Images of your work are a valuable commodity in the Wedding Industry. We share them everywhere! On our website and in our brochure. Via social media and on our Pinterest Boards. And in the magazines and blogs our ideal clients turn to for inspiration. But when you’re just starting out you may not have any, or many images of your own work to share – which is where a Styled Shoot can be so useful to you as a newbie Wedding Professional. But planning your first Styled Shoot as a newbie can be daunting. I know because I’ve been there too! And so has everyone in the wedding industry – we all have to start somewhere. To help you plan your first Styled Shoot with confidence I’m sharing the basics of planning and executing a Styled Shoot with you in this blog post.
What is a Styled Shoot?
A Styled Shoot is a photo shoot put together for wedding vendors. They’re an opportunity to get creative and show off what you and the other vendors can do. Styled Shoot images can be used in a number of ways including as part of a portfolio, on your website and in socials, or they can be submitted for publication to help you attract potential clients. And Styled Shoots are an excellent way to build connections in the industry.
Now let’s dive into the basics of planning your first styled shoot.
Set a Goal
When Planning a Styled Shoot, it’s important to start with the end goal in mind. This goal is the foundation of the decision making that goes into planning a Styled Shoot. The goal also needs to be shared with everyone involved – to ensure you all have the same expectations from the outset.
Of course, one of your goals are gorgeous images that catch the attention of your dream client, but beyond that, what is the purpose of the shoot? What do you want to happen with the images?
- Publication in print or online or will your images be used for marketing and portfolio purposes?
- To collaborate with other wedding vendors to build connections and strengthen your network in the industry?
- To try out new ideas, push creative boundaries, or showcase a new service/product offering?
Define your goal before doing anything else – your goal dictates where you’re going with your Style Shoot and will help you assemble a team.
Determine the Visual Direction of your Styled Shoot
Once you know where you’re going with your Styled Shoot it’s time to get clear on the visual direction of your shoot (vision/concept).
This is an exciting part of the process and if you’re anything like me, you’re likely to have a bunch of ideas floating around in your mind and everything seems possible. Or maybe you don’t have any clear ideas just yet. That’s ok too! Either way, just as we need to do for our clients when helping them to plan and design their wedding, you need to get clear on the vision for your Styled Shoot.
Take your time with this part of the process. If you have ideas start writing them down. If you don’t have ideas, immerse yourself in inspiration, preferably from outside the wedding industry. Your aim is to create something new, not something that’s been done before. Art, interior design, fashion, travel, and nature are all sources of inspiration that can help spark an idea for a shoot.
Pro Tip: If this is your first shoot don’t let yourself get overwhelmed in this part of the process. You’re going to refine and build on your idea next. Let your imagination run a little wild whilst considering what might appeal to your ideal client.
Refine & Edit your Styled Shoot Vision
Now that you have a clear vision for your Styled Shoot you need to flesh it out by refining and editing.
Whilst I try to stay away from Pinterest when I’m getting clear on the vision of my shoot, I love using Pinterest for the refine and edit phase.
I start by creating a secret board to Pin images to.
My Pinterest board usually fills up fast and then it becomes a process of refining and editing until what I see before me tells the story I have in my mind. It’s also important to me that the images on the board are closely aligned with my colour palette. I’m not too focused on any other specific details just yet. At this stage I’m looking for a collection of images that communicate a look and feel – a mood.
Over time I’ve discovered that this is the approach that lends itself best to creating something new, rather than copying what someone else has done. Virtually anything can help you define the look and feel of your shoot, from landscapes, to people, to nature, and beyond. If you’re going to use an image produced by another wedding pro make sure it isn’t for the sake of repeating their design – but rather helps you tell the story of your design.
Once you have your edited Pinterest Board you can invite your Vendors to the Board to collaborate with you. Or you can turn it into a Mood Board and share it that way.
Set a Budget for your Styled Shoot
Just as you would plan for a wedding or event, you need to outline your budget for your Styled Shoot. When setting your budget first consider the goal of the Styled Shoot.
For example, if you want to be able to use the images from the Shoot exclusively for your brand and to go up on your website and won’t be letting other Vendors use them in the same way, you may need to cover the cost of the Shoot yourself. If all Vendors are sharing equally in the benefits of the Shoot, whether that be publication, or to build up a library of images you can share on social media, it’s reasonable to expect everyone will share in the costs. Whichever way you go, it’s something that has to be agreed upon by everyone from the outset.
To help with determining your budget, ask yourself these questions
- How much are you willing to spend on the shoot?
- Will you ask vendors for their services free of charge? What if they ask for help covering costs, do you have money set aside or is that a not an option for you?
- Which Styled Shoot Vendor will bring or purchase the goods for styling?
- Who will cover the cost of florals?
- Will the Models be paid and by whom?
Above are just some of the costs to consider when planning a shoot and in reality the costs can vary significantly between each shoot. I’ve worked with amazing vendors who have provided their services free of charge in exchange for marketing material/imagery and at other times I have fully funded the Styled Shoot because I wanted complete control over the images. Each Styled Shoot and Vendor is different, and you won’t know costs associated with working alongside them until you start the conversation.
Pro Tip: Consider including catering costs for the team in your budget. Most Styled Shoots last a full day so it’s nice to have snacks and water available for the team. If the budget can stretch to it, I like to have lunch brought in for the team. If there is time to stop, lunch is the perfect time for connecting and building relationships.
Build your Vendor Team
They say the team creates the dream and as corny as that sounds, it’s true.
You need to consider every vendor carefully. You should look for collaborators whose style matches your Styled Shoot vision, and who also appeals to your ideal client.
I also recommend looking for suppliers who are at a similar stage of business or one step up from you. Whilst it’s not always the case, this is a good way to go about finding someone who has the same goals as you when it comes to a Styled Shoot. And whilst I’m a big fan of having templated emails, including for Styled Shoot pitches – make sure you personalise and customise each email you send a Vendor. In my emails I’m clear about why I feel the Vendor is the perfect person for the Styled Shoot. I also outline what would be expected of them as a collaborator.
Pro Tip: When it comes to approaching someone to work with you on a Shoot my best piece of advice is; ask the question. What’s the worst that can happen – they say no, or don’t reply.
Create a Look Book
With your Styled Shoot concept defined and your vendors chosen, it’s time to plan for the vignettes you want to shoot and collate them into what is called a Look Book.
Think of a vignette as a scene and a Styled Shoot being made up of several scenes. Each scene helps to tell the story but may be styled in different ways and feature different elements. The Look Book is simply a series of Mood Boards (or Pinterest Boards) that share more details for each of those scenes than the original Mood Board does.
An example of what might be included in a Look Book for a typical Styled Shoot are Mood Boards for each of the below:
- Reception Table
- Couple/Individual Shots
- Food & Drinks, Favours
- Florals & Stationery
- Any special features the vendors would like to feature including behind the scenes/working shots
- Details that will appeal to blogs and magazines if your goal is publication, or you want a library of images for posting to social media.
But remember, you’re planning your own unique shoot. The list above is a guide for what to include in your shoot. Once you start collaborating with your Vendors this list may grow and become more refined, which is why I don’t do this step before choosing vendors.
The type of shoot you’re doing very often dictates the person you’re looking for as a model. You may have a specific look in mind or be hoping for a ‘real’ couple for a very natural and relaxed vibe. As with every element of the Styled Shoot, consider your goal, vision, budget and how the images will be used.
When it comes to finding professional models, local Facebook groups are an excellent place to start. In some cities there are Facebook groups dedicated to Models, but Photography and Wedding Planning Facebook groups can be helpful too.
Choose a Location
Finding the right location or venue is an important part of planning your Styled Shoot. And you guessed it, when making this choice you also need to also consider the shoot goal, concept/theme, budget and how the images will be used.
Whilst all Vendors should be part of key decisions like venue and location, I like to include the Photographer specifically in the final choice. Very often a photographer will see something that you don’t. And because lighting has such a big impact on the finished image, it’s really helpful for the Photographer to be able to view the space or location at a time of day you are considering for the Shoot and make recommendations around that.
Create a Shot List
The day of your Styled Shoot is not the day to be deciding what images you want the photographer to capture. Styled Shoots are hectic and buzzing with energy and activity. It’s a fun, sometimes intense environment and as each of you focuses on delivering your part of the shoot to the best of your ability, it’s easy to forget what you came for – those images.
As part of your Styled Shoot planning you should write down all the shots you (and your vendor team!) want to capture. For example, the florist may want to showcase a new range of vessels they have for styling centrepieces and would love to have professional images of them for their portfolio. As the Stylist you may want images of yourself working on setting a table. The Photographer may be looking for certain lighting effects to show off their skills.
Once the list is finalised distribute it to everyone and ensure there are copies available for reference on the day. I usually work with the Photographer to go through the list and tick off the shots one by one. Of course, these aren’t the only images a Photographer will capture on the day – give them room to be creative too!
Execute your Styled Shoot
The execution of a Styled Shoot is similar to planning a wedding day and just like a wedding, it starts before the day itself.
It’s important that everyone is kept in the loop as essential details such as date, time, venue etc are confirmed. A good flow of communication between you and your Vendors strengthens bonds, so that on the day everyone feels prepared and excited about working together – as a team. I take a very similar approach to Wedding Day Management at the I Do Crew.
Before the shoot, I create a detailed schedule/timeline and include directions and contact information for everyone who will be attending. I also include the Shot List and a packing list for each Vendor who is contributing items to the Shoot. And if there are any specific guidelines everyone needs to be aware of, I make sure this information is also highlighted. This could be guidelines about working at the venue, wet weather arrangements or rules about sharing to social media. You can also include this information in an Agreement that all collaborators sign.
Pro Tip Maintaining a complete running list of collaborators with links to their website and socials will also make it much easier to compile a list of credits that can be shared with all Vendors and submitted for publication if this is your goal.
A word About Submissions
If one of the goals for your Styled Shoot is publication, I have these tips for you.
Before planning and executing your Styled Shoot do your research and determine which publication/s you will be submitting to. Make sure you understand their requirements before you submit. Some publications require first rights to your Styled Shoot. First rights means the Shoot can’t have been published anywhere else first. You will also find that some publications demand exclusive rights – which means the Shoot cannot be published anywhere else. Publications often have strict rules about the sharing the Shoot on social media prior to publication and even after. Make you understand the rules.
You should also confirm if the publications has any guidelines or suggestions around the images they prefer. If they don’t you can usually work this out by looking at the shoots they publish. Is there are strong focus on wedding attire and accessories, or is it tablescapes?
Remember to Enjoy the Process!
There is so much work that goes into a Styled Shoot! Take time to enjoy the creative process and working alongside other Vendors. A Styled Shoot can be fun!
And try not to hold yourself accountable to the ‘it must be perfect’ rule. Like they do on Wedding days, things can and do go wrong at Styled Shoots. Be flexible. Sometimes the best ideas are the ones that come to you in those moments when things aren’t going right! And whatever the outcome of your first Styled Shoot, know that you gave it your best shot. The experience will help you with the next one.
A Checklist to Help You Launch Your Business
A Styled Shoot is just one of the the items you need to tick off when launching your wedding business. There are also a myriad of tasks for you to attend to that fall under these categories:
- Business Planning + Set up
- Packages & Pricing
- Systems & Workflows
- Website Design
Download our FREE Wedding Business Start-up Checklist to be guided through all the steps of launching your Wedding Business.