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Portrait of Robin Zachary

Adjunct Faculty

Robin Zachary

  • School of Art and Design
  • Fabric Styling

Styling Beyond Instagram
Take Your Prop Styling Skills from the Square to the Street

Up your styling skills, avoid common pitfalls, and turn your passion for prop styling into a career that feeds your soul.

Stylist and creative director Robin Zachary explains the vast array of opportunities and how to choose the path that’s best for your lifestyle and goals. Imagine spending your days telling visual stories; dreaming up ideas for photo shoots; scouring boutiques, flea markets, and antique shops for the perfect props; working with beautiful objects; and collaborating with photographers, art directors, and other creative minds. Prop styling can encompass all of these, and here’s the guide to teach you the basics. Robin explains the many types of prop styling that exist, and how to choose: tabletop, food, crafts, interiors, and more. You’ll learn the components and steps of a styling job from start to finish, including everything from creating client questionnaires and winning jobs to the best processes for estimating your costs; pricing your services; making your merchandise shopping list; choosing props, surfaces, and backdrops; managing your photo shoot’s logistics; and more. Throughout, “real life” spotlights offer tips and suggestions from a range of successful professional and emerging stylists; many of them have transformed themselves from other careers while working with Robin. The included styling resources provide key tools: checklists, schedule plans, helpful forms, and more to help you work like a pro. Understand every aspect of styling, including gathering and arranging objects to tell a story or sell a product, photographing or filming for a media outlet, creating an environment to exhibit a specific theme and cohesive style, and working for varied clients and brands. Learn how to advocate for yourself in negotiating with clients, and how to bring your vision to every kind of audience.

Cover of Styling Beyond Instagram

How did you first come up with the idea for this work?
Along my 9 year journey of teaching styling at FIT, I wrote and refined my materials, trying to find the most effective way to explain this conceptual creative topic. I carved my own path expanding the projects and sharing my knowledge from working in the field for many years at magazines and freelancing. I went beyond the course syllabus to make my classes more comprehensive and applicable to those interested in working in the field or adapting styling into other areas of business.

What was your research process like?
I interviewed and profiled people in a variety of styling niches such as food styling, fashion stills, interior styling and how they all fall under the umbrella of Prop styling and related fields. I recalled my many years of experiences and interviewed veterans as well as newer entrants into the field. Photo research was most intensive, collecting photos from others who had experiences different from mine and setting up 2 weeks of original photo shoots.

How long did you work on this before it was published?
2 years intensively once I had a publisher, but I had been thinking of self publishing and had been writing for a few years prior.

Does this work relate to your role at FIT? If so, how?
In the book, I mention teaching photo styling at FIT in the Photography department as part of my history. I am working on a new course specifically on Prop Styling for the Fabric Styling department going forward.

What was your biggest challenge? What was most rewarding?
It is a complicated field to understand and therefore explain. Because of the rise of social media, well-styled, current looking visuals are a must for any business now and I am rewarded by the fact that I’m the one reaching people around the world that are curious about prop styling.

Is there other information we should know?
I’m thrilled to be working on a new course for FIT and I would love to be part of your author series as my book relates to the whole school!

Have you published any other books or have any upcoming publications?
I will be writing a follow up book soon.

  • Creative Director at Bridal Guide Magazine, 1999-2007
  • Freelance Fashion and Prop Stylist, 2007-present
  • Started at FIT as Adjunct Professor in Photography, 2007
  • Home Design Editor of Bridal Guide, 2008-present
  • Book published in August 2022