I want to talk to you a little bit about styled shoots. And just to be clear I am talking to people in the wedding industry, but I am also speaking to couples looking for a Wedding Designer. Styled shoots provide an insane amount of creative gratification. They are the majority of what you see on popular wedding blogs or on those wedding inspiration Instagram accounts you love to hate. But they also are sometimes just this: a creative outlet for the vendors involved.
What does that mean? It means they aren’t always a great source of attainable inspiration.
I get asked a lot of questions about styled shoots so let me dive a little deeper into them for you!
Why are styled shoots important?
I don’t do styled shoots because I want to get featured, I don’t even do them with the hopes that couples will see that inspiration and want that specific design for their wedding. I actually prefer to not do the same design more than once, because as someone who has always been creative, repeating designs isn’t inspiring to me personally. I will however work within the same design theme, just altered to better suite my couples stories – that way all of my couples are getting their own unique wedding look.
For me, styled shoots are a way to connect with other vendors, to build relationships, and to organically gain new followers in and around my area of work. And most importantly they are a way for me to let off some creative steam. To do things I might not normally get to do for a wedding due to logistics or budget restrictions. I also am able to work with vendors more closely so that I can accurately refer my couples to industry experts who I know will execute perfectly for them.
So how does a styled shoot work?
I get asked this question a lot on social media: how do I go about starting a styled shoot? The most important thing to remember is that styled shoots should always be collaborations. If you are going to dictate to a vendor involved what they are expected to do then that is more or less considered a job that should be paid for. But if you are willing to listen, share ideas, and truly collaborate – well that is usually when the most magical shoots come together.
My tip? I have a journal beside my bed, on top of the fridge, under the sink in the bathroom, and by my computer in the office. And every single time I get an idea I write it down (usually in the scratchiest writing ever because I am excited or half asleep haha). I also use the voice recorder on my phone A LOT! Sometimes these ideas are just that, ideas. Sometimes they actually work themselves into a wedding design instead of a shoot. And sometimes they are ideas that I have brewing for years and don’t actually see the finished piece for quite some time. Writing down your ideas is a great place to start!
Important things to consider when planning for a styled shoot.
So now you have an idea, where do you go from there? It is important to take into consideration who is the best fit to work with on your shoot, and always remember that everyones time is extremely valuable. Look at their range of work, their experience in the industry, and pair it with your own. Consider your brand and the brand of the other vendors involved before saying yes. You want to ensure it is a good fit for you. Look at the market, where are they located, are you actually going to get genuine client referrals based on working with them or are they maybe just a little too far out of your reach.
I also want to remind you to never give up. Start small, sign up for workshops to further your learning, and remember that styled shoots are actually not “free work”. Sometimes your first few shoots actually can cost you a lot of money while you build your portfolio up and your experience. If there is a photographer or florist you are dying to work with to amp up your own portfolio then be willing to pay them for their time or their supplies. Heck I’ve been doing shoots like this for almost 6 years now and I still set aside at least $1000 for every shoot I do. It is important to remember that it is a marketing investment, and a lot of the vendors involved have to pay out of pocket to be part of it. So remember when I said everyones time is extremely valuable? So is their product, so be sure to take extra good care of everything!
If you are a photographer interested in expanding your portfolio I urge you to check out The Portfolio Series! I will be sharing more on that later but all of the details can be found here.
What couples should know about styled shoots.
It is important to do your research before falling in love with a design. Some of the items used might not be an item that vendor has available in bulk and simply was just brought in to enhance the design of that shoot. For example with this shoot, 85% of the items used are unavailable to rent – they would need to be sourced from multiple locations and brought in (which can’t be guaranteed, and could be costly).
My advice is to look at a vendors work to get a feel for their style and match it to your own. One of the reasons I love styled shoots is because it gives me an opportunity to express myself creatively and show couples that I can work within any design theme – because when I am designing for shoots I am doing it for myself, but when I am designing a wedding I am always thinking of my couples wants, likes, and stories (which never fall into one specific design category).
That was a long ramble, I know. But it’s a big topic. If you have any other questions feel free to connect with me!
As for the shoot featured in this post, here are the deets about this day:
Design/Planning & Stationery // Shannon Bellisle
Photography // Tamara Lockwood
Florals // Forgather Floral Co.
Hair & Makeup // JK Glam
Dress // Ceremony Bridal
Bridesmaid Dresses & Yellow Jacket // Madame Babu
Getting Ready Location// Gold Stitch Studio
Cakes // Crumb & Berry
Catering // Common Good Cafe
Thanks for listening, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram if you aren’t already doing so! Until next time