The basics of set dressing – Part 2

Film set blog image set dressing part 2

This is part 2 of the basics of set dressing. If you want to read about part 1 first, please click here. In this blog we will look at set dressing in a broader way. We will dive into the whole process from pre-production until post-production and what steps will need to be taken. Set dressing is only a small part of the whole art department process. Most of the times there is a team of multiple people working from the ideas of the director and/or art director.


Within the basics of set dressing I will touch on the most important steps within the pre-production phase of film making or preparing a photo shoot. In both cases, this is the most important phase. We can already make or break the rest of the process within this phase.

In the previous blog I talked a lot about working from the story. This story should be set in stone from the moment the pre-production starts. The art director uses this information in his or hers research. While looking for inspiration, the story slowly becomes more visual. The outcome of this research can be made into a moodboard to explain the feel of the set to the crew. Also, creating a proplist will make it much easier to get an overview of what you need to buy or make.

The next step will be gathering all the props you need. Second hand stores were my go to place since they had a lot of small attributes that are used and will often personalize the location. You can however also buy props new in the store or online. What I love about props is that you can get creative and DIY your way to make it into a unique object.


During production we fully focus on dressing the set with the props we have. We can split the props into two groups. One group will be all the props that are only in the background. There will be no interaction. The second group are the props that will have some kind of interaction. This can be picking up a glass or eating an apple for example. The props in the second group need special care, since we need to be aware of the continuity of a scene. Therefore, these props need to have several backups in case the glass breaks or the apple is fully eaten by the actor or model.


The post-production part starts right after everything has been filmed or photographed. In some cases the art director can assist the director in the edit room. But most of the times, the jobs within the art department end right after the production phase.

I hope this helped you understand the process of the art department better. If you like to see more of my photography work click here.

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