Recently I hosted a styled shoot / content day and I am here to share all of the things I did to make it successful. When I first decided to embark on this adventure I did not realize how little amount of resources there were out there for planning these. There are a few vague blogs here or there. I couldn't find a single dang tiktok & there was maybe one or two good youtube videos. So I will dump my entire step by step process, as well as any tips & lessons I learned along the way.

  • We will discuss what a styled shoot it
  • We will discuss finding vendors, paying vendors, and creating lasting relationships with the vendors
  • We will discuss pricing your styled shoot / content day for other attendees
  • We will discuss planning & executing the day!

What is a styled shoot?

A styled shoot it a collaborative effort between multiple industry professionals and vendors who put their time and resources into the creation of a themed photo shoot. Often times styled shoots are wedding themed, but can sometimes include other concepts such as maternity, portraits, etc. Styled shoots are essentially mini event settings. They are great ways for vendors to show off their capabilities and work, as well as build portfolios, without the stress of a high end paid event.

Styled shoots are almost always specifically detailed and currated to fit a certain theme (boho, eclectric, pinks, blues, royalty, etc) and fit a certain concept.

What is the difference between a styled shoot & content day?

I don't know if there is a true right answer to this question. I like to think that the biggest differences are content days are planned to be able to build portfolios with multiple types of content (tablescapes, cakes, details, multiple shooting locations, or other types of models) while a styled shoot is singular themed / singular shooting stations.

I. Identify your intentions and theme

The very first thing you should do when you decide to plan a styled shoot is ask yourself a couple questions to ensure you have your goals in place and are doing this for the right reasons.

Why do you want to plan this shoot and what do you achieve from this shoot? Do you want to build your portfolio? Make relationships with wedding industry professionals? Share your education with other photographers? If money is on this list, I recommend stopping right there and reevaluating. Styled shoots are definitely not quick cash and more often than not end up costing the coordinator more money than what they make, even if it is just in time. For myself, I wanted to create some Arkansas wedding content and meet wedding vendors from the area, as well as create an opporunity for other photographers to learn and build their own portfolios too.

Am I willing to stay committed and follow through on your word? Planning a styled shoot is A LOT of work & there are people counting on you to execute a day worth their time and efforts to! Whether that is vendors who provide you goods and services, or photographers who pay to come and photograph it. You want to be sure that you follow through on all of your words and promises!

Make sure you have the RIGHT intentions behind planning this shoot before you collaborate with other people and commit to planning a big event that others will be participating in.

Once you know your heart is in the right place, decide on what EXACTLY you want to plan and photograph. Do you want to just coordinate a single wedding scape? Do you want to offer multiple scenes? What about multiple types of models? For myself I wanted education and portfolio building experience for the photographers, so I had a maternity model, a senior model, and a wedding couple. This was 3 model stations to have to coordinate and plan though, I recommend starting small if you this is your first shoot and you are unsure.

Once you have your intentions and know what you want to create, you get to make your mood board!! This is the fun part. Pick a theme for your day & scenes. Pinterest is amazing for this. I created a board and started adding all of the inspo I could find on how I wanted the day to look. Then I found a canva template and put them together. I hosted an "emerald & gold" wedding scape and a "barefoot & pregnant" maternity scape. I now currently have a styled shoot pinterest board for every theme known to man! Check out some of my theme boards here.

Your mood boards will essentially be your advertisement. These are what you will share with vendors and what you share when advertising to other photographers. Be sure to not put anything on your board you do not plan on fulfilling!

Pro tip: pick a theme that you want in your portfolio. Consider if you want more realistic or editorial. Think about how you want to use these images and attracting your ideal clients.

II. Finding Vendors for your styled shoot

II.1 Vendors

Vendors are the backbone of a successful styled shoot! Having a great vendor line up means you will have beautiful concepts, stunning models, and a gorgeous scene to photograph.

The first thing I did was I identified the essential things I would need a vendor for. A good short list of necessary vendors would be: venue, hair & makeup, cake, florist. The other things like decorations, dress, details were within my own wheelhouse but for some it may not be. There are many stationary vendors out there who love to create complete suites for styled shoots & event planners who would love to make up a gorgeous table scape for you.

Finding a venue comes in correlation with setting a date. When I found my venue I reached out and told them what I was wanting to do and asked if they had a styled shoot or vendor event rate. After that, we set an in person meeting for me to come and see the venue. Once I saw it and decided I loved it - I asked them what weekends or dates they had available and we went from there. I chose a Sunday in November because I didn't want to take away a potential Saturday booking for them, as well as I did not want any photographers to possibly miss out because they had weddings on Saturday.

After I made my list of vendors and had a venue I made a post in a local wedding vendor group with my mood boards stating I was hosting a styled shoot and was in need of these specific vendors. I successfully found my HMUA and a cottage baker for desserts on this post. I researched other local vendors and reached out to a local baker with my cake inspiration. You can make posts on local groups or you can reach out to vendors individually! Reaching out can be scary and hard though because successful vendors can be asked to do styled shoots often and can be likely to turn you down, while new vendors can possibly not know what a styled shoot is or what it entails. But don't be afraid to ask - the worst they can do is not respond or say no!

Many vendors are willing to work with you and your event for little to no cost... but how do you ask? One of the most difficult parts of reaching out to vendors was figuring out how to tell them I wanted to partner without telling them I didn't want to be charged market/industry rates. Now - this is not to say I expected anything for free. I never asked any of them for their services for free, but I did ask for their services to be at wholesale cost at least. For my shoot, I ended up paying a discounted day rate for my venue, wholesale cost for flowers, and for my dress rental. My baker used a foam cake so that she didn't have much cost wrapped up and I returned the foam cake back to her later. I was trying to keep my budget low so I could offer ticket prices to other photographers at an affordable rate. Just being upfront and candid is the best way to have potentially hard conversations.

Here is a sample message I sent to a few vendors I wanted to partner with:

"Hey there Amaranths! My name is Lindsey and I am the owner of LC Photography, a wedding photographer who just moved to the central Arkansas area. I am planning a styled shoot at Graye Garden Wedding Chapel in November and would love to collaborate with you to bring my floral visions to life. I have seen your work and would love to have you make my bouquets! I realize that flowers can be costly and I do not expect anything for free. While I am trying to stick to a tighter budget in order to keep it affordable for other photographers, I am more than willing to pay for floral costs. I am also partnering with a few other vendors to do time for print - so you will have access to all of the images for your personal business use! If this is something you are interested in I am happy to talk more details and send you the inspiration I have for the shoot! Thanks so much!"

II.2 Models

I found my models via personal relationships or posts in local professional groups. I knew if I made a random post on any regular local group I would get the most random people messaging me interested. Locally we have some professional womens groups, as well as local wedding vendor groups and local influencer groups. For my maternity & wedding couple I made posts in these groups stating my needs and my guidelines I expected to be upheld. For the senior model I knew her personally from actually shooting her senior portraits this year. I knew she was comfortable in front of a camera and would do great.

There are couples and individuals out there who do this as hobbies though & they are usually members of styled shoot facebook groups! The biggest issue is either paying for their travel / time or finding one locally. Using past clients or closer friends whom you know will be professional and comfortable is easiest. Just be sure that your subjects are comfortable being in front of multiple cameras and being posed by multiple people!! There is nothing worse than having a tough subject or being caught off guard and not knowing you were going to be in a literal photo shoot. This could lead to tension with the subjects or other photographers.

I made it clear in all of my agreements that these model positions were TFP and they would have access to the images.

Pro Tip: I paid all of my HMU girls & models with starbucks gift cards as tokens of thanks for their time and resources. These girls showed up and provided me a service that they did not have to and I was so thankful. I wanted them to know that I appreciated them being there and helping my vision come true. 

II.3 Decor

I am not really sure where to stick this in the blog so I will just put it here. I identified my theme early and began shopping immediately for what I knew I wanted and needed. I thrifted the vast majority of my candle stick holders and glassware. Then I ordered runners, silverware, and detail items on amazon. I ordered cheap engagement rings and fake invites! I purchased some of my linens and other random items from places like walmart and TJ Maxx. I spent a total of 3 months collecting these items overtime and going to goodwill weekly to find things like lace sheets and golden goblets. A normal person would have just ordered everything from amazon but I am a thrifting addict and this was a great way to scratch that itch for myself. I highly recommend wedding resale groups as well!

III. Pricing your styled shoot

Creating a budget for your shoot is essential in determining how to price tickets to your shoot! I made a list of all of the things I would need in order to create the perfect shoot, decided how much I was willing to spend per item, totalled up all of the costs and then divided that by the number of photographers I wanted to allow to attend. Here is what my budget looked like:

  1. Dress - $200
  2. Florals - $300
  3. Venue - $200
  4. Snacks for vendors and photographers - $75
  5. Models - $100
  6. Details - $100
  7. Decor - $200

I then took this total and divided it by 9 photographers. Once I got my total number, I added a few dollars at the end of the individual total to pay myself a little bit for the time I would spend driving and planning

CAVEAT: As stated above, styled shoots are not quick cash and should not be planned with your primary goal being to make money.

With that being said- your time should not be free.

iV. Advertising and selling tickets

Once you know how many tickets & what you're pricing your styled shoot at you can begin advertising it. I advertised in my state styled shoot FB group & a few regional groups. It took me time to sell all of the tickets I had & when I was two weeks out I eventually ran a BOGO ticket to help sell more for less.

I accepted payment via paypal or invoiced through my payment platform. I personally preferred payment up front but if a photographer asked if they could make installments, I allowed them to.

While I did not have a contract for this shoot, I highly highly recommend having your photographers sign a contract of release & liability. As you know, contracts protect everybody, and they are so important. My next shoot will definitely require contract at time of ticket sale - not because anything happened at this one but because they are important in conducting GOOD business.

Once a photographer had sent payment I sent them a link to our FB group that was where I did all of my communicating and relaying of shoot information for the day. This is also where they will post their final galleries for models and vendors to access.

V. Creating a timeline for your styled shoot

Communication ahead of time and the creation of a timeline is essential in the execution of a successful styled shoot. Photographers like to know what is going on and vendors like to know who what when and where. I would much rather give too much information than not enough information!

At roughly two weeks out, I sent an email to all of my vendors and double checked we were all on the same page. I sent them the timeline with the address, along with my personal contact info so that they could get ahold of me in a pinch. I also sent them the timeline so they knew when they could arrive and when they needed to have their stuff set up by, etc.

I made two separate timelines for my styled shoot: me / vendor timeline & photographers timeline. One timeline was for vendors to show up, set up & models to stick to the other one was the timeline at which the photographers would be photographing what. I created this timeline based off of sunset / golden hour. You may have to set your own up based off of when you lose access to your venue. Our sunset was at 5:30 and so I had our finish time set there and worked backwards. I padded the time on each model session to allow for any bumps and work in down time for snacks, drinks, resting for photographers. I also worked in some additional time in case someone was late or something crazy happened. For our day, we ended up ahead of schedule but that was okay! my timeline is as posted below

vi. Having the best shoot ever

They day is here! Your styled shoot is happening!! I arrived 30 minutes before I told the venue owner I would be there & while he was okay with it some venue owners may not be, so be respectful of the venues timing too.

I unloaded my car & got to work! By the time my vendors began arriving I had the majority of my details all set up so I could network with them and be available in case they needed me. I was sure to grab head shots and a few shots of each vendor working on their craft so that they could have those to use on their socials. While my maternity model was early, my senior model was late. My photographers were early but they just shot around the venue until our maternity model was ready!

We had a small enough group that we all just stayed in one group and shot each model one at a time. I stood back and allowed the photographers to take turns posing and let their creative juices flow. If there was a time that it got awkward or silent and nobody was prompting I would jump in and give a direction. Then that would usually get the posing ball back rolling and they would be good again.

I did not get to spend as much time shooting because often times I was checking in on HMU and the other models, as well as setting the models in place... BUT that was okay. I got to share my posing knowledge and continue networking with vendors. I still got a couple good shots from each scape! When you are planning and exectuing a styled shoot you are essentially wearing an event coordinator hat for the day - especially if you have multiple models. So realizing you are not going to just be one of the photographers is.

Protip: I set up a grazing board for all of my vendors and photographers to eat off of. Everyone took pictures before-hand and then they dug in. Multipurpose and added to the experience!

Celebrate! You did it! Send thank you's to all vendors and begin processing your images from the day. I went home and took a long hot bubble bath after being on my feet and the socialziation overload from the day. Then I quickly editted a few images and created a quick thank you post on social media and bragged about the day.

In the coming weeks be sure to keep tagging vendors, posting and bragging on the day and use your content! I am currently writing this post while all of the info is fresh on my mind & already making pinterest boards for all of my future shoot ideas!

I will link all of my amazing vendors and some of the products that helped the day go off amazingly below!

Hair & Makeup was Blush & Glow Wedding co. Bailey with the Beauty Bandit and Emily with Hair by EC

Cake was Sweets by Logan

Venue was Graye Gardens Wedding Chapel

Dress was by Opal and June

Print Sponsorship by Proprints

adorable maternity dress link

engagement ring link

emerald velvet table runners

his and hers vow books

Let me know below if this was helpful in your planning of a styled shoot or if you have planned one and have any tips or tricks of your own!!