Styling the Empowered Entrepreneur Book

It’s been amazing to hear how much you guys have enjoyed the behind the scenes look at the process that went into The Empowered Entrepreneur book. It was such an epic project, one that spanned January to August of this year, that inevitably there’s a lot to share with you.

Styling the images for the shoot has been an absolute joy and I thought it might be interesting to share some of the thoughts behind the glorious shots you see in the book. We set aside two days to shoot: one with the gorgeous, gentle Cathy Pyle at West Green House gardens in Hampshire and the other with light filled dynamo Katie Spicer at Gail Jones’ house in Buckinghamshire.

The video below gives you a flavour of our shoot at West Green House and do read on for plenty of insights into my process for styling as well as some of the details I like to obsess over for the best possible outcome…

Shooting for a book always takes military precision planning and this one was no different. As usual, we had an enormously long wish-list of shots to capture and limited time. That was without the added joy of the unpredictable British weather which, quite literally, put a dampener on things on our day with Cathy.

I’d not seen West Green House before, so I recced the venue with the children over the Easter holidays to get an idea of what we had to work with. It’s always so important to plan the shots in advance. There’s always scope for plenty of creativity on the day, but knowing the angles you’ll be working with and what props to bring is essential. I took plenty of images of the likely spots we’d have to work with so that Elizabeth and I could plan everything out as we flat-planned.

The flat plan

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As a visual person, I have to say, this is one of my favourite parts of the entire book production process. I love seeing a raw manuscript take shape and see how each element will fit together. Put simply, flat planning is like a giant website wireframe. You take each ‘spread’ (two pages) and map out what content will fit where.

You work out where you’ll need images and, here’s the exciting bit, what those images will say.

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It’s a really immersive process and one that took Elizabeth and I an entire day to map out. It was truly inspiring and one that required a fair bit of cake to fuel… I’d taken along printouts of my rough location shots so that we could visualise things as well as a few images I’d gathered from pinterest to show her the sorts of shots I had in mind.

A plan to work to

By the end of the day, we had a fully populated flat plan (on the right hand side of the image) and I was able to pull together a (terrifyingly large) shot list and also prop inventory. Getting those details right is something I’m pretty obsessed about. The subtle nuances of a colour, shape of a glass or the finished texture of a notebook may be nothing to pay much attention to for many, but for me, those details are everything.

the details are not the details, they are the design
— Paraphrasing Charles Eames

As always, the wonderful Libby at AndHobbs generously supplied a bootload (trunkful to those friends across the pond) of cushions, rugs, vases, mugs, notebooks and other deliciousness that would bring the most stylish and comforting life to our shoot at West Green House.

I raided the garden and also paid a visit to my friends at the Kingfisher Farm Shop for a selection of glorious plants and flowers that I knew would add life to each vignette. These, combined with a host of props both Elizabeth and I had raided our homes for gave us plenty to be spontaneous with on the day.

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Isn’t this just the most inspiring place to work? What a glorious setting! For this shot, we used one of the tables from West Green House and I styled really simply with a crumpled cotton runner and vases from Anthropologie and AndHobbs. I wanted the flowers to feel really light and frothy in contrast to the earthiness of the vases. I guess it’s about balancing that autumn/ summer thing…

This image totally could have worked as the cover with a little more sparkling light and a softer depth of field. It’s kind of everything we wanted to portray in the book - working, inspired by nature and not racing around like a blue-a*sed fly…

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The earthiness of this handmade mug (you can buy from AndHobbs) and the subtle glaze is just perfect for Elizabeth’s brand. It just wouldn’t work to have anything too factory made so I chose the props with care. This feels calming and really supports the message in the book of taking care of yourself. You can be successful without having to hustle, wear yourself into the ground or lose the joy in what you’re doing. And you can take things at a manageable pace without needing to compromise on the commercial success of your business.

Goodness. All of that from a mug! I told you I was obsessive…

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I really love this shot. What a place to work! This was a real challenge to shoot because it literally looked like a greenhouse, and I wanted it to feel like something that had been repurposed into a really inspiring studio. We tried a few compositions for the book and I love the light fitting along with the rustic floor. I think this is where Cathy’s experience as an interiors photographer really came into its own as she just knew the angles to take.

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As soon as I read the manuscript, I knew we could have a lot of fun with flavoured water, and you’ll see plenty of flavours dotted throughout the book. This looks like a really simple shot but a lot of thought went into the shape of the jug, the glass, even the table top which was perfectly rustic and gorgeous. If you don't have the perfect tabletop, I can highly recommend CBL Backdrops


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In this shot, the teal cushion grounds the desk and is picked up in the smudge stick pot. More flavoured water - this time in the shape of strawberry and lemon verbena! Cathy’s shots add an element of calm and earthiness to the book.


Styling the cover

We’d shot the first session in late Spring (as you’ll notice from the flowers) and the cover shot was one of those last minute but highly productive sessions which we nailed in the hour! Having finalised most of the book design, it was easy to see the shots we were missing and so I turned up with my trusty assistant (my daughter Ellie) a boot-load of flowers and props and away we flew for to get that cover shot.

This time we were working with the wonderful Katie Spicer who absolutely nailed the cover shot in a matter of moments.

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With the light gently falling across the fields, I think these are some of my favourite shots. The burgundy happened to be what I had in my garden at the time, but it feels very appropriate. Purple is the colour of authenticity, vision and purpose. Red, stamina and energy and yet the shot doesn’t feel bullish. More empowered.

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I’m a real sucker for Katie’s light filled, inspirational work and I love these shots. They lifted the energy of the book perfectly and just rounded everything off so beautifully.

These images, combined with work from Cecelina, Annie Spratt and photos from both my and Elizabeth’s library really make the book what it is. I think theres something really magical about investing in a shoot specifically for a project. It means the images are bespoke to you, for one thing, but it also brings everything to life. It’s a visual record of everything you set out to do, and that has to be worth making the time and space for doesn’t it?