Styled Shoots: Why I Do Them, and How They Can Help You
Styled shoots seem to have become quite the “thing” in the photography world. If you don’t know what a styled shoot is, a styled shoot is a collective, group effort between a variety of vendors coming together to produce a BEAUTIFUL mock wedding, or other grand event.
These are great opportunities for all involved. The photographer gets to photograph something beautiful, add something new to their portfolio, and perhaps practice new techniques. The other vendors involved are also blessed by receiving professional images of their products that they are able to use for their own marketing. Speaking of marketing, this is an amazing way for all vendors to network with one another.
Within the last few months, I have put together 3 different styled shoots. I love it because I get to do what I love, photography, and get as creative as I’d like. Although styled shoots are A LOT of work (I’ll go into all the details below) they are definitely worth it in my opinion! I’ve shot some of my best work on these shoots, and adding these shoots to my portfolio have gotten me a tremendous amount of jobs. I now prefer to plan my own shoots, often when I attend styled shoots put on by other planners, it's packed with loads of other photographers. It's hard to get a shot without someone's elbow getting in the way, everyone has pretty much the same shot as me, and it's difficult to find time to be creative since everyone has a different vision of how the model/models should be posed.
If you’re looking into planning a shoot for yourself, consider your goal with it. My biggest takeaway from the shoots that I’ve put on is: KEEP IT SIMPLE! All you really need is a model willing to pose how you ask them to, a great wardrobe and a killer location! In the past I pulled out all the stops; tons of jewelry, florals designer dresses, hair and makeup artist, inviting other photographers, vintage cars, alpacas ect. It became too much for me to handle all of it! Maybe if I was an actual event planner this would be no problem, but it was a problem because when it came to the shoot. I couldn’t even focus on my models and shooting what I had envisioned and planned for. If you’re one of those people who knows how to handle it all without batting an eye, then go for it! And please teach me! But as for now and for the future, I’ll be keeping my shoots simple.
Next, let's chat money and vendors. I’ve gotten so many people asking me how I get to collaborate with such awesome vendors? It’s actually not a huge secret how I get these amazing brands to work with me. All I do is ask! And sometimes they say no, but most of the time they say yes! Think about it, every business needs photos, and most people would always say yes to free marketing! Styled shoots can be a win win for everyone. What I do when I have an idea for a shoot, is I shop around Pinterest and put together a mood board for the shoot. When I reach out to vendors I send them that moodboard, give them some additional details about the shoot and then I let them know what I would need from them. When doing this, BE SPECIFIC! Don’t just say “I love your ___. Please just send whatever you’d like and I’ll use it in the shoot!” Honestly that doesn’t sound professional to me. You can say something like, “all of your products are beautiful, I would love to use the ______ in the ___ size. If you don’t have that available, I also love the ____ or the ____.”
For my shoots to keep costs, everything I’ve been sent has been free. I do have to ship it back and that shipping costs money! The only time I’ve paid for something for a styled shoot is when I hired professional models and for florals. It's not a necessity, but if you do find a model that is perfect for what you envisioned, don’t be put off by having to pay for them. Yes, you can also find a model who is willing to do it for free for their own portfolio. But if they are in the position to charge for their time, they are most likely going to be an even better asset to your shoot. I normally find my models through Instagram or other photography related Facebook Groups after doing a model call. My very favorite floral designer in the whole wide world is Laura from Blue Bell Florals. I'm serious, she did the florals for my own wedding and made all my Pinterest dreams come true. For just about every styled shoot I have asked her to collaborate because of her amazing work. When I want something specific for a shoot, I'm willing to pay for her services because flowers cost a lot.
To help cover expenses, I invite other photographers to join me in exchange for a ticket fee. This is a fun opportunity to meet others and really learn from other creatives! Some styled shoots are filled to the brim with anywhere from 10-20 photographers. As I mentioned before, this doesn't work for me and I don't benefit from the shoot as much. From those experiences, I keep my shoots as small and intimate as possible with maybe only 3-5 photographers. Yes the prices may be higher for all of us, but I'm able to get a much better and larger gallery in this situation.
All in all, styled shoots are so much fun. They're a lot of work but its a chance to truly create artistic images and experiment with different ideas.
Let me know if this inspires you to plan a shoot out! As always, comment if you have any questions!