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Tips and tricks from a Gap Inc. photo studio stylist: How to create a laydown

PeopleKelly Flanagan and Brooke Ginnard, Gap Inc. bloggers1 Comment

Need to photograph a heavy coat floating in mid-air? Anjuli Martin can show you how.

The Berkeley, Calif., native is a stylist at Gap Inc.'s San Francisco photo studio — where teams of stylists, art directors and photographers capture imagery of product from Gap, Banana Republic, Old Navy and Athleta so that online shoppers can see how clothing fits and flows from every angle.

We took her out of the studio to talk pescatarian dishes, holiday traditions and teach us amateurs how to make our own living-room floor laydowns look effortless.

What are the challenges in photographing clothing for online shoppers leading into the holidays?

With the holidays, there's usually more clothing with a hint of sparkle, and capturing that sparkle can be a challenge — definitely more for the photographers. Stylists will assist with a little adjustment here and a little adjustment there to get the clothing to catch the light in the right way, so that the sparkle is visible.

Probably the biggest challenge, though, with holiday product is there are a lot more coats and other heavy items. We just recently switched from photographing our product on hangers: Now we're removing the hanger, but we're still photographing the product upright, so we're fighting gravity. With the big coats, it's kind of a trip.

How do you even do that — photograph a piece of clothing upright — without a hanger?

So you have the hanger in initially, and then you'll pin the coat in the shoulder area. We'll use a piece of fleece to create a little bit of structure in the shoulder, and we also have these 2D forms that we developed, with just a little bit of body.

Usually the fleece works well for kids and baby, and we'll use the forms for adult. And then you just pin — a lot!

What was the reasoning behind removing the hanger?

Without the hanger, the photo can be cropped tighter, so customers can get a little closer to the clothing.

We worked with the art direction team on testing photos with hangers, laydowns, and vertical without the hanger — which is where we landed. The team found that hangers could be distracting for viewers, so removing them allows the customer to fully focus on the details of the product.

Do you have any tips or tricks for people photographing their own holiday laydowns?

Have a focus. Whether you're creating a laydown for your blog or for Instagram, if people are ultimately going to be looking at your images on their phones, the screen size is so small — so having a clear message is helpful in terms of telling a story and drawing people in.

Given the limited amount of space, how important are props?

It depends on your message. If you're doing something around the holidays, you definitely want to bring that spirit and make it come alive for your audience. If you're just photographing one sweater, propping it with a few things — like a cup of cocoa — would bring that spirit to life.

But there's a fine line. Props can be really charming and cute, but there's also over-propping: Too many props can be overwhelming — especially in a small space.

Thinking about negative space and about how the eye moves through your image can be helpful in creating an image that really pops.

What's your favorite part about the holidays?

My family is always into the eating part of any Holiday.

Family and friends drop by throughout the day, and we enjoy hanging out and cooking together. We do non-traditional foods — we like to mix it up so it's not the same menu every year.

What's the most non-traditional dish your family has embraced for a holiday dinner?

Poke has become a tradition for Thanksgiving. I actually have no idea how it started… I think someone was craving it one year, and it was a hit, so we kept doing it. We actually might bring it back for Christmas this year.

Poke doesn't make any sense with anything else that's at our table. Last year, we had it next to the stuffing, goulash, and just an eclectic mix of things. Our table usually feels like a potluck, even though it's not. It's odd, but delicious.

Do you have any favorite holiday traditions?

Growing up, we had these glass bird ornaments on our tree. My mom and I still have this running tradition of gifting each other bird ornaments. It's always a hunt to find a great bird!

I also make my own Christmas cards. I love crafting, and make holiday prints with linoleum, speedy cut or wood printing blocks.

What's your gifting strategy?

My favorite presents are stocking stuffers. My family has one stocking for everyone, and we all contribute small little things that are thoughtful and funny.

I'll try and pick things up here and there when I see them throughout the year, or make mental notes. I like getting people gifts that are personal, but unexpected — something that reminds me of them, just because.

For more behind-the-scenes looks at Gap Inc. for holiday...

Get to know the team who styles Banana Republic’s covetable collections, and learn their styling tips and tricks for everyday and holiday looks.
Your favorite Old Navy floral? It was likely hand-painted by one of our in-house artists. Meet the ladies behind our prints.
Meet the woman who helps Gap create a happy, festive and seamless shopping experience for customers online and in stores… and learn about her family’s holiday tradition of chocolate meatballs.