Styled shoots are something that can be so much fun and amazing to be a part of when it comes to creating vendor relationships BUT they can actually help other vendors more than they do photographers! I know you are probably thinking I am crazy, but hear me out!
Now, let me say this before we get too deep. I do think styled shoots are GREAT for a few things! I love shooting them when I get the chance because they are a fun way to work with vendor friends!
Now let me explain why I am NOT a fan!
You are probably saying,” How can I get clients if I don’t shoot styled shoots?” Now there are a lot of answers to this that I can’t get into now, but I have good news! I can actually count on ONE hand the amount of styled shoots I have been a part of since starting my business almost 4 years ago and I have booked over 100 weddings without relying on styled shoots! In fact, my first styled shoot was photographed after I shot 17 weddings! – So if you are thinking it can’t be done without styled shoots, that isn’t the case!
This year I have heard my brides actually tell me things like –
” Multiple photographers had the same images on their page?”
” How did these people get these images and who actually shot this wedding?”
” The details weren’t realistic to a wedding day – I wanted to see myself in her images but couldn’t “
” Why do photographers THINK we want to see these on their pages?”
THIS is what was going through their mind when looking for a photographer!
The next phrase that would come from them was – ” When I found you I was so happy to see all REAL images and couples!”
You guys, Clients are catching on and they aren’t fans of what they are seeing!
Think of it from their perspective –
They are looking for an amazing professional to capture the biggest day of their lives and they keep seeing the same images, the same floral arrangements, the same dress, over and over again. They have no idea why. They don’t understand why all of these photographers have the same images just edited differently. All they know is that they don’t understand and want to find someone different who has a different portfolio! – That isn’t what you want!
The number one culprit of this issue – Group Styled Shoots!
Now again, let me say I HAVE attended these before and I have used images on my website and I have blogged them! BUT they were never the focal point of my website. They didn’t make up 50% of my portfolio. They were done for fun!
We have been told time and time again that styled shoots are the way to getting your dream clients and because of it, people are throwing their money at them and shooting them ALL the time for their portfolio! Other’s design them, then 20 people shoot them and use them on their websites! The thing that always happens that others don’t think about? Those 20 people are ALL advertising to the SAME clients with those SAME images!
Y’all it isn’t a good marketing technique!
So how do you make styled shoots useful?
Make them yourself! When I moved to Atlanta I did multiple shoots with dress stores and designers who were more than happy to let me take images of their dresses for free with models! Granted they were still styled, but they were much more real than the others! The models usually did their own makeup, we would find florist who were new in business like us to create bouquets, there was no fancy jewelry, and the models were usually in flip flops under their dress!
Was it glamorous? NOPE!
Was it fun and beneficial? YES!
No one else had those images. I made great connections. I got fun bridal portraits for my portfolio. Plus, I got experience in shooting in all lighting conditions because a lot of times we had to shoot mid day so everyone could make it!
You can easily make these shoots bigger by adding rentals, a planner, cake, etc and I do encourage it because again it is great for your creativity! I have found though that the smaller the scale and more realistic to an actual wedding day, the more likely your brides are to connect to the images! Plus, they are more likely to ” fit in” with your portfolio!
Another amazing way to benefit by them is to serve the vendors well! I send out sneak peeks the day of the shoot if possible so everyone can see their hard work! This allows vendors to share images quickly and tag your business to help bring their clients your way! – Also, whenever you share images make sure to tag vendors and give the proper credit back! Vendor friends can be one of the BEST tools in your business!
I love styled shoots, seriously you guys I do! I would shoot them WAY more if they actually benefitted my business more than they do! I have found so many successful ways to market my business outside of these shoots and I hate seeing others think that ” this is the way to get clients “, when it actually may be hurting them! There is a super fine line when it comes to sharing styled shoots and I would hate for you to be one of those who cross it without knowing!
The absolute BEST way to get images for your portfolio is by second shooting! Most photographers will allow you to share images in your portfolio once a certain time frame has passed and it the BEST way to show potential brides that you have what it takes to capture their day!
What if you can’t get any second shooting gigs? Ask to be a third shooter or an assistant for FREE! Yes, you read that right! Most photographers don’t have an issue with having more hands on deck if you are there to learn and gain experience – it is just hard for us to pay 2-3 people each wedding! I guarantee if you ask to tag along for free and are super helpful during the day, the lead photographer won’t mind you snapping some ceremony shots or portraits when the time comes!
One of the best things I have done for attracting my dream brides is learning how to make my own weddings look as high end as possible! From bringing a styling kit to weddings, asking the florist for extra florals to style with, arriving early on my own time to have extra time for details, finding the best lighting options, and by helping my brides prep in advance for their images by giving them the tools and tips they need! That is what will benefit your business MORE than styled shoots ever will!