If you have been in the wedding-world as a bride or vendor for any amount of time, you have likely seen or heard about styled shoots. This is always a subject that gets lots of questions from my friends, family, and followers who are not part of the wedding industry.
What exactly is a styled shoot?
'Styled shoot' is a shortened version of 'styled photoshoot'. It's a collaborative event conducted by any number of wedding vendors, and they are super fun to witness! The basic idea is this: Wedding vendors love to be creative, and our work always looks best as part of a whole picture -- a wedding! When working with real couples we don't typically get to choose the other event vendors, the theme, or location, but in a styled shoot we can control all those variables and put on a faux wedding.
Styled shoots are a great way to flex our creative muscles and work alongside each other to show our future clients what we can do.
There are a lot of different ways to conduct a styled shoot logistically. Some are all volunteer-based, some are paid, and professional shoots can be multi-day affairs with scores of different photographers and paid models. The most basic formula involves all volunteered time and materials, and these are the best way to enter into the world of styled shoots, imo.
It all begins with an idea or inspiration. Typically a wedding planner, event coordinator, or lead photographer will plan a theme for the shoot and put together a mood board full of inspiration images, colors, and textures. This establishes a cohesive style for the shoot, and everything else about the day flows from this! After the theme is established, the coordinator of the shoot will begin contacting vendors to build an all-star team for the day. In this basic shoot formula, it is understood that vendors donate or volunteer their time and resources for the sake of the shoot - it's all free! In exchange for their services, they typically receive a gallery of professionally shot and edited images from the photographer(s). This is beneficial for everyone involved -- the photographer gets portfolio experience, all other vendors receive images of their work to use in promotional, social media, etc., and everyone has a great day of networking and creating beauty. It's a win-win-win!
So, how does the actual photoshoot work?
Since styled shoots are actually faux-weddings, they tend to operate like a wedding! It's an all-day event for the planners and certain vendors, though some vendors may choose to stay only during shooting time. In a well-organized shoot, there will be a timeline of events and time blocks for each photographer to work. Vendors arrive early to set the scene! Each shoot is different, but most will have multiple 'stations', which may include anything you would see at a normal wedding, like a ceremony site, a 'tablescape' (table + landscape = tablescape), a bar or hor d'oeurves station, a cake station, a flat lay or details station (my specialty! :), and. of course, time to shoot with the bride and groom! Since the purpose of the shoot is to highlight each vendor's best work, there is a lot of attention to detail in each station. Photographers have creative license to shoot wherever their eye takes them!
What happens after the shoot?
When the shooting time blocks are finished and all vendors have packed up their items, it's been my experience that everyone will sit and chat a while! This could be a small-town midwestern thing :) The shoots that have been most beneficial for me creatively and professionally have ended in a de-briefing time where vendor stick around and we all talk about the day -- timing and flow, organization, creative aspects to change, potential themes for new shoots, and generally re-hashing the day. I think this de-briefing time is crucial in the learning process. It's always good to know what worked and what could have been done differently!
Any time ranging from days to weeks after the shoot, photographers will put the finishing touches on their galleries and share with the vendor group. From here the photos can be used for social media, websites, creative portfolios, or any number of things! Always check with the photographer to find out if s/he has any stipulations on the sharing or use of their images. It's always good professional etiquette to credit the photographer and other vendors when sharing images as well! Typically the shoot coordinator will compile a list of vendors' names and social media handles to make sharing and crediting easier for all involved.
In addition to having new content for sharing your work, photographers or shoot coordinators may aim to have the shoot published. Publishing can happen through any kind of online or print editorial dealing with weddings. Typically the person submitting the shoot for publication will write up a mini-blog post about the shoot, including the inspiration story and sharing select images to feature the vendors' work. Publication is beneficial for vendors' exposure and networking. It also helps get their work in front of brides who are looking for fresh, new ideas!
Some of my favorite styled shoot experiences...
I've had the privilege of coordinating one styled shoot, and it is not for the faint of heart! Coordinating takes so much time and effort, but the final result is so worth the energy. It's a very rewarding creative exercise!
In this shoot, called Wildflower Whimsy, I drew inspiration from the mismatched blooms of late summer that grew along the sides of country roads. Their color and beauty struck me and I knew we had to bring this vision to life! I worked with an all-star team of talented vendors to coordinate the shoot and pull everything together. I'll write up a full blog about this shoot sometime soon, but for now you can see a vendor list at the end of this post!
Another of my very favorite shoots was named Honey & Whiskey. I loved the mix of dark masculine and sweet vibes in this theme! The stationery suite was my very first that I designed and had professionally printed, so it has a special place in my heart.
All Honey & Whiskey photos by Sara Campbell Photography
All in all, styled shoots are a way to:
- network and build working relationships with vendors
- flex those creative muscles - step out of the box!
- create gorgeous content for your digital presence
- gain exposure through social media sharing and publications
- have FUN and be creative!
More questions about styled shoots?
Leave a comment, email me, or reach out on social media. Let's chat!
Wildflower Whimsy Vendors:
Venue: Black Bird Farm
Florist: Frances Floral Design
Bridal and Menswear: Sisters Bridal Boutique
Cake: Spencer's Sugar Shop
Stationery/Signage: Whimsically Warm
Furniture Rental: Aspen Jean Planning
Makeup: Beauty By Paige
Hair: L Marie Hair
Models: Dylon & Samantha Lause, Paige Peterson
Catering: Cloud Nine Cafe
Ashley Ray Photography
Sara Campbell Photography
Rebecca Maag Photography
Lindsey Wafzig Photography
Annie V Photography
Nandy Vijay Photography
So The Story Goes Photography