how to create a styled shoot (when you don't even know where to begin!)

The biggest question on a new photographer's do I start shooting the kind of weddings and engagements that I want? I get asked this all the time and I always pull from my experiences of starting a photography business back in 2011. At the time, I was shooting very low budget weddings for practically nothing. I knew that if I could only get my hands on a fancy wedding dress or an adorable sweets table, I could really do it justice and show off my work. 

So instead of waiting for that to magically arrive, I put together my very first styled shoot. (If you want to go back in time, you can check that out here!)

(inspiration board by Brittany Frid)

Here are a few things to get you started if you're thinking of creating a styled shoot, but don't even know where to begin:

ONE: Start with a small idea.
Each shoot needs to have a very simple, tangible idea to get the ball rolling. When it comes time to approach a few vendors to help out, you don't want to confuse them with a long-winded explanation of what you're trying to do. As an example, my most recent styled shoot started because I wanted to show my clients that an engagement session in the winter wasn't scary. I wanted to show that shooting in the winter could be beautiful. That was it. 

TWO: Find a partner who can help. 
I know my strengths, and coming up with the current trends in the wedding industry is something that I choose to leave to the pros. I sought out Brittany Frid, stylist at Satin & Snow, to help me with my idea. From following Brittany's social media for quite awhile, I knew that the natural look was definitely her forte. I told her my simple idea, gave her an approximate date I was working with, and let her use her creativity to make it beautiful. 

If you're new to the wedding industry, you might not have close relationships with planners or stylists yet -- that's okay. My advice is to do your research, take an active interest in their social media (that means genuinely following their posts, reading them carefully, and finding out about their style and their brand). Read their "about me" section and look at past examples of their work. The last thing you want to do is approach a planner about a shoot that's totally not their style.

THREE: Find a creative team.
My advice on finding a creative team: it's better to have 3 dedicated players than 10 vendors who aren't really invested in the project. Feel free to keep it small! Sometimes the best shoots only have a handful of members on the creative team. Think about the things you know you need, like photography (check!), someone to help pull the shoot together, and maybe someone to donate a wedding dress for the afternoon, depending on the shoot. But not every styled shoot needs a sweets table, and if it doesn't support your original small idea, maybe your time can be better spent elsewhere.

FOUR: Give creative control to others.
When it comes to creating something original, it's important to give creative control to the members of your team. A shoot like this works because each vendor is working on something that fires them up, and no one likes to be told exactly how to do their job. When you come together as a team, make sure everyone feels they have the capacity to push the envelope and do something different. That's what will set the shoot apart from others. 

Below you'll see a screenshot of Brittany's blog, Satin & Snow. After coming up with an inspiration board for our shoot, Brittany used her blog as a platform to generate some excitement about what we were working on. It's important for you, as the photographer, to do the same. Make sure you're using your own social media to show off the other members of your team.

FIVE: When it comes to shooting time, give it everything you've got.
This isn't just a regular shoot. Since a team of people have donated their time and either their products or their services to create the shoot, you need to focus on giving them photos that really show off their work. For example, Brittany and I worked with the lovely ladies at Amy & Jen Decor and they donated a few pieces of furniture for our set up. I made sure to get some detail shots of the furniture, styled in a variety of ways, so that they have photos that are meaningful to them.

I love this photo of our set up because it shows that magic can be created ANYWHERE, and in this case, even in front of a bush in a residential neighbourhood. See the houses in the background?

You'd never know from seeing the finished product:

Getting behind the scenes photos is great because you never know which of your vendors might want to use them on their website! Pictured below: Brittany's talented hands styling the little plate of treats.

SIX: Photos are your currency.
Offer to do some informal head-shots for the members of your team following the shoot. It's such an easy way to thank them for being a part of your small vision, and making it great.

I'll wrap up this post with a little teaser of some of my favourite images from this styled shoot. For now, most of the photos will have to remain under wraps while we work on getting it published, but this should give you an idea of how an inspiration board can be brought to life with the help of some amazing people...

P.S. If you liked this post, stay tuned for a post that will focus on HOW to get your styled shoot published! Lots of tips and tricks I've learned along the way :)

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