat with Robin to find out what it is like to work as a prop stylist and what her top table styling secrets are.
Q&A with Robin Zachary
Tell us a little about yourself Robin:
I have been artsy since I could hold a crayon and folklore has it that I sewed a pair of pants for my Barbie Doll at age two. I designed dresses for my father’s clothing company at age 6 and became known as the class artist, doing designs for school plays and yearbooks throughout Junior High and High School.
After college, I fell into magazine work and spent many years as a Creative Director, 9 at a national Bridal Magazine. That’s where I began and honed my photo styling skills working side-by-side with photographers and developing my eye for composition.
I started The Prop Styling Experience, a one-on-one custom-designed styling workshop in 2015 to teach others that creativity is human nature and styling careers are everywhere. You just have to find your niche and zero in on your style and I empower them to do so with creative exercises and education on business practices
How would you describe your creative style?
An eclectic mix of everything that inspires me— muted colors, flowers and nature, modern and vintage home decor, travel, romance and an ability to be a design chameleon. I’m a good observer of what is going on trendwise and am adept at meeting a client where they are and giving them what they need. My instagram feed is not as cohesive as they say it should be because I have many interests and my style is so multi-dimensional so it’s hard to limit my expression to one thing in one color range.
What does your career as a prop stylist involve?
What I love about my career is that it is different every day! At the start of every job whether for a food or product shoot for a magazine or social media, I would receive some kind of creative brief from the client with specifications on style or color palette. I might receive a wish list of props or I compile a list for them. Then I have to hunt things down which depending on how odd or out of season they are could involve a lot of time.
If it’s a food shoot, I rent dishes from a prop house or if they are shooting at my studio, everything I need is here. I could be making the food and styling or just doing prop styling. I spend a lot of time shopping either for clients or to stock my own personal prop closet which is filled to the brim with goodies like backdrops, fabrics, dishes, craft supplies, ribbons, papers, you name it! If I am teaching The Prop Styling Experience, everything we need is here!
Can you tell us about some of your favourite props?
I love vintage kitchen tools, handmade ceramics, tinware and anything that belonged to my grandmother. She collected lots of beautiful tea cups and saucers and other pieces that I can’t even figure out what they were used for.
What kind of photography equipment do you use?
I have a Canon 80D with a 50mm lens and 60mm macro lens and the light at my studio is so brilliant that I rarely need to set up lighting. I use Photoshop for editing but I love the capabilities of my Samsung Galaxy camera so I often grab the phone for a quick snap and that is the photo that ends up on Instagram.
In honour of this week’s theme, tell us about why you love styling tableware how you bring your table settings to life:
I’m the Contributing Home Design Editor for Bridal Guide Magazine and I get invited to preview of all the newest tableware launches from the major brands. This is what keeps me in the know on all the trends. When it comes time to style a shoot, I love playing around with non-conventional ways to compose the table. The photo is supposed to be fun and inspiring rather than a documentation of reality, so when you embrace that thought, anything can be found on the table like postcards and other papers, bottles, all kinds of decorative and strange objects.
The artists making handmade ceramics are blowing me away and I can’t have enough handmade pieces. Worn fabrics and flatware with patina add more personality to the table rather than stiff folded napkins. I like to place flowers, herbs and branches with berries on the plate or strewn about rather than the usual arrangement in a vessel. I really do not like setting everything in the “proper” place. I like to have fun with it!