I’ve spoken of the seemingly endless benefits of styled wedding shoots many times. From getting to have complete creative control over your sessions to creating the exact photos you’d love to take every time you went to a shoot with a client to building community and contacts within the wedding industry that may pay off in the future. Styled shoots are one of the best ways to take control of your career, especially if you’re transitioning into the destination wedding photography market.
When you learn how to plan a styled shoot, you’ll pivot your career from taking any client and any shoot to intentionally curating the exact photos you’ve dreamed of!
Organizing and planning styled wedding shoots have been a staple in my career to help me build out my portfolio, even as a booked destination wedding photographer! And I’m sharing my top 5 tips on one of the biggest elements of planning a styled wedding shoot: approaching vendors.
When you’re able to put together your dream styled shoot, that’s when you’ll really come alive as a photographer. When you come alive, your passion flows, and soon the clients you’ve been waiting for will see your work. And they won’t be able to deny themselves the excitement of working with you!
Those kinds of clients are more than likely going to be your ideal clients, too. Creating photographs that are epic with clients we love – that’s what we dream of as photographers. And learning how to plan a styled wedding shoot is how we make that happen.
When putting together a styled shoot, it’s more than just finding a couple (or models), picking a place to photograph, and hoping for the best. The entire goal of our session is to create valuable content that will win us the kind of business we want.
If we want to win business, then we need to better understand who is going to respond to and engage with our content. We need to understand who our ideal clients are and create content that both attracts them and represents us. One of the best ways to do this is by approaching the right vendors for your styled shoot.
Sourcing vendors is a lot like making new friends. First, you have to find people who are excited to work with you and who you will enjoy being with along the way. Styled sessions involve so much work behind the scenes that you need to find people who will give you their best and contribute to and support the team. Surrounding yourself with positive and inspired people is one of the most important but overlooked steps in creating something amazing.
Before you even ask a vendor to collaborate, do your homework. Get familiar with the person and their work. Through the power of social media, we can start to follow and engage with someone without ever formally meeting them. And we can establish some form of relationship before requesting a collaboration.
This is also super important as you start planning vendors for your styled wedding shoot because you’ll get to know their styles, aesthetics, and ideal clients. Since one of the main goals of creating these types of sessions is to transition into taking on intentional clients, you’ll want to make sure that all of your vendors are close enough to that ideal client, too!
That will also help you keep your portfolio cohesive, instead of it looking as though you’re still taking on any client or session!
Plus, if your styles, aesthetics, and ideal clients match up with your selected vendors, they may be more likely to refer more work to you in the future.
I know we all like the convenience of social media. Liking some photos on their feed, then sending a quick DM asking if they’d want to collaborate in a shoot seems like a simple way to go.
But trust me when I say it’s not. You want to come across as a professional and be able to include key bits of information when reaching out. Sending a DM on Instagram or Facebook doesn’t put your best foot forward.
So, here’s what I suggest when approaching vendors! You can start your relationship and conversations on social media by commenting, sharing content, and DMing them. But don’t end it there!
Once you have more foundational information about the styled wedding shoot you’re planning, such as the theme or aesthetic you’re going for, then send an email to make your formal pitch.
Showing value is fundamental, especially when you first approach a vendor to ask them for something. To hook them in, tell them what the value of working with you will be! What can they expect to take away from the experience?
In other words, make sure to always approach this as a collaboration among equal players. This isn’t, “I want something good for me,” it’s “let’s work together to create something amazing we will all be proud of and will bring us business.”
As a photographer, you have an incredibly valuable opportunity to propose to the vendors you reach out to – your work! One thing you can include in your pitch to them is photos from the styled shoot for their portfolio.
No one likes when they get an email where they read it and think to themselves after, “I don’t even understand what they are asking for.” It’s essential that you’re not too vague. Be clear and concise as to what you are proposing and what you are asking of that person.
Include a vision board if you have one so they understand what you’re looking for and so they can get behind the vision for the shoot. This can also help them decide if it’s something they’d like to take part in.
If it’s not their style, it makes it easier for them to pass without wasting time with back-and-forth communication that may end in a no later on.
Be confident in what you are talking about and be strategic in asking for what you need.
Don’t be shy or nervous! The worst-case scenario is that they say no, and you’re right back where you started. From there, you can revisit other vendors you love and try again.
And the best-case scenario is that you work with vendors who may very well become your friends! We like to call those “friendors,” and these relationships can create a huge impact on your business.
Styled shoots are fun, a lot of work, very rewarding, and will be a great experience when you work with vendors aligned with your vision who are as invested as you are in bringing to life the dream you have as a team. Since vendors quickly become your friends in the industry, working together is a way to bring team spirit to every future event you end up at together.
Put these tips to use, and you’ll be approaching vendors in a professional manner that will make them take you seriously. And they’ll be excited about the opportunity to work with you!
Lilly & Vic