Over the last 5 years I've done shoots of all shapes, sizes, and styles... and let me tell you, I have learned a thing or two! From my very first shoot that I planned alongside Gabriela Ines Photography and had literally no idea what I was doing, to the one I am currently planning that is my biggest and most involved yet... styled (or editorial, which is the word I prefer these days) shoots are a wonderful way to create content, showcase your work, network with others in the industry, and exercise your creative freedom! So without further ado, here are 17 things I've learned from putting together 17 styled shoots:
1. Have a clear vision in mind for publication + purpose
Before you reach out to any vendors, or really begin planning - make sure to have a super clear vision in mind. Why are you doing this shoot? To build your portfolio? To be featured on the cover of a magazine? To submit to your favorite wedding blog? Or simply just to have a creative outlet and put together something beautiful? Whatever it may be, don't overlook this step. You should be thinking about the end goal the entire time you are working on the shoot.
2. Preparation and careful planning is key
Once you have a solid vision and purpose in mind, create a design board with images that depict the overall look and feel you are going for. This will be used to keep everyone on the same page throughout the shoot (you will email this out to all potential vendors), and to guide the attire, decor, rentals, cake, stationery, and so on. At this point, you can begin reaching out to other wedding pros about collaborating together.
I would start with finding photographer that fits within the style you're going for (dark and moody? fine art? timeless?), and securing a venue that will act as the perfect backdrop. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time to pull all of the details together. While it's definitely possible to pull something together in a couple of weeks, you will be much less stressed out if you give yourself a few months and really take your time with all of the details, big and small.
3. Don't expect everything for free
While many wedding pros are happy to provide their services free of charge in exchange for beautiful images and potential publication, please keep in mind that some vendors will (and should) charge a portion for their time and/or products. When you're coming up with all of the details for your shoot - create a budget! This is something that is looked over far too often. After being in the industry for this long, I am so much more aware of how expensive things are (read: flowers) and how valuable ALL of our time is.
4. Have a backup plan
If your shoot is taking place outdoors, you'll want to have a backup plan in case of inclement weather. This may mean having an entirely separate location on standby, using the indoor location at the venue instead of outside, or having a backup date to move the shoot to. If you want to avoid the stress of all of this, go for a beautiful, natural light indoor venue or studio.
5. Show appreciation for your creative team <3
I'm sure this goes without saying, but here's the bottom line: you are bringing people together to work hard for a day (or more), many of whom have provided their services or product free of charge or at a discount, and they deserve to feel appreciated. There are so many ways this can be done (and I'll be the first to say I have failed at some of these in the past), but here are a few ideas to try:
- Provide snacks, bottled water, sandwiches, etc for all of the vendors on-site during the shoot
- Create a "vendor appreciation station" - Keen Events and Amanda Meg Photography nailed this at a shoot that my daughter modeled in, and I was so inspired!
- Send hand-written thank you notes after the shoot
- Leave a positive review on each person's business page after the shoot
- And perhaps the best way tor repay someone from a shoot that you had a great experience with... recommend and refer them to your wedding clients!!
6. The more details, the better
The wonderful thing about editorial shoots is that you can bring in all of the details that you want -- this is the fun part! Little things like ring boxes and vow books, or big floral installations and ceremony setups. The more details and decor, the more photos for the photographer to capture, and opportunities to submit for publication.
7. It's okay to keep it simple
In the same breath, I can also say, it's totally okay to keep it simple! If you just want to secure a model, hair and makeup, a beautiful dress and stunning bouquet with some gorgeous natural scenery - this is also a great option. You may be a little limited on publications for more simple shoots, but if your purpose is creativity and creating new content, then go for it!
8. Think outside the box
It's super easy to get stuck inside the Pinterest bubble, where you keep seeing the same styles and types of decor over and over again. It's always a good idea to look for inspiration in other sources entirely (art, nature, interior design, etc)! Stop looking at what everyone else is doing, and think of something completely different and unique that you can showcase.
9. Build connections, grow your network
One of the best parts about editorial shoots is the opportunity to network, and the wonderful relationships that can form. Take advantage of this and get to know those you are collaborating with! As we all know, the wedding industry runs on relationships and building your network is something to always be working on.
10. Set clear expectations
The more questions you can answer ahead of time, and the more details you can give to everyone contributing, the better. Be sure to let the creative team know when they will receive the photos, when the shoot will be submitted for publication, if there are any guidelines for posting to IG, etc. It's also super helpful to send a complete list of all vendors along with their IG handles so everyone has it ready to go when they start sharing images.
11. Don't get discouraged if the shoot doesn't get picked up
Not every single shoot is going to get picked up for publication, and that's okay. I've had a handful of shoots that never made it in to a blog or publication, but I certainly don't consider it a waste! I put together my own blog posts to showcase the images, and I along with the other vendors can still use them for marketing, etc.
12. Don't worry about what others are doing
It's really easy to see constant reminders of what everyone else is doing and to think "Ah! I need to be planning a shoot! I need to be doing this, this and that!" Or "oh, everyone is doing shoots with this style, so I need to also..." [Not true]. Do what inspires you, when it inspires you, and don't worry about what others are doing. (I know.... easier said than done!)
13. Hold off on posting too much on social media until the feature goes live
If the shoot does get picked up for publication (yay!), make sure everyone knows to limit posting to 1-2 sneak peek images, until after the post or magazine goes live. Once that happens, you can go crazy sharing/posting.
14. Choose publications wisely
Make sure to do plenty of research before submitting. You'll want to make sure the style of your shoot lines up with the style of the blog or magazine you're submitting to. Be sure to check out recent posts to see what type of content they are turning out and to know if it's a good fit. I always recommend choosing which publications you plan to submit to before you truly begin planning the shoot.
Also, consider the benefits of submitting to local magazines/blogs versus national. While national blogs can definitely draw more eyes, local publishers might be a better fit for reaching your ideal client.
15. Create a comprehensive timeline for the day
I've heard it several times, that the photographer wishes they would have had more time to capture all of the details, or that they missed certain shots they were hoping to get.
Just like a wedding or any other special event, you should put together a complete timeline for the day which includes all vendor arrival times, getting ready schedule, when all of the details will be shot, setup and breakdown details, and so on.
16. Give credit where credit is due
When it's all said and done, and it's time to share the photos... make sure to tag and credit all vendors who participated! Nothing is worse than scrolling through IG or FB and seeing your image/cake/styling/flowers/etc and no credit in sight.
17. Don't overdo it -- it's OKAY to say no.
One of the hardest lessons I've had to learn is simply that it's okay to say no. I am a people pleaser at my core and for a long time I wanted to say yes to every single project that came my way - and if you live like that, it's really easy to overdo it. These days, I only take on projects that align super well with my personal brand aesthetic and that represent the type of weddings and events that will attract my ideal client.
Phew, you made it! Did you find any of this useful? Do you have any other lessons you've learned from shoots? Leave a comment below!