It’s no secret that we’re passionate about real weddings, but we’re equally captivated by styled shoots that inspire creativity, intention and richness in modern wedding designs. Styled shoots involve a series of conceptual weddings vignettes created by a team of vendors with similar aesthetics to bring a unique design concept to life and essentially show the world what each team member is capable of. You don’t have to wait for a client to ask for you to have full design freedom – with styled shoots, you can (and should) fill the void in your portoflios because it’s these unique inspiration stories that can influence trends seen in real weddings across the world.
Styled shoots can be a hot topic among vendors because it’s a love it or hate it relationship. Some perceive styled shoots as a regurgitation of what’s currently trending and some see it as an opportunity to expand their skill and networking horizons. The first is the reason why many are feeling burnt out from these, and why they can feel like they look the same. The latter is why styled shoots started in the first place and the reason why they are paramount to many wedding businesses to this day.
Content marketing is a great way to boost SEO in your niche and location. Styled shoots or editorials are all about practicing, building your portfolio, having creative freedom and using the images as a marketing strategy for social media and website and even to receive press. These editorials can replace traditional advertising while producing content for your own channels.
There’s a glut of styled shoots these days so having a strategy and process behind them are key to creating editorial content that truly stands out from the crowd.
Styled shoots have been sticking around for a reason: they’re worth the investment. And trust us, we know they can get expensive without having any guarantees. We’d be lying if we said they weren’t a risk, but there’s great value in everything that results from planting the seed. From the portfolio building and vendor networking to SEO and name recognition (or at least introduction), when done right, they can put you one step closer to attracting your ideal client.
So here’s how you can collaborate with other vendors to get started on your styled shoot:
1. Nail down your style and who your ideal client avatar is
First you need to define who your ideal client is. Branding is a topic you hear everywhere in workshops, online, in courses and everywhere in social media, and there’s a reason for this. I know, it’s a word tossed around and you’re probably rolling your eyes, but hear us out. Everything you create comes back to who your ICA (ideal customer avatar) is. It’s the foundation of your creative business.
The client experience starts the moment they find you, from going to your website, to your email responsiveness (and voice), all the way to the type of content you’re creating and what you’re sharing on your own blog and social media channels.
If Styled Shoots are for gaining experience and creating something to show to your clients what you’re capable of, then knowing what they like and want to see will be the building blocks to any styled shoot you’ll create and participate in.
2. How to find and source vendors for your styled shoots
Once you know what direction you’re going with your shoot and know who you want to attract, it’s time to source vendors who are aligned with your aesthetics. When you’re starting out, you might not have branding flushed out just yet with a custom site design or enough images to show your style the way you want, but you’re a woman (or a man) on a mission and you know where you’re headed.
These are simple ways you can source vendors in any location you want to have your styled shoot in:
Instagram geo location: check out the “Places” tab and scroll through venues that are likely wedding venues and check out who’s tagging them or search for specific dream venues and under the tab places, see’s who’s tagging the venue. It’s a great way to see who’s in your area but also, who may already have a contact with the venue you want to work with.
Geography + vendor category: #brooklynweddingphotographers, #sandiegoflorists, #phillyeventdesigners
Vendor guides: look at the vendor guides from the blogs that match with your aesthetics and filter by location. This could also be beneficial if your goal is to published in those blogs as the vendor guide member may already have a better understanding of what the publisher is specifically looking for or if content calls are made, so you can narrow the direction of your styled shoot.
Recommended vendor lists from venues and planners in your area. Most vendors, especially planners, know who to recommend and often share lists on their sites. Like I’ve recommended before in Styled Shoots 101, create a master list of contacts for styled shoots so you have them handy.
Finding models: we personally love real couples. It adds emotion and intimacy to the images in a way that professional models can’t quite immitate, and it gives readers a more realistic feel to the shoot. Real couples make styled shoots relatable. Sometimes that’s not possible, or you’re out of time to send out model calls and ask past clients and you have to source models. Instagram can be great for finding freelance models who are starting out and who will trade for print (TFP). Search for your location + models “#bostonmodels” for example and try out a few variations to see who you find.
Facebook groups: there’s a bunch of great free FB groups specifically to styled shoots. You can find a lot of great vendors and brands to network with by posting ISO (in search of) posts. There’s one I highly recommend called Styled Social, have you heard? I even show my face there from time to time in FB lives 🙂
3. Don’t assume everything will be free
There are lots of great benefits to participating in styled shoots. It’s a chance to explore creativity and expand portfolios, but there’s also a considerable amount of time, energy and cost, that goes into bringing the visions to life. This is a tricky topic to cover, but one that’s important to discuss in the beginning with everyone who you’ll be working with in a styled shoot. Be upfront if your expectation is that it will be for trade but keep an open mind if someone comes back to you mentioning rates.
If you’re simply not in a place where you can foot a giant bill for this, think about which vendors you can reach out to that’s in the same business stage as you, but that shares your design style. Always think of how you can serve them and how they can benefit past the promises of being featured.
Some vendors may not have costs per se, but they will spend a considerable amount of time creating product for a shoot that could take time away from their own paying clients. Keep an open mind for receiving different responses to your pitches for styled shoot and be flexible.
Have a contingency budget for unexpected expenses such as dry cleaning heavily soiled gowns shot by water or muddy grounds, delivery and overnighting items for new products, model fees for last minute replacements or cancellations etc.
4. Who pays for what?
Typically, the one initiating the shoot is likely covering the bulk of expenses, though every vendor traditionally pays for their own costs. Florists typically incur the highest cost in most shoots since that’s the one element most if not all shoots have. Catering can get hefty depending on the shoot as well. Film also adds up pretty quickly depending on the length of the shoot. Shooting more than one wedding dress? Dry cleaning an get pricey especially if we’re talking multiple wedding gowns. Be upfront on your expectations when it comes to each covering their own costs and have an open line of communication to talk about money with all involved.
Clarify costs and expenses in your agreements as well as a friendly reminder.
5. When to say no to collaborative styled shoots
When the styled shoot vision doesn’t align with your ideal client avatar it’s perfectly ok to say “no thank you” to an invitation to collab on a styled shoot.
With the volume of styled shoots and workshops across the board, it’s likely you’ll be invited to particpate in them more often as your brand gets established.
Declining emails are never fun to write (how would we know), but a simple response is better than no response. The worst thing you can do is to leave someone hanging by not saying anything! Email karma says to be courteous of their time and don’t leave them wondering whether they received your email or not.
Your decline response can be simple as thanking them for the opportunity and shortly after say no. End your email on a nice note and send it right away! Don’t dilly dally, if you don’t feel it’s right for your business, you might get sucked into doing something to be nice then regret the whole time you’re doing it.
6. How to Pitch Yourself to other Vendors for Styled Shoots
This can be especially daunting if you’re starting out, but not impossible. You can seek out vendors in similar business stages or more established vendors that share your aesthetic.
Set yourself up for success by having a concrete vision with real elements previously mapped out. Do as much as you can beforehand to let them know you’re serious (i.e. scout venues, source tableware from a reputable brand, think about ideal timeline). Demonstrate what your style is and what aesthetics you’re after by sharing a mood board (espeically important if you’re just starting out!), and try to get them on a phone call or meet them face to face, as your ideas will likely translate better in person than through email. Let’s face it, it’s harder to say no to a human being!
As far as dates go, give your vendors plenty of choices and heads up. It’s likely the vendors you reach out to will have events booked on the weekends, so mid-week is best. As you pitch, share what’s in it for them. The book How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie might as well be a great guide on being your own publicist, because it talks about speaking to other people’s interests instead of your own. Keep in mind how can other vendors benefit from participating in your styled shoot and articulate them in your pitch emails. What’s in it for them? How can you serve them?
Be sure to mention your thoughts on submissions ahead of time if that’s a goal. Let them know where you’d like to submit and how you’ll be using the images on your own channels. Communicate all of your thoughts in a clear and concise manner, and be appreciative of their time for reading and responding to you no matter the answer.
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