So you’re ready to plan your first styled shoot – congratulations! Planning and creating styled shoots has always been one of my favourite things about working in the wedding industry, but I remember how intimidating it was when I was just a beginner. Don’t worry – everyone has to start somewhere! Since my own first shoot (which, fun fact, never even got published!), I’ve styled over a hundred editorial and brand shoots, as well as mentored other wedding pros in the art of styling through workshops and 1:1 coaching, and I can tell you that styling success comes from a combination of organisation, creativity, and good old hard work. Of course, it really helps to have some guidance along the way. So here’s my tried and tested advice for how to plan your first styled shoot.

START AT THE END AND WORK BACKWARDS

You may think that you should start your planning with a concept, but actually, I advise the opposite. Start at the finish line! Before you invest your time, energy and money into planning a shoot, you should be absolutely clear on your goal, and nailing that down starts with your dream client. Who is she? What publications is she reading and what kind of editorials do those publications feature? Targeting your shoot right from the beginning will not only give you a far greater chance of being published by your first-choice blogs or magazines, but it will help you to truly connect with your target audience.

COME UP WITH YOUR CONCEPT

Once you know where you’re going, it’s time to get clear on your concept and vision for the shoot. Perhaps you’re bursting with ideas, and don’t know which one to choose. Take some time, write all those ideas down, and pick them apart to find the one that will best suit your target client and publication. Or perhaps you’re feeling a bit stuck and are missing that initial spark of an idea. Don’t give up! I find the best thing to do is to immerse myself in inspiration outside the wedding industry: nature, art, interior design, fashion, etc. (but not Pinterest!) This is your chance to really be creative, so let your ideas run wild, and only then start bringing them into focus. The right one will always surface.

REFINE YOUR IDEAS

Once you have a basic idea, it’s time to start building it out into a shoot concept board. This is where Pinterest can be extremely useful, since it allows you to find images that communicate your vision. Focus on showing the mood or story you’re trying to tell, rather than on specific details. Include the overall look and feel, as well as the palette for your shoot. This is what you will share with other suppliers when you invite them to collaborate, so make it as fresh and evocative as possible!

GATHER YOUR TEAM

Next up, it’s time to pitch your idea to the wedding vendors you want to work on the shoot with you. But don’t ask just anyone! It’s important to seek out collaborators who have the right style to match your vision (hint: they will also be the ones who will appeal to your dream client!). Do plenty of research and also talk to your network to source newer wedding pros who are also looking for images for their portfolio, as well as more established choices. Craft a personal pitch email to each of them. Explain why you think they are the perfect fit for this shoot specifically, and exactly what you expect from them. (For more tips on pitching collaborative projects, check out this post I wrote for Aisle Society!) Timing is another important factor, as vendors (especially venues) may be more open to working with you outside the rush of wedding season. Also, don’t forget to include back-ups in your supplier team, including models. You don’t want to have to cancel at the last minute if someone pulls out!

COMMUNICATE

Once you have your dream team assembled, it’s so important to communicate. Wedding pros who have a good experience collaborating with you will often become your best brand ambassadors! Make sure each member of the team knows what is expected of them on and before the shoot day, and keep them in the loop as you confirm venue, date and other details. Before the shoot, create a detailed schedule and include directions and contact information for yourself and the other suppliers who will be attending. Maintaining a complete running list of collaborators will also make it much easier for you to compile the credits when it comes time to submit your shoot for publication.

HAVE FUN!

Once you’ve done all the preparation, don’t forget to have fun! Styled shoot days are exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure. Make the most of every moment immersing yourself in creativity and getting to know others in the industry. And don’t expect perfection! Sometimes things go wrong, but be flexible and you may find that your best ideas come on the fly.

Want more expert help and advice in planning your first styled shoot? Then sign up for my brand new FREE Styled Shoot Masterclass! I can’t wait to see what you create!

Top image: Hannah Duffy