Planning a Styled Shoot to Reach Your Ideal Client

Hey wedding vendors! While most of my blog posts cater toward my client base, this one's for all the amazing wedding professionals like me who are just starting out in the industry and having a BLAST. There is so much that goes into starting a business, and there's the added challenge for wedding pros to create and curate an amazing portfolio that speaks to the kind of clients we want to work with. Whether you started out with a degree in hospitality, a specific wedding-related certificate or a friend told you one day that you'd be great at being a wedding planner/photographer/DJ etc., you are essentially starting from scratch. Even if you've assisted other wedding professionals before starting out on your own, there's a difference between helping someone else and being the lead on a project, so a portfolio is only as strong as the projects you've done as the clients' primary contact.

Photo by Kayli LaFon Photography of a styled shoot by Elizabeth's Events

That's where styled shoots can help. A styled shoot is a photo shoot designed to showcase elements of a wedding, bringing together different vendor types who often donate/lend their services or products in exchange for beautiful, professional photos of your work. This bartering system not only allows you to have photos to share, but it creates a chance to work closely with other vendors, and it allows the opportunity to curate a style that appeals to your ideal client.

Styled shoots can be as creative, simple, or extravagant as you want, and because they're focused on a type of client, it brings together other vendors in your area who would also love to work with that ideal client. As you begin to build your business, it's essential that you build your brand to reach a client type, rather than having the mentality that you'll work with just anyone, because it's important to find something that sets you apart. According to The Knot, there are almost 600 wedding photographers within 50 miles of Raleigh, NC, but if you're one of only 10 that focuses a specific niche, you'll often find your way to a client that fits the profile of someone who is more likely to hire you!

So it's easy to see why styled shoots can be beneficial when building a brand. But how do you get involved in one? There are Facebook groups such as NC/SC Styled Shoots that bring together vendors in the area who enjoy participating in shoots, and they will often post their ideas in the hopes of finding others who want to join in. This can be a great way to gain exposure if your business wants to partake without the planning. The best way to ensure that the shoot meets your ideal client, however, is to plan your perfect styled shoot.

Choose a Theme and Style

Get inside the mind of your ideal client and brainstorm wedding elements that would most appeal to them. Inspiration may come in the form of a venue, a style of wedding, a season, or a specific wedding idea (such as a dress or cake) that really speaks to you. Remember to have fun and be creative - you're not just trying to recreate Pinterest. It's about creating something new that sets your business apart.

Create an Inspiration Board

Just as couples search through magazines and blogs, you'll want to get an idea of what you want your shoot to look like, as this will help you define your theme and select the perfect vendors. It's also important to see what already draws in your ideal clients, and find something that hasn't been done before.

Find a Venue or Location

The venue may come before the style, but the two go hand in hand. Finding a venue that enhances the style of the wedding makes the shoot feel more natural.

Start Designing

Create a detailed list of all the elements you want and how you envision your shoot before you start reaching out to vendors - asking for specifics helps them decide if they can participate. Many styled shoots set up a few "stages" to be photographed, such as a guest table, a dessert table, or a ceremony setting.

It's also important to remember that other vendors will be donating their products or services, so this shoot should be able to obviously benefit them, as well. Allow each vendor to share their personal style, but provide specifics on numbers, colors, and overall theme so they can have amazing photos to benefit their portfolio, while keeping with the design palate.

Secure Vendors

Reaching out to vendors individually to ask them to participate is the best way to proceed with creating strong connections with other vendors in your area. If you don't have a specific vendor in mind, then consider turning to a Facebook group or researching vendors in your area. As you reach out to vendors, ensure that they understand your purpose and ideal client so they can decide if it's a good fit for their work.

Confirm if the services are free, in return for the free advertising, and remember that not everyone can donate their time and productions entirely without charge. There will always be some cost associated with a styled shoot, but some vendors that could easily charge may surprise you. Always be respectful of the other vendor's services, and recognize that the dress boutique may need to charge for a dress cleaning, or a florist may need to be compensated for the flowers that can't be reused.

Ensure all photographers will provide high-res, logo free images to each vendor who participates. Some shoots prefer to work with only a single photographer, while others include a small group. Please note that in most cases, fewer photographers is better, since they will have more time with the models and the scenes.

As you begin thinking about what vendors you need, remember that there is no set structure to a styled shoot, so you can bring in as many or as few vendors as you want. The standard list of vendors for a styled shoot is:

  • Photographer

  • Wedding Planner

  • Venue

  • Florist

  • Table Settings/Rentals

  • Models

  • Wardrobe/Dress Shop

  • Hair & Makeup

  • Bakery

  • Accessories (rings, etc)

  • Paper Goods

Select the Models

All the planning in the world can't take away the importance of choosing amazing models. Make sure to select models that are professional or real couples and fit the aesthetic of the day. Remember that when potential clients look at your portfolio, they want to be able to imagine themselves in the photos - selecting models that look like real couples and can share a real kiss for the camera may go a long way with your clients! We're ready to see more styled shoots featuring couples who are mixed, curvy, and even disabled. Every love story is beautiful, so any couple fitting the aesthetic can be a great fit for your shoot.

Create a Time Plan

Organized shoots are always best, because it ensures that the setup is done beautifully, the models are ready on time, and the photographers have enough time to take great photos of all the details that vendors have donated. Think about how much time is required for setup, how many stages and photographers are included, and how long the overall shoot should take. Set times for the photographer(s) to rotate through the shoot to make sure that everything gets covered in the allocated time.

Confirm Details

Send an email to all the vendors a week before the shoot, confirming all details and providing information about each of the vendors participating! Be sure to include social media tags to each of the vendor's profiles so that everyone gets tagged accordingly once the photos are ready to go.

Why the sudden interest in styled shoots? Beauty & the Budget Events has been busy planning a shoot since February, and this is the weekend! Keep an eye out for photos from our wonderful boho eclectic styled shoot.

#styledshoot #behindthescenes #vendorselection

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“Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate." - Mark 10:9

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