Over the past few years, styled shoots have gotten a bad rap in some wedding circles. They say things like, “People with no experience can look like rock stars!” and “They set unrealistic expectations for couples planning their wedding.” We hear you! These comments can sometimes be true but, done correctly, styled shoots can be an excellent tool for building a team. They can increase visibility and raise the bar for you, your team, and even your local wedding industry.
The key to a styled shoot is to make the idea sellable. Even a fantasy concept needs to have parameters. A concept should be something that, even if out of the box, can be replicated and sold to potential clients. Over-the-top ideas can be fun, but that often means no one will ever ask for that design. And, your typical client probably can’t afford the elaborate creations.
Tell A Story
Create a narrative—much like a screenplay—that takes the concept from beginning to end. Include stage notes, shots, and specific details. This will allow you to not only have a marketable concept but a shot list and wish list for including wedding pros.
For wedding planners, styled shoots can be an excellent way to try out a new photographer, floral designer, or hair and makeup team. You can get to know their work before recommending them to your clients. Offering a new venue the opportunity to be involved in the shoot not only gives you the chance to work with someone you haven’t worked with yet, but the venue can see their site fully dressed in the images from the photographer. It’s a win-win collaboration. But, make sure the concept you create works with their vibe and target market.
Getting to see the responsiveness, communication, timeliness, and ability to take direction from your vendors is important to know before referring them business. For the pros involved in creating the concept, it can be a fantastic way to get in front of a wedding planner or venue you’d like to work with. A roughed-out concept and suggestions for other team members are essential before pitching your idea.
Once you have a concept, script, and are starting to develop a team, be sure that the people you are inviting to the shoot are well represented. Few things are more frustrating to wedding pros than investing their time, talent, and hard-earned money into creating something that is never photographed and showcased. Editing your storytelling and shoot list to include the people you have called on is only fair.
The Smallest Details
A styled shoot should be a total collaboration—no egos—just a team effort to showcase everyone’s work in the best possible light. This means no "drop-offs." Few people will see the creases and wrinkles in the linens like the linen company. Or, a wedding planner focused on setting several vignettes might not be focused on the fire extinguisher or airwall that the photographer sees in their lens. But, it's important to be patient and let everyone do their best work so they're satisfied with the final product.
More Than A Couple
A couple is an essential part of any styled shoot. It is a wedding, after all. However, a submission with dozens of images of the couple without the details of the day can be off-balance. Not only does it not showcase a well-rounded story, but it isn’t fair to all of your partners.
Credit Where Credit Is Due
Be sure to develop a complete list of everyone involved. Make it part of your planning process to ask how each company wants to be identified. Are they a wedding planner or a wedding designer? Are they a florist or a floral decorator? Double-check everyone’s proper business name. Too many times we get comfortable with the people we work with and abbreviate the correct business name. Collect everyone’s web address and social media information and distribute the entire list to the team after the shoot takes place. Make sure not to overlook anyone. There are several styled shoots (and real weddings) that forget to include the names of the officiants, DJs, and videographers who supported the efforts but were "off-screen." Putting careful thought into the process and utilizing a styled shoot to connect and work with new wedding professionals can be a fantastic way to build your team.
Hero photo courtesy Aly Ann Events and Dear Lovers Photography