Styling your first shoot and adding or even creating your wedding + elopement portfolio can be a very tedious task. Take on your first styled shoot with confidence and have the resources you need to be successful in doing so, with the help of this guide.
WELCOME TO YOUR ULTIMATE GUIDE ON HOW TO PLAN A STYLED SHOOT.
We will keep your photography on brand, but most importantly ON BUDGET.
WHY STYLE A SHOOT?
Styled shoots are vital to all types of photographers. Whether your skills are in weddings, elopements, engagements, in-home sessions, wild adventure photography, or intimate moments that make your heart stop. Styled shoots are a HUGE part of running a business as a photographer because they can and should be used for portfolio building. Styled shoots can get you booked for weddings, second shooting, and so much more. #SHOWEMWHOSBOSS
MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHAT IS A STYLED SHOOT?
Great question! A styled shoot is no different than actors or models taking part in a movie. You, the photographer, can have full control over the shoot or collaborate with vendors to ease the workload. Taking on a shoot by yourself is a lot of work, I’m not going to lie. You have to create a concept, plan outfits, choose models, pick a location, balance a schedule, and so much more than I will get into shortly. However, teaming up with vendors (other people that are in the industry and want to help you in return for pictures or credit for their work) can make planning and coordinating much easier. Just remember, STYLED SHOOTS ARE LIKE MOVIES YOU DESIGN, DIRECT, PRODUCE, AND EDIT.
HOW DO I STAY ON BUDGET WITH A STYLED SHOOT?
It is important to remember that social media is a sort of glamour spell, we only see all the glitz and glam of the scene but never truly get a peek at how everything is actually done. A styled shoot can cost you no more than the gas money to get to your location. Communicate your needs to your models to find out what will and will not work from the outfits in their closets. Most women own a white dress (or another dress that can be considered nontraditional), and most men own slacks and a nice button up; this sounds like a nice casual elopement to me, I’ll see you there ;).
I'M INTERESTED IN PLANNING A STYLED SHOOT, WHERE DO I BEGIN?
You’ve come to the right place! I'm going to break down exactly how to put together a successful styled shoot and provide you the resources necessary to be successful when doing so.
HOW TO PLAN A STYLED SHOOT THAT IS ON BRAND + ON BUDGET
Five step process on how to style your first shoot.
Downloadable PDF guide so you can never lose these steps ;)
Downloadable .DOCX Shoot schedule template to keep you looking super savvy and organized.
JUST LETTING YOU KNOW,
Planning a styled shoot can be one of the best times of your photography career. I know the first time I was given the opportunity to do so, I was able to connect one on one with so many amazing people and my perspective of what it meant to be a photographer changed forever.
Getting to work with incredible people has taught me one really important thing though, THE SIMPLER THE SHOOT, THE MORE REAL EVERYTHING SEEMS. It may sound like cutting corners here, but this is the honest truth.
Most photographs that speak the loudest can be produced with the simplest of techniques; models with great energy, some clothes found in yours + their closets, an epic location, and great light.
Styled shoots don’t have to set you back hundreds, or even thousands of dollars. Models with high energy and a great location in combination with your confidence in yourself will make the world of difference and blow a shoot that costs bank out of the water.
FIVE EASY TIPS ON HOW TO PLAN A STYLED SHOOT THAT IS ON BRAND + ON BUDGET
#1 WHAT THE HELL DO YOU WANT TO DO?
What is your concept?
When I plan a styled shoot, I often go back and forth between what my concept is or what my location will be. I always keep my target market in mind, even while shooting and “posing” my subjects.
Ask yourself these questions…
Are you going to shoot something rustic, modern, boho, or traditional?
How much of an adventure are you looking for? (Make sure to take the trek into consideration when planning).
Is what I’m doing original or am I following a trend (if your following a trend, is it in your own way)?
WHO SPECIFICALLY do you want to target with these photos?
What does this shoot mean to you?
#2 PICK YOUR LOCATION
I am a CALIFORNIA ADVENTURE ELOPEMENT PHOTOGRAPHER, so you know I’ll pick somewhere that has every warning sign telling me not to do exactly what I came there to do. But you do you girl.
I traditionally search for lakes, rivers, mountains (sierras), or coastal areas.
This is also a good time to see if you will need any permits for the location you will be shooting at.
You can also look at Instagram to see recent photos of your desired location and narrow your choices to a few options to present to your team.
Check out my recent blog on finding EPIC PNW PHOTOGRAPHY LOCATIONS HERE.
#3 PINTEREST BABY!
I prefer to be overly prepared before I present anything to a possible team member or model I plan on working with. Create a Pinterest mood board titled “STYLED SHOOT” and fill it with every idea you have for your #goals shoot. Use this board to share with your team (assembled next step).
#4 FIND YOUR ALL STAR TEAM
Avengers Assemble :)
I traditionally do all/most of my research, in regards to location scouting, outfit choices, scheduling, how many outfits I am looking for, the weather (if it is predictable), what items the couple should bring, i.e., towels, makeup, hair brushes, extra shoes, etc.
Being over prepared is better than no preparation. I plan for the worst so we can have the best time ever.
SEARCHING FOR MODELS
Now, reaching out to models or doing what is called a “model call” or “vendor search” can be scary, especially if you don't get any responses. If you know of someone, a friend perhaps, that has some of the outfits you are looking for, then work with that person and put together a bridal shoot. If your friend is even more awesome, see if you can find someone to bring along and run around with you two taking photos, then get lunch or dinner afterward!
Styled shoots are supposed to be fun! MAKE THEM FUN! MAKE THEM YOU!
My recommendations for finding models + vendors:
FACEBOOK GROUPS + LOCAL COMMUNITIES: Put a post out and ask for exactly what you are looking for. Models love to work with new people, especially if they are newer to the area and are looking to create connections.
INSTAGRAM: You can't be hesitant here, send that DM, tap on that person's bio and send them an email. GET SOMEONE'S ATTENTION, SLIDE IN THAT DM. Someone will want to work with you because they can see how awesome you are.
#5 SHOOT THIS THING DAMMIT!
The key to a successful shoot, no matter the team, location, or expense. COMMUNICATION IS KEY! Everyone must have communication with each other to make the planning as well as the actual shoot date smooth. Put together a time plan, Group text, Group call, or FaceTime. Whatever it takes to remain on the same page as one another.
AGAIN, IT’S BETTER TO BE OVER PREPARED THAN NOT AT ALL.
No matter what, it will be epic.
Also, don’t forget to charge your batteries and bring your SD cards. (They are very important).
GET OUT THERE AND GET SHOOTING!!
Live beyond your fears of creating art, no one can stop you from being amazing.
Wesley Harden is a Senior, Portrait, and Adventure Engagement Elopement Photographer located in Northern California. Wesley tells your Intimate and Adventurous stories through photographs.