des moines, iowa and beyond

workflow & systems strategist

Coffee Dates: Styled Shoots


Happy Monday!! I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend! We sure had fun helping the new Mr. and Mrs. Smith celebrate in style! Today, I am so excited to share with you a few tips for bringing your wildest and dreamiest creative visions to life and sharing them through styled shoots!

For anyone newer to the industry and trying to bolster your portfolio, styled shoots are something commonly discussed and I highly recommend them. However, when I started planning my first shoot a few years ago, information for how to do so was hard to find!


First of all, what is a styled shoot? For some of you, this might seem elementary. However, some of the vendors I contact are still unsure of what they are, so maybe your market is the same. A styled shoot is a mock up, mini wedding, essentially. You typically have a couple model for you and set up a designed table or two, along with fun details to showcase your talents and perspective as a planner and/or designer. The scope and budget are entirely up to you, your comfort level and the vendors you collaborate with.

As an unknown business starting out, you have to step out on a limb and contact vendors that you’d like to participate. For me, I was lucky enough to reach out to an amazing photographer who had done a shoot recently and asked for her talents and advice. I have learned quite a lot since then, but for now, below are a few steps to take when planning your styled shoot.

  • Have an idea/design concept. Don’t just start reaching out to vendors without a plan. Be sure that your design is something they would also like to have in their portfolio. Make them excited and bring a concept to them that they will be inspired by.
  • Make a list of vendors you’d like to work with and reach out. Like a bride, our vendor selections are important as well.  As creatives, we all work hard to create an authentic brand and being asked to collaborate on something that shows a lack of knowledge of our work is no fun. When you reach out via email or phone, show them that you admire and appreciate their craft and tell them why you chose them, why you think they are the perfect fit for your vision.
  • Be clear about your budget up front. We have all been beginners and know that budgets are a reality. If you are not able to contribute financially, explain that and tell them what you can offer. If you cannot pay fees, you can offer blog and social media exposure, exposure to your client list and even a submission, potentially. All of that marketing and networking is awesome. I have built some of my best relationships through styled shoots and 98% of the time, all of the creatives I work with do so for an exchange of services. However, do not expect that at all! Even though they are smaller scale, shoots take time, money and coordination to execute. Be humble, courteous and honest.
  • Put out a model call. If you don’t have friends on standby, use social media and the vendors’ networks to find models. You can have as few or as many as you like, as long as you can find, outfit and glam them up. If this is your first shoot, I’d recommend keeping it to one or two models.
  • Start gathering the pretty. Do your sourcing, detail selections, DIY, attire selections and all of the fun, creative design stuff!
  • Tip: If you plan on submitting the images to a blog or magazine, draft your submission write up early. I know this seems silly, but it has saved me so much time after the fact. Even if it’s just a free write, note what your sources of inspiration were, what you expect to impart, all of the conceptual stuff before the shoot materializes. It will be so much more authentic at that point in time. Also, that way you can remind yourself and build on it after the shoot. This is one of my favorite parts; to see the chronicle of my creative process, in a way.
  • Make it happen and have fun!!

I hope this is helpful and I would absolutely love to hear any questions you have about any small business topics! Also, if you’ve had a recent styled shoot and would love to show it off, leave a comment so we can all check out your creative genius and cheer each other on!

xoxo, Jenn

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