- 1 What Is A Styled Shoot?
- 2 How to Create A Styled Shoot
- 2.0.1 Create Your Shoot theme.
- 2.0.2 Use a stylist or a planner.
- 2.0.3 Be Confident, And Think Big.
- 2.0.4 Tailor your shoot to your intended publication.
- 2.0.5 Pay to attend a workshop featuring a styled shoot.
- 2.0.6 How Do You Find A Styled Shoot?
- 2.0.7 Should You Pay To Attend A Styled Shoot / Workshop?
- 2.1 How To Plan A Styled Shoot
- 2.1.1 Create Your Styled Shoot Concept
- 2.1.2 Moodboard everything
- 2.1.3 Find Your Location
- 2.1.4 Should You Pay For A Venue For A Styled Shoot?
- 2.1.5 How To Find Suppliers For Your Shoot
- 2.1.6 How To Find A Model For A Styled Shoot
- 2.1.7 Should you pay for a model?
- 2.1.8 What Happens If You Can’t Pay For A Model
- 2.1.9 Find And Secure Your Support Team
- 2.1.10 Send Out Simple Contracts
- 2.1.11 Create Your Styled Shoot Schedule And Timeline On The Day
- 2.1.12 Creating Your Styled Shoot – The Rest!
What Is A Styled Shoot?
A styled shoot is a staged, collaborative event that showcases suppliers and vendors. For example, a styled wedding shoot might have various ‘scenes’ set up across one or more locations, that would reflect elements of a real wedding. For a styled wedding shoot, there might be a styled table, a bride and / or couple, an invitation suite, etc.
9 Reasons Why A Styled Shoot Helps Grow Your Photography Business
Styled shoots help both vendors and photographers to
- Build their portfolios
- Build their brand
- Potentially gain publicity
- Make industry contacts and recommendations
- Gain images for their own social and websites
- Gain experience working alongside others in the industry (good for newbies)
- Test out new challenging conditions for their photography / service
- Deepen their creativity and artistry
- Grow in confidence and style
Styled shoots can also be a ton of fun, we love styled shoots!
Some Styled Shoot Criticisms
The tide has begun to turn against styled shoots recently, partly due to the rise of the ‘authentic’ movement. People have criticised styled shoots for
- Body shaming (there doesn’t tend to be much diversity in the models used)
- Unrepresentative of reality
- Too expensive (some photographers / styled shoot organisers charge thousands of dollars for photographers to attend)
- Shallow, and all about the image only
- Produces unoriginal work as all photographers are shooting the same thing
Is Creating A Styled Shoot Right For You?
Whether you decide to pay to join in somebody else’s styled shoots (frequently run by other photographers, and also by stylists and styling teams), there’s no denying that styled shoots can provide you with beautiful images for your website and social media pages.
Does that help you attract bookings? Does it help you attract high paying clients?
In a word – yes. Absolutely, yes.
Shortly after I had started out in weddings, a photographer friend said to me ‘you know what the problem with your website is? people don’t want to see models and styled setups. they want to see real people and real weddings’
In part, I agree. But nobody wants to see the wedding of 65 year old Uncle Bill’s 3rd registry office village hall wedding complete with white limousine and cocktail sausages, whether it was a happy occasion for Uncle Bill or not. Well, some people might. But this is key here; these people are not your client.
Your client is most likely to be image affluent. We have grown up in the age of Pinterest, Instagram, and wedding blogs.
Your clients know about trends and styles, they know about the importance of detailing. They painstakingly make styled choices which reflect their personality.
So as long as you use images which reflect their interests and the best version of themselves that they can be on their wedding day, it doesn’t matter whether you use real weddings or styled shoots.
Images on your site need to be aspirational, because that is what we all buy into, regardless of our taste or our tribe.
Do you think that clients would rather see ‘honest’, ‘real’ weddings than styled shoots? We are psychologically programmed and culturally conditioned to ‘want’ to buy into that which we see and perceive as attractive (read about the psychology of attraction for more information on this indepth subject!).
I put this to the test on my very own website.
When I started out, I only had images from a shoot and a single wedding to use on my website. I chose to favour the shoot images for my front page, reserving a few detail shots from the real-life wedding for my portfolio.
After securing a handful of bookings, I kept the images from the shoot as my front page images. I then did another shoot, and added some of those images on to the front page too.
It was definitely thanks to these styled shoot images that my own photography business was able to attract my stylish brides (three of my clients in a year made their own dresses, as they were all trained in fashion/ in the industry)!
It’s not just me – so many big name photographers currently achieving success with their work all participated in tons of styled shoots when starting out, and still do! Many now lead their own workshops that you can attend.
If you want to use styled shoots to develop your creativity, to practice with film and get a feel for the real beauty and potential of it without the risk of practising on a client, and you want to make contacts and potentially gain recommendations, then undertake a styled shoot. They really do help you to develop your photographic style.
Then when you put that work on your website, you can feel confident you are attracting the right kind of client for you.
Regardless of whether you create a kinfolk-style, minimal, stripped down shoot or a big, grand elaborate floral shoot filled with luxury elements and details, a shoot can be as personal and as authentic as you and your clients are.
How to Create A Styled Shoot
Create Your Shoot theme.
This doesn’t have to be difficult. Think of a random word and choose a shoot based around that. Don’t worry about whether your shoot is going to be ‘pantone colour of the year’ or anything like that. If is it pretty, well styled and wellshot, and has a cohesive theme, you will be able to gain publicity for it, and regardless of if you do or not, you will be able to use it on your sites / your portfolio. If you want to go all in on this, look at Pinterest upcoming trends, which does a great job of reflecting up and coming trends right before they are hot. Or look at trend forecasting agencies which can tell you about upcoming social trends, colours, movies coming out in the next year, and so on. All of this should give you a ton of inspiration if you’re struggling.
Use a stylist or a planner.
This has to be my number one tip – creating a styled session is so much work, and I would never recommend that you do it alone, simply because there is so much involved in planning one that you’d probably want to hire a specialist to plan and arrange all the details.
Stylists and wedding planners are very likely to want to get involved as they they like to boost their own portfolios and showcase their talents, and if you pick the right ones that have a pretty good portfolio already, and explain that you will be shooting film and that film is favoured by X, X, and X blog and that it will add a completely different dimension to their portfolio, they will most likely be willing to get involved, if they have the time.
Show courtesy and only approach one planner at a time. Remember that they probably often get asked for shoot involvement, so if it is a no, don’t take it personally. They most likely just are too busy but the next one might not be.
It really isn’t a good idea to style a shoot on your own unless you are super creative already, and enjoy all of the planning and preparation work as well as thinking about your photography.
Even then, you might not be able to be as ‘free’ with your photography as you would wish, as you will most likely be thinking about the next setup, outfit, where the makeup artist is, etc, when really, you need to be concentrating on the light and your next shot.
A planner or stylist will be your biggest asset, and your key to gaining beautiful, well-styled images, so do not underrate this step!
A planner/ stylist will
- help you gain key suppliers for no cost (many other suppliers also want / need well styled, well photographed portfolio images),
- will have an endless supply of creative, unique ideas
- plan logistics,
- organise everyone and everything from time schedules to lunches to transport to colour coordinating the details, and trailing ribbons and flowers around a cutlery like an art form you would never have imagined.Planner/stylists are a shoot must-have!
Be Confident, And Think Big.
(But don’t be afraid to think small either).
You can create a beautiful photoshoot, that will look absolutely amazing on your website and blog, that will gain publicity (and those essential ‘blogger badges’ that show your work was worthy enough for exhibition on their site)
whether you do a small, lowkey shoot – think just a tabletop and some accessory shots
or a huge, grand shoot in a stately manor house with three models, two makeup artists, two children eight dogs and a peacock in a fir tree.
Step outside your comfort zone, but don’t overwhelm yourself.
When you are starting out, rebranding, or learning something new, it’s easy to sabotage your own work at a shoot.
Here’s how I did it – I’m still embarrassed to tell this story over two years later, but hopefully you’ll learn something from it.
My beautiful Canon 1v film camera arrived two weeks before I had a planned shoot coming up.
I wasn’t the only photographer on the shoot, there was another photographer duo there too.
The venue was an absolutely gorgeous Cotswold barn, all pale old stonework and rambling grounds with freeroaming ducks and geese. The dresses were provided by probably the finest boutique in the county. Everything about the shoot was toplevel.
And I crumpled. Properly fell to pieces.
I saw the other photographers there with their brand new 20K cameras, huge flashguns, gigantic lenses, big light set ups for later in the day when the lighting would drop.
I picked up my pride and joy, and put it quietly back into my bag. What on earth would they think of me, I thought, showing up with my ten year old film camera, scrabbling around trying to load and unload the film after 36 shots.
I instead used a camera that I had taken along with me as a backup, my little canon 550d, with a heavy heart.
And I’ve wished ever since that I shot every single image on my film camera because they would have been sooo beautiful!
Don’t ever let that negative voice in your head get the better of you. Big shoot, small shoot, you’ve got this.
Tailor your shoot to your intended publication.
Let’s be honest. One of the reasons you want to do a photoshoot is because you want to get featured in the press. You want your images and your credit up in lights on those pretty blog pages, or flickering out at you from inside the glossy pages of a magazine. And why wouldn’t you? You know that getting featured on these pages leads to all sorts of amazing things happening.
So do not go about setting up a photoshoot without first considering who you are selling the photoshoot to. Yes, selling. Not monetarily, but you will be attempting to ‘sell’ your concept to your targeted blog, magazine, etc. Want to get featured on Style Me Pretty? Then you’ll need an elegant shoot showcasing luxurious vendors and a whole load of beautiful, personal detailing. 100 Layer Cake? Then you’re going to need light, airy images with a slight air of bohemia and whimsy to your detailing and theme. Etc. Basically, you need to sell to that blog in your introductory email why your shoot would be a good fit for that blog.
Pay to attend a workshop featuring a styled shoot.
Don’t have the time to create your own session or still feeling a bit daunted? Then attend a workshop. Preferably one announcing ‘fineart’ in the title. Seriously, these happen everywhere, all of the time.
Research the photographer and the stylist’s background; generally a fine art style photoshoot is going to be a brilliant place to start and get you really thinking about using film and your cameras in regards to lighting, composition, posing etc.
Plus you get to meet an entire load of people in the same position as you are in, beginning/improving their film knowledge; and who can potentially pass you referrals at a later date, as well as becoming useful friends to have as you work and learn together.
How Do You Find A Styled Shoot?
The blog Wedding Sparrow often features details of fine art photography workshops that are coming up (as well as being a wonderful resource of fineart wedding photography inspiration).
You can also join photography facebook groups (fine art ones in particular). Facebook groups are often the first place stylists and photographers will announce their upcoming styled workshops.
Styled Shoots don’t tend to be that well SEO’d so they don’t often appear in Google search, so you’ll have to do some digging to find one to join.
Should You Pay To Attend A Styled Shoot / Workshop?
Still feeling like you want to attempt your own styled shoot? ok, crazy person! 🙂 Here are my top tips for that.
How To Plan A Styled Shoot
- Create your concept
- Moodboard EVERYTHING.
- Find your location and secure it for your chosen date
- Research your suppliers and book them
- Purchase anything you need in advance
- Find and book your models
- Find and secure your support team
- Send out simple contracts
- Create your schedule + timeline
- Create a shotlist
- Prep your kit 2 days before
- Make a Plan B for all essential elements (dress, weather, location, model)
- Contact everyone 1 week before, and the day before
- Get there early on the day (before everyone else)
- Get setup
- Collapse 🙂
Create Your Styled Shoot Concept
See the essential tips above! Creating a concept is important whether you work with a planner or set up your own styled shoot. It’s essentially the backbone of your shoot, where everything links together in a cohesive style. This helps you stay on track and focussed in both your planning and in your shots too.
Pinterest is great for this! Create secret boards over on Pinterest to plan for each element of the shoot. You can group each board by elements of the shoot
etc. It’s always a good idea to do a moodbord around the concept too to begin with. This help the general idea of the shoot evolve.
You can also create a shot list moodboard. This might contain images of the kind of shots you’d like to take. For example, you might include images from certain angles, lighting conditions, poses, etc. This really helps if, like me, you struggle with brain freeze in stressful situations!
A shoot can be stressful, especially if you’re working with a lot of high-end suppliers who are relying on you to get beautiful images of their products / service. Having a shot list to hand in the form of Pinterest can give you an instant reminder in those I’ve gone entirely blank moments!
Find Your Location
Sourcing a location can often be easier than expected! However, the best ones also get inundated with requests, so you want to make sure yours stands out and gets picked!
To do that, you have to be able to tell your venue why your shoot will be of a huge benefit to the venue. You can highlight the intended publication, how much press / coverage you will get as a result, and you if you’re lucky enough to be working with first class suppliers who have been featured elsewhere, let them know that too.
Highlight all of this in your introductory email, and you’ll go a long way in standing out to the best venues.
I would also include a few (literally, 2-3) shots of my work (obviously my best ones)! and a very brief description about myself and why I want to shoot at this particular venue. Keep it brief, people are busy!
Follow up with another email a week later if you haven’t heard anything.
And always have a Plan B venue as a backup to ask.
Should You Pay For A Venue For A Styled Shoot?
There’s no real cut and dried answer to the question ‘should I pay for the venue’. It really depends on how much you want the venue, whether you have a budget, and whether the venue demands payment!
Some of the high end, ultra-luxe venues will want payment, usually because they are so in-demand for most of the year that to give you their venue for free means they ultimately will lose money. If, however, it’s a quiet time of year, or you get lucky on your date, they might not have a booking and might be happy to give you the venue for free.
Personally, I’ve paid for venues, and I’ve used free venues. It’s always worth paying for something if it gives you those priceless shots that will get you tons of bookings in the long run.
One thing to note. If your venue comes back with a yes and a price, don’t be afraid to negotiate if you really, really love the venue. It’s standard business practice to negotiate. The images will ultimately benefit the venue, not just you, so most venues will be happy to negotiate to a budget that suits everyone.
How To Find Suppliers For Your Shoot
Ideally you’ll already have local suppliers you love to work with, and have in mind for your shoot.
This is also where working with a planner comes in handy, because they will already have the contacts needed to reach out and ask for their participation.
However, if not, visit their shop, send emails, and make calls, following the same guidelines as contacting venues.
Remember it’s usually a publicity win for everyone to be involved!Bbecause it’s easy to feel like you are begging when you’re trying to get suppliers on board. Which if you think about it, is just our own fear. Everyone wins from a shoot and suppliers stand as much to gain from being involved as you do!
You don’t have to limit yourself to local suppliers, as long as you have given yourself enough time for shipping. Contact your favourite Etsy stores, reach out to suppliers you love that you find on Pinterest, etc.
Even wedding dress suppliers that provide gowns worth thousands of dollars are usually happy to collaborate for a shoot, providing they can see the shoot is of a high quality (they will judge this by your work, any previous publicity or credits, and how strong your persuading email is)!
Boutique owners might sometimes accompany their dresses to a shoot, which is understandable due to the level of value involved.
How To Find A Model For A Styled Shoot
Finding a model for a styled shoot is simple; use model mayhem. I’ve always used model mayhem, you can post jobs on there, contact models, and you can post jobs that are both free and paid.
It’s practically free to join with a free membership and paid ones starting at $6.00. You can always quit your membership after finding and hiring your model!
Instagram can also be used to find models, just get creative with some hashtags! You could try #model #femalemodel #modelmayhem #model+”YOUR AREA”
Should you pay for a model?
Your model is the one thing that can make or break your shoot, so I would always advise opting for the best you can afford. Yes, I mean you should pay for a model!
A professional, experienced model will most likely
- know how to hold herself in front of the camera
- understand how to pose to get the best shots
- they will most likely understand how to work with light to get the best images
- be entirely confident in front of the camera
- take the shoot professionally, not personally
- be unafraid to try new things
- Understand how to create multiple poses and angles, quickly
- Know how to work with timings on the day
- Understand how to work with make up artists, etc for a professional result
You might think your bestie or girl on the street has a killer profile, but if she doesn’t know how to pose on camera confidently (and I mean, without batting an eyelid and changing poses even faster) you’re simply not going to get the shots you want.
You might get a few, but your suppliers – and the publicity vehicle you’re aiming for – aren’t aiming for a few snaps. They want solid, beautiful, professional work. You can’t very often get that with your bestie. Unless she happens to be a model.
Remember – you get what you pay for. A styled shoot is an investment into your business that when done right, will return multiple bookings and thousands in profit. Don’t scrimp on the odd few hundred or so needed to book a model.
What Happens If You Can’t Pay For A Model
If you really don’t have or can’t find the money to pay for a professional model, try to find one who needs more portfolio images and try the same approach as you did with the venue. Stress the quality of your work, your experience, any career highlights, and your creative vision.
If you get lucky, you might find a model who really needs fresh new images so she can get more work too.
Find And Secure Your Support Team
If you’re working with a planner on the day, they’re most likely to bring their own assistant and support team along. If not, you’re going to need some support on the day!
You’ll most likely need
- some muscle, for moving furniture, tables, and heavier objects out of the way
- somebody organised who can help provide the vendors / model with food and refreshments and can do runs to the local supermarkets for those things you forgot / went missing (batteries are more common than you think)!
- a general assistant who can move things, adjust lighting, work with the make up artist and hairdresser, etc!
You don’t need anybody experienced to do these things, just people with a willing attitude who want to support you. Don’t go overboard though, or you’ll end up managing everyone when you need to be concentrating on shooting.
Send Out Simple Contracts
This might seem like overkill, but have you thought about what happened if that ladder your florist is on falls and your florist breaks her leg? Who is responsible? Who pays the medical bill? What about if that wedding dress you’ve borrowed gets torn, will you pay for it to be fixed?
A simple contract ensures that you are not liable for any damages. It makes clear that everybody is participating at their own risk.
You can find styled shoot contracts online to purchase. Search for ‘styled shoot contract’.
You might also need a ‘model release’ form. It’s a contract where the model consents to images of her being used for publicity purposes.
Create Your Styled Shoot Schedule And Timeline On The Day
Having an on the day timelines assures that everything goes according to plan. Otherwise what tends to happen is that nothing is set up on time, and you end up shooting the model for four hours and leave yourself ten minutes for the table, for example.
Having a timeline helps suppliers to know where they should be and when, and you to have an idea of what needs to happen when, and helps you plan your shotlist.
It also helps you come across as professional, which will help gain future custom from the suppliers you work with, as well as the location vendor.
Work through right from start to finish, and ensure you have email copies of the timeline sent out a week beforehand, as well as copies available for everyone on the day. I recommend having clipboards for each one, as pieces of paper flying about on the scene of a busy easily go missing.
Ensure a break for lunch for suppliers (though you will most likely want to carry on shooting, your model will also need to rest).
Creating Your Styled Shoot – The Rest!
The rest of what’s on the ‘creating your own styled shoot’ list is self-explanatory. Prep your kit two nights before.
Be sure to add in bulldog clips, hair grips, baby wipes and batteries, as these are always needed on the day and rarely ever to hand!
Ensure everyone has the necessary plans and paperwork in advance.
And get there early on the day!
All that’s left to do is to follow the plan, stick to your shotlist, and enjoy! And remember to give yourself a little ‘wiggle room’ for creativity too.
That’s our ultimate guide to planning a styled shoot for your photography business! Do you have any other tips you’d like to share? We’d love to know!
Watch out for our forthcoming post ‘ The Ultimate Guide To Getting Your Work Published!’