Styled shoots are crucial for the wedding and photography industry, so it is important as you are entering the industry to know what goes into planning a styled shoot. If you’re new around here, I have planned and been a part of MANY styled shoots throughout my photography career. Styled shoots are so important for creatives and vendors, not only do they help you gain experience and master your craft, but they also help you to connect with amazing people all throughout your industry! Though styled shoots can be a lot of work and can take quite a bit of time when planning, trust me they are SO worth it!
A styled shoot is a collaborative event in which photographers work with other vendors to create inspiration or content that reflects the work they are wanting to show off. Styled shoots are crucial for the wedding industry as they help vendors show off their latest work, help artists explore their craft, and set trends for the upcoming season. They also allow you to network and work with other creatives in the wedding industry which is huge.
There are so many reasons you should start planning a styled shoot if you haven’t already. They are such a great and rewarding experience whether you’re an experienced photographer that’s been in the industry for years, or you’re just starting out in your career.
If you’re new to the photography industry or any other subset of the wedding industry, you should look into planning a styled shoot as they’re great ways to grow your portfolio and gain experience in working in the industry. They help you to get some real experience under your belt without the pressure of a wedding or other shoot involving actual clients which is great when you’re first starting out. There’s no do-overs at a wedding, but with a styled shoot you have a lot more flexibility to try new things and really start to get a feel for your camera and for photography in general.
If you’ve been in the industry for a while but you would like to pivot and change the client that you are serving, styled shoots are a great way to create and showcase work that will attract your new ideal client. Styled shoots let you experiment with any sort of style or look that you want so you can really get creative with it! This allows you to get new photos in your portfolio to attract your new ideal client, something that may just not be possible depending on what photography work you had prior.
If you are moving to another state, planning a styled shoot is a great way to get to know new venues, and show new potential clients that you have experience in the area that you plan to serve! Getting your foot in the door with clients in a new state can be difficult if you don’t have any work to showcase from there. Building up your experience and having something to showcase to potential clients in your new area is crucial to building your reputation and getting you booking your ideal clients.
Also relevant to those new to the industry or who are planning to move, making vendor connections is HUGE and one of the best parts of styled shoots. Not only will it help your creative process, but it’s also great for referrals and essentially working with your friends! It will help both you and your clients as you’ll be able to connect with other wedding creatives and grow your network which will allow you to recommend different vendors to your clients if they’re struggling finding the right ones for their wedding.
Before you start planning your styled shoot you will want to begin by gathering inspiration. When gathering inspiration you will want to think about your ideal client and who you will want to attract with this styled shoot. What kind of vendors do they work with? What kind of things do they like? Do they have a certain style or feel to their wedding? If you want to photograph couples eloping in the mountains, you’re not going to plan a styled shoot at your local ballroom.
Other questions you’ll want to ask include what kind of colors might they be attracted to, what style of outfits might they wear, and what type of vendors might they want to work with? Once you have a few ideas in your head, log onto Canva or Pinterest and start to put together a board of inspiration.
When securing your venue, know that you will most likely have to plan your styled shoot on a weekday during off season, especially if you are planning to collaborate with wedding vendors. If you’re planning to use a wedding venue, make sure you reach out pretty far in advance, as venues book out early. If you plan to have your styled shoot in a public park or another type of public land, make sure to secure a permit if necessary and ask for any rules regarding the space. Be sure to do your research before booking your venue and get the ball rolling early when it comes to booking so you get the venue you’re after.
Once you begin planning your styled shoot you will want to set a rough budget. There are a number of fees that come with planning a styled shoot that you will want to be aware of. Permits, model fees and florist fees are some of the most common. Some venues might require proof of insurance as well so you will want to make sure you have that set.
As for vendors, though yes, if you are a photographer you are providing your vendors with free photos, they are still investing their own time and money to get supplies for your styled shoot. Make sure you plan to either split the costs or compensate them for their time and materials. If you can’t find certain vendors you can always DIY aspects of your styled shoot although this will add to your workload which is something to be aware of and plan for. If you plan to open up your shoot to other photographers, make sure to take into account how much you plan to charge for tickets in the pricing.
When looking for models for your styled shoot, Facebook groups and Instagram are great places to start. There are couples on Instagram that actually do this for a living! You can hire them to be a part of your styled shoot. Friends, past clients or model calls on your instagram feed are also great ways to find people to model for your session. If you know other photographers or vendors that have done styled shoots in the past you can also ask them for any recommendations.
Once you have a mood board and have begun the planning process for your styled shoot, you can begin to reach out to vendors. You will want to be sure to have a plan and a mood board before reaching out to the vendors so they know exactly what they’re getting into. Some vendors are open to pure collaboration when it comes to styled shoots, many vendors who have to spend money in order to participate in the styled shoot often charge a fee to cover the costs of materials.
One of the most important parts for planning a styled shoot is making sure to have a contract in place with your vendors stating what you’ll each provide and when. It will help to make sure people don’t back out last minute, take things seriously, pay fees on time etc. You’ll also know exactly what everyone will be providing and it will help to keep everything much more organized and structured.
Remember things don’t have to be a full production. DIY weddings and DIY experiences in the wedding industry are just as relevant. Make your own bouquet, if a model can do their own makeup have them do so, whatever you need to do to make the styled shoot work and happen, do it! They’re some of the most valuable and fun shoots that you can be a part of and any work you put into them will pay off.
Once you’re done with your styled shoot, treat your photos just like any other wedding or session. Remember, vendors involved will be waiting for your images so get them done sooner rather than later. Then after you’re finished, I highly recommend writing up a blog about the day and sharing it with the vendors as well. Upload your images to your gallery sharing platform for potential clients to be able to see and then you’ll also have easy access to the images for social media etc.
Once you’ve done your styled shoot you will want to make sure you edit your gallery just like any other sessions. Once your styled shoot is edited, use the images in things like blog posts, email sequences, and PDF’s to provide inspiration for your clients as well as potential clients. Remember when posting images you want to post images for the clients you’re trying to attract more of. So the more images you post from curated shoots like styles shoots, the more likely you’re going to book clients who like that style for their own wedding.
Now that you’ve worked with a phenomenal team of vendors, you can create a preferred vendor list for your future clients! This will help you and your clients as well as help other vendors out. When creating a preferred vendor list you will want to have it ready for future clients to access as they’re planning. This can be listed in an automated email, a hidden page on your website, or PDF for your clients!
Once your styled shoot is edited and put together into a gallery, consider submitting your work! Companies like Two Bright Lights help photographers to choose where to submit their work to and help with the entire process. Wedding magazines local to your area are also a great way to use the work that you’ve created. For example because I am a Wisconsin based photographer I might submit to publications such as Wisconsin Bride or The Wedding Magazine Green Bay to share my work.
Since starting my business styled shoots have been CRUCIAL to my growth as a photographer and business owner. I love being a part of them and I am always dreaming up my next one or looking for new ones to attend! To check out more of my recent work from styled shoots, or more information on how to plan your own, head over to my blog.
Venue – Villa Filomena, Milwaukee, WI
Concept, Planning, & Florals – Mariah Bormann Photo
Planning – Dream Weddings WI
Invitation Suite – Stupixels
Cake – Van Dyke Cookies and Cake
Models – Maddie/ Emma
HMU – Emma
Suit – Amazon
Tie – Dazi
Dress – Shein
Earrings – Beckhill Co