So you've got a photography business, had your fair share of family and senior sessions and are looking to connect with the wedding world. This leap isn't easy, and I remember when I was on the edge of this precipice, I was a little more than intimidated. I had no idea where to even begin to start attracting brides to my business and to gain experience. Now, there is a whole other blog post I could do (and maybe will do in the coming weeks if you think it would be helpful!) of ways I prepped for the wedding industry and got my foot in the door so to speak, but today, I want to focus on one of the best things I did for my business starting out photographing weddings... styled shoots! I get a lot of questions about how I plan, organize, and execute my styled shoots, so I hope this post will be helpful and an encouragement to you that NOW is the best time to get started shooting weddings regardless of whether you have any booked or not. I did four styled shoots last year and one this year, and they all were amazing learning experiences for me. But before I get into some tips for the planning process and best practices of styled shoots, I want to explain a few points on how valuable these can be to your business:
1. Increase your vendor connections.
This is likely the most important part of any styled shoot. Connecting with other professionals in your industry (no matter what it is) is one of the best things you can do for your business. Not only do you gain friends in your location who are encouraging and fun to work with, but you also get to build a list of recommended vendors to refer your clients to and hopefully get your name on some recommended vendor lists as well!
2. Build your personal brand.
Since styled shoots are planned by you, you get a lot of creative freedom to make it what you'd like it to be. Does you brand implement elements of blush and navy? Make a styled shoot that reflects that so that when you share your images on your site, it'll look so amazing!! This is your chance to incorporate branding consistency into your images in ways you just can't do when shooting a wedding someone else planned.
3. Gain publishing opportunities.
Last year as I was starting out in the wedding industry, I planned a executed a total of four styled shoots. It was a lot of work but so worth it! I ended up joining Two Bright Lights for a short time and vigorously started submitting my work from three of the styled shoots. I am so humbled and excited to say that the ones I submitted made the cut to be published on Borrowed & Blue this summer! Not only does being published lend credibility to your name, but it also gives your business's online presence a little boost as it gets linked to wedding blogs that brides constantly use. Click the links below to see my features on the B&B site!!
4. Build your portfolio.
This is a pretty self-explanatory reason and probably the biggest reason you may want to do a styled shoot in the first place. After all, it's hard to attract brides when you don't have samples of your work to show them! Styled shoots allow you to manipulate your shooting situations in a way a normal wedding day just won't. You get extended time with the bride and groom that you just don't get on normal wedding days. You get lighting and backdrops that you sometimes just don't find on normal wedding days. It's just an all-around good time for any photographer who wants to grow her portfolio or get to showcase their best work.
My Styled Shoot Formula
My formula for styled shoots is quite simple. I start out by first brainstorming my vision for the shoot. This includes creating a inspirational Pinterest board and thinking through colors, theme, and possible vendors and models. Next, I send out my inquiry emails to vendors. I start off with one vendor in each category and have a list ready with other potential vendors in case the initial ones don't work out. More often than not, I get "yes" responses on the first try which initially was surprising to me but super exciting! Vendors typically like styled shoots because they too can use their creative license to make something they've been wanting to try. I've included a sample of the email I use to email vendors and ask for their help below. Feel free to use this and tweak it to fit your needs! Once I start getting responses, I start formulating a tentative timeline and list of definite vendors. I then communicate the details and vision of the shoot to everyone on the team and let the magic of the creatives collaboration happen. I try to send out a reminder and final check-in email about one week in advance of the shoot just to touch base and give any last minute details. I've also included a sample timeline of one of my styled shoots below. It's so nice having so much time for details and bride and groom portraits because those are my absolute favorite parts of wedding days!
Sample vendor inquiry email:
My name is Nichole Martinson, I’m a local photographer in the area (owner of Nichole Lauren Photography). I am currently putting together a wedding styled photo shoot and in the process of putting together an amazing team of vendors to help create our vision. We plan on submitting the images to blogs like Style Me Pretty and Borrowed & Blue.
The reason I am writing is I am looking for an amazing bridal boutique willing to provide a wedding dress for our styled shoot. We would love to have you join our team! In return for your generosity, you would receive all of the edited digital images for your own marketing and advertising purposes, as well as credit to your business if we are successful in getting published. We are tentatively looking at September 9, 2017 to host the shoot.
Would you be interested in working with us? We would absolutely love to have you! Thank you for your time, I truly appreciate it!
Sample Styled Shoot Timeline:
Everyone arrives - 2:30 pm
Hair & Makeup - 2:45 pm
Reception detail shots - 3:30 pm
Bride & Groom Portraits - 5:00 pm
Sunset - 7:39 pm
These images are from one of my favorite styled shoots that I did a little over a year ago. This vendor team was phenomenal. Many thanks to:
Dress: The White Magnolia
Venue: Gassaway Mansion
Floral Design: Gassaway Mansion
Paper Suite: 37th and Lettery
Hair & Makeup: Cotton Rouge
Cake: Couture Cakes
Thinking about planning a styled shoot? I'd LOVE to hear how it goes, and I'd love to know if this post was helpful to you! If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to reach out!
I love travel and adventure. I love seeing things from new perspectives. I love to find good food in exciting places. And I love making moments last for as long as possible.
Follow along for behind-the-scenes on Instagram!