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How to style and photograph a room for a magazine- Series

When I started blogging, 
I was a 30 something stay at home mom who was hammering nails, painting knotty pine boards
 and moving furniture around in between drop off and pick up and band practice each day.

I was that crazy girl who saw this old house with those broken windows and vandalism
 and saw all the potential.
And while painting and polishing rooms- 
I was also designing, vignetting and snapping photos
 with a dream in mind.

I have learned so much since I started this blog over 6 years ago.  SO much.
And this little old blog has led to many doors being opened and dreams coming true.
It is truly something that I am incredibly in awe of - and incredibly grateful for.

And something that has been so wonderful that has come from my blog and that always fills me up is being able to give back and help someone achieve that dream or take a step to get where they are trying to go.
Because along the way, there were people who I admired and who I asked advice from- and you know what?
There were some people who didn't want to help.
And then there were those who sent their phone numbers and took hours out of their day
to help me learn my camera settings or simply offer wise words and encouragement.
And I haven't forgotten their kindness.
And if by me paying it forward and sharing tips - it can help even one of those dreamers get there-
 that is pretty darn awesome in my opinion.

 So over the next couple of weeks, 
I am going to share a few of the details from my speech about styling photos for print at Design Bloggers Conference last week...
and I will even let you in on a few secrets and tell you about the rule I break all.the.time.

Starting at the beginning for those of you who are new here.
I realize some of you might have heard this little snippet of my first hand me the smelling salts feature before- but honestly, I get goosebumps even now thinking about it and how some of those little dots connect- and are connecting even now.

The story of dreaming about my home and style being in print started years ago
and really came more into focus when we were working on this cottage
and I was just beginning to blog.
And you know to be honest... it was really all about vignettes.
Because - our house was in construction chaos  all the time.
And on occasion- a corner looked good.
So I moved that vintage upholstered chair over by the french doors
 and brought the small table I picked up at the thrift store to nestle next to it. 
Then a throw, a plump pillow-
 and a bouquet of course.

And when I played,
I would snap a little photo of my vignettes with my iphone
 -which is indeed what I started blog photography with-
and I would dream of sending the photos to an editor of a favorite magazine
and of that magazine publishing it. 

I didn't send the photos. I didn't know who to send the photos to and I always had that
'I am not sure if it is good enough' doubt.
But one day, a magazine editor in Europe emailed me. 
They wanted to publish one of those photos of a vignette I had shared.
I was ecstatic.
Bouncing up and down ecstatic and I rushed to send the photo over to them. 
And it wasn't hi-res.
It was dark and grainy.

 It couldn't be used.
Those magazine dreams were burst into a thousand pieces
 and I thought I was a failure and had missed my big opportunity.

But then another email popped up from that same editor.
She said she loved my style and asked me that if she sent a professional photographer to my home- 
would I work as the stylist and they could then publish the photos in their magazines?

Do you know what I said?
You probably won't believe it.

I said
 ' But I am not a stylist- so I am not sure how do that.'

I know.
Where in the world is the face palm emoji before there were face palm emojis? 

Thankfully, this editor told me

'Do exactly what you always do for your photos and it will be perfect.'

And so... Mark Lohman came to the house.
We worked together- I styled the photos and he took them and
we chatted styling tips, photography tips and had a lot of fun.
And I learned a ton about photography and what types of photos work well for magazines.
And the magazine came out in France and Italy a couple of months later. 
And my dining room with the recreated photo that the editor loved was

And I about fell over.
It was such a surreal feeling to see that and hold the magazine in my hands when it arrived. 
And at that moment I realized that that big dream that started with
a simple styling by a french door in the only room in the house that was semi-finished
and that was spotted from a photo taken with an iphone 
could absolutely come true.

And since that first time in print
 I have learned so much about photography and styling.
Placement of items and props. 
When something is 'over-styled'. 
And that often- your house looks like a major mess when shooting
that one small corner that is perfect 
and that one corner that is perfect?
Well it doesn't look perfect in person at all- 
but the camera sees it that way. 
And I have been fortunate to do freelance work with magazines doing
both styling and photography often.

And you know what?
 I have never lost that excitement of seeing something I styled
or photographed in those magazine pages.

And I also have not forgotten what it feels like to have that dream
and want that to happen.

Which is where that speech at DBC,
this rambling post and
that whole style and photograph series comes in.

After speaking at the conference about photography and styling for print-  
so many bloggers and designers approached Jickie and I with questions and to share their own dreams about being in print. 
 And I know that many of you have that same magazine feature dream as well.

So I thought I would share a few tidbits.
Because someone helped me that first time and it made a world of difference for me
and if I can help someone else have that dream come true feeling-
that would make my heart happy.

So starting next week in a several post series- because I am wordy... and this one is looong already.
I am going to share some of the key tips and takeaways from my speech 
at Design Bloggers Conference with my sweet friend and amazing
magazine editor Jickie Torres.

Things like:

Top 10 stylist tips
What editors look for
What details make a good photo for print
What is in a photo stylists secret tool bag 
And what one thing to do when you take photos of something
that has print potential (or that you hope to get into print)
and more.

And on a side note:
 Did you know that Jickie and I met in person for the first time about 2 hours
 before the conference and were instantly long lost old friends?
So much so that people actually thought we had rehearsed our speech
and we had done it a zillion times before?
I absolutely love her and if we lived closer, I would be having coffee with her every week
 and I am pretty sure I would get some pretty amazing abs from us laughing so much. 

So first up on the agenda-
5 tips on photographing a room or vignette for print
And yes, I will be revealing that thing that I do wrong all the time. 
That thing that makes an editor cringe sometimes 
 but that I can't help doing because I am obsessed with it.

Any ideas what it is?

And coming your way tomorrow bright and early- 
 sharing the reveal of that pea gravel patio styling with Birch Lane-
and don't forget to follow along over on Instagram where I will be sharing tips on Birch Lane's IG 
all day long.

Happy Wednesday everyone!


  1. It's been an honor to watch you grow!
    Anyone who reads your tips will be lucky indeed.

  2. This is so interesting and I am looking forward to your tips. Your photos give off such a marvelously dreamy quality.
    I am not happy with the photos I take. I don't have a fancy camera, but remind myself that Robert Doisneau worked only with a Leica with a normal lens. But why don't the corners of my rooms remain vertical? The angles don't remain perpendicular. So frustrating.
    I have seen photos of rooms that I know are tiny, but the lens used (or some magic) makes them appear enormous. I have enormous rooms, glorious rooms, but they don't feel spacious yet they seem hollow or empty.
    I look forward to reading your tips!!!!

    1. Thank you so much! Not sure why the angles change in your photos... that is strange. Is it the lens you are using maybe? And yes, the right lens can make a huge difference in perception of spaces- it can be very deceptive!

  3. Oh, I'm so excited! I just recently started a blog and need some insight in these areas. I can't wait to follow along ��

  4. I love, love this story Courtney. Your blog is truly a gem among gems, and I started much the same way, there is so much to learn!! I don't know how you do it...I so admire your tenacity, you are such a talent. Thank you so much for sharing such beauty!

    1. You are so sweet!! One of the best things I have been able to do with my blog is to give back and help someone- so this seemed like a perfect fit for sharing. Thank you so much for your kind words and for stopping by!

  5. Looking forward to all you have to offer. YOur photos are amazing and I love your style! Thanks so much for sharing!

  6. I love the post and the photos were great!!

  7. I am striving to have that dreamy quality in my photos that you accomplish on every post. Thanks for sharing your insights. I'm thankful for your inspiration!

  8. So excited to read more. I need all the help I can get. Countrycharmanddecor.wordpress

  9. Courtney, you are enthusiastic and utterly contagious to follow! It is so fun to read your comments and view your lovely photos. Bravo! and I am eager to read and see your upcoming insights!

    1. Thanks so much- so kind of you! And thank you for following along! :)

  10. I've always said that the VERY best bloggers are the most generous with their time and tips. Thank you, Courtney. You are a true inspiration and although I'm a food blogger I want to take your hope tips and adopt some of them on our little ranch. I can't wait to read your tips. Okay, what drives your editor's crazy -- hummm can't be your flowers I certainly love them. I really can't think of anything that they wouldn't be over the moon. Tell us :-)

    1. You are always so kind and sweet Marisa. And you know, the atmosphere and people who were at the Design Bloggers Conference were so refreshing. I came home with so much good that the speakers and bloggers and designers put out there and I am happy to help pay it forward and help someone reach their magazine dreams if I can.
      And nope-it isn't the flowers that makes them crazy :) Will share next week.

  11. You are a true inspiration. I have been published a few times, but they contacted me, but I have been wanting to submit to other magazines and don't know how. Look forward to your next posts. Thanks for being so kind to share! Maria

    1. That is awesome- congratulations!! And I have heard from so many who said the same thing. They weren't sure how to do it- or what they were looking for. Will be chatting more about it! :)

  12. Love, love this story, friend! You're an inspiration to all!

  13. Courtney, I love your blog and your love of people just shines!! I'm glad I'm one of your "people"! Looking forward to learning and gaining a little insight of what you do! Will you put a picture of the magazine cover your dining room was on? Again thanks! Beverly

  14. Well, you KNOW I'll be tuning in, Courtney! 😊💝 Happy to learn more photography tips from you. Your photos in this post are lovely, as always.
    Have a great day,
    Barb :)

  15. What a great story, Courtney, and I can't wait to follow along with all your tips. I dreamed of a magazine feature and it came true and now I'm dreaming bigger which means getting better at lots. Thank you for always being so giving with advice and wisdom. You inspire me. xx

  16. Thank you for your generosity with your experience tips. Most people don't want to share. I look forward to learning from you.

  17. Thank you for that lovely story. And, to me, you didn't go on and on. You were perfect. You're my inspiration on a daily basis through your blog. I felt you were speaking to me. "Get off your butt and do it, it's worth it". I appreciate your hard work you put into your blog, it shows. Much obliged.

  18. Wow thank you in anticipation! I can't wait for your help. My blog will have to start with an iPhone camera! 😳 Perhaps I'll pick up some tips; your blog I see my all time favourite 💫X

  19. You are always such a wealth of information and talent...looking forward to this series! Thank you for your never ending kindness and generosity!

  20. Loved your story, and looking forward to your posts!