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How To Plan Your Own Styled Shoot

After getting a lot of questions about how I run my styled shoots, I finally compiled some best practices so you can do it, too!

For the video version, click here.

I did my first styled shoot in the spring of 2018 with another group of creatives, and I assumed only photographers and planners could run a styled shoot. I'm not sure what gave me that impression, but I'm here to tell you - that's not true! Any creative or wedding pro can put one together.

If you've never attended a styled shoot, I definitely recommend looking into some opportunities in your area before starting your own. That's easier said than done for some vendors, but joining local or national styled shoot Facebook groups can help you find people who may be searching for your services. (Want to join mine? Click here.)

Firstly, what are the benefits of styled shoots?

This is a time to showcase your work, experiment, and try new things. If there's something you've always wanted to try, now is the time! If you are the one coordinating or styling, you have total creative control. You can match the content to your feed, your style, and/or your ideal client. Let this be a time to show potential clients that you are amazing at what you do.

If you're a photographer or videographer, this is an awesome time to try new gear, or new lighting - anything you might be nervous to try out for the first time at a wedding.

Styled shoots are a huge way that I've grown my business in the past two years. It's an excellent way to network with other vendors. You're stuck at a venue for a few hours with these people, really getting to know who they are and how they work.

In addition to just spending the day with them, every time you or someone else posts from the shoot, every vendor gets credited and tagged. Clients and vendors will start to recognize your name, and the next time they need a [insert wedding vendor here], they'll go "Oh! That other vendor I follow just did a shoot with that person, and I bet they're awesome."

Here are some things to think about before planning your own styled shoot.

1. Profit or Not For Profit

Are you going to welcome other photographers and/or videographers onto the project to shoot beside you for a ticket price? If there's one exclusive photographer, likely it would not be for profit.

I recommend doing many styled shoots that are NOT for profit first before ever thinking about trying to make money with them. Whatever role you're in, you can also coordinate, plan, and/or style the shoot. If that's not your strong suit, consider bringing on a planner, stylist, or designer to make it pretty!

Once you've got some ideas, you'll want to make a vision board - basically just a collage of pictures - to show other vendors what kind of themes or colors you'll be using. This is mainly to show them what your shoot will look like so they can get a feel for whether or not it will fit with their style.

2. Vendor Team

Who are you inviting onto the shoot? Most styled shoots are done as a courtesy in the wedding industry, meaning you aren't paying vendors to be a part of it. But, this isn't always the case, so you should be sure to be transparent when reaching out.

I think people get really nervous about asking vendors to be a part of their shoot, especially under the premise that they're doing it for free. It's not as hard as you think! The worst thing that can happen is that they say no, and you can move on and ask someone else instead. A lot of people in the off-season really want to be a part of styled shoots, so it truly doesn't hurt to ask!

I've done a mix of things when assembling a team – reaching out to tried and true friends who I know might be interested, and messaging the biggest, baddest names out there hoping they'll want to be a part of it (spoiler alert: sometimes, they do!). It doesn't hurt to have more of a strategic plan here, complete with back ups if your top choice says no.

The coordination part is mostly in the beginning. Getting everyone on board, keeping track of them, and making sure they know where to go and when. I make a spreadsheet for each styled shoot I coordinate, including their name, business name, contact information, and how their items/services are getting to the shoot.

3. Communication

The MOST important part of a styled shoot is that everyone knows what's going on! I email all of my vendors once my team is assembled, just to say, "Hey, I'm so excited to work with everyone! Here's the date, time, address, etc." I also let them know I'll be working on a timeline, and I'll send that along with any other special instructions once we're closer to the shoot.

I also like to send a list of all our instagram handles to make it super easy to copy and paste to tag everyone! If you're working at a venue with tricky parking or additional directions, definitely make sure to include that in an email, too.

Another thing I always think about for a full-day shoot is a meal. Just like a wedding, you want to keep your energy up. As a courtesy, I like to buy lunch for all of my vendors, especially if they're donating all their services and time. You could also tell them ahead of time to pack a lunch, or if there's a nearby cafe or restaurant that can be a good option as well.

4. Diversity

For the first year or so, I didn't think about this. I just took who I could get, and a lot of times that's just how it is starting out. But, I would encourage you to sit down and really think about how you can incorporate diversity and representation into your styled shoots. That goes for your models AND for your vendors.

I've gotten a lot more conscious of having people on my team, models and vendors, that are LGBTQ+, people of color, and plus-size. Especially if you plan to submit for publication, I encourage you to think about what kind of bodies and people are being represented in your work, and through the wedding industry.

Overall, styled shoots are supposed to be FUN! If you're hating them, maybe it's not the right move for you. But if you've never been a part of one, I think you should give it a try!

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