How to Plan a Styled Shoot as a Photographer

May 10, 2017

How to Plan a Styled Shoot
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Styled shoots. I still remember when I first learned about the concept of a “styled shoot” and I was so… confused, blown away, amazed… A bunch of vendors putting together a fake wedding for fun? For their portfolio? To flex their creative muscles? To show the world what their ideal wedding would look like? What an amazing idea!

Over the last two years I’ve been a part of quite a few shoots, and I wanted to share some of the things I’ve learned along the way.

First and foremost, styled shoots are a lot of work for all parties involved. I know they look beautiful, but there is a lot of planning, coordinating, time, money, and stress that goes into these.

  1. My first piece of advice would be to make sure you have a clear vision, so that you’re not wasting anyone’s time. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but having a concept of what you’re trying to accomplish is appreciated. Create a Pinterest board and pin to your heart’s content. Everything doesn’t have to fit quite yet, but you want to get the ideas out there in one space. If you don’t have a clear vision, consider asking a planner, stylist, or designer to help. Spend some time describing your ideal couple. What venues would you love to photograph? What colors do you love? What wedding blogs inspire you regularly? A stylist can help create a mood board for you. Mood boards are filled with 4-8 images that are the base inspiration for a shoot. I love checking out Burnett’s Boards for inspiration.
  2. Have a goal for your shoot. Are you trying to get featured on Style Me Pretty? Southern Weddings? Make sure you know your target blog – and do some research. Southern Weddings (and a lot of other blogs now) doesn’t take many styled shoots, so be mindful of that. Also, don’t be afraid to reach out to the editor ahead of time.
  3. Once you have some direction, the next step is reaching out to vendors. Do your best to find vendors that align with your style, especially as a photographer. I shoot film and have a brighter style, but some planners or florists love working with photographers that have more of a dark and moody style. Even if we put together an amazing styled shoot, they may never use the images because it doesn’t fit their brand. Styled shoots need to be beneficial for everyone – and you’ve got to respect that. When drafting emails, be thoughtful and respectful. Introduce yourself, if you don’t know the vendor. Tell the other vendor why you love their work, or how you found them. Introduce the concept of your shoot, tell them who else you’ve got on board, and explain why you think they would be a great fit. If you have some specifics to share with them, include that information (what size cake you’re looking for, or how many centerpieces you’ll need). Let them know what the goal of the shoot is.
  4. Once you’ve got vendors on board, organizing your Pinterest board is a big priority. Edit the captions to indicate specifically what you loved about a pin. Delete pins that are no longer applicable. Create an entirely separate PDF if you need to with specific vision and inspiration so that nothing can be lost in translation. With all of this, you also need to balance trusting the vendors to “do their thing.” You asked them to join for a reason, so try to give them some creative freedom as well.
  5. Be prepared for speed bumps. Almost every single shoot that I’ve worked on has had something go wrong days before the event. A Rent the Runway dress was no longer available. Our models have backed out (which resulted in my husband having to step in…. oyyyy). The cake has been the wrong color. The rain has caused us to reschedule and find an entirely new venue. Table cloths haven’t fit the table. Things will go wrong, and you’ll need to be flexible. There isn’t much you can do about this at this moment, but it is something to consider as the date of your shoot approaches.
  6. So who pays for all of this? Well, I don’t think there’s a written rule about this, but typically, if I initiate a shoot, I at least discuss covering the hard costs with every vendor. Yes, this adds up, and maybe I’m the only one who does this, but that’s how I roll. Flowers are expensive! U-hauls aren’t cheap. Stylists will purchase items to fit the style of the shoot. Beyond hard costs, a lot of professionals are charging for their time now, especially if they have a high demand to assist with styled shoots. Be mindful of this and have a discussion about it up front. Many vendors will be happy donating their time in exchange for images from the shoot.

In the next few weeks I’ll be sharing some tips about photographing a styled shoot and what you can do to ensure everyone gets what they need to out of the shoot!

Have any specific questions? Shoot me an email:!

Need help getting your work published? Check out this post.

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