This post is part of the series, The Ultimate Guide To Being A Wedding Photographer — advice for running a successful wedding photography biz. Click here to view a list of all the posts in this series.
This post contains affiliate links… but I was gonna recommend them anyway — so, hey… might as well get paid for it!
Yes, you totally get it. It’s making sense now…
But, you might be asking, “Moriah, I know I need to attract my Ideal Client with images they love… but I’m not shooting those types of weddings… How can I shoot for my Ideal Client???”
Maybe you’re just starting out and only have second shooting gigs to build your portfolio with — so they might not be the perfect images for YOUR Ideal Client.
OR maybe you’ve been in business for years — but you just discovered my free Ideal Client Avatar worksheet — and realized that the images you’ve been shooting aren’t attracting your dream bride.
What’s a smart girl like you to do??
Styled Shoots, my friend.
Styled shoots are a great way to build your portfolio with images that will attract your Ideal Client!
I even tell my branding clients to plan a styled shoot or two that incorporates their new brand colors and style — what better way to launch your new branding and website, than with a portfolio that matches perfectly?! Pretty exciting, right?
The thing is, your clients are REAL people, with real people weddings. And you’re an awesome photographer, so you’re going capture those gorgeous moments and details — and rock their socks off when you do (regardless of whether or not they match your style, brand aesthetic, or Ideal Client profile.)!
BUT like I mentioned before, those images might not necessarily belong on your site.
If you’re currently shooting a hodge-podge of styles and images… and filling up your website, blog and Instagram feed with those images… guess what you’re going to continue to book?
Yep, a hodge-podge of weddings.
BUT if you start to carefully curate that portfolio to brilliantly speak to your Ideal Client and communicate your perfectly honed brand, guess what types of weddings you’ll start to book??
Yes! Weddings and clients that match your style and Ideal Client profile!
The first thing you’re going to want to do is sit down and make a list of what YOU want for your portfolio. And start a secret Pinterest board, while you’re at it!
I highly recommend going over your Ideal Client Avatar worksheet, as well as your Brand Board or Brand Style Guide (Click here to see an example of one of my client’s brand boards).
The thing is, Styled Shoots are a lot of work, so you’ll want to make sure you end up with the perfect images for your portfolio. After reviewing your own branding and Ideal Client, make a list of your dream images and items for this shoot. A few things to think about:
You should start out with just a loose idea of what you want to do. Think more, overall style and color palette, and less about the details. Because then you can reach out to other vendors for collaboration —
This is another fantastic aspect of planning a styled shoot!
Styled shoots can be super small (i.e. grab a former bride and a bouquet from Trader Joe’s, and hit your nearest park) or they can be massive (multiple models, wardrobe changes and venues). I’ve done them all. But one of my favorite things about working on a styled shoot, is that it’s a great way to connect with other wedding vendors.
Not only that, if you are planning a shoot geared specifically toward your Ideal Client, then chances are you’ll find other vendors with a similar Ideal Client. You can all benefit from the collaboration of the shoot — but beyond that you can build a referral network with other vendors who want to work with the same clients as you!
However, since you are planning this styled shoot (and you’re a savvy boss babe who is creating an epic-ly styled shoot to coordinate with your own brand) — you need to be sure you maintain a degree of creative control.
I would suggest reaching out to just one other vendor first (typically a wedding planner, or a venue) and tell them what you’re looking to do. And don’t be afraid to tell them you want to plan a shoot that attracts your Ideal Client.
Hopefully you’ve done your research, and not just reached out to any wedding planner or any venue… but one that has a similar style and Ideal Client. Tell them that this is why you think they would be a great partner.
The two of you should work together on the shoot as partners. Get together for coffee and chat about your dream shoot. From there you can start to invite other vendors to join your shoot.
Because styled shoots (large or small) can have a lot of “moving parts” you’ll want to make sure you and the rest of the vendors are all on the same page about expectation, photo usage, etc.
One of the BEST ways to do this is by using a Styled Shoot Agreement (or contract). Styled shoot contracts help to ensure everyone understands their roll in the shoot, the proper usage of your images, and also (most importantly) protects you and your business.
Fostering vendor relationships is an awesome way to grow your biz. And you always want to expect the best from others. But you also don’t want to put yourself at risk, in case things don’t go as smoothly as planned.
Because of that, I highly recommend you invest in a Style Shoot Contract Template — like this one, from The Contract Shop:
The perfect way to effortlessly and painlessly make sure your investment in each styled shoot you participate in is protected. Click here for more info.
Like I said, make sure everyone is in agreement about their role in the shoot, you’ll protect yourself, and you’ll just look more professional to everyone you’re working with!
Be on your A-game. Dress the part. Show up early and rock the socks off the other vendors.
Like I said before, styled shoots are a great way to network with other vendors and eventually get referrals! So the more you can impress them, the better.
And remember, yes, this is your styled shoot that you dreamed up, and invited them to join. BUT they’ve also invested a lot of time (and usually money) on these shoots. You are a team.
Typically other vendors will expect your images as compensation for their time and expense. This should have all been discussed previously (and hopefully outlined in a Styled Shoot Contract).
I suggest you give the other vendors high resolution, non-watermarked images. And let them use them how they’d like! I see a lot of other photographers get really petty about usage, etc.
But I would MUCH rather build an awesome relationship with an awesome vendor (who has a similar Ideal Client!!) by being generous with my images. Because in the future, who will they be more likely to refer their brides to? A stingy photographer who won’t let them use the photographs or puts huge watermarks over them, or a photographer who is super generous and easy to work with??
And that relationship could become incredibly valuable to you — what if they sent ALL of their brides your way?
Now, that said, I did have a few stipulations, that I would “kindly suggest” when emailing vendors images (feel free to steal my wording!):
Speaking of giving vendors the photos you’ll want to do that as soon as possible. Sometimes, if you’re trying to get the shoot published, you may need to keep the images private until after publication (but make sure this is all discussed beforehand and keep the other vendors updated about your progress).
But like I said, be generous with your images — it will go a long way!
While you’re at it, be generous and gracious with credit, too! When sharing the images make sure you ALWAYS give credit to all the vendors included. There’s nothing worse than working super hard on something and then being left out of the credits!
(Pro Tip): When your shoot is over, reach out to all the vendors you worked with and thank them for their time and talent. A handwritten thank you card, with a few of your biz cards inside can really set you apart from other photographers.
If you really loved a certain vendor — especially if it’s someone you’d love to work with again — consider printing a few canvases or an album of the shoot, and gifting it to them!
So, that’s my advice for organizing a styled shoot to fill your portfolio with images that’ll attract your Ideal Client — and as an added bonus you’ll be networking with vendors who share your same Ideal Client!
It’s a great marketing tool!
What do you think, friend? Ready to plan your own fabulous styled shoot? Are you going to incorporate your own brand colors and style?
Let me know in a comment below!