Chapter 2: Creating Styled Shoots
If you feel like you don’t have enough images in your portfolio that fit your brand, create some. Set up a styled shoot or ask some of your friends to model for you so you can be creative and create images with your branding words in mind. Setting up shoots yourself is also a great way to connect with other creatives or brands that you would like to be associated with.
When looking for people to collaborate with, I found the most success and best response rate when contacting people who were on the same ’level’ as me or only slightly higher. Every time I contacted people who were ’above’ me in the industry I either never got a response at all or it was always a no. I am not saying you shouldn’t aspire to work with the best of the best; you might get lucky. But I strongly believe that your time is best spent finding creatives who have great potential and a great product but are not yet well-known, who will be happy to work with you, and through your collaboration you will help lift eachother’s brands and businesses to the next level. If you treat people well, you will have built the foundation for a mutually beneficial working relationship and possibly friendship that could last for years.
Over the years, I have managed to build great relationships with people like dress designer Maria Fekih, hairpiece designer Aino, jewelry maker Betsey Sook, and several Scandinavian wedding blog editors, and most of all my friend and wedding planner Danish Island Weddings. These relationships all started with me having the courage to approach others and a genuine interest in helping them grow their business.
Give, give, give.
Below are images from three inspirational shoots that I visualised and brought to life, styled and photographed on my own. All of these shoots have been featured on international wedding blogs and helped boost my website ranking and searchability with premium link juice and provided me with the spotlight and authority that made it possible for me to book kind generous couples with great taste and a passion for design and visual art at higher and higher rates each season. Not to mention the fact that they gave me deep personal and artistic satisfaction. I felt truly happy as I was taking these photos!
Mosterøy, Norway: A simple dress I purchased with my own money on Asos, a few simple props, a bouquet I made from wild flowers on the side of the road driving to the shoot, and a pro model who volunteered to do the shoot with me after the editor of The Norwegian Wedding Blog agreed to post my search for a model on her blog.
A wild garden in my own neighbourhood, homemade bouquet, a cheap dress from Asos, a few beautiful headpieces borrowed from designer Aino, and my lovely friend and her dog:
Venice, Italy: a borrowed dress from designer Maria Fekih which took up almost all the space in my suitcase, a crown borrowed from Aino, and a friend's daughter, no makeup or styling:
Some of my shoots that I have done on my own have come about because I was travelling to a place anyway either to shoot a wedding or travelling with friends or family. And I wanted to make the most of it and create something with international appeal. Others have taken place literally in my own backyard.
Plan Your Styled Shoot:
The first thing to do is sit down and make a list of what YOU want or need for your own portfolio. And start a secret Pinterest board gathering inspirational images if you need to. Creating a styled shoot requires more work than you might think, so you must 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:
Wedding Gown Style/Designer
Style of Accessories, florals, etc.
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 and incorporate their ideas and wishes so they are invested in the shoot too.
Connecting With Other Wedding Vendors:
A Styled shoot can be incredibly simple and small (find a former bride you really liked working with or a friend who owns a dress you really love and buy a bouquet from a local florist, and go shoot in your favourite public location) or they can be massive undertakings (multiple models, wardrobe changes and venues). I’ve done both and everything inbetween. If you are planning a shoot designed to attract your Ideal Client, then chances are you'll be able to collaborate with other vendors who have a similar Ideal Client. You can build a referral network with other vendors in the industry who want to work with the same clients as you!
But working with others is a constant balancing act between collaborating and being respectful of others' needs and ideas but making sure that you maintain a degree of creative control.
I would suggest making just one other vendor your co-creator and let others be remote contributors offering their product or service in return for credit and links. Typically if I have chosen to have a co-creator on a shoot it has been my friend and designer, Maria Fekih, who has an exquisite creative vision and a super sharp eye, and is also the one contributing with the most expensive item of the shoot, designer dresses. We have split all costs 50/50. I have always left florists, venues, invitations/paper, makeup artist etc be silent partners.
Be well-rested, well-organised and on time, or better yet, early! ;-)
Have a detailed list of the shots you need, and a step by step plan for any dress changes, location changes etc. And make sure you have done your research on the weather forecast, sunrise and sunset times, special events in the area that may cause traffic jams, or any restrictions or permits needed to shoot where you want to.
And remember that while the shoot was yours to begin with, you are a team and you must do the shoot in a way that provides beautiful photos specifically for all vendors involved in addition to creating an overall visual story that can be submitted to blogs.
Sharing The Photos:
Within a few days after the shoot, email all the vendors involved and thank them for their time and contribution. Remind them of the timeline (don't release any photos until after they have been published on whatever blog you have submitted to and been accepted by), and provide links etc for the other contributors (many of them will not have met in person) so that everyone gives everyone else credit. Don't watermark your images, trust instead.
The relationships that can come out of a shoot like this could become incredibly valuable to you — you have the chance to become the photographer they send all their couples to.
But just like with your clients, it can be a good idea to make sure everyone are on the same page by refreshing their memory and making kind suggestions as to how they best share your images:
Please do not alter the image in any way (no filters, etc.)
Please give credit whenever sharing on social media or your website (tagging or a hyperlink to my website in the description is perfect!)