Chances are, whether you’re relatively new to the wedding industry or if you’re a seasoned veteran - you’ve heard the term “Styled Shoot”. If not, this is what a styled shoot is: A group of wedding vendors, usually one from each “department” of a wedding (so a cake designer, calligrapher, photographer, stylist/planner, florist, etc) will get together for a themed photoshoot depicting a fake wedding or other event.
Generally there are two main aims of any styled shoot:
1 - To create content that can be used to strengthen each vendor’s portfolio.
2 - To have the shoot published and therefore have your work exposed to a wider audience, as well as the credential of having your work featured in X publication.
In my experience, there is also a third benefit participating in styled shoots: the relationships you form with the other vendors during the prep for or the shoot itself.
I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever gotten work as a direct result from a styled shoot being published, and I have done many. Clients will reference photos that I post of work that I’ve done for shoots, but I don’t necessarily think they found those photos because of the shoot, they usually just see them on my Instagram or my website once they’ve already found me. But what has gotten me work? Having strong photos of strong work, and relationships with other industry vendors.
So that being said, now that I have a billion styled shoots under my belt, I have a lot of opinions on when to say yes, and when to say no. Even in the beginning, you have to be selective.
When to probably say “No”:
1) When networking is not an option. You don’t always get a chance to meet the other vendors, as sometimes it’s all organized in a bit of a whirlwind and you don’t even necessarily have to be present at the shoot. If that’s the case, you lose that huge benefit of face-time with other industry professionals. Weigh the other factors if this is the case (is the photographer at the top of your list of artists to work with? Does the theme speak to you on a spiritual level? Then do it! There will be other chances to network.)
2) When the photographer’s work doesn’t match your style. Like I said, one of the main reasons for doing a Styled Shoot is having the photos to use as social media or portfolio content. If you’re planning on using the photos after, they have to be good (that should be a given), but they also have to suit your aesthetic. So the first thing is to check out the photographer’s work, and see if their style and aesthetic lines up with your own. If not, or if the photographer’s work is not at a certain level, then I would politely decline.
3) When the publishing aspect is unclear or unaligned. Generally, whoever is planning the shoot will have their top 3 publications in mind when planning, but things don’t always work out and you never know how many publications will turn you down until after the shoot is over. Sometimes the shoot ends up getting published by a big name and sometimes it’s by a little known blog, and either way it usually takes a solid six months before you see your name in “print” (generally online, SOMETIMES actually printed in a magazine). You may be able to tell I am slightly jaded by the whole publication aspect - to be honest, I’m thoroughly unconvinced that there is anything to gain from it other than perceived credibility. All that to say, ask the planner which publications they are aiming to be published in, and do some research to see if they are the kind of blogs/websites that your ideal customer would be going to/that you see your brand in. For example, if your work is super modern and non-traditional, it wouldn’t benefit you to have your work published somewhere that targets a traditional bride.
4) When the timeline is too tight. My last main “turnoff” for styled shoots is Timeline. Sometimes a shoot will be planned to the tiniest detail six months in advance, and sometimes you’ll get DM at 1 in the morning like “Do you have time to put together some calligraphy for a shoot next week?”. Maybe, MAYBE if you happen to have nothing but time on your hands that week, you could say yes. But odds are, when you’re down to the wire like that, you aren’t going to pull off your best work, and you don’t want to end up stressing yourself out only to put something out there that isn’t up to your usual standard, and then have your name tied to it on the internet forever (hi, yes, I have done this before, please don’t google me).
Like with everything else in your business, always consider the end goal. Think about the purpose of having your work in these photos - who are you trying to reach? What kind of client/work are you trying to attract? Will the concept & team behind this styled shoot reach that ideal client? If the answer is No, then the answer is No, and that’s okay!
When to probably say “Yes”
1) When the roster of vendors is strong, and if you are most likely to going to get the chance to meet some if not all of them.
2) If the goal of the shoot is to be published somewhere that will reach your ideal customer and compliment your brand.
3) If the theme inspires you and fits with your brand.
4) If the timeline allows for you to produce quality work.
So to summarize:
- Keep your business goals in mind above all else, and don’t be afraid to bow out if you’re not going to be benefitting. The goal of having strong images of your work is to reel in your dream clients, so prioritize quality over quantity, and be a little selfish with your time! For example, I’ve been slowly reducing the number of wedding gigs that I take on, in favour of corporate projects. So if a shoot is overly wedding-y, I don’t do it - but if there’s enough creative freedom involved and a chance to showcase something that could be used to attract corporate clients, I consider it!
- Ask questions! Lots of questions. Such as:
Who is the photographer? (Look at their work and ask yourself, does their style suit my aesthetic? If they shoot my work like they have shot their last few Instagram posts, will I be able to post them on mine? For example; if your work and corresponding Instagram feed are light and airy, but this photographer has a dark and moody style - it’s probably not a good match)
- Know what kind of publications you want to see your work in, and what kinds you don’t.
- Only say yes if you feel you can pull off your best work.
That’s it, my pretties! If you enjoyed this blog post, please do me a favour and share it with your calligra-friends or on Pinterest!
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