How to Host Your First Styled Shoot

If you’re wondering how to host your very first styled shoot to expand your portfolio and have an extra flow of income, this is the guide for you! Hi, I’m Heidi Straus, a professional wedding and destination photographer in the US, originally from South Africa! I’m here to help guide you through hosting your very first styled shoot and many more after that!

Elopement styled shoot in Sedona, Arizona of elopement couple walking over Devil's bridge.

When I first started my photography business, I was SO hungry to grow, get content and just really dive right in! So I did. I second shot a lot. Made great friends in the industry. I invested in the gear. I made a website. Had a consultation call with a local photographer who I looked up to. I really felt excited about photography! But I needed more content and I also wanted to make more money to actually pay the bills!

I went to my very first local styled shoot and I remember it was at a barn. It was boho themed! I was so excited to get some warm, rustic styled content for my website. It definitely was a bit of a disappointment though. There was a huge hole in the girl’s dress (which wasn’t even a wedding dress, more like a casual, white dress from Macy’s or something). A model couple didn’t show up. A make-up artist cancelled. But, all the photographers rolled with it. We took our shots. I was pretty happy with it. I went home and thought to myself, man…I can totally do this….but better! So let me show you exactly how you can host your first styled shoot and where to begin.

1- Find a Venue/Location

Rustic, boho Ceremony Styled shoot in Minnesota

This is definitely the first thing you should do to host a styled shoot. If you already have one in mind, contact the venue and ask them if they’re familiar with styled shoots. Wedding venues usually offer styled shoots on weekdays as they have weddings booked on weekends! Most venues allow you to host styled shoots for free in exchange for photos from the photographers. Some venues charge an hourly rate, especially if they’re a highly sought after venue! If you’re not wanting to host your first styled shoot at a wedding venue, consider hosting it at a popular elopement destination like Horseshoe bend in Arizona for example. Find out everything you can about the specific location. Do you need any permits? Is there parking available for the models and photographers? Where does the sun go down to ensure optimal lighting etc.

2- Decide on a theme and what the styled shoot will entail

Flash photography styled shoot of elopement couple with champagne spray
Destination wedding styled shoot of couple doing an emotional letter exchange
Classic, chic styled shoot of bride and groom couple doing a champagne tower.

After you’ve decided on your venue, you need to decide on a theme! There are SO many different themes. For example, do you want elegant and classic or a rustic and boho? How many bride and groom couples will there be? Will you have a flat-lay and table decor? Will there be an engagement couple? A cake cutting? A champagne tower? Scroll through Pinterest and get inspired! There are lots of ideas to choose from! Host something that you’d want more content of!

3-Create your mood board for your advertising

Minimalistic, modern wedding styled shoot flat lay in the sun.
Styled shoot inspiration of beautiful outdoor wedding table setup and decor with string lights.

You have your venue, you have your ideas and now it’s time to create your mood boards that you will use to advertise your shoot! Canva is great for designing these! Keep it short and simple. When and where? What? How much? Those are the main things to advertise. The date and location. What’s included in the styled shoot and how much is it. Use beautiful photos to represent the style you’re going to recreate.

4- Find vendors, models and hair & make-up artists

Beautiful rustic, boho fall wedding couple styled shoot

It’s time to start reaching out to different vendors. Vendors you may need to consider are: hair & make-up artists, florists, wedding dress shops, cake artists, jewelers and any other vendors you can think of that you would need for your shoot.

You can search for models, florists and HMUA’s on Instagram or Facebook groups. Send them your mood board and ask if they’d like to donate their services in exchange for full galleries as well as tags on social media. Wedding dresses are probably the hardest one. You can google wedding dress shops near you and start calling around. Ask if they’d be interested to be a part of your styled shoot. If you can’t find a wedding dress shop that wants to be a part of your shoot, you can use models that already have their own wedding attire.

5- Advertise your shoot!

Canoe elopement styled shoot in Minnesota with stunning florals

After securing your models, HMUA’s and all other vendors that you may need, you can start advertising! Facebook groups are the best way to advertise your shoot! I will list a few Facebook groups that I love advertising in: The Aligned creative by Ali Leigh , Midwest Styled Shoots , Cassidy Lynne Education , Styled Shoots and Elopements , Styled shoots across America and Beyond, Presets, Prompts and Poses . If you’re in a specific region for example, Arizona, then you could search for specific groups in that region. Post your mood board and ideas on the groups.

Make sure you have a clear way for people who are interested in buying a ticket to take action! For example, they can leave their email in the comments, DM you or you could use a HoneyBook lead form where clients can sign up or immediately make payment. If you don’t have HoneyBook, go check them out! They’re an amazing CRM. Here’s 25% off on me! You can easily create lead forms for your styled shoots, mini shoots or consultation calls. Instagram is also a great way to advertise your styled shoot! Use your story to update people on tickets left etc!

6- Get ready and Prep for your shoot!

Desert elopement styled shoot couple in Arizona running over the sand dunes together

You have everything in place for your styled shoot! From vendors, to mood boards, to models to photographers! Everyone has signed their contracts and paid their retainers. So let’s dot the I’s and cross the T’s!

Create a full vendor and model list that you can send to your photographers. Make sure you have all the necessary emails and instagrams listed so the photographers can easily tag vendors and give credit where it’s due.

Make sure the models know what to wear. If you have “engagement” couples, send them ideas of what you’d like them to wear. If you have bride and groom couples who will be wearing a wedding dress from a vendor, make sure they go for a fitting or at least give you their measurements so you can make sure you get the right size dresses. Make sure the guys know what color ties they need to bring.

Create a full itinerary with timelines. Here are some things to include:

  • What time HMUA’s and models should arrive
  • What time specific vendors should arrive for set up
  • What time photographers start and end
  • How much time each group of photographers will have at a specific station and when they will rotate

Bonus Tips:

  • After you’ve successfully hosted your shoot (because let’s face it, you WILL!), keep the photographers in your email list and notify them about your upcoming shoots. You can even offer them a discount for supporting you!
  • Make a story highlight of your styled shoots so people can see the effort you’ve put in. This is also a great reference for future photographers who want to attend your shoots.
  • Thank your vendors! Especially if they donated their time and efforts for free. A Starbucks gift voucher goes a long way!

I hope you found this guide on how to host your first styled shoot super helpful! I’m rooting for you! Follow me on instagram if you’d like to join in on my future styled shoots! I host shoots all over the US and abroad! @heidistrausphotography.

Professional Wedding and Elopement Photographer in Arizona

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