Styled Shoots have become increasingly popular lately - and for good reason! Vendors like; florists, bakers, dress designers, hair/makeup artists, calligraphers, videographers, photographers, and even venues can all gain exposure and creative inspiration from participating in a styled shoot!
What is a styled shoot?
So what is a styled shoot and what are the benefits? There are a couple variations, and each have their own purpose. As a photographer, you may find a lot of "Content Days or Retreats" being advertised by others in your industry. These are styled shoots, often with tickets being sold, with the primary focus being on getting fresh content for your portfolio. Often they will include a specific niche or trend, at a specific location, and often include 5-15 other photographers/videographers. These can be a great opportunity to network and get creative with others, as well as boosting your portfolio with more freedom to shoot in a location/style that is different from your norm.
Similarly, Photography Education Workshops (days/retreats) will often include a Styled Shoot portion on the agenda. These are often mixed in between talks by other professionals, to help you grow in all aspects of your photography business. Educators will often guide you through a shoot, giving tips and tricks; and then give you space to practice! While these are more expensive, they are well worth the investment. You get the opportunity to learn and network with other creatives, as well as take more time to invest in your business.
Another option for a Styled Shoot is to set one up just for you. By getting a couple (models, real couples, or past clients can be an option.) And then you can team up with your desired vendors and have complete control over the vision of the shoot. This can be a great idea if you're looking to transition into a different niche or want to create certain photos that you haven't had the time or creative control over in your client work.
How you can use a Styled Shoot to grow your business
Styled shoots are an incredible way to grow your business. Whether you are starting your business, pivoting into a new niche, or changing your style, styled shoots are a way to share what you want to shoot. They allow you to share work that targets your ideal audience, and get the work that excites you.
1. Helps you gain real life experience
When I was first starting my business, I grabbed friends, put them in wedding attire, and brought them out in nature. I knew I wanted to be an elopement photographer and bring couples into the mountains, but I couldn't do that without showing my future couples that I COULD do that. How can you expect a couple to trust you with their elopement day, if you've never actually documented an elopement day? When you create your very own styled shoot, I challenge you to make it feel like a true elopement day. If you treat your model couple as a real life eloping couple, you will gain confidence, have a lot of practice, and refine your workflow and techniques.
While it's ideal to make money right away, it's also a huge ask to have a real couple trust you with the best day of their lives. Take initiative and gain the experience through styled shoots before you book real eloping couples - even if it's just once! OH, and once you do start receiving inquiries, you'll be able to use these styled shoots to confidently talk to your potential clients about their day.
2. Use the photos for content
A styled shoot can be helpful in terms of creating content. Whether it be blog posts, social media, or even pinterest, having a styled shoot can be great for marketing and driving customers to inquire with you. When creating your styled shoot, consider how you will use the photos to make couples feel like you're the expert. Will you show them how a full elopement day will look? How about a blog post about pros and cons of a first look? Or maybe you ask your models to bring along a few friends so you can write a blog post on how to elope with friends.
Styled shoots help create content for information you want to provide. Have a clear goal of what you want to get out of the styled shoot beforehand. Write down the pieces of content you want to talk about, and make sure you get imagery that you can connect!
3. Have a creative outlet
Having a shoot that you own, and don't have the pressure of creating because your clients paid you, is a huge sense of freedom. It allows room for you to just play. Try new techniques you've been wanting to work on, practice new prompts on getting your couples comfortable, or just simply create. Below are some examples of creative practices you can focus on:
- Composition: work on composing in nature and landscapes. Get a variety of far away and close up photos.
- Flash: maybe you are struggling with flash. Grab a couple and try different techniques whether that is indoor or outdoor. Get comfortable with your flash before an actual couples day.
- Props: if you're trying to add more texture, excitement or vintage vibes, try some props. This could simply be a feather, a plastic baggie, a pair of tights, a disco ball, etc.
- Camera techniques: slow down your shutter, try a blurry photo, focus on the background, etc.
How to Plan a Styled Shoot
If the idea of creating a specific content day and creating connections with other artists inspires you; consider hosting a styled shoot! Whether it be just solo, or you open it up to other photographers and videographers; you can still make beneficial connections with other vendors, AND boost your client experience! If you're totally lost on how to actually get started on planning a styled shoot, here are some clear guidelines on creating a successful one.
1. Define your goal
First and foremost, identify what your goal for the styled shoot is. Are you hoping to just be creative to try out new photography techniques? Or maybe you're hoping to shoot more in the woods and by waterfalls, and need more content to show potential clients how it could look. The goal should include the purpose of the shoot, the content you're hoping to get out of it, and how you envision it helping grow your business.
Here are a few examples:
- When I was first starting out with elopements, I asked a couple who was eloping if they'd hike and model for me. I needed more content that showed eloping in the mountains. So we created a mock elopement in the mountains, and then I had content to blog about Adventure Elopements, and social content showing couples in the mountains. After that, I was getting so many inquiries for hiking elopements.
- While I was booking my dream clients and dream elopements, I really wanted to show how although they are eloping, they could still create a beautiful reception. So I asked wedding planner, By Emma B, to use her magic and create a stunning dinner set up for me. By having this content, I will be able to create blog posts and share on social media how epic my couples could make their mini reception.
2. Create a Mood Board
Start by browsing Instagram and Pinterest for current trends in your niche. Whether that be in elopement photography, weddings, or couples shoots; there's SO much inspiration. Create a Pinterest board and save any ideas; color pallets, outfits, wedding dresses, flat lays, etc. From there head to Canva and create a mood board highlighting your theme (colors/photos/location.)
3. Decide on your budget
Technically, you could grab a couple who already has wedding attire, bring them to a public location, and do your thing. Then the entire styled shoot is FREE. However, if you are trying to add in vendors, real models, and create something with a bit more detail, you may need to splurge a bit. I'd recommend creating a budget that you'd be comfortable working within. This budget could include purchasing details, paying professional models, and paying vendors/buying their materials. Or you may really want to do a skydiving elopement, and in this case you may have to spend money on those experiences!
4. Collaborate with Vendors
While this is an optional step, it can really BOOST your end result! You could DIY the entire shoot, but if you want to go all out then consider adding on other vendors! Reach out to those in your area (or the area you will be shooting in.) Styled shoots can be mutually beneficial (free content photos for advertising) and some vendors might jump at the chance to be included, either for free or at a discounted rate. However that is not always the case, and be open to paying the full rate for a vendor you really want to include!
5. Send contracts
This can be an overlooked step, but is very important when working with others. When working with models, you need to have a contract so they actually show up, and of course so you have a model release (you know, so you can legally use their faces on your website). For vendors, you also need a contract so the terms you both have agreed upon are in writing. This may include how they are able to use the images, and making sure they give you full credit on their social and websites. You can find contract templates at The Legal Paige, who specializes in contracts for creatives (a lawyer and photographer herself!).
6. Create a timeline & set expectations
No matter how simple your styled shoot is, you will have others involved (even if it's just models!). Therefore, you really want to make sure they are well prepared and know how the day is going to go. Creating a timeline will help ensure people are on time, everyone knows when to be complete their task, and makes the day go smoothly. Share the timeline and expectations at least a week beforehand so everyone is on the same page.
When it comes to expectations, also being clear about how you envision the day going is really important. How relaxed do you plan to make it? Is the timeline tight and there is no room for set backs? Talk about what you expect up front, so there is no questions on the day of.
If you are a photographer and have vendors present, they are also helping you and dedicating their time. Make sure to ask them beforehand if there are any photos they are hoping to get for their own marketing. This helps with relationship building and connecting with others as well.
7. Have the best day!
Everything is prepared, and now it's time to CREATE! Have fun with it. Take breaks. Remember that this is for you and your business. All those involved are there to help, so don't be afraid to ask for it. Create a space that you are able to take a step back and make sure you are getting everything you were envisioning.
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