Are you wondering how to design a styled shoot as a wedding planner? Maybe this is the first time you've ever designed a styled shoot–and you're super nervous about everything coming together well. Or, this could be your second or third go-around… and you want to up your game. Either way, I'm sharing how to design a styled shoot as a wedding planner inside this article.
I designed my first styled shoot as a wedding planner all the way back in 2009. I bought flowers from the supermarket and styled a tablescape at my dining room table. Dusting off my trusty digital camera, I snapped a few shots myself and then submitted them to Style Me Pretty. It wound up being the first styled shoot they ever published!
Also, I bet you're DYING to see it. Well, here's a little link to the feature which is still online. Go and check it out–then come back here!
So, what did you think? Absolutely tragic by today's standards, isn't it? LOL
Through the years, I've had my work featured in just about every magazine (including Elle Japan!). I have since published two books featuring styled shoots and produced over 40 creative styled photoshoots with various vendors from all over the world.
Planning your first styled shoot and want a little extra help? Make sure to snag my (free!) guide to designing styled shoots that get published.
Although some things have changed since 2009, I’m guessing your desire to plan a styled shoot that gets published has stayed the same. You want your work featured… and you want to flex your creative muscles.
Lucky for you, that’s kind of my sweet spot. If you are wondering how to design your first styled shoot as a wedding planner, I’ve got some advice.
Let's get started.
The first step to designing a styled shoot is to start with the end in mind.
Before you start designing your tablescape (or whatever part of the shoot you’re most excited about), I want you to pause and think about the reason behind the styled shoot.
Who is this for, and what is your end game?
If you are hoping to get published, what magazines have caught your eye? What are those magazines looking for?
Do you want this styled shoot to show off your creative skills and attract super-rich clients? If so, what are they looking for when it comes to wedding style, and how can your styled shoot inspire them to connect with you?
(Kind of a shameless plug, but if you are unclear about who your ideal clients are, make sure to check out my ideal client cocktail.)
Once you are crystal clear on the why behind the design, you are ready to start finding a wedding venue for your styled shoot.
First, if there is a wedding venue you are dying to work at, that’s a great place to start. Depending on your relationship with the venue, it may or may not be an option, but I’m a big fan of creating styled shoots that feature real wedding venues. After all, what better way to attract couples getting married at the venue than to show actual work at their location?
Even if you can’t secure a wedding venue, your options are endless when finding a location for your styled shoot.
Next, assemble your creative team! Start thinking about all of the local wedding vendors you love (or would love) to work with.
I have a complete list of creatives you’ll want to include in your styled shoot in my free guide here. To keep this blog post short and sweet, I will mention just a few of the *key* vendors here (and some tips!).
First, you need to ask your photographer.
Your photographer will play a HUGE role in the outcome of the shoot (sidenote: no matter how gorgeous your photoshoot is – bad photos won’t get published). You’ll want to consider what style of photography represents your work the best, something we don’t always have control over when working with real couples. Who hasn’t had their work misrepresented by over-filtered photos after all?
My two cents…
You want someone with experience in editorial work. At the end of the day, all that remains of everyone’s hard work is the images. Photography is your first priority–make sure you approach the right one.
Next, you need to find a florist.
This is often one of the more difficult wedding vendors to secure, especially when costs over the last couple of years have become astronomical. Unlike other wedding vendors who may be committing their time, your floral designer has hard costs. Don’t be surprised if they ask for these costs to be shared amongst the entire team!
Partner with a rental company that offers a wide range of “essentials” and some unique things.
You know the upgraded lighting or the bar cart you just haven’t been able to convince a real couple to splurge for (yet)? When you start to look for a rental company to partner with, make sure they have not only the things you need (like plates, linens, cutlery, etc), but also some elements that really excite you. Unlike working with couples, a styled shoot is the chance to really push the envelope and do what excites you! Don’t hold back.
Like a real wedding, your first styled shoot will take a team of talented vendors coming together and making your vision even better. For a complete list of vendors to reach out to (and more tips to ensure you get what you are looking for), make sure you grab a free copy of my styled shoot planning guide.
And if you are wondering whether to use models or real couples, the truth is that either will work (and have pros and cons!). Professionals are easier to work with, but nothing beats the chemistry of a real couple in love. Just make sure that if diversity is important to you – and it should be – that your work reflects that. And please, for the love of all things, do not use two heterosexual models pretending to be LGBTQA+.
Once you have your creative team assembled, you need to create a detailed photoshoot timeline.
The photographer should always have something to shoot. As the planner, you should limit the amount of “dead time” between setups as much as possible. On top of that, you need to consider lighting. Plan your styled shoot like a real wedding, with portraits taken during golden hour and details taken in optimal light. A timeline is one of those things where nobody will notice if done well, and everyone will notice if it’s sloppy. Use this opportunity to show other wedding vendors that you are a professional!
When it comes to your first styled shoot, it’s all in the details.
As the wedding planner, you can literally never have too many photos of details. Photos of the happy couple are great, but you want to use this opportunity to show couples what work you can really do. Oftentimes, couples come to us with ideas and rely on us to bring them to life – and make it better. A styled shoot, and the photos that come from them, give you a chance to show your clients a visual representation of what all of the tiny details come together to truly create. They will understand why your rentals proposal is about 112 line items long when you have something in your portfolio that shows them. I always say the eye buys, so make sure that the work you do makes your ideal client buy with their eye.
Inside my Styled Shoot planning guide, I have a detailed checklist of every detail you might want to consider and tips for bringing it all together. A little extra tip? Make sure you also get a wide variety of both vertical and horizontal images. What works well on Pinterest won’t be the same as what you need for your website header.
Hold up – Let’s talk about how much a styled shoot costs.
I’m not going to sugarcoat it here. The more established you are in the industry, the easier it will be to get stuff for free. I want to encourage you as you start your wedding planning business to put a little money into things like styled shoots that help you attract the couples you really want to work with.
One of the best pieces of advice I got when I started my own wedding business was from my accountant, who told me…
“Candice, I don’t know much about the wedding industry but I do know about contractors. One thing I’ve learned is that doing work for free or cheap will attract more of the same. As businesses grow, they hope to keep raising their prices and attracting “better work,” but it’s harder to do that if all your portfolio shows is budget fixes”.
Are you doing work you don’t really love right now? Hoping that all these cheap weddings will one day, somehow, attract luxury couples in your area who will appreciate you and give you a rental and floral budget that genuinely excites you?
Styled shoots are one of the ways you can show that you can deliver a truly incredible wedding design and experience. Even if you can’t score everything for free, it will likely be worth the investment. Especially if you follow some of the tips in my guide!
Ready to plan your first styled shoot and start building the wedding planning business of your dream?
I think I’ve dropped the link for my styled shoot guide enough times, right? If you want even more support (and advice like this on the regular – from a wedding planner who has been where you are and where you want to go), I would love to encourage you to get on the waitlist for the next time The Planner’s Playbook opens. By diving into just one part of your wedding business each month, I give you everything you need to plan, design, and coordinate weddings like a pro. Seriously.
Best of all? As a former wedding planner, it’s always well thought out and easy to execute.
If you want to elevate your wedding planning business, kick imposter syndrome to the curb and start booking luxury clients with the experience they deserve, make sure to get on The Planner’s Playbook waitlist today.
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