One thing I want to address before we get into the nitty gritty tips: your styled shoot is about so much more than gaining beautiful content that showcases your work. It’s about building amazing relationships! This is an opportunity to show up as a “team player”, if you will. Use your next styled shoot as a step to meet and form long-term bonds with other vendors. I am all about community over competition, and believe wholeheartedly that vendors should bring this mindset into every styled shoot.
A client archetype is pretty much the same thing as a client avatar; it’s essentially a profile that you create on a dream client. When I take my clients through my brand strategy process, I ask them to describe their favorite past clients, and I also ask them to describe their dream client(s) to me, even if they haven’t gotten to work with a dream client yet.
For most wedding vendors, this is obviously probably going to be, ahem, a wedding. However! As we all know, a wedding can look any way you want it. I want you to go through your client archetype and think about who that ideal client is and then think critically about the wedding they’d be looking to have.
Are you interested in working with outdoorsy young couples who want an elopement in the mountains? Your styled shoot best be somewhere in the mountains. Are you interested in working with brides who are planning weddings with six figure budgets? It may be best to partner with luxury florists, a luxury venue like a ballroom or lodge, and photographers who shoot in an editorial or film style.
I cannot stress this step enough. I’m all for community over competition, and one thing I share with a lot of wedding vendors is that I have a lot of friends in my industry! I have a lot of designer friends, and I always encourage my wedding vendor clients to make friends with more vendors in their areas. Preferred vendor partners can be such a vital way to get clients down the road.
HOWEVER. Styled shoots aren’t always the place to partner with friends on a shoot.
Now, there is nothing wrong whatsoever with partnering with friends on styled shoots, but I want you to be intentional here. Take a look at your ideal client and the types of weddings you want to be booking more of. If you’re a photographer who really wants to shoot more weddings with LGBTQ+ couples, then it could be best to partner with vendors who have booked LGBTQ+ weddings before, even if they aren’t necessarily your besties yet. (I say yet because there’s always room to make new friends in this industry, am I right? 🙂 )
Think of your styled shoot partners as opportunities to network, and maybe even get clients, in the future. You’ll essentially be featuring their work for free for months or years to come, so it’d be great if you choose vendors who will directly or indirectly help you book those types of clients.
This step is especially key for vendors working with a venue. If you’re a planner, photographer, florist, baker, stationer, etc. then you want to ensure you’re partnering with a venue that gives off the vibe of weddings you want to book.
If you’re wondering how to plan a styled shoot that will help you see a return on investment, this is the key.
An important note: when you’re planning a styled shoot, it’s important to offer compensation to each of the vendors involved. If that’s not possible and all vendors are comfortable with volunteering or discounting their time, then at least set a budget aside for all models involved to be paid. If you AREN’T offering compensation to the vendors, make sure that all vendors are aware of the situation. Money can be an uncomfortable thing for some people to talk about, so it’s important that you create an environment where your vendor partners understand that they’re not expected to give their time or talents for free.
If you’ve been following this list in chronological order, then you’ve already built a client archetype, or client avatar. If not, you can download that here: https://emilyfostercreative.com/client-archetype
I write “time, money, or both”, because obviously, in an ideal world, we would all pay for all the services we need/want for our businesses, including branding and website design. However, I realize that the reality is that you don’t always have the budget for branding when you’re still trying to book clients through styled shoots. While I highly recommend working with a professional designer down the road, you can start with some branding that you DIY in the beginning.
I created a brand colors guide that can help you figure out what colors you can use to put forward your best foot with your business’s branding. You can download that here: https://emilyfostercreative.com/brand-colors-freebie
If you are, by chance, ready to invest in branding, then you can reach out to kick off your branding project here.
Now we’re getting to the fun part! Get out your magazines and Pinterest account and get ready to put together a mood board for your dream styled shoot. You can reflect on your own branding and client archetype to ensure that the mood of the shoot aligns with the personality you’re hoping to convey.
This seems like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised by how many people go into a styled shoot without a firm shot list. While it can be fun to pull out a camera and take fun shots, a styled shoot is a business opportunity to elevate yours and all your vendor partners’ businesses. Make sure you’re including all the shots you want, down to every little detail. Speaking of which, literal detail shots are going to be great pieces of content for your social media accounts and website. The more shots of florals, couples holding hands, dress fabric, and more, the better.
Remember, be intentional about the people in your styled shoots. Make sure they look like the ideal clients you would like to be working with more often. This is your opportunity to not only feature more inclusive couples, but also a great opportunity for you to network with models! Whether you’re engaging a friend or hiring professional models, this is an opportunity to put the word out about your business. Note: make sure that you’re working with models models who are in real relationships with each other. This ensures that you’re showcasing real love versus planning a performative styled shoot. For example, if you want to have a styled shoot with an LGBTQ+ couple, make sure you’re working with couples who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community.
One conversation that lives rent-free in my mind is one with some wedding photographers I met at a networking event in Portland. They were talking with some other me and some other vendors, and mentioned that they get photographers asking them how they manage to book so many plus-size couples. They laughed and said that literally all they do is post weddings that they’ve shot at – weddings of happy plus-size couples. If you want to work with a specific client, they need to see themselves in your work. It really is that simple, my friend.
When you’re booking models for the shoot, be sure to pay them for their time. Even if they’re getting to use the photos for free, it’s important that you respect your friends’ or models times and offer compensation.
Just because it’s technically work, doesn’t mean it has to be boring! Grab some coffee on the way, wear your favorite professional outfit, and turn up the music. This is an opportunity to make memories with fellow vendor friends and get some really cool work while doing it.
Bonus: ask every vendor before-hand what their favorite 3 songs are and then compile a Spotify playlist that features a little bit of everyone’s favorite music. I compiled a Spotify playlist to get you started that you can download here. (Obviously there’s gonna be some Taylor Swift in here, but feel free to copy and create your own version!)
This is a little bonus, but if you want to stand out, send a handwritten thank you note to each vendor that showed up to your styled shoot, including the models. This will make everyone feel really special, and will help keep you top of mind next time they learn of someone who is looking to book your services.
Obviously, this is a no-brainer. But for real, share all the images (or at least all the final edited images) with everyone in the group. Don’t leave anyone out. A styled shoot is a lot of work for all vendors involved, so make sure that everyone gets to reap the benefits. And, when you share them, tag everyone, every single time. Make sure they’re getting the credit for their beautiful work.
This goes hand-in-hand with #10, but sharing your styled shoot photos is an intentional way to connect with other vendors. By tagging everyone in the photos, you’re reminding them of the shoot, and they’re more likely to share the photos. Be sure to add them as collaborators to the Instagram posts, too.
Outside of social media, network with your past styled shoot partners by checking in via email every now and then. If you enjoyed the vendors that you partnered with, be sure to ask them if they’d like to join your preferred vendor list. That might spark the idea to have you on their preferred vendors list too. Every quarter or half-year, you can even reach out and ask them if they’d like to catch up over coffee or a Zoom call.
Remember: we’re forming lifelong relationships here. This process should be fun, so take a deep breath and start reaching out to some vendors you’d like to partner with. Now, go have fun planning your next styled shoot!
If you want to get some free advice before your next shoot, you can sign up here to get a free branding or website review.
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