Prop Styling

Breathing Life into a Photo shoot

Over 100 hours of research and scene planning. Prop shopping trips. Borrowing props from acquaintances. Precisely choreographing two days of shooting the photos.

That is a thumbnail sketch of the complex work of Rosewood prop stylists in planning a premium photo shoot for Finch Poly Outdoor Furniture.

You may wonder if this kind of extensive planning and prop preparation is necessary. Isn’t a quality photograph primarily the work of the artist behind the camera?  

“Prop styling brings the photo to life,” relates Merv Esh, owner of Windy Valley Woodworks, the parent company of Finch. “All the detailed touches that a designer brings really make the difference.”

Planning the Scenes

Each year Rosewood replaces a percentage of the photos in Finch’s catalog to keep it fresh and current.  Merv and the Rosewood team collaborated on which scenes to replace and which furniture styles to feature in the new photographs.  The Rosewood team took the lead in preparation, working with Finch dealers and buyers to plan shoot locations in the Cape May, NJ area.

Merv says, “By delegating the location scouting, it is less work for me and we get better locations.  I can help connect Rosewood to my dealers for ideas, and Rosewood takes the communication from there.”

Sharla Eberly from Rosewood toured the properties to get a feel of what each scene would look like.  Sharla and Janessa Weaver, another Rosewood designer and stylist, then sketched scene layouts, edited color palettes, and compiled mood boards that communicated the feel they wanted for each scene. 

Sketch and mood board from the 2021 Finch planning notebook

Planning the Props

“We researched trending color palettes and decor styles to get an idea of what we wanted to do,” says Janessa.  

While Rosewood staff were doing the heavy lifting of the photo shoot, they worked closely with Merv to ensure that Windy Valley would love the outcome.  “I get to take a back seat,” Merv explains.  “There is less stress on my part because I get to review the furniture colors and scene designs rather than come up with them.”

“There is less stress on my part. I get to review the furniture colors and scene designs rather than come up with them.”

After Merv approved the plans, the Rosewood stylists began buying and borrowing the props needed to breathe authenticity into each scene.  They brought plants from home, ordered from Amazon, borrowed from friends, and connected with local businesses for fresh-cut bouquets and a mouth-watering cheesecake. 

Rosewood prop stylists preparing food for a photo scene.

Planning Pays Off

Even careful planning could not prevent the unexpected during the shoot itself.  High surf washed the first scene away, sending the team scrambling to rescue the props.  

With no refrigerator access on the first day, the cheesecake started to fall apart.  The prop team sliced the cake and patted it together to salvage the scene.

The careful planning and preparation paid off in a successful photo shoot and premium catalog photos.

Final catalog photo of Finch patio furniture.

Premium Results

“The results would have been only 15% as good if the planning had just been up to me,” states Adrian Nolt, lead photographer on the shoot.  “Our client gets big advantages from the work of our photo stylists.”  

The Rosewood team is up to date with decor trends. The prop stylists free the photographers to focus on what they do best – lighting and scene composition. The stylists can set up the next scene while the photographer is still shooting the previous one. 

Merv summed it up this way: “The teamwork of photographer, stylist, and client brings out the best.” 

“The teamwork of photographer, stylist, and client brings out the best.”

With the Rosewood team planning your props and photo shoot, you can enjoy the process of taking stunning photographs to promote your business. Call 717.866.5000 today to discuss a photography project with our team.

About the Author: Lyndon Martin is Rosewood’s Messaging Director. He collaborated with the Messaging Team and the Sales Team to create this article. Contact Lyndon and the Rosewood team at