I’ve received inquiry after inquiry lately regarding the logistics of planning a styled photo shoot, so I decided to ask a few industry friends to share their experiences planning successful shoots with us. Meredith Harper Speer of Bristol Lane, Parie Donaldson of Parie Designs and Sherry Donnelly of Gertie Mae’s are the designers who immediately came to mind when I thought back to some of my favorite photo shoots. Luckily, they all agreed to share their insights with us. Be sure to click the links below the photo shoot images in this post to see their full published features. Each inspiration shoot has more gorgeous images than I could fit into one post (as well as the story behind the shoot) and I don’t want you to miss anything. Hope you find their advice helpful!
How do you find/choose the various vendors included in a styled shoot?
Meredith: I think this varies from vendor to vendor. For me, I have built up an incredible community of women in the wedding industry who are both talented and kind. When I am dreaming up a shoot I choose my vendors from my list of friends based on availability and who’s aesthetic matches the best. My favorite part of shoots is getting to create beauty with my best friends! Throughout the year I do try to reach out to other vendors I would like to work with more and include them in shoots which helps me build relationships. In my opinion, the best way to approach a shoot is to work with people you currently have a relationship with or want to get to know better. Shoots require quite a bit of communication and I think having some sort of relationship (working or personal) with the vendors is extremely helpful.
Sherry: When choosing team players to collaborate with on styled photo shoots I tend to reach out to those I consider the cream of the crop in every category. Networking is an important aspect of the wedding industry which allows for open and truly comfortable relationships. Planning way in advance gives all the professionals time to curate and develop the very best concepts as well as acquiring all the necessary components needed to bring it to fruition. It is important to have secondary choices if any of the sought after professionals are unable to participate.
Parie: I usually go to those vendors that I have a fantastic relationship with, but also those vendors that understand the power of a styled shoot. Not all vendors understand the significance of being published on blogs etc and the impact that it can have on their businesses.
Who dreams up the design concept/theme of the shoot?
Sherry: My experience has been that this can be birthed by several different artists. Sometimes it’s a planner, a photographer, floral designer, etc. I love to dream up one of my own visions annually and develop it to completion.
Parie: Typically it is myself or sometimes the photographer. I like to have control over the shoot and its aesthetic, so I definitely prefer to be the Stylist/Designer.
Meredith: Each shoot is a little different. I try to come up with 2-3 shoots a year that I want to make happen. These would be shoots that allow me to create some unique pieces and stretch myself creatively. For other shoots, stylists or photographers will approach me with a creative concept already in place. What I have started doing is having a meeting with the photographer and stylist I want to work with where we can dream up a concept together. That collaboration always produces better and more beautiful ideas than I can dream up on my own!
What happens if you are asked to take part in a styled shoot, but the shoot aesthetic is not consistent with your brand/floral design style?
Parie: This has not happened to me, yet. But that said, I probably would respectfully decline, as it is difficult enough to be consistent in my own branding and aesthetic without having to worry about someone else’s aesthetic clashing with mine.
Meredith: I have learned it is much better to politely decline than to move forward with a shoot that isn’t a good fit. Shoots are a large investment of both resources and time and they need to positively impact your business. If it isn’t a good fit aesthetically, if I don’t think I will get great images back, or if working on the shoot will add a ton of stress to my plate I send a kind email offering some other names of people I think would be a better fit.
Sherry: I am very loyal to my personal style and if the concept doesn’t jive I more than likely will politely decline. Styled shoots are used for marketing purposes either in print or on internet blogs so I always want to represent my brand in the best possible way.
Who pays for the styled shoot? What are the typical costs involved for the floral designer?
Sherry: My experience to date is each professional brings their own necessary components for the shoot. Having participated in many of these I can honestly say I spend a minimum of $500.00 in flowers, foliage, ribbons, and other floral arranging décor needed to create the desired look. I have had reimbursements when the styled shoot is guaranteed to a publication or is being used to market a new venue.
Meredith: My approach is to think about how the shoot will be an investment in my business. While shoots are an enjoyable and creative experience, ultimately they are for the growth of our businesses just like advertising, social media, etc. With that in mind, I set a styled shoot budget at the beginning of the year for shoots that I know I want to create. If it is a shoot I have designed or a shoot where vendors I know and trust are working together I will donate or trade for flowers out of my budget. For anything else, I ask other vendors to pitch in and help cover the cost of goods but I do all of the labor for free.
Parie: Typically the person who produces or suggests the shoot pays for any items or services that are not being donated. When asked to style for someone else’s shoots, we ask they pay for the cost of materials + time/labor. This of course ONLY if they give us artistic credit for the items & services we provided.
What steps are taken to get the styled shoot published? Who is responsible for submitting for publication?
Meredith: Blogs typically ask for a selection of the photos and a short blurb about the shoot. If you look carefully on blogs they will have a space for submissions, often on their contact page or at the bottom of their website. After they review the images they will then let you know if it is going to be published and collect vendor information at that time.
On my end, I wait for the photographer to get the images back before we decide where to submit. Our decision depends on the overall aesthetic of the shoot, we try to match the shoot with the best possible blog. Most often, the photographer is responsible for submitting since the images belong to them but I try to pitch in and help by offering to write the blurb about the shoot.
Parie: This is definitely changing, it used to be that only the photographer could submit for publication, but more and more blogs etc are accepting styled shoots from other sources, as long as the photographer is credited and gives permission. I’m lucky to work with an amazing photographer for most of my shoots that ABSOLUTELY understands the dynamics of what to submit. There is definitely an art to submitting the right kind of images.
Sherry: The professional who brought the concept to life along with the photographer usually is the one who submits. Most times the shoot is pre-pitched to publishers or blogs and they know to expect it in their submission files. It is extremely important to have all details, descriptions, and every single vendor listed in the submission process. Great to know: The more details captured the better! It is also very wise to have the photographer cull the images so only the very best ones are in the image file.
An additional thought from Parie:
HOW I come up with a styled shoot? I’m usually inspired by a space or place first…
Once I decide on the space, I create a story, completely make believe. This helps me in creating the story board for the shoot itself. I do like to create a storyboard that helps all other vendors & especially the photographer in capturing that story and bringing it to life in images only; without words. For our latest shoot (pictured above), I came up with this crazy fun story of 2 lovers who met on a train, and their love unfolds in written letters and images from his travels as a wildlife photographer. He proposed to her at the train station and they eloped from that same train station. I could go on and on with this, but I think you get the picture…