First styled shoot…CHECK! What an incredible experience. Not only did it allow me to express some creativity that isn’t able to be expressed on an average wedding day, but it also helped me to understand the wedding industry even more. In just the six-ish years since Caleb and I have gotten married, the industry has changed so much! Planning a styled shoot helped me to understand what my brides go through on their end during the planning of their wedding. It has inspired me to do my absolute best to make their planning process as smooth as possible.
When Cara of Emerald City Events (wedding and event planner) and I decided to tackle a styled shoot, we went in sort of blind. I think she would second me when I say we had nothing but a vision and will to get it done! Even after I researched a little bit about styled shoots, I couldn’t find many blogs that gave specific advice to someone who was trying to plan his/her first styled shoot. So I thought I would do my best to pass on the knowledge I gained from this shoot to another photographer that finds his/herself in my same shoes some day!
Without further ado, the lessons I learned throughout the planning of my first styled shoot:
1. Go big or go home.
Don’t design an event that could easily be a real wedding. The point of a styled shoot is to make connections, build your portfolio, be creative, and potentially get published. If the event looks like it could be any wedding, it likely won’t get published and won’t be a great portfolio builder. Our shoot was absolutely gorgeous and had a bit of fairy tale whimsy, we likely could have gone bolder in some areas. I will keep in mind that it is okay to be outlandish next time!
2. Be firm on your vision.
And be sure that you communicate it. In order to communicate what you want, you must think out each and every detail before you propose your ideas to vendors. I have even heard of a photographer writing a story about the vision she had for her shoot and sending that to vendors to communicate her ideas to them.
When you are clear with the vision, they are clear on the expectation. With that being said, be respectful of the creativity of all the vendors involved, especially if they are donating their services. Remember, this is supposed to be beneficial to everyone involved!
3. Pay attention to the details.
I know I already said this, but it is so important. Think details like water in glasses, candles lit versus unlit, and napkins folded on plates versus hanging from beneath charger. The clearer you are with how you want these details before the shoot date, the less questions there will be for you and everyone else on the date. I feel like my background as a teacher and thinking through lesson plans and trying to anticipate students’ questions helped me with planning, but I still had things that I hadn’t thought about come the day of. Next time I will be prepared!
4. Don’t expect everyone to be helpful or cooperative.
Not everyone will be willing to help you…and that’s okay. You will find someone that will. Some people are not good at communication. Some people would rather do what they want without regard to the theme of the shoot. Some people won’t like what you’re doing and won’t want to participate. That’s okay. You don’t have to please everyone. Just remember to treat every vendor, regardless of their communication skills, vision, non-cooperation, whatever it may be, with respect. Being kind to someone even when they are not kind to you will go a long way and may result in a referral later on down the road. You never know.
5. Research blogs/publications to which you want to submit before the shoot.
Know what they want. Know what they look for. Know if they expect you to submit exclusively. Know whether or not they will accept images with or without candles lit (see a theme here?!). This will help you to know what you need to do the day and what information you need to disseminate to everyone involved before the day of. Make a master list of publication submission requirements for any and all places you plan to submit. Work those items into your timeline. Plan, plan, PLAN!
Overall, I consider this shoot a huge success! We had a lot of the details worked out before the day of the shoot and that helped the day to go (for the most part) smoothly. Also, going in with a mindset of grace was important for all the vendors involved, as most that were involved were “first timers.” With that being said, I can’t wait for the next styled shoot I am involved in and would love to use what I learned for the next opportunity! Like I said before, this also gives me a bit of a glimpse into the planning process my brides are currently experiencing, which helps me to better serve them…and I am so excited to do so!
These are just a few things I have learned throughout the process of planning my first styled shoot. There are many smaller items I have learned along the way as well. If you have any specific questions, comment below or feel free to contact me on Instagram (@thephotographyframework) or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I would love to help another photographer, planner, or any type of vendor with their vision and planning of their styled shoot!