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How to Plan a Styled Shoot

Updated: Mar 2, 2021

Styled shoots are something I've only recently become aware of, but have thrown myself into head first. What are they, you might be wondering? Styled shoots are a fabulous opportunity for creatives and suppliers in the wedding industry to collaborate and receive advertising and promotional benefits.

Each supplier (florist, model, gown designer, venue owner etc) will supply his or her product or time for free to create a very real appearing wedding. This benefits everyone involved. The photographer gets the opportunity to expand his or her portfolio and the suppliers receive free, professional photography to use as they wish. Furthermore, should the styled shoot turn out nicely, it will often be accepted by a magazine or wedding blog, a fantastic opportunity for everyone involved to receive free advertising to potential clients.

This post will give you all of my personal tips I've learned along the way and arm you with everything needed to plan and throw your own styled shoot.

1. Before Planning Your Own, Attend Someone Else's

This is perhaps the most important point I'll make. Do not attempt to plan your own styled shoot before ever having gone to one before. If you're a photographer, offer to photograph one that someone else has planned. If you are a bridal gown designer, offer your dress to be used in someone else's shoot and stick around for the day to watch. This is particularly important if you are not a wedding planner, as many of us (myself included) are bound to forget the small details vital to a wedding. Attending a styled shoot will allow you to learn all the necessary components and moving parts that you need to incorporate in your own. Furthermore, having some experience under your belt will cause suppliers to trust you with their time and products. This was me and the team at the first styled shoot I ever shot - I definitely learned a lot this first time.

2. Join Facebook Groups

Joining a Facebook group for styled-shoots is the first thing you need to do. The one I currently use is 'Styled shoots for wedding professionals to collaborate - UK', but there should be one for almost all countries. On this page, you'll find over 4,000 people in the UK who are keen to offer their services to create a magical wedding. Joining this page, or a similar page, is important not only for styling your own shoot, but also finding others that you can partake in if you're not quite ready to host your own yet.

3. Create a Concept and Moodboard

Before trying to get suppliers on board, it is essential that you have a very clear concept of the type of wedding you'd like to create. This includes colors, location, style, and theme. The more effort you put into creating a clear and concise moodboard, the easier it will be for vendors and suppliers to understand your vision and get excited about participating. See below the moodboard for the most recent styled shoot I've been planning. This particular moodboard got over 200 responses for people wanting to be involved when I posted it to Facebook.

4. Get a Wedding Planner Involved

If you aren't a wedding planner yourself, it would be very helpful to get a wedding planner and/or wedding stylist to help you. Even if you want to want to make the majority of the decisions yourself, wedding planners offer valuable insight into things you may not have thought off. They'll remind you that you've completely forgotten to secure tables and chairs for the venue, show up with a dress steamer and safety pins, and help set up venue while you are busy shooting the bridal prep (or doing whatever it is you're providing). Overall, it's their job to think of things that you'll likely forget about and they can add some real value to your shoot!

5. Create a Shot List and Schedule

When planning a styled shoot, it's your responsibility to ensure that everyone involved benefits. People are often providing hundreds if not thousands of pounds worth of materials to be photographed, so it's important to do them all justice! In the chaos of the day, it's easy to lose track of the smaller details (rings, cutlery, napkin holders) and sometimes completely forget to photograph them. This can result in some very unhappy suppliers. To avoid this, create a shot list detailing everything that has been provided, and everything you need to make sure you photograph.

Equally important is creating a strict schedule for the day. With these kinds of shoots, lighting is everything. Don't let time get away from you and before you know it, the sun has gone down. Work with your team, ask hair and makeup how long they'll need, ask the stylists how long they'll need to set up, and create an hour-by-hour schedule of what you're shooting and when. Air on the side of caution and leave a little bit extra time for everything.

6. Don't Forget About the Legal Stuff

Planning styled shoots are fun, and it's easy to lose track of the fact that there are real businesses involved. Make sure you have the proper paperwork in order to protect yourself from unforeseen problems (unlikely as they are). If you're the photographer, remember to send out contracts to everyone involved to ensure your own rights to the photos, and in return, give them full access to the photos you provide them with.

7. Have Fun!

Throwing a styled shoot is a lot of responsibility, but it's also a lot less pressure than a real wedding. If your camera settings are off and you miss the model walking down the aisle, you can simply ask her to go back and do it again! Play music, make new friends in the industry, hone your skills, and have fun!

Feel free to leave any tips you've learnt along the way in the comments below!

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