All you need to know about hiring a hairstylist for your photo shoot

Jan 5, 2024

Ian Richards

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

All you need to know about hiring a hairstylist for your photo shoot

Jan 5, 2024

Ian Richards

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Sometimes, the littlest things make the biggest difference in a shoot. Like the angle of a light casting the perfect shadow or a single wisp of hair blown across a model’s face. Make no mistake — that wisp was placed with the utmost attention to detail. A hairstylist chose that precise placement over countless others.

We define the hair stylist crew specialty as the person who styles, colors, cuts or adds extensions, etc., to hair for photos or video.

hiring hair stylist for photo shoot
From Tilburg-based René van der Hulst‘s shoot with Jennifer Ewbank for For You, hair by Corné Snels.

The Importance of Hair Stylists

“Having a hair stylist on set is often a must for my work,” says Dallas-based photographer Yesi Fortuna. “This elevates any project, and if the client doesn’t want to spend in this area, they are likely not that interested in focusing on quality work.” Yesi works primarily in fashion photography, so the need for stylists in her line of work should come as no surprise. The same can be said for Atlanta-based photographer Harold Daniels and the celebrity portraits he takes.

I’ve been really fortunate to have relationships with hair stylists that I’ve worked with since I started in the business. It’s always great to work with people who you know are going to do a good job and that you know what to expect from them. It makes a shoot a little less stressful knowing that you don’t have to worry about the stylists.

hiring hair stylist for photo shoot
From Harold‘s shoot with Janelle Monáe for Adweek.

Hair Stylists for Commercial and Editorial Projects

Much like with other crew specialties, when it comes to hair stylists, commercial and editorial projects can be alike in some ways but quite different in others. Over her two decades as a hairstylist and makeup artist, Brooklyn-based Monaè Everett has worked with media giants, such as Glamour, Harper’s BAZAAR, ESSENCE, InStyle, and Yahoo! Beauty. She had this to share,

The biggest thing that commercial and editorial projects have in common is that you work as a team to tell a story. Everyone has to be on the same page in order to achieve the imagery desired. But in terms of the differences, many commercial jobs are meant to gain customers or sales, and they usually bear into the world of advertising. Whereas, many editorial jobs are meant to display the creativity of the artist commissioned to tell the story.

Dallas-based Jeanna Doyle has been a professional hair and makeup artist for more than 30 years, with clients ranging from Nokia to Neiman Marcus. She added,

Commercial shoots are typically designed to appeal to a wide cross section of the population requiring the subjects to look natural. Editorial projects are typically designed to evoke fantasy and are not meant to mimic reality. The approach for hair always depends on the direction of the project. On both commercial and editorial shoots, understanding the project goals is key to a successful collaboration.

Case Study: Faith Brooks

Sandy Springs, Georgia-based Faith Brooks has been working in hair and makeup for more than three decades. Throughout her career, Faith has added clients like CNN, GQ, Nordstrom, and Nike, among numerous others, to her portfolio. To get these gigs, it takes a combination of reputation and self-marketing. “I’m listed with Wonderful Machine, but a lot of people find me through my website too,” she explains.

hiring hair stylist for photo shoot
The landing page of Faith Brooks’ website

Stylists fill in the blanks on shoots and need to be ready to make split-second decisions when it comes to fixing a subject’s hair, makeup, or outfit. At the beginning of Faith’s three-decade-plus tenure, the stylist cut her teeth through the kind of hands-on patchwork a big shoot often calls for.

I started in the ’90s, and back then you had to do both hair and makeup, so I had to learn hair. I learned by assisting other people, working with them, and watching them. I really paid my dues to try to get where I needed to be in terms of dealing with any type of hair or any person that would ask you to fix something if it needed to be changed. We have to be learning constantly, which is also fun.

Kit

Preparation is key for everyone involved with a project that features many moving parts. Casey Cheek is a Tampa-based hair stylist who was kind enough to show us what her toolkit looks like.

In my hair kit, I have a Mason Pearson brush, different size round brushes, a blow dryer, combs, flexible hold hairspray, strong hold hairspray, molding clay, and hair extensions. 

hiring hair stylist for photo shoot
Casey’s hair kit (left, middle) and makeup kit (right).

In my makeup kit, I have foundation, concealer, cream blush, mascara, bronzer, eyeshadow, lip stains, hydration spray, makeup brushes, makeup light, makeup chair, and sanitizer. 

Monaè emphasized the importance of inclusivity and having the necessary materials in your kit to style a diverse pool of talent.

Kits should provide hair products and tools for all hair textures, just as an MUA’s kit needs to include makeup shades that can be used on all skin tones.

Sometimes photographers hire a stylist friend who does not know how to work with all the hair textures and skin tones. If you want to know if a stylist has this skill set, I recommend checking out both their website and Instagram beforehand. 

hiring hair stylist for photo shoot
Hair by Monaè Everett for ESSENCE.

What Hair Stylists Need from Photographers

Beyond the kit, there are additional amenities a stylist will need at a photo shoot. According to Jeanna and Monaè, this is what a hair stylist needs from the photographer when they arrive.

  • A table to set up products and appliances.
  • A comfortable chair for talent, keeping in mind the needs of larger talent. It is important, however, that the chair is not too tall and does not have a high back, so the stylist can easily access the talent’s hair. Makeup artists often prefer working with talent in a higher chair, so projects requiring both a hair stylist and MUA should have both heights.
  • A full or half-length mirror that is set up at chair height so the hair can be easily viewed. Stylists need to see the front of the hair while working behind the talent, so a mirror is critical otherwise we cannot see what the hair will look like. 
  • Reliable lighting.
  • A power source that ideally will not be shared with wardrobe, as the breaker may trip if too many electronics are on the same circuit. Extension cords that can support high-wattage blow dryers, etc. 

Hiring a Hair Stylist

In his nearly two decades as a photographer, Pamplona-based Mikel Muruzabal has worked closely with hair stylists, both in fashion and also shooting different hair stylists’ work for salons and brands. We asked Mikel if there were any extra considerations a photographer should be aware of when bringing a stylist onto a project.

We usually work with a couple of hair stylists who have different styles. Sometimes one or the other is not available, so we are better covered. When booking them, we discuss whether it’s for a commercial or editorial project, the budget, the needs, and the estimated time each project will take.

A photographer can book a hair stylist independently or through an agency. Other times, it’s the stylist who may need to hire a photographer. Tilburg, Netherlands-based commercial and editorial photographer René van der Hulst has been in the industry for over 30 years. He mentioned,

Actually, most of the work I’ve done with hair stylists were shoots where I was working for them. I’ve also booked stylists through an agency, together with the MUA. This was for editorial as well as commercial shoots.

Rates

We asked photographers for the going rate of hiring a hair stylist. Mikel relayed,

Normally, a hair stylist will bill by day or half-day rate. Depending on the client that rate may cost more or less. As with photography, although to a lesser extent, in a commercial job for a big brand the cost per day will be higher than if they do editorial work, or advertising work for a smaller, local brand. The cost can vary between €300 – €800/day to prepare 1-3 models or subjects. But if there are many models, a stylist will need assistants, more product, etc. and subsequently the cost will be higher.

Renè furthered,

The average day rate is about the same as the MUA, which ranges between €600 – €1,250 over here in the Netherlands. Of course the quality, being represented by an agency, or being well known in the business can make a difference in booking prices.

hiring hair stylist for photo shoot
Jeanna is represented by The Campell Agency in Dallas.

Kit Fee

It’s also worth noting that, in addition to a day rate, most hair stylists will charge a kit fee. Monaè confirmed this.

A kit fee is standard practice. Especially for film, TV, and commercials if you are leading a team, or for lower-paying styling jobs.

We’ve seen kit fee rates (sometimes invoiced with Transportation, Shipping, and Miscellaneous items) ranging from $500 – $750.

The Day of the Shoot

Come shoot day, the hair stylist is one of the first-to-arrive/last-to-leave and has to hit the ground running right away. On a good day, Faith gets about 30 minutes to prep the subjects.

We’re usually the first people on set after the producer and, for that very reason, we need to ready the talent for the day’s work. Ideally, we would like to have at least half an hour, but a lot of the times we’re not allowed that. It’s just a matter of time being money.

Sometimes the director will say ‘can you change their hair in five minutes?’ That’s challenging, but developing speed is crucial. Being fast is why people will have a tendency to book a stylist because they know they can rely on you to have the talent ready when they need to be.

Still, there are instances when the stylist simply needs time to complete a look. Faith mentions that she’ll sometimes have to ask for 5-10 extra minutes to finish up her work. The fewer middle people to go through, the easier it is to make this happen.  

You can’t take a straight hair style or a very curly hair style to the opposite extreme in a hurry. Sometimes, you’ve got to ask for more time — you just have to hope everyone else understands. 

Common Issues on Set

We asked stylists, beyond time, what are some recurring issues they encounter on shoot day. Monaè pointed out,

Often there’s a lack of electricity, or a power source that cannot handle blow dryers and the fuse keeps going out. Another constant issue is a lack of sufficient lighting in the Hair And Makeup room.

Jeanna added,

Many clients for commercial shoots tend to want a wide variety of hair styles in an attempt to get more looks or different looks out of each talent. The order of hair styles matters as some are easier to transition from than others so communication is key. I always like to prep the hair without locking the hair into a style because sometimes the wardrobe is not decided yet so the hair will go through the pulling on and off of clothing.

Also, there are times that the point of view of the camera requires the hair to be styled to maximize the face. For example, if the talent’s action is looking down at something on a table the hair may need to be pinned back strategically so the hair doesn’t cover the talent’s face. If the hair is prepped and not totally set this is a simple change that can happen on set. Stay flexible!

The Photographer-Hair Stylist Dynamic

So what does collaborating with this crew specialty on a project look like? Should a photographer be hands-on or hands-off when working with the stylist on set? According to Mikel,

On set, the client, myself and the stylists all have an equal say (within some limits and according to the brief). We all have something to contribute and it’s important that there’s good communication between us. Hair, in particular, has its own codes and trends, and hair professionals know these and what is ideal in each case.

hiring hair stylist for photo shoot
From Mikel’s photo shoot with hair stylist Charlie le Mindu.

René expanded,

I always like to interact and exchange ideas during the shoot and before, as well as during the concept phase. Most of the time during a shoot we try different things to see what works best. 

And it’s important to make a shot list beforehand of the looks you are after. This way, together with the hair stylist, MUA, and wardrobe stylist, you can determine what the best order is to shoot the looks. We base this on the work involved and also which is the most practical regarding the model’s hair, makeup, and clothing. Usually, the more elaborate looks are shot last.

Case Study: Kate Holliday and Casey Cheek

Photographers, like Orlando-based Kate Holliday, tend to go back to the same stylists again and again because it’s just one less thing to worry about when planning a photo shoot. Kate, in particular, sees this partnership as a collaboration and focuses on building a relationship based on trust. 

It’s important that you as a photographer are clear about what you need. Being on the same page about the overall look is key, but there also has to be a certain level of trust. You have to trust that they understand your needs and that they’re going to deliver — but you also must trust their intuition if they have an idea. 

I look at every shoot as a collaboration, so I always welcome ideas if the stylist has a bout of inspiration! I’m not a stylist, so I prefer to give up the reigns and let them express their creativity. Open communication and honesty are paramount, but always with respect.

One of those people that Kate often works with is Casey Cheek. 

There are times when it is up to me to ask questions regarding timing and location to make sure I can efficiently and effectively get the look desired. I have to feel comfortable enough to tell them when I need to change something and I also have to feel confident that their direction will get us to a good place. 

When the photographer and I have a good relationship, the talent can immediately feel it. The vibe on set is fun, easy, and relaxed. And I love working with Kate because she’s been on both sides of the camera, so she has a certain empathy for me as a stylist and the talent she is photographing. She understands that each role is important, is super respectful of all involved, and is always open to ideas and collaboration. When the images come back, I’m always happy with the final result.

Tips on Hair Stylists for Photographers

We asked both stylists and photographers if there was anything in particular about the hair stylist crew specialty that they felt would be helpful for more photographers to understand. Here’s what we heard.

Tips from Stylists

Most cosmetology schools do not teach stylists how to work on-site and many states do not require makeup artists to have licenses. This means that, as a photographer, you may need to explain things to an artist.

I’m proud to say that I train beauty professionals on set etiquette and skills. I also have a large group of artists all over the country that I refer work to. 

— Monaè Everett

Every person’s hair is different and hair responds differently to humidity and different factors. Some things with hair are quick and other looks require more time. Having a conversation about what can be done quickly and effectively will help keep the shoot on track. Understanding that every shoot is like the first day of a new job is helpful to keep in mind. We want to work with you! We are on the same team.

— Jeanna Doyle

Tips from Photographers

Hair has more importance than we realize and the power to elevate an image, because for us humans it is a sign of health and beauty, as well as a mode of expression. That’s why, as image-makers, we have to work with professionals who bring their vision to the set and give us valid options to work with.

  Mikel Muruzabal

Good makeup and hair styling always takes time, sometimes a lot of time, so be patient. Try to create a good atmosphere on set. Music can be important! And as always, very simply: be nice and interested. 

 René van der Hulst

Conclusion

Though a high-stress job that features healthy doses of unpredictability, the role of hair stylist is an enjoyable one for folks like Faith, who found their way into this line of work as they realized how much they enjoy collaborating with other people. Preparedness, teamwork, and chemistry combined with a spontaneous spirit can turn even the most demanding of shoots into a pleasant, productive experience.

I enjoy the creative process and I like working as part of a team. Creating with a group of people has always been fun for me, even as a child, so I think it just led me into it. I almost felt like I didn’t control my career myself, it just happened. But I’m nothing but grateful. This is a fantastic career!

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About Ian Richards

Ian Richards was formerly Poetry Editor of Sheep Meadow Press and Executive Assistant to Stanley Moss, and currently a publicist at Wonderful Machine. He has an MA in English from the University of Dallas and served three years as Director of Imagine Dallas Literary Arts. This article was originally published here and shared with permission.

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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