Denver Photo Betties

Planning for a Styled Shoot - Tips from photographers

EducationThe Betty BoardComment

When just starting out as photographers one of the hardest things to do is to sell your work when you don't have much of it yet.

How many of you remember (or are still facing) the chicken and the egg conundrum.  You need photos to showcase your work and book clients, but you need clients to have work to showcase to future clients.

There are many ways to get around this at the beginning, whether it is by offering free services, begging your newly engaged friends to let you take photos of them, finding opportunities to 2nd shoot, and planning a styled shoot.

Styled shoots are a great way to meet people in the industry, shoot the type of client you want to shoot, and build your portfolio.  Not sure how to start?  You can do it all on your own if you have to by crafting up a storm, baking or buying some yummy treats, and finding a married couple who is willing to tromp around in their wedding attire.

As you become more established you will build relationships with people in the industry who will want to embark on a creative project with you and the next thing you know you're seeing your artistic vision come to life in front of your eyes.

But since navigating a crazy day on a styled shoot can be a bit overwhelming, especially if its your first shoot, here are a few tips from myself and some of your fellow Betties.

Photo by Ashley Kidder of Urban Safari Photography

Photo by Ashley Kidder of Urban Safari Photography

1. Think super creative and design shoots around inspiration
There are a ton of styled shoots being done these days and the goal of most professionals is to get ourselves published!  With the hundreds of publications out there, there are lots of options, but there can also be a ton of competition, especially if you choose to do a shoot with a theme that is popular that season.  

To make sure you stand out in the publishing world, choose a theme that isn’t so mainstream.  Draw inspiration from movies, books, TV shows, international holidays, local festivals, stores, magazines–but put a spin on it that keeps your shoot original.  It needs to stand out, not only for its beauty, but for its originality.  If there is one thing Pintrest is good for, its for figuring out if something you want to do has been done before.  If it has, you can bet you’ll find evidence of it on Pintrest.  Then you can find ways to make yours different.

Plus, your photos will be much better if you love what you're shooting.

Photo by Rayna McGinnis of Rayna McGinnis Photography

Photo by Rayna McGinnis of Rayna McGinnis Photography

2. Start planning early, but not too early
It’s important to plan early enough to allow included vendors time to work their magic.  They need to plan, shop, design, and create and you want to give them the time to craft something that meets their best standards.  However, many vendors aren’t booked as far in advance as photographers, so its important that those on board also have time to manage their own clients and business.  By giving them enough time to plan, but not approaching them so far in advance that they have no idea what their schedule will look like come shoot time, you ensure that they’ll be creatively focused and excited about the vision of the shoot.  I’ve found that four to five weeks before the shoot is an excellent time to nail down collaborative vendors.

Photo by Jennie Crate of Green Blossom Photography

Photo by Jennie Crate of Green Blossom Photography

3. Work with a planner
It can open up great doors for referrals later since they see your work first hand and post it on their portfolio, usually with your watermark. Plus planner usually have access to contacts in the wedding industry that we, as photographers, might not.

However, when working with a planner it is important to be on the same page about the vision from the very start so that all of the decisions you make along the way are cohesive and on pint with what you want to photograph.  You'll also want to figure out your individual roles within the shoot.  Many planners are very detail oriented and they may want to have a certain amount of control within the styling of the shoot.  Make sure you have open communication along the way and that you each know your roles and expectations of each other.

Photo by Ashley Kidder of Urban Safari Photography

Photo by Ashley Kidder of Urban Safari Photography

4. Book the venue early in the process
 Once you decide on a theme and a timeline for the shoot, I’d recommend booking a venue early.  Many wedding venues won’t be available on weekends, so plan your shoot for a weekday, keeping in mind that the venue may be closed a couple of days during the week to compensate for being open on the weekends.  Once you have a date and venue, it’s much easier to reach out to potential collaborative vendors.  Putting the big details in place early shows vendors that you have a plan, you’re organized, and you’re committed to the shoot, so they’re more likely to want to commit themselves too.

Photo by Rayna McGinnis of Rayna McGinnis Photography

Photo by Rayna McGinnis of Rayna McGinnis Photography

5. Plan extra time into the day
As much as we photographers love to shoot in the ‘golden hour’ before sunset, trying to plan a styled shoot to finish then is a surefire way to shoot yourself in the foot.  Traffic may be bad, hair and make-up might take longer than you anticipate, you may have to set up things as you go if the weather is bad, thus taking away the ability to simultaneously shoot one thing and style the next.  

I'd recommend planning the timeline to finish at least AN HOUR before sunset, thus giving you contingency time.  Plan to finish all important shots (especially details!) by that hour before sunset time.  Anything after that is pure bonus.

Photo by Jennie Crate of Green Blossom Photography

Photo by Jennie Crate of Green Blossom Photography

6. Don't forget the details!
Details are an important part of any styled shoot and they're paramount to being accepted for publication.  Make sure you pay attention to the styling of your details and photograph them in as many ways as you can come up with.  Not only do the details enhance your artistic vision for the shoot, but they're often what your vendors want to see photograph of, since the details highlight their work.  

Make sure you communicate with your vendors before the shoot, or one site, about what kinds of shots they're looking for out of the shoot.  Since they're putting in the work, they will want something that they can use for their won marketing purposes.  Nothing sucks worse for them than seeing a beautiful shoot where the photos of their contribution don't meet their expectations.  By being up front with each other at the beginning, you can avoid tension and hurt feelings at the end.

Photo by Jennie Crate of Green Blossom Photography

Photo by Jennie Crate of Green Blossom Photography

7. Play nice and always, always, give the finished product to your vendors
You may think its common knowledge, but its worth mentioning.  

Be nice to your models and be nice to your vendors. You never know when a model might turn into a future bride or a vendor will recommend you to a couple because they like your work style.

In addition, your vendors put lot of time, effort, and hard work into a styled shoot and they deserve access to un-watermarked photographic evidence of their talent.  They deserve the right to use your photos in their marketing efforts, whether on their website, Facebook page, business cards, brochures, etc.  Hopefully they’ll credit you, but even if they don’t the relationship you build with them throughout the process will be far more valuable than a tagline on a website page.

So what do you say Betties?  What is the most important thing you've learned from doing styled shoots?  If you have a great shoot to share, post it in the comments!

Vendor Credits for the Urban Safari Photography Photos:
Denver Fashion Truck | http://denverfashiontruck.com/
Pretty Bride Shop | http://www.prettybrideshop.com/
MENTE | https://www.facebook.com/mentefreelance
Chairs with Character | http://chairswithcharacter.com/
The Perfect Petal | http://www.theperfectpetal.com/