The Truth About Styled Shoots

First off, what is a styled shoot? They are created to give creators and vendors a chance to come together and connect while experimenting with different materials and methods not usually asked of by their clients. I say all the time that we are visual creatures. How are your clients going to know that you do watercolor washes with gold foil or organic bridal bouquets with just greenery if you don't have anything to show for it? This gives everyone participating a way to think outside of the box, explore, and have awesome images for social media and their websites. If you know me, you know that I am a big advocate for the "post what you want to be hired for" method. This applies to anyone. Do you want people inquiring about marble tile place cards? Purchase some and do a mini shoot! That's the only way people will know you sell them.

Here's a little secret: almost all of my website images are from styled shoots. *gasp* As someone who has done approximately 26 styled shoots, I understand how my stationery and calligraphy side works. However, I get asked frequently about styled shoots, and I even have questions of my own about different vendors. I usually don't participate during the styling and photographing, so I don't necessarily have the best insight on how other vendors work with styled shoots. Thank goodness I have friends who are willing to share their process. It's time to get to the bottom of styled shoots!

Let me preface this by saying that everyone does styled shoots differently. I am just giving you insight on how people I know and I handle styled shoots. Of course these are not all vendors who participate in styled shoots. If you would like to contribute your insight for another styled shoot post, please contact me here with something about styled shoots in your message. I am looking for people in the categories such as venue, cakes, catering, videographer, etc. If this isn't you, refer a friend to this post!

Full Name: Braelynn Tuitupou  |  Business Name: Belle Bodas and Events  |  Profession: Event Planner  |  Location: Salt Lake City, UT  |  Instagram: @bellebodas

Do you usually organize the styled shoot? – Yes

If yes, how do you get inspiration? Tell me about the process. – I dive into the history of the theme. For example, last year I did a Victorian themed styled shoot. I went to Barnes and Noble and did my research on the Victorian era. I looked at books of Victorian interior style, Victorian wedding customs, etc.

Do you already have a list of vendors you want to work with or do you contact others? – It depends on the style of the photoshoot. For example, if the photoshoot is fine art then I look for fine art vendors. If the styled shoot is modern then I look for modern style vendors.

What do you provide for the styled shoot? Explain. – I provide the eyes for design. As an event planner and designer, I choose the color palette, florals, location, models, makeup look, hairstyle, and anything else that requires a cohesive feel.

If you are not the organizer, how does the organizer contact you? – The photographer usually reaches out to me via email.

If you are not the organizer, how long do you need the organizer to contact you? – I need the organizer to contact me several months before; i.e. 3-4 months.

Do you usually work with local vendors? – It is 50/50 for me. I work with a lot of vendors all over, because I specialize in destination weddings. Therefore, I love to work with everyone!

Who pays for shipping the items to the organizer? – The vendor providing the product for the shoot usually pays. I see it as their part for being a part of the project.

If you are the organizer, what are the "rules" about sharing sneak peeks? – You can share via Instagram story on the day of the shoot, but not show too much so that it gives it all away. For example, a sneak peek of a floral arrangement or the bottom of a wedding dress is fine. Sneak peeks are also dependent upon the blog we are submitting to. A lot ask that none of the images be shared, so we respect what the blog asks of us.

Anything else you want to share? – As an event planner who has done several styled shoots, I'd love to hear people's thoughts on who pays for what in a styled shoot. For example, the florist. I have found that the florist doesn't charge for their services of arrangement of the florals, but they do charge for the florals because they are a tangible item. The photographer and myself then split the cost of the florals. Is it rude of us to ask the florist to pitch in on floral cost?

Full Name: Michelle Wolfe  |  Business Name: Michelle Lea Photographie  |  Profession: Photographer  |  Location: Church Hill, TN  |  Instagram: @michelleleaphotographie

Do you usually organize the styled shoot? – Yes

If yes, how do you get inspiration? Tell me about the process. – I just think about what I haven't seen. Sometimes, I can have inspiration from items that typically aren't what you would think to be inspiring, like home decor or the shape of an engagement ring etc.

Do you already have a list of vendors you want to work with or do you contact others? – It depends on my vision. If I have a certain style in mind and I know a certain vendor produces that style, I will contact them first. If it's someone I really want to work with, I'll contact them to see if we can collaborate.

What do you provide for the styled shoot? Explain. – I provide or find everything if it's my idea to do a shoot.

If you are not the organizer, how does the organizer contact you? – Usually via email

If you are not the organizer, how long do you need the organizer to contact you? – Usually 2 months in advance. I stay pretty booked.

Do you usually work with local vendors? – I try to.

If you are not the organizer and out of town, who pays for shipping the items to the organizer? – It depends. I'm always happy to provide funds for shipping.

If you are not the organizer, tell me about your process from contact to delivery/shipping. – It is 4 to 6 weeks depending on the season.

If you are the organizer, what are the "rules" about sharing sneak peeks? – I'm okay with sharing them unless there's a publication in mind that wants totally exclusivity. 

Full Name: Kristin Panetta  |  Business Name: Elle James Bridal  |  Profession: Bridal Boutique Owner  |  Location: Ridgeland, MS  |  Instagram: @ellejamesbridal

Do you usually organize the styled shoot? – Yes

It is always a more successful shoot when each vendor is working towards something that aligns with their brand.

If yes, how do you get inspiration? Tell me about the process. – Yes and no. Since I carry dresses that most styled shoots need, my dresses are used in a lot of styled shoots that I do not organize. However, I do organize a few of my own. I normally choose my style and direction first and then pick out vendors that fit that style. It is always a more successful shoot when each vendor is working towards something that aligns with their brand.

Do you already have a list of vendors you want to work with or do you contact others? – I choose different vendors depending on the style and location of the shoot.

What do you provide for the styled shoot? Explain. – Wedding Dress(es) and accessories

If you are not the organizer, how does the organizer contact you? – Normally an organizer will email me, reach out via social media, or give me a call.

If you are not the organizer, how long do you need the organizer to contact you? – 1 week in advance - I like to have enough time to make sure that the brides coming in for appointments are not looking for similar styles to the dress(es) I am loaning out. For this reason, Sunday or Monday shoots are always best for me because the organizer has free range of their dress selection because we are closed those days.

Do you usually work with local vendors? – Yes! I work with as many local vendors as I can. If they are not in the immediate area, I definitely make sure it is something within the state.

If you are not the organizer and out of town, who pays for shipping the items to the organizer? – This depends on the shoot for me. If the aesthetic of the shoot aligns with my brand, I am much more likely to want to use them for marketing purposes for my business so I will happily pay shipping because I will use the images. If the style of the shoot does not align with my brand and my business will not benefit from it as much, I may ask them to pay shipping and I will take care of any dress cleaning that needs to be done.

If you are the organizer, what are the "rules" about sharing sneak peeks? – I choose 3-5 photos that can be used as sneak peeks. Ideally I try to get fun shots or something like a boomerang from the shoot that everyone can use instead so that all participants feel like that are able to share the shoot without sharing the final results until they are published.

If you are not the organizer, tell me about your process from contact to delivery/shipping. – I normally schedule a time for the organizer and model to come in so that the model can actually try the dresses on and make sure it's a good fit. This also gives me and the organizer a moment to bounce ideas off of each other and usually end up picking a better dress for the shoot than we would choose if the organizer just requested a specific dress because they saw a picture of it somewhere.

Anything else you want to share? – Styled shoots can be very beneficial for a business but they can also suck a lot of time and energy up with no results. Be smart about the group that you are working with. It should be beneficial for everyone - and if it's not than maybe it's not the best styled shoot for you!

Full Name: Christine Woods |  Business Name: The Petaler Co.  |  Profession: Floral Designer|  Location: Ocean Springs, MS  |  Instagram: @thepetalerco

Do you usually organize the styled shoot? – No

How do you get inspiration? Tell me about the process. – While we are often approached by other vendors with a vision for a styled shoot, we typically make sure that the shoot aligns closely with our aesthetic and our goals. At that point, we jump in and it becomes a collaborative effort and we help organize and orchestrate the details (as long as it is still helpful to the photographer or stylist who is heading up the shoot). We consider all of the details florals might interact with (tables/rentals, place settings, stationery suites, ring boxes) so we can pull in the appropriate textures and colors that keep with the theme of the shoot. We try to bring fresh floral inspiration (via images from Pinterest or Instagram) to show the shoot planner that we understand their vision.

Do you already have a list of vendors you want to work with or do you contact others? – A little of both! We're always happy to suggest people who we love working with and who offer consistent, quality work, but one of our favorite things about participating in styled shoots is working with new people! – Such great networking.

What do you provide for the styled shoot? Explain. – We provide vases, floral product, time and labor for set-up, delivery, on-site installations if there are any involved with the shoot, and break-down and clean-up.

If you are not the organizer, how does the organizer contact you? – Initially it can be via social media or web contact form, we always love to do a call to get a feel for how things are going and talk through conceptual ideas. Also, an email chain works really well for staying in touch about the details.

If you are not the organizer, how long do you need the organizer to contact you? – If we are onsite for a large shoot, 4 weeks is ideal notice, if it's something smaller like a bouquet and boutonniere, 2 weeks is great!

Do you usually work with local vendors? – Half the time, vendor's fly in. The other half, we'll work with local vendors (local meaning regional to the SouthEast).

If you are not the organizer, tell me about your process from contact to delivery/shipping. – After chatting with the organizer, we set-up a private Pinterest board specific to floral inspiration for the shoot. We take the original inspiration from the organizer and dive into the details: color, texture, seasonal availability. By two weeks out (or ASAP) we begin writing floral recipes for the pieces we will make. We also see if there is product that can be repurposed to minimize cost (these are based on factors such as the timeline of the day, heat at that time of the year, or whether or not a piece is one-sided or multi-sided). 

When flowers arrive to the studio we process them and allow them to begin opening. We have 1-2 design days leading up to the shoot for studio work (again, depending on the size of the shoot). Then day of, we pack the van with our tool-boxes, arrangements, and buckets of flowers needed for onsite builds. This includes The Petaler Co. team of 1-3 (depending on the size of the shoot).

Anything else you want to share? – Cost is a tricky thing for us to talk about with styled shoots, and while floral product alone adds up very quickly, there is so much to gain from collaborative work! We don't have set prices, but price it out on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the investment other vendors. 

Full Name: Grace Avila  |  Business Name: Grace Niu Design |  Profession: Stationery Designer & Calligrapher  |  Location: Chicago, IL  |  Instagram: @graceniudesign

Do you usually organize the styled shoot? – No

How do you get inspiration? Tell me about the process. – I don't typically organize the shoots, but I have done it for one. It was such a fun process! I came up with an idea that I felt was unique (I was inspired by coffee shops and my love for coffee), and then I began to search on Pinterest for inspiration. After gathering enough images, I curated the selection to include only the ones I felt best represented the way I wanted the shoot to look. I also browsed wedding blogs and Instagram to find inspirational images and to also make sure my idea hadn't been replicated by too many people.

Do you already have a list of vendors you want to work with or do you contact others? – That was my first ever shoot I put together, but I did already have a few vendors in mind that I had worked with or that I was friends with already. For the rest of the vendors, I researched and then contacted them.

What do you provide for the styled shoot? Explain. – I usually provide an invitation suite (which includes an invitation, 1-2 additional cards, and envelopes), menus, place cards, and some signage if needed. I contribute my time and labor, which is of a good value already as it takes a while to design each invitation suite, and I typically have the organizer compensate me for the materials.

If you are not the organizer, how does the organizer contact you? – The organizer typically will find me through Instagram!

If you are not the organizer, how long do you need the organizer to contact you? – I typically request at least 3-4 weeks if I'm creating a full suite plus other items. If I'm being asked to only contribute a few place cards, or something small like that, I'll need about 2 weeks so that I can order materials and prepare the pieces.

Do you usually work with local vendors? – Yes! For the shoot I organized, it was all local Chicago vendors. I thought it was important that everything be local and Chicago-inspired to tie in with the theme of the shoot we did. For ones that I participate in, they have mostly been in the Midwest area.

If you are not the organizer and out of town, who pays for shipping the items to the organizer? – Since I ask the organizer to compensate for materials, I will pay for standard shipping unless it's a rush ship item.

In terms of giving credit, as much as possible, every vendor should be credited in each post.

If you are the organizer, what are the "rules" about sharing sneak peeks? – Again, I only have experience organizing for one shoot so far, but we asked the rest of the vendors to only share 1-2 images from the shoot at first. After a few months had passed and we weren't sure if we were going to be featured in a blog, the photographer gave permission for everyone to share any images on their personal blogs only. We did receive news that we'll be featured soon, so that's exciting! In terms of giving credit, as much as possible, every vendor should be credited in each post.

If you are not the organizer, tell me about your process from contact to delivery/shipping. – Once I'm contacted, I gather all the pertinent information: timing, expectations of what's needed, the wording/information to be included on each piece, and the mood board. I also like to learn who the photographer is so that I can make sure they have a style I relate to. Some organizers submit a simple agreement to be signed, and some do not. Once everything has been agreed upon, I create a Pinterest board for inspiration for my paper goods, even if there's already a mood board for the styled shoot. I decide a direction to go in, order the necessary materials, and then begin work on designing all the pieces. When everything is complete, I contact the organizer for shipping information or to arrange a time for pick-up.

Anything else you want to share? – I'd love for others in our industry to have a better sense of the value of the invitation suites that designers and calligraphers provide for styled shoots. One unique suite is being created for one styled shoot, typically, and the value of that can be quite a lot depending on how much the designer typically charges for a regular client. I personally also like to request as much time as possible to brainstorm ideas, order materials, design, revise, design, print, calligraph, assemble, etc - you can see how many extra steps are in our process! Learning more about each others' processes will hopefully help us all out!

Photo by Jenna McElroy

Photo by Jenna McElroy

Full Name: Nicolette Selman  |  Business Name: Lazywood Lane |  Profession: Calligrapher & Stationer|  Location: San Antonio, TX  |  Instagram: @lazywoodlane

Do you usually organize the styled shoot? – No

How do you get inspiration? Tell me about the process. – The first question I always ask is - do you have a mood board? Normally I will look at the mood board and look back at it every few days. I like to draw inspiration from everything other than stationery. I look at the colors, movement, emotion, and surroundings.

Do you already have a list of vendors you want to work with or do you contact others? – I definitely have people I want to work with! I love to use Instagram to connect with people, that's what makes every shoot so fun, is that I'm working with my friends.

What do you provide for the styled shoot? Explain. – I provide an invitation suite and menus/place cards, occasionally a love letter or vows.

If you are not the organizer, how does the organizer contact you? – The organizer usually contacts me by Instagram DM or by email.

If you are not the organizer, how long do you need the organizer to contact you? – 3 weeks in advance, preferably. With at least 4 weeks in advance if I am sourcing some materials.

Do you usually work with local vendors? – I work with vendors all across the world!

If you are not the organizer and out of town, who pays for shipping the items to the organizer? – I pay the shipping, unless it is overnighted because of the time constraint.

If you are the organizer, what are the "rules" about sharing sneak peeks? – I'm not the organizer, but I always ask the photographer or the planner if they plan on submitting. If so, I will hold off on posting more than 2-3. And I also try to limit to what others have already posted.

If you are not the organizer, tell me about your process from contact to delivery/shipping. – From first contact, I always ask for a mood board, what date they will need the pieces by (sometimes they are going out of the country on a certain date), and if they will need menus/place cards and how many table settings there will be. I LOVE when planners give me name suggestions, especially if the shoot is out of the country or they are going with a certain vibe. I used to think that nobody would look at the names, but now I see that it is really important and often overlooked. So I definitely started asking if they have any name suggestions. After that, I look at the mood board every few days, just kind of let it simmer in my head. If I'm sourcing materials, I'll try to do that well ahead of time so that everything arrives in time for me to use. Then I'll pull together a palette of all of the materials I plan on using and then get to work! A week before the date they need to arrive, I'll prep a USPS Priority Mail envelope with a shipping label and arrange for pick-up in time for the package to arrive the day before they are scheduled to leave the country or 1-2 days before the shoot.

Anything else you want to share? – I love that you're doing this!!! <3

Full Name: Sarah Barrett  |  Business Name: Sarah B. Calligraphy |  Profession: Calligrapher & Stationer|  Location: Tupelo, MS  |  Instagram: @sarahbcalligraphy

Do you usually organize the styled shoot? – No

What do you provide for the styled shoot? Explain. – For styled shoots, I provide all of the paper goods and calligraphy work. This includes invitation, RSVP card, envelopes, envelope liner, vows, place cards, etc. I really try to work with the vision of the planner or photographer and add my magic to it.

If you are not the organizer, how does the organizer contact you? – The organizer is usually a photographer or event planner. They contact me through Instagram or my website asking if I am available. 

If you are not the organizer, how long do you need the organizer to contact you? – I don't always have the materials on hand, so I like to have at least a month to prepare, look over the mood board, plan, gather materials, and create the pieces. This includes designing everything, printing, calligraphing, and packaging. 

Do you usually work with local vendors? – I usually don't work with local vendors. 

If you are not the organizer and out of town, who pays for shipping the items to the organizer? – If I have plenty of time to ship the items, I will pay for the shipping. Unfortunately, I don't always get the information in time which pushes back the shipping date or the shoot has a quick turnaround. If the items have to be overnighted, I kindly ask the planner or photographer to pay for the shipping.

If you are not the organizer, tell me about your process from contact to delivery/shipping. – I receive the inquiry and see who the photographer is. If the photographer's style doesn't line up with mine, I don't always take on the styled shoot. Make sure the photographer matches your brand. You don't want to create everything and then not be able to use the images. After I receive the mood board, I get a better picture of the vision. I like to get all of the information at once, such as any specific names, venues, dates, etc. that the organizer wants on the paper details. Then I design the pieces, sometimes send a digital mockup (depending on timeframe), and create the pieces. This can take up to 3 weeks to do. Finally, I ship the items out and am always excited to see how my pieces are styled and photographed! 

Anything else you want to share? – I think it's really important to give all of the vendors plenty of time to put together their items. I have had to turn down styled shoot opportunities because the organizer reached out a week in advance. That doesn't give me any time to organize and design. It does take time to get in the supplies and make sure everything is perfect. I know not to throw something together because it really shows in the photographs. Another piece of advice when styling our invitations is to lay them out straight. I have seen where it was crooked, so just keep that in mind. I also want to mention that it would be nice to get the pieces back, and I know most stationers would love that. It adds to their portfolio, and we certainly don't mind paying for shipping back. I have been fortunate to work with amazing planners who mail my pieces back. Styled shoots are a great opportunity to experiment, learn, connect, and get your pieces professionally photographed! Don't stop communication with the vendors. Build a relationship with them!

Full Name: Vina Gisella  |  Business Name: Vina Gisella Artistry  |  Profession: Makeup Artist/Photographer  |  Location: Seattle, WA  |  Instagram: @vinagisella

Do you usually organize the styled shoot? – No

How do you get inspiration? Tell me about the process. – I get inspiration everywhere, whether it's through an old magazine, social media, or people with the same passion as me.

If you are not the organizer, how does the organizer contact you? – Usually when another photographer does the shoot, they either email me the detail information.

If you are not the organizer, how long do you need the organizer to contact you? – Two weeks in advance is preferred.

If you are the photographer, how long should the other vendors expect photos? – Two weeks prior from the day of the shoot

If you are the organizer, what are the "rules" about sharing sneak peeks? – My only rule when sharing sneak peaks is to tag and credit everyone who is involved.

Anything else you want to share? – At the end of all the chaos, emailing, texting, calls, getting lost, people are not on time... Remember one thing: always have fun and let the little stuff go. Because you are in that moment doing something that you passionately love doing. Just have FUN.