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August 3, 2016

8 Tips for Photographers to Organize a Styled Shoot

8 tips

Hello Friends!

One of my goals for 2016 was to coordinate a bridal-editorial styled shoot with the hopes of it being published.  And folks,  I’m pleased to report that this little endeavor was a success!    A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into my styled shoot and I thought if I could make a fellow creative’s life easier by putting together the steps I took to ensure this success, well, that would be like icing on the cake.  So, here is my guide to organizing a styled shoot and then getting it published:

  1. Brainstorm a Theme:  This was by far the hardest part of the process.  You want something fresh and creative and hasn’t been overly done already.  I suggest getting together with other local vendors that you have a relationship with (and want to collaborate with on the shoot) and having a round table discussion of plausible themes.  Once I heard about The Lavender Hill u-pick farm in Niles, Michigan, I knew I wanted to have a shoot centered around it.  There aren’t many lavender farms in Michigan (2 or 3 that we know of), so we knew it would be unique.  We also had a set time frame to work with – the English lavender fields start blooming in June, so I began reaching out to vendors in February.  Ultimately, I suggest giving yourself 2-3 months to finalize all the details.
  2. Create Your Inspiration Board:  In order for everyone to grasp your vision, you need to create a mood board to share with potential vendors.  This will give them direction and really get them excited about the process (and whether or not they want to participate).  I copy/pasted inspirational photos into a document and then I created a folder in Google Drive where I stored it(with the intent of making it shareable with all the vendors).Mood Board
  3. Reach Out to Potential Vendors:  First I made a list of all the potential vendor categories I would need: a) Photography (that would be me!), b) Wedding Coordinator, c) Floral designer, D) Papered Goods, E) Bridal Accessories, F) Bridal Gown, G) Groom Accessories, H) Hair and Makeup, I) Venue, J) Furniture Rentals and K) Models.  This is just the start!  Add more if your shoot requires more vendors!  I suggest going local whenever you can!  But if you can’t find a local vendor, put a call out on social media for collaboration.  You might be surprised who responds!  When reaching out, be clear about the benefits they would receive from participating in the shoot.  I offered unwatermarked digital files they could use for their own advertising and marketing purposes, so they get to walk away with something for their time and talent even if it doesn’t get published.  Then,  I organized a spreadsheet in Google Drive of all the contacts and the date when I emailed them. If someone declined or didn’t respond to my request for collaboration, then I would move on to the next business.  Here is the sample email I sent out to each vendor:  Email to vendors 1
  4. Organize All Your Information:  Once you’ve got the venue and the vendors lined up you need to get really organized.  There are so many moving parts to a styled shoot – you want to make sureall your information is consistent and everyone is on the same page.  The last thing I wanted to do was be a broken record and find myself repeating the same information over and over again. So, I created a “hub” for all my vendors to go to in Google Docs.  Each participating vendor was sent a welcome email with detailed instructions regarding the shoot and a link to the Google doc.  Expectations need to be clear.  Be concise about your policy on posting photos; i.e. where they can post, what they can post and how to credit properly.  I encourage vendors to post “teasers” to social media, but also kindly remind them to not post to their blogs – you don’t want to sabotage your chances of getting published.
    Email to VendorsDetails
  5. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate:  Send email reminders about a week before the shoot!  Get everyone excited!  Hash out any last minute details!
  6.  On the Day of the Shoot:  Bring an assistant to be an extra set of hands.  They can help with the set-up, take down and everything in between.  I also created a shot list to keep on a clipboard with handy reminders of every detail I needed to capture.  I was so nervous about missing something and I didn’t want to disappoint any of my vendors, so this list really helped keeping me on track.
  7. After the Shoot:  Send thank you cards to all the vendors and return all borrowed items.  Post sneak peeks from the shoot to Facebook and Instagram, and share with the vendors (encouraging them to do the same and tag everyone involved).  I also promised to share the finished photo gallery with all the vendors no later than three weeks after the shoot, and I did this by creating a gallery with my ShootProof account and then sending everyone access to it.  It was really easy and pain-free (I have a lightroom plugin for ShootProof that seamlessly pushes the files from my hard drive to the gallery online – it’s awesome, folks!).
  8. Getting Published:  It’s really important to have a clear vision on where your shoot would be best fit for publication and benefit your business.  Ultimately, I decided on submitting to WeddingDay Magazine first because it’s a publication for Midwest brides and based on my location it would best benefit my business by reaching local brides and also benefit the majority of my vendors who were also local.  I created a shareable folder (again, Google Drive!) with the best 10-15 images to submit for publication and found the submission guidelines on WeddingDay Magazine’s website.  After I submitted, I heard back in a few days that it was accepted!  Now, not every experience will be like this – keep in mind it could take weeks to get a response.  You have to be patient and it’s important to wait to submit to another publication, until you hear back from the first.  Also, if you’re not sure where your styled shoot would have the best chances of getting published, reach out to other creative’s (hello, Rising Tide Society on Facebook!) and ask for advice.  There are so many great artists out there who have done this and have valuable information that they are willing to share!

Phew, I know that was a lot of information and I hope you found it super helpful.  It takes A LOT of work to put something together of this magnitude, but the benefits are so well worth it.  Since I’ve been published, I’ve gotten numerous wedding inquiries and bookings from it.  If you are on the fence about whether or not you want to do something like this, DO IT.  Just from a portfolio standpoint, it will really help you attract the type of clientele you want to work with.

And now, here are a few of my favorite photos from the shoot: Breanna Bell Photography-6093Breanna Bell Photography-6099Breanna Bell Photography-6108Breanna Bell Photography-6114Breanna Bell Photography-6135Breanna Bell Photography-6184Breanna Bell Photography-6195Breanna Bell Photography-6224Breanna Bell Photography-6284Breanna Bell Photography-6291Breanna Bell Photography-6292Breanna Bell Photography-6312

To see more of this published shoot, go to:

  1. Niki

    August 3rd, 2016 at 2:55 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! I’m hoping to put together a styled maternity session later this fall, so this came at the perfect time! These images are gorgeous, too. Beautiful work.

  2. Breanna

    August 3rd, 2016 at 3:18 pm

    Thanks for you sweet words! Best of luck with your upcoming shoot!

  3. Shannon

    August 3rd, 2016 at 3:08 pm

    Great tips, I’m bookmarking this for the future.

  4. Joelle

    August 3rd, 2016 at 10:51 pm

    This was so helpful! Thanks Breanna!! <3

  5. Breanna

    August 4th, 2016 at 12:00 pm

    Thanks Joelle!

  6. Shafon Bratcher-Michel

    May 9th, 2017 at 4:11 pm

    Thank you so much for this! My shoot is coming up, it’s tomorrow! I’ve used all the advise you’ve given and templates displayed above.

    You are the best!
    Shafon- Jumping the Broom Weddings ( Certified Wedding & Event Planner)

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