Last fall, I participated in my first styled shoot. It took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, and I got a lot of great images out of it.
A styled shoot is a a photoshoot that you are paying to participate in. The organizer finds a scenic location, dresses, models, makeup artists, florist, and anything else needed to make a perfect scene for a photographer to shoot.
Fun fact: Many of the photos in bridal magazines are styled shoots. After the shoot, the organizer or photographer submitted the photos to the publication, and they were published. Obviously some of the photos in magazines are actual weddings, but they liked to publish the styled shoots to showcase the work of everyone involved, and as inspiration for real weddings.
Why Would You Pay to Photograph?
Most of us got our start photographing friends and family, and anyone who would agree to it. For those who wanted to go pro, the goal was to get paid for our craft, not pay others for our hard work. So why would we pay to photograph?
Well, there’s a few reasons:
- Building and Elevating your portfolio: Professional models know how to pose. Florists and designers set up beautiful scenes. All these professionals working together can create incredible images to add to your portfolio, images that potential clients can see.
- Collaboration with other vendors: It’s a great way to meet other vendors, see their work, and they will see your finished images. Word of mouth is one of the biggest ways potential clients learn about you, and if other vendors like your work, they can recommend you to their clients.
- Inspiration: With no pressure or timeline from a client, you have the ability to experiment, try new angles, lighting, or compositions. You can watch other photographers to see if they are doing something you wouldn’t have tried. Your only client is basically yourself, so you’re able to play around and get the photos you want.
The Downsides of Styled Shoots
Of course, it’s not all dazzling dresses and incredible locations. There’s some downsides to styled shoots.
- They can be costly: They can range from a single model or model couple with one set up, to multiple models at different stations, to actual trips to scenic locations, spanning multiple days and multiple shoots. You may find one near you for a couple hundred dollars, or you might want to spend thousands on a photography vacation.
- They can be unrealistic: Styled shoots often feature elaborate setups and perfect poses that are not realistic for most weddings. This can set unrealistic expectations for couples, who may be disappointed when their own wedding photos don’t look as “perfect” as the styled shoots they’ve seen. If you can’t replicate the same style, you may have very upset clients.
- You end up with the same images as many other photographers: If clients are looking for a photographer and they see your work, but then also see similar work from another photographer, it may be confusing to them.
Ultimately styled shoots are a great way to build a portfolio, and they can be great fun. For a less experienced photographer it’s a great way to build up a portfolio and for more experienced photographers, it can be a fun way to see a new venue, make new contacts, or even have a really great vacation doing our favorite thing, photographing!