How to create winning styled shoots
In the last week alone, I explained to two coaching clients of mine what styled shoots are and why they should consider them as soon as they start their business. It might be a very easy concept if you’ve been part of the event and wedding industry for a while because you have probably done it several times but, for a new planner or professional this is new territory.
A styled shoot (or photo shoot) is a photo session that is designed to capture a vision, an idea, a concept. It usually comes to life thanks to excellent teamwork, a collaboration between wedding professionals who provide their own talent with the purpose to increase visibility, inspire and attract future wedding couples (and, hopefully, get booked by them because they share the same taste) or inspire other professionals.
New professionals should create (or participate in) at least a couple of styled shoots as they venture in the event / wedding world in order to have images to post on their website and social media. The purpose is also to get acquainted with local vendors, work with them, and start creating relationships. Keep in mind that, if you’re the one putting together the styled shoot and you’re new in the industry, it will be a little challenging to get experienced vendors on board because 1) They don’t know you, 2) They aren’t sure if their time and efforts will be worth it. However, this is the perfect time to show you’re committed, dedicated, and you want to succeed in the industry. It will take a little time and you probably need to ask a few professionals before getting their YES but don’t give up. It’s part of your learning experience, of your career. We all have to start from somewhere and little by little we’ll get there.
If you are a planner, you’re most likely the creator, the genius behind the styled shoot. However, anyone can organize styled shoots: very often photographers or floral designers do that with excellent results.
Let’s take a look at what’s needed in order to make this happen and get the recognition you deserve.
What is your vision? What are your ideas? Colors? Theme? Style? Era? Where will you get inspired? I usually look at the work from other planners and from big designers to see what’s trending, and I’ll do something different. You can follow the latest trends however, designing something unique will allow you to stand out more. Pinterest can be a great source of inspiration but don’t just copy other people’s work. Add your own perspective, add your own creative flair. There are a multitude of styled shoots being submitted every single day because they’re becoming extremely popular, and yours needs to be unique in order to get the attention.
Look at the styled shoots that are featured on the publications or blogs you’re planning on submitting the images to.
Consider what is requested by editors, usually you can find information on their websites under “Submit your event or styled shoot”. There you can find a list of details and useful tips on how to create the concept and see what can draw the attention of their audience.
I always create a vision board where I gather all the elements, textures, colors, fabrics, and everything else that I’m thinking of. It doesn’t have to be perfect at the beginning, this will be the starting point that I will show to my vendors before we put the finishing touches together.
Once you have the vision in place, you should plan for the use of the shoot. In other words, how will the images be used? Will you submit them to a blog or a magazine? Is there a particular story that will go with the images? Will you write the story or is it ready to go and it just needs a visual component? Will the images be used for your website? Do you need to build your portfolio, maybe to promote a new service (you will expand to event design)? Or for a social media campaign?
It’s very important that you know which publications or media outlets you will target; that way, you can coordinate the shoot and include certain elements that are a big hit for that particular publication. Each blog or magazine has a different type of audience and a different demographic. You could also connect with the editor before you execute the styled shoot and pitch your idea to them to see if they’re interested and if they have a particular request. Maybe they’re looking for a metallic color palette, or something with Ultra Violet which is Pantone’s Color of the Year for 2018. They might even have a team of professionals as their advertisers that they’d like to be involved so they can feature all of you on their publication. For them it’s an added benefit to show their advertisers, more exposure and strategic collaborations.
The team involved in the styled shoot can be small with just a few professionals or involve a large number of event partners, it all depends on the vision and on the type of production.
This team usually involves:
- Photographer (and a videographer, in some cases) to capture all the awesomeness
- Designer and / or planner who come up with the overall theme or style
- Stationery designer
- Floral designer
- Rental company
- Specialty linen company
- Favor company
The list can go on and on.
If you decide to have models, you will need:
- Brides and grooms, wedding party
- Hair and makeup artists
- Wedding gowns and men’s attire
- Accessories (shoes, jewelry, etc.)
This is probably the hardest part in my opinion because you have to find the right professionals, the ones who completely get your ideas, the ones who can translate your vision and make it a reality. If you already work with the same team, good. But if you want to find new vendors, or work with some vendors who are amazing and you know they can deliver excellent results, you need to form the “dream” team.
Also, you will need to make sure they’re great team players, we don’t want primadonnas fighting with each other, or trying to sabotage other people’s ideas because they’re jealous or they don’t cooperate easily. My recommendation is, ask around and find out if the vendors you have in mind are great as a team or not. It will only be a one day’s work but everything must be perfect and you don’t want to deal with drama.
It’s very important that you communicate very clearly about your vision, your ideas, your expectations, and the goals of the styled shoot so that everybody is on the same page and you all work on the same goal BEFORE you decide to have them in your winning team. Keep in mind that, the higher the return on the investment, the better chances you will have to get the vendors you want. You have to give them a valid reason to join your team.
I want to add something about compensation here. When I was talking with my two coaching clients last week and I was explaining about styled shoots, they were under the impression that vendors were expecting some sort of compensation, and they said °I don’t have the money to pay all the vendors I’d like to have on my shoot°. And you don’t have to pay them. Vendors know styled shoots are a collaborative effort where they donate their time, their labor and supplies in exchange for more exposure, strong relationship building, and to get booked of course. It’s considered an investment. There are no expectations about compensation, if they’ve done it in the past they now how it works. The worst that can happen is, they will say no if they can’t afford to spend a day using their resources, buying stuff or goods (like florists, for instance).
Once you have your winning team, it’s now time to share your ideas and create the masterpiece together by using each vendor’s talent.
While you brainstorm with the team, listen to their suggestions. You are the leader but having them involved is a great thing. If you chose them there is a reason, it means you know they are the perfect match, so let them shine! Remember, if you are a planner you shine thanks to your vendor team. They might have a great idea or addition to the plan that will make the styled shoot unique and magazine worthy. Maybe some of the vendors you’re working with have more experience than you in styled shoots and they know what works, what gets the attention of blog and magazine editors. Don’t underestimate the power of teamwork just like at an event!
Again, be very clear about the purpose / use of the styled shoot with the vendors, how they will be recognized, and what they are allowed to do with the images. Can they use them on their website? Can they blog about it? Can they share with clients and on social media? Do they need to sign a photo release with the photographer?
As with every event, the location is critical because it dictates the tone of your styled shoot. For this reason, you should select the location after the vision is in place.
Ballroom setting, outdoors, beach setting, urban style, whatever your styled shoot will be the location should follow the same style. Consider it like a backdrop for your hard work and it has to go together.
Consider the great relationships you have with venue managers in town. Will they help you be featured on some great publications?
Also, the location might be a key player in your shoot so don’t underestimate it. Are they advertising on any magazines? They could spread the word and land some great feature on a national publication, maybe… And, the styled shoot could even land you a place in their preferred vendor list if it’s magazine worthy!
You could design the whole styled shoot around the location, especially if it’s a landmark in your city and a favorite destination for wedding couples. This is a great selling point for you, and free publicity for the venue. Look for a win-win situation in this case where both you and the location can benefit from the styled shoot images.
I always schedule a walk-through at the location with the vendor team to make sure everybody sees it and gets familiar with it. Once you’re there you can explain the vision so they all know what you have in mind.
Yes, this is just like you’re planning an event or a party. The only difference is that you don’t have a client who dictates the style, colors, theme. Instead, you are in charge 100%. This is why I absolutely love styled shoots, my creativity can run wild!
Tip: Always keep in mind that the styled shoot should inspire wedding couples, it should show what you can do for them at their wedding so that they might hire you as their planner or designer. Make sure the setting is realistic and it can be used at a real wedding, you don’t need to create a fairytale setting that nobody will be able to afford.
I understand you have grand ideas but you have to work with real clients!
Like with every event or wedding, you will need to coordinate the entire day. Be specific on the times of arrival, who brings what, where to set up, what each vendor’s duties will be. Never assume anything! It’s a good idea to prepare a timeline with times and other useful details for each team member like parking instructions, unloading instructions, etc. If you expect a lot of décor pieces to be brought in, make sure that the delivery trucks will not arrive at the same time. Create a production schedule where the loading dock will be used by a vendor at a time to avoid chaos.
I should probably call this part “Execution” but for me it’s party time! I enjoy every single moment of a styled photo shoot and being on site to create the magic it’s always so much fun!
On this day all of your hard work and efforts will pay off, and you will see your vision come to life. Whether you are hands-on (like me) and you’re involved 100% with the creation, or if you’re just the director and you assign tasks to each of your vendors, make sure no detail is left behind. A styled photo shoot should have a multitude of details to show in the images so make sure each one is perfect: pressed linens, no wilted flowers, nice napkin fold, favors displayed at the place settings, chairs placed in front of the place settings, all the silverware aligned with the plates, glasses in the right position, and so on. Don’t miss any of these details or your photo shoot might not be considered for publication. This is also part of your talent, not only the creation. The execution is as important as the design part, it shows you’re truly on top of everything, from the big picture to the smallest detail.
When the styled shoot is done, thank each of your vendors and send them a handwritten note to show how you appreciated their work. It’s the least you can do, especially because there was no compensation.
When the images are ready, make sure each of you signs a photo release with the photographer that allows you and your team to use the images.
Now its time to submit the images to the publications you previously selected.
I talked about how to submit images to publications (whether they are from a real wedding or from a styled shoot) HERE.
You will need to check the requirements of each publication, sometimes they are listed on their website, and they even have a form to easily fill out with space for the details, information, a brief story, and all the vendors to include with links to their websites. It’s very important that you include them all, they MUST be credited for their hard work, it’s the main reason why they decided to participate after all.
Find out from the publication or blog if they ask for exclusive images. If that’s the case, you can’t publish them on your blog or on your website before they do, so don’t share the images with your vendors until the shoot is featured.
When the publication has featured the images then you can forward them to your vendors with links to the sites where the are featured, and celebrate!
Collaborations – Referrals
This is something that I always mention to my vendors when we work together on a styled shoot. If a couple contacts any of us as a result of the styled shoot that they found online or in a magazine, I encourage them to refer the other vendors who were in the shoot as well. That way, I try to keep the team together because we did an amazing job on the shoot and we can do an amazing job for that couple. When you support the other team players, they might return the favor pretty soon. And that’s how you get referrals and you create your team.
~~~ LEAVE A COMMENT ~~~ Did you just create a winning styled shoot? Share the details here! Was it published? Great job! Share the link here and let’s celebrate!
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Holistic Precision Life Coach, Brain Wellness Coach, and Life-Work Balance Strategist helping busy professionals and high achievers live and work better by prioritizing themselves. I use different modalities (epigenetics, neuroscience, chronobiology, and positive psychology) to implement effective lifestyle changes.