If you follow my wedding photography blog, you may have seen my post about an editorial I shot with my team that was published recently on Wedding Chicks. I posted some behind-the-scenes clips on the day of this shoot on Instagram and got lots of questions about it, so today I thought I’d share my top tips for how to plan a styled shoot. This post will be helpful to you if you 1. are thinking of doing a styled shoot but don’t know how to go about it or 2. have done a styled shoot before but it didn’t go as well as you had hoped and you want the next one to be better.
Before doing anything at all, make sure you know WHY you’re going to do this shoot! Personally, I think one of the main goals of every styled shoot should be to get it featured on an online publication. Print is pretty great, too, but you can’t beat the benefits an online publication will have on your website’s SEO. The goals of this particular styled shoot were:
Next, it’s really important to determine your target audience so that you can keep them in mind throughout the planning and execution of the shoot. In our case, since one of the main goals of the shoot was to get it published in an online publication, I had to keep specific publications in mind. Not only did the online publications have to be in line with my own ideal client, but I also wanted to make sure the online publications had a high domain authority so that the feature would give all the vendors involved a quality backlink and improve their SEO.
This is probably one of the most fun parts about planning a styled shoot. You can either do this yourself, or you can do this with the event designer or planner you will work with.
Pick a location that aligns with your ideal client. Perhaps it’s a public location where your ideal client spends time and you’ll be able to geotag it in future posts. Perhaps it’s a private location that aligns with the clients you want to attract.
You’ll have to be really selective about who you bring on to collaborate with you. Not only do you want to work with a talented and professional team, but you also want to make sure that the work they create aligns with your target audience. During this part of the planning phase, you’ll want to choose your must-have vendors first. This will likely be the designer, planner, venue, and florist, as these vendors are the ones who you’ll have to work with to set a date. Make sure you communicate clearly what is expected from them for the shoot, if there are any costs involved, and what the benefits of the shoot will be. If vendors are not going to be able to cover their own costs, you’ll want to create a budget at this point as well.
Now that you have your must-have vendors, work with them to set a date. Since you’ve been very selective in choosing the top vendors for the shoot, you’ll want to make sure you are all available on the date selected *and* on an alternative date in case of rain. This shoot was actually shot on the rain date because there was rain forecasted for the original shoot date. It was an easy switch because all vendors were aware of the rain date in advance and had blocked that day out on their calendars. Make sure the rain date is the day after the original date so that you don’t have to incur additional expenses on florals.
Now it’s time to source the rest of the vendors, including graphic designer, calligrapher, dress / suit supplier, jeweler, rentals, etc. Just like you did with your must-have vendors, you’ll want to establish expectations with the rest of the vendor team. It is always best to do this in writing.
This is probably the hardest part of planning a styled shoot because you want models who will fit the look and feel of the shoot well while also staying within the budget allotted for this, unless of course you’re able to find models who agree to do the shoot for free. Important to note here is that you need to have the models sign model releases so that you can use their images in publication after the shoot.
A lot of planning goes into a styled shoot! Some questions to ask yourself include: How many set-ups will you have? What will be included in each set-up? What items will need to be sourced for each setup? How will these items be transported to the shoot location? Which of these items will incur costs and how will they be paid?
Create a detailed timeline for the entire day that includes arrival time for each vendor and ample time for each member of the vendor team to do their job. Send the timeline to the vendors for their input.
Styled shoots are a lot of work and you want to make sure you take all the images that will be necessary to showcase every vendor’s work in the best possible way. Do your homework and research the types of items the publications are looking for. Make a shot list of all the must-have images and be sure to consult it on the day of the shoot. You’ll also want to make a packing list for everything you’re responsible for to make these images happen. Don’t forget your styling kit! To find out what’s in my styling kit, check out my styling kit resource guide.
Since styled shoots are planned weeks, sometimes months in advance, you’ll want to stay in touch with vendors to make sure everything is coming along as planned. This is especially important for the vendors who are building or creating items for the shoot (arbors, floral arrangements, designing invites, making calligraphy signs, etc). You may want to have a meeting to talk about the details of the shoot.
Believe me when I say that you’ll need an extra set (or two) of hands for your shoot. Enlist help so that on the day of the shoot, you can focus on the photography aspect of it rather than be running around putting things in place. Also think about what your vendors need and reach out to them to find out. You’ll also want to think about the basic needs of your vendor team. Find out if there is a bathroom on site and address any question about meals.
You’ll want to confirm the shoot date with vendors 48 hours beforehand. If the weather doesn’t look like it will cooperate, this is a good time to reschedule, as it gives florists enough time to make adjustments to their workflow. In your confirmation email, you’ll also want to send along a full vendor list so that, if you are allowing them to post behind-the-scenes shots on the day of the shoot, they know which vendors to tag.
The day of the shoot will go fast! Make sure you work efficiently. Have a system for getting the best images during the limited amount of time that you have. Don’t forget your shot list! You’ll also want to create social media content during the shoot when possible. Part of doing a styled shoot is to get yourself and the other vendors in front of each other’s audiences. Create content that is shareable.
Make sure you reach out to the vendor team to thank them for their hard work and let them know the next steps. Their #1 question will be regarding when you plan to share the images. If you are submitting them to an exclusive publication, you’ll want to remind them of that so that they know the images will not be shared until the shoot is accepted and published.
As soon as possible after the shoot, back up your images and put a copy in a fireproof safe. I’m not kidding! I have a fireproof safe in my home whose main purpose is keeping my client’s images safe. A lot of work went into this shoot by a lot of different people so make sure the images stay safe. When it comes time to cull the gallery, do it with the publication in mind, but also with the vendors in mind. You’ll want to give each vendor access to images that they’ll be able to use in their portfolios and you’ll also want to submit a curated gallery to the publications of your choice. Find out how many images the publication will need and, if there is a minimum or a limit, be aware of those numbers.
Editors are looking for cohesiveness when it comes to editing. Make sure your images are edited in the same style and are uniform in brightness, color, and skin tones. Once you have your selection, create the submission including a detailed description and full vendor list with social media handles for everyone. Be sure to read submission guidelines for the publication where you are submitting so that you can follow all of their directions.
Most times, it will take weeks to hear back from editors so sit tight! If your shoot gets rejected by the first publication where you submit it, then submit it quickly to a different publication. Don’t get discouraged!
Now that you’ve gotten your shoot accepted for publication, celebrate! Inform all the vendors of the name, website, and date of publication and remind them of the expectations regarding the sharing of images. This is a good time to re-send the vendor credits so that on the day of the feature, everyone can post images and tag the vendors involved. Encourage everyone to share about the shoot on their blogs and social media so that you can increase everyone’s exposure.
To see the images from our recent feature on Wedding Chicks, click here for my full recap of the shoot over on my wedding photography blog. It includes additional images I supplied vendors with that weren’t included in the feature. Thank you to my associate photographers Marianne and Jocelyn for contributing their images to this shoot and to our assistant, Amber, who covered all the behind-the-scenes shots on the day of the shoot!
Are you planning a styled shoot and need help planning it? Or maybe you have questions about crafting a submission for publication. My work has been published in many places including The Knot, Style Me Pretty, Wedding Chicks, Inspired by This, Destination I Do, Wedding Chicks, Trends Magazine, Contemporary Weddings Magazine, Modern Weddings, Bay Magazine, Strictly Weddings, MODwedding, and more. Click here to learn about my one-on-one custom coaching sessions and let’s talk about how you can get your work featured, too.
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Hello there! I'm Alex! I teach hobbyist photographers how to take better photos and professional photographers how to build a thriving business. Here I share tips and resources to help you grow. Thank you so much for visiting my blog!