The benefit of styled wedding shoots

Styled Fashion Shoot

I have been putting together an article on the pitfalls for wedding clients of styled shoots ( here ). While I was writing it I couldn’t help thinking of the benefits these shoots can bring. That is what this article is all about, so if you are thinking of doing one of these, read on!

Do you need to organise it yourself?

If you are starting out there are plenty of wedding workshops out there. They will provide you with a model or two, dress them up and put them in a great location. All you need to do is take the photo and edit it appropriately. What a lot of people then do is put these shots on their portfolio. I go over why this is a terrible idea in the article I linked above. To summarise my thoughts on this, you should only put images on your wedding portfolio that you can recreate at another wedding ( given appropriate locations etc. ).

What use are these images?

You may be wondering what to do with those images if you are not putting them on your portfolio. Social media is a great place for them, as long as you highlight the origin of the images and don’t claim they are a real wedding. You can also link in the suppliers involved and start to build your networking connections. Suppliers will love being tagged and will tag you back then they post images, which will help your SEO. This all gets even better when you organise your own shoot.

The benefit of doing it yourself

The benefits of styled shoots rise sharply when you do the whole thing yourself. I don’t mean the styling and the makeup, I mean organising those things. This can be expensive when you are starting out, so lets look first at the benefits, and then how to reduce costs.

1.Your photography will improve and you will learn invaluable skills for wedding photography

I see lots of people saying they only use natural light for bridal or wedding photography. That is all well and good when you can choose the time of day and the weather to do a shoot. I’d choose either early morning or evening, when the light is soft and golden and you can use direct light from the sun on your subject. The thing about doing this is that it’s very easy and gets amazing results. Real weddings don’t work like this though. Your styled shoots won’t always work like this either, and you will learn useful lighting skills in a less pressurised environment than a wedding. The same skills I’ve used on styled shoots with lighting have been really useful on a busy wedding day. I know my lighting equipment really well thanks to hundreds of styled shoots and can set up all sorts of lighting very quickly as a result.

Window light and flashgun combined for an Indian bridal portrait

2.There is less pressure on you than at a wedding so you can try new things

These shoots are great for experimenting with new techniques or gear. It doesn’t matter if you mess it up if you are paying the talent. Even if you are working on a collaborative basis, as long as you nail the basic shots, you will have time to experiment with that new lens, or new lighting technique.

Practicing shooting through flowers on a test shoot

3.You will build your supplier network.

You will be working with wedding industry vendors on these styled wedding shoots. You will need to work with bridal shops for dresses, designers for accessories etc. Depending on budget and experience you can add florists to that list, and any number of other vendors. If you are working with a wedding venue they will also help you build your network if they use the images. This is great for getting new clients and also for building your SEO links on your website. Every one of these vendors that uses an image of yours with a link to your site will add to your SEO visibility. This is invaluable marketing.

It doesn’t have to be expensive…eventually.

This might all sound pretty expensive. If you have to pay for everything it would be. However, as you get better as a photographer your time becomes a tradeable commodity. Gradually, if you really hone your skills on smaller shoots, more and more people will see the value of your time. Time for print then comes into the picture. Traditionally this involved talent working for free in return for printed images. These days it just refers to digital images usually. The premise is that everyone works for free and they all get great images to use however they want. I’ll write a more detailed article on Time for Print shortly but it’s a great way to save money on shoots. It does increase the pressure on you to produce the goods but I view this as a positive. I’ve worked on some pretty large collaborations as a result of building connections with designers and models over the years. It has been hugely helpful for my wedding photography skillset as well.

Large collaboration shoot from before lockdowns

For the image above I did a quick write up on my fashion and portrait website here…

https://mikecroshaw.net/blog/2020/9/1/why-i-love-this-portrait-big-group-fashion-shoot

Conclusion

Styled shoots, both wedding and fashion, for me have been well worth the time and effort to put together. I don’t use the images for my wedding portfolio, but I do use the skills I’ve gained along the way.

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