Why I Embrace Messy Styling

Because my work is a simple reflection of how I live my life, my self-professed “messy styling” approach is the only way I’d have it.

As a mom of (now) three little ones three and under, a small business owner and serial entrepreneur, a wife and all the other duties that come along with – time is certainly a luxury and one I don’t take lightly.

After my last photoshoot, which had a lot more food styling duties than I am typically used to integrating, I truly realized just how messy I need to be to get the kind of shots I want. After a lot of research Pinning and a new “Well Styled” Board, making my shot lists, gathering props and my grocery list and some great advice from my longtime photographer friend Heidi, I am totally digging everything about the messiest shoot to date.

To me, messy styling means the photograph has movement and depth. It leaves you not with a stark feeling of emptiness, but feels social, lived in and totally alive.

Here are a few tips & tricks to messy styling:

Plan! Set the Scene Beforehand

Envisioning what you have in mind for the photoshoot ahead and time will help you ensure you have everything you need to pull off a messy shoot. For example, while we were shooting our feast boards, I realized that I really wanted this to feel like we had hosted a fabulous, casual gathering of friends and I needed some hands in the scene to give it a little life. Hands to pour wine, dip a cracker and feel like we were truly sitting around the table. These hands were the missing element that truly brought this shot to life.

Over Prep on Props

Just when you think you have gathered everything you’ll need for your photoshoot, keep adding more. Doing a quick prep set up before your shoot or sketching out composition of a shot or two will help you to see how you’re filling your space and what holes you may have. Make sure you have a happy balance of shapes, textures & tones to balance out while still allowing the main thing in your shot to shine. But, if there is something you think you may need, be sure to pack it just in case.

Then again, you never know what little accent will add the finishing touch to your shot. Here, it was a few things that really helped make this shot feel authentic. A bite out of a cherry, a wine stain on the cloth, giving the honeycomb a little time to sit and ooze, and a few scattered wine corks all helped to bring the party to life.

Keep it Casual

Because by my definition, “messy” doesn’t mean it looks like chaos, it means you have purposely planned it so you can keep things causal, not pay attention to every detail (the devil IS in the details for this girl) but still totally pulled together at the same time.

In interiors and personal style, I tend to use neutrals to accomplish this look. It’s easier for me to grab from a wardrobe of blacks, whites, camels & nudes because they all pair together simply and quickly for any occasion with no competing prints, patterns & colors to coordinate. And, even when our house looks like a tornado just went through, picking up is easy because I’ve scattered large baskets around to dump blankets, toys, bows and pacifiers into at a moments notice.

A messy styling trick I love to use is two-fold. One, having a large amount of one thing to make a statement. For example, the crackers. We just got a huge package of these beauties and kept piling them up and up, spilling over and falling around until a little pile had formed in and out of the bowl that was meant to contain them, making a solid statement in the photo. It gives texture, perspective, makes you feel like there was ample food to go around and keeps it welcoming, like there are so many you can just dig in and nibble all night long as you chat. I love the message.

Really Do Make a Mess

Really do make a “mess.” Don’t feel like you have to work to hard to visually tell the story, just make it beautiful and give it some room to let it happen and be open for interpretation.  Like with the blackberries. These are so rich in color and full in visual texture in the photograph, especially against the wood of the feast boards and the light colored muslin cloth. Having them neatly stacked or contained just didn’t make sense, so we piled them on and let them spill everywhere, like someone dug in and left them where they fell. The bottle opener isn’t perfectly placed next to a bottle of wine. You get the picture. Someone grabbed it, opened a beverage and set it down and left it – going off to enjoy the party and leaving the next guest to have to hunt for it. Nothing wrong with that, that’s authentic and casual and messy but it just makes sense.

I’d love to know some of your favorite messy styling shots, tips & tricks!

I’m an old soul based in Atlanta, GA and mom of 3 with a deep love of all things from the past with a story to tell, on a mission to keep heirlooms around for another generation - whether it be a tradition, splattered family recipe, or historic home.

Join our Newsletter

Join our Newsletter

Recent Posts

Recent Comments

Leave a Comment