Power Up Your Display Game: A New York City Prop Stylist Shows You How

Betim Balaman styled JCK’s July–August issue and opened up on how jewelers can take their visual skills to the next level

The Instagram-ready picnic lunches and game board–inspired window displays that the stylist creates for clients linger in memories long after props are pitched. And just as David Yurman and W magazine have enlisted Betim Balaman’s help to style sets, so, too, did JCK yesterday in a Midtown studio. Balaman curled cardboard and snipped card-stock triangles to construct graphic backdrops for jewels that will appear in the July–August issue. She also shared tips on how jewelers can make their own visual magic—be it on Instagram or in a display case. Here are five takeaways from our conversation.  

Establish a concept. Balaman was instructed to use a theme of backgammon for one client’s window displays featuring home decor. So she created a game board out of fabric and leather, had a model maker create oversize dice that she used as a table, risers, and exaggerated seating for boards. And for clients who come to her with no clear aesthetic vision, Balaman has played with sheets of Plexiglas to create shadows that interacted with statement necklaces. Tiny plants can also add interest. “A small grouping of cactus can create a story,” she explains.


A magazine spread that Balaman styled using Plexiglas and tiny cactus (photo courtesy of @Betimbal

Look at ordinary objects differently. Earrings can hang from a pencil holder, PVC pipe can be housing for bracelets, and a stack of beach stones can serve as a pedestal for a ring. Meanwhile, textured white paper and a wavy-effect spray-painted dish rack act as ideal stages against which JCK’s Best in Show issue jewels perform. “Play with the opposites to see what makes jewelry pop,” she instructs. “Objects are interesting when used outside of their natural environments.”

Play with shape and scale. This creates conspicuous magic. On JCK’s shoot, Balaman played with varying sizes of paper cones and raised pyramid-imprinted paper that interacted with a Busatti crystal, emerald, and diamond starburst–pattern ring. In an Instagram shot styled for David Yurman, Balaman paired an egg and a pear with circular-motif silver jewels in a symphony of curves.


JCK‘s still-life photographer Ted Morrison shoots a composition created by Balaman (photo courtesy of @l.pettiford)

Shop for props everywhere. “Get props from places that you don’t think of as display stores, like the Container Store, 99 Only stores, or Muji,” advises Balaman. For JCK’s shoot, she shopped Home Depot and Flying Tiger.

Consider feng shui. How harmonious is the balance of objects within your square Instagram frame of reference? Make setups more compact, and study the angles in images and why you like one over another. In her picnic shot for Yurman, Balaman experimented with different degrees of color in the white egg, red fruit, and lavender stems until the composition and colors were perfect to her eye.


An Instagram shot styled by Balaman (photo courtesy of @Davidyurman)

Reach Balaman at Betim@Bstyle.us and check out more of her work online.



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