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10 Steps to Planning a Styled Shoot

Planning a styled shoot with other local businesses or vendors is a great way to express your creativity, network with other business owners, get some recognition for your own business, and practice your photography skills. But even the smallest of styled shoots need an organized leader to bring it all together. Here are some helpful steps to take your shoot from idea to execution.

1. Come Up With an Idea

Having a good idea or theme is the foundation of a successful styled shoot. You want to choose something that’s unique (at least to the viewership you’re aiming for), something that will speak to your ideal client, and something that will excite and inspire any other vendors you plan to work with.

A theme can revolve around a color scheme, a pattern, a historical era, a book, a movie, or any number of other ideas.

2. Establish Your Goals

Every styled shoot should have an end goal in mind. Perhaps you’d like the photos to be featured in a magazine (local or national), or maybe a blog is a better fit. Maybe you’re doing the shoot for personal reasons (to flex your creativity or bulk up your portfolio). Or maybe you’ like to network with other businesses or reach a new clientele.

Having a clear vision of your goals will help your styled shoot to grow into everything you imagined, plus it will set realistic expectations for anyone else who gets involved along the way.

3. Secure a Location

Before I get anyone else on board, I like to secure the location for the shoot. Many times, my theme revolves around a specific location, so I need to ensure we can use it before I get too far into the planning process.

4. Contact Other Businesses

Unless you plan on doing the shoot alone, now is the time to get other businesses or vendors involved. I find that a nice email is the best way to go about soliciting support. Typing out an email allows you to not forget any of the details, and gives other business owners time to consider your requests.

When you send your email, make sure you explain your vision and goal. Be clear if you expect the vendor to donate their products or services for free, and tell them what they’ll get in return. I offer all collaborating vendors high-resolution copies of all the images, which that they can use for advertising or social media.

It’s also important to give them an idea of your level of involvement. Is this an even collaboration where you expect them to bring creative ideas to the table, or will you be dictating each aspect of the shoot and giving them a more specific direction?

If you’re not a terribly creative person when it comes to styling, you may want to get an event coordinator, event stylist, or photo stylist on board as well.

5. Create a Vision Board

Now that you’ve gotten all the logistics lined up, it’s time to really narrow down the focus of your shoot. I like to create a secret Pinterest board that mixes together inspiration photos for the shoot, along with photos of objects I already have that might work. I can invite the other business owners to pin to the board as well, so we can hash out ideas and get on the same page.

6. Find Models

Assuming you’d like people to be in your styled shoot, you’ll need to get some models. If you want free non-professional models, you can advertise a “free photo shoot” on social media, then have people apply by sending in a photo of themselves and any other relevant information. You might be able to find professional models willing to work for free in exchange for the images, but your selection may be limited. Ask other area photographers for suggestions on models. It doesn’t hurt to contact one you like and offer what you can for compensation.

7. Schedule Meetings

Some vendors or businesses may need more of your input than others. Set up meetings with anyone who needs some guidance, and set up a walkthrough of the shoot location to get your final vision pinned down.

This is your final chance to really make sure everyone is on the same page with the theme or color scheme, and that they know what’s expected of them. If you’re borrowing or renting items, make sure you get those selected and down on paper. If you’re doing a wedding-themed shoot, schedule a time to meet up with the model at the dress shop to try on wedding gowns.

8. Work on the Details

I find that when it comes to styled shoots, the details are usually up to me. The flowers and the furniture and the outfits are all taken care of, and it’s my job to make sure everything flows together and doesn’t feel disjointed. Now is the time when you should do any final shopping or crafting to create the look you want.

9. Plan Out the Shoot Schedule

What time is hair and makeup? When should the other vendors be there? When should the models be there? What time will you start shooting? What time will you be done? Setting up a Google Document that everyone can view and edit is a great way to hash out the details and make sure everyone knows what they’re supposed to bring and what time they should arrive.

10. Shoot!

On the day of the shoot, bring a spare pair of shoes, water, a snack, and any necessary model release forms. Before you’re done shooting, make sure to ask the other vendors who are present if they have any specific photos they want you to take. Bring a piece of paper and get in writing how each person would like their business credited, and what link they’d like you to use, if applicable.

Putting together your own styled shoot can be extremely rewarding – both for your ego and your business. Follow these steps, and you’ll have businesses clamoring to work with you again and again!

Have you ever set up your own styled shoot? Leave a comment below and tell us what your theme was!


Kelly Benton lives with her husband and two adorable dachshunds in Northeast Indiana, where she works from home as a Wedding Photographer. When she’s not photographing over people’s love, she’s a wannabe-rockstar triathlete with a penchant for funny movies and craft beer. Check out her blog or connect with her on Facebook.

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