Styled shoots seem to be all the rage right now, but if you’re never done one before, they can seem a bit overwhelming to put together. Many times, a planner/stylist will take the lead on a styled shoot and the photographer is just in charge of taking the photos. However, it’s possible for photographers to plan their own styled shoots as well. I recently put together a styled engagement session based on the Disney-Pixar movie “Up,” and I love how the images turned out. Here are 6 tips for planning a styled shoot.
Photos by Claire Diana Photography
- Vendors! One of the best parts of styled shoots is that you get to work with other vendors. This is great for networking and future referrals! Especially as the photographer, you have the opportunity to give images to vendors and help them advertise their businesses. In return, the more vendors you have sharing your photos, the more advertisement your own business is receiving! It’s a win-win. Therefore, the more vendors you can incorporate into a shoot, the better. When submitting shoots for publication, wedding blogs and magazines like seeing a lot of vendor collaboration. Just make sure you take care of your vendors and get to know them so that you’re not wasting the networking potential. Be upfront with vendors about when and how you will be delivering images, and keep your word! If I were to do this “Up” shoot again, I would’ve spent more time tracking down vendors who could’ve contributed, such as getting an actual bouquet of flowers from a florist instead of using fake flowers or having a stylist put together outfit pieces for the couple. It was such a last-minute shoot that we actually did it with a budget of $0 in about a week’s time (the couple did volunteer to purchase the balloons).
- Publication! If it is your goal to get the shoot published on a blog or in a magazine, it’s important that you look up your desired publications beforehand. All publications look for different things in images, have different submission guidelines, etc. For example, one publication might require that you have “x” amount of “vertical detail shots,” so you need to know this before shooting! Another might require that any Fall-themed shoots are submitted before the end of summer, which might change your timeline for your styled shoot.
- Vision! A big key to a successful shoot is having your vision fully thought out beforehand. Creating a “mood board” can be as simple as creating a Pinterest board with your favorite colors, photos, & outfit inspiration. Sharing this board with contributing vendors (and your models!) will ensure that everyone is on the same page and trying to achieve the same look/feel. For this “Up” shoot, I had shared images back and forth with my couple so that they knew what I was envisioning.
- Be Thrifty! Styled shoots typically have a lot of details, and it can seem overwhelming having to obtain all of those props/items. First, utilize your vendors. It’s not uncommon to find vendors who are also looking for networking / images and who are willing to donate their services (ex: a florist might donate a bouquet of flowers for the shoot in exchange for images). Another great source for gathering items is thrift stores – you never know what you’ll find! Pinterest has a million DIY ideas, so a search on there might help you make what you’re looking for. When in doubt, asking your friends or Facebook community if they have any of the items you’re looking for is also a great way to obtain items. All in all, it doesn’t have to be expensive to put together a styled shoot. For this “Up” shoot, I was able to scrounge up or make every item (aside from the balloons) from what I had lying around and what friends were willing to lend me.
- Research! While there are definitely still unique ideas out there, it’s likely that other photographers have done similar shoots in the past. Researching what has already been done will give you inspiration for your shoot and help you make sure that your shoot is unique. Researching the subject/theme you’re trying to create is also helpful. For example, if you want to do a 50’s themed shoot, researching the attire, setting, attitudes, and history of the 50’s would be hugely helpful. For the “Up” shoot, I knew it was imperative that I watch the movie a couple times before the shoot and take notes. I wanted to be fully aware of my subject matter and have an emotional attachment to the images (Up is a very emotional movie!).
- Don’t procrastinate! The best advice I can give you is to not procrastinate. While the Up shoot was put together super last-minute and turned out well, I don’t recommend waiting till the last minute! Having your props ready, having a timeline agreed upon with all vendors (including a post-shoot timeline of when images will be delivered), location scouting, and all other details should be completed at least a week before the shoot. You definitely don’t want to be scrambling just days before the shoot when so many people are collaborating to pull of an incredible styled session.
Photos by Claire Diana Photography
Guest Blogger: Claire Diana of Claire Diana Photography
Claire Diana is a wedding & engagement photographer based in Athens, Georgia. Her favorite things include sunlight, Jesus, Reese’s cups, and her rescue-pup, Ladybug. It is her goal to capture raw emotions in her images and preserve love stories for generations.