September 24, 2021
Years ago when I was the #styledshootqueen (aka spending wayyyy too much money I didn’t have on styled shoots prior to understanding my business’s numbers) I wrote a blog post about how to get the most out of your styled shoot. With our new Workshop Course for Photographers in the works, which of course goes over how to successfully plan styled shoots, I figured it was time to spruce up that old blog post and bring it into 2021!
The following tips are everything I wish someone had told me when I was first planning styled shoots. Whether you are a styled shoot pro or haven’t taken the leap to planning one yet, I hope that these pointers help you plan your next shoot with not only success, but plenty of ROI!
Styled shoots aren’t meant to just be things that make us look cool and fancy and impressive. They are artistic projects that allow us to hone our planning, styling, and networking skills. Often, they are the shoots that can get us out of creative ruts or inspire us to love what we do all over again. From a strictly business standpoint, it’s a way to curate imagery that builds the heart of our brand, helps give our clients value, and ultimately, should provide some amount of return to our investment profit-wise.
All of that to say, if you’re going to organize or be a part of a styled shoot, know why you’re doing it. Having a reason will give you better results and more satisfaction.
There’s nothing worse than having the cake delivered to the styled shoot only to realize that the baker’s idea of “simple and classic” is a three-layer buttercream hot mess. Clear communication with your fellow vendors will help you to create a unified vision and make things run more smoothly, giving everyone the experience they are hoping for (and it will make them want to work with you again!)
Use a mood board, remembering that vendors cannot always read your artistic, left-brained mind and might need visuals. Try offering key words and be specific about the list of shots you are hoping to get (bonus points if you ask the vendors if they have any shots they’d like added to that list.) If you want a lot of control over the decisions made, be up front and tell your vendors that. If you are the lead organizer, let them know what to expect and who will be doing what.
If you’re planning your own styled shoot without the direction of a planner or stylist, please remember that you can’t do everything. Doing everything yourself eliminates the opportunity to network with other vendors, so instead I suggest that you delegate every part of the shoot to someone you’d like to work with if you can!
Be clear with your team on who will be doing what so that nothing goes through the cracks. Who’s picking up the tuxes? Who’s finding the models? How are you going to communicate with each other – email, group text, Facebook group? Who is in charge of what? Don’t leave this up to happenstance– nail this down as soon as you get started!
Suggest to your vendors to come to the shoot and be involved, or for them to at least watch the shoot unfold and get some iPhone shots for their social media. During shoot set up, take some in-action headshots, branded photos, or at least be willing to think of their style during the shoot and photograph what you think they might like images of (i.e., for a hair stylist, make sure to get a shot of the back of the bride’s hair.) And also, SEND the images to ALL who were involved! Including the venue.
After the shoot, please continue to exercise kindness and respect to all of the vendors involved by properly tagging them in your social media posts. You want to keep your good reputation and get recommendations from these vendors, so never avoid giving anyone credit for their hard work! From experience, I have found that the best way to do this is to A: email all of the vendors explaining how they can expect to be tagged, telling them that if they’re not okay with your tagging process to let you know, and B: send out a list of vendor names and social handles that the vendors can easily copy and paste into their posts.
Pretty photos don’t always build our business like we think they will. Having that gorgeous Instagram feed we’ve been envying just isn’t as powerful as positive, word-of-mouth recommendations from the best local vendors.
Remember: profitability > popularity.
If you don’t nurture your relationships with other industry leaders, you’re missing out! Don’t gamble your time and money and connections by thinking only your images will take you to your dream business. Put people first if you want to see real growth.
Note: if you work with a vendor or venue that you want to do more with, try to budget a little bit towards purchasing them a gift like a photo book that they can use to show to their booking brides examples of their work (and your beautiful photos; it’s a win-win!)
Publication is a great way for new clients to come across your work, especially if you’re looking for destination weddings. It also adds caliber and expertise to your name when you can say that you’re a “published photographer.” But just know– publication is more or less a marketing tool for photographers. Sometimes it can feel like those publication badges on our websites are like little trophies, and we can get hungry to stack up higher against our competition with more and more of them. Instead, see publication for what it is and only submit when you see it as the next best move for growing your business and challenging yourself.
I should have put this at the very top of this post because it might be the biggest lesson I’ve learned through all of my styled shoots!
If you’re in a season where you need to reach a new set of clients, get your name out there, and need fresh content for your website and social media, I recommend that you set aside a larger budget for styled shoots if you can. They are going to be important for the season of business that you’re in.
But, please realize that these shoots are expensive– depending on what you’re envisioning. Budget wisely, plan accordingly, and be realistic with your financial resources. As an entrepreneur, your time is money, so make sure you know each shoot is going to show an equal ROI to your time and financial investment.
Maybe it’s just me, but if I get a pitch for a styled shoot and it doesn’t fit into my brand colors or style, I don’t take the offer. I want to stay consistent for my clients and actually give them inspiration that looks like a Shea Brianne bride’s wedding.
If you can work with your vendors to stick in a general color palette that will work well with your brand, you will find that you can use your images more widely– from your website, Instagram feed, print pieces, price guides, etc. If you take a styled shoot that’s not a good fit with your brand or style just to take it, realize that you’re doing it to hone your shooting/styling skills and probably won’t get as much “share-ability” out of it.
I hope you find these tips for getting the most out of your next styled shoot helpful! Styled shoots are such a fun way to store up content, network with vendors, and elevate your creativity. Just don’t forget to plan a strategy for ROI! 😉
Loving the idea of doing styled shoots but don’t have any money to put them together? What if there was a way for you to put together a dream styled shoot–– and get PAID for it? In our upcoming Workshop Course for photographers, we teach you how we do just that! Over our time hosting workshops we’ve been able to bring in an additional $10k of income while planning the styled shoots of our (well, really MY) dreams! Want to learn how you can do the same? CLICK HERE to get on the waitlist for our course, launching late this fall!
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We're Shelby & Jared, Springfield MO wedding photographers passionate about meaningful living. We document timeless moments for free-spirited, elegant couples across the Midwest and beyond. As fine art photographers, we strive to create work that will leave a legacy of love for years to come.
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