Styled shoots are an excellent and fun way to build your portfolio to attract more clients, but they can also get a little tricky to navigate. While your job may be about photographing real weddings, a staged or styled wedding could help you evolve the way you shoot and establish relationships with wedding vendors and coordinators in your local area. Styled shoots typically include all the aspects of a real wedding – the vendors, the venue, sometimes even the couple – without being a real wedding. In this blog, we will guide you through some aspects of styled shoots so you can decide whether they are something that would benefit your photography business.
How Styled Shoots Can Help Your Photography Business
1. Building Your Portfolio
Styled shoots are your creative vision come to life. Organizing a styled shoot not only adds another tool to your toolbox, but it also gives you the chance to build your portfolio and perhaps make it more diverse since you can pick any wedding theme you want. Once you have these images in your portfolio, you can share them with prospective couples to give them a better idea of what they can expect from you. You can also use images from styled shoots to “show what you sell.” In other words, if you want to go in a specific direction with your photography style, styled shoots allow you to show that style so you attract more customers who want what you want to offer.
2. Direct Your Dream Styled Wedding
Use styled shoots as a way to direct your ideal dream wedding for your portfolio. As a photographer, your main job is to document the wedding, but with styled shoots, you get to have a say in all the details, big and small, for the wedding you will be photographing. You – and likely the coordinator – get to collaborate on your theme, color palette, location, and so much more. Also, taking the director’s seat means you’ll walk away with a better idea about how wedding planning works and, therefore, can help guide your couples when they are planning their weddings. If you are looking to get inspiration about planning these shoots, Pinterest is a great place to look at what is trending.
How to Organize Styled Shoots
1. Planning First
To curate a successful styled shoot, the planning stage is extremely crucial, so don’t worry if you find yourself taking a long time to finalize your plans. From deciding your vendors to the details that will be included, you want to make everything count. Creating a mood board online or even getting out your sketchpad and writing things down are great ways to collect your thoughts and ideas. Once you have an outline of everything you want to include, the next steps will be more manageable.
2. Setting Expectations and Agreements
While this may be a creative process, you should still try to have some set expectations as you prepare for styled shoots. Having all your vendors and everyone else involved in the shoot on the same page will help streamline your tasks, and it will also give everyone clarity on their roles and responsibilities. You might consider drafting a formal written agreement and distributing a copy to everyone involved. This could include items like budget (not to exceed a certain amount per vendor), expectation for when to arrive at the styled shoot or when to deliver the items needed, expectation for posting images after, the timeline for image delivery, indicators of publication process (if you plan to try to get published) and a list of everyone’s IG or other social handles with a reminder that, when posting, everyone should receive appropriate credit.
Also, be sure to have model release forms ready for anyone participating as a model in the styled shoot. This kind of release should specifically give permission for the images taken of them to be shared on social media, websites, and publications. If you need some advice on creating and using model releases or contracts, check out our friends at the Law Tog or become a member of PPA for access to all their pre-written legal documents.
3. Finalize Your Budget
The goal for a styled shoot is to gather a group of creative professionals willing to contribute in-kind time and products and thus minimize overall expenses. Even though this is the goal, it’s important to be aware that there are still costs involved. Florists still have to pay for flowers, invitation or stationery artists have printing costs, bakers may have ingredient costs if they are baking real cakes or desserts, and coordinators also may have rental costs if donations cannot be procured on things like food, linens, cutlery, table decor, decorations, and furniture. The hope is that everyone will donate in exchange for being credited and being part of the creative endeavor. If not, try to set a budget while you are in the planning stages and make sure everyone is evenly contributing.
Try to finalize a slightly larger budget than you need. This will ensure that if there are any unforeseen financial emergencies on the day, you still have some funds to cover them.
4. Get Your Collaborators On Board
This is one of the most important steps when planning styled shoots. Since you will have multiple vendors joining you on this project, explain your vision to them so they can also get a better idea of what is expected from them. Spending extra time on this phase could help you get the best vendors on board. And don’t worry if someone you want to involve doesn’t want to participate. Have a back-up list prepared and reach out to multiple vendors if you need to.
Related Read: How To Build Trust With Wedding Vendors
Are Styled Shoots Right For You?
While nothing can compare to a real wedding, styled shoots allow you to get creative, go deep into portfolio building to show off your skills, and better understand the wedding planning process. Networking is another advantage that you get from styled shoots. It can be inspiring to meet different vendors who share the same creative vision as you and build relationships with them that might turn into business opportunities in the future.
Further Read: A Roadmap To Market Your Wedding Photography Business
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