Styled shoots are SO fun! Not only are they an opportunity to build your portfolio, styled shoots give you a chance to take risks, experiment, make friends with fellow photographers and wedding industry professionals, and even learn some new techniques.
However, shooting in a group is definitely an art form! After participating in countless styled shoots over the past few years as both a lead photographer and a participant, and even coordinating a few of my own, I can assure you that following a few simple guidelines will help you – and everyone else! – make the most of the shoot. If you’re new to styled shoots, here’s a few of my best tips to help make it a success!
Confirm the logistics and arrive EARLY!
If this is your very first styled shoot, a massive 100+ photographer event is going to be seriously overwhelming for you! Instead, try to find a shoot that’s limited to 10 or fewer photographers, preferably with groups of 5 or less. This will ensure a more relaxed, casual day for you, with fewer photographers to work around. On the day of the shoot, be sure to allow PLENTY of time to get to the venue! Styled shoots are usually on strict timeline, and if you’re late, you’re going to miss shooting something.
Go into it with ZERO expectations.
A styled shoot isn’t going to be like taking a couple out on your own and having a session with them, or even like shooting a wedding. You’ll be working with photographers of all different personalities, shooting styles, and experience levels, and everyone deserves a turn to direct the models. Remember that the goal of a styled shoot isn’t just to shoot everything your way the whole time – it’s to make connections and learn! If you leave the shoot with ten images you love and five new friends, that’s a huge win.
Pose mindfully and shoot FAST.
Avoid poses where the couple is just looking at the camera and smiling! A styled shoot is the time to try something different, and more importantly – a camera-aware pose is super limiting because no one else can shoot it. Instead, try poses where the couple is looking at each other, facing each other, eyes down, etc. That way, everyone can shoot and maximize their images! Let more experienced photographers pose the couple first, then give everyone a turn to direct the couple.
While you’re waiting for your turn, be thinking of a new way to pose them! If they’re currently in a more fine art, editorial pose, try switching it up to something fun and playful. If they’ve been standing still / holding the same pose for more than a few minutes, work in some movement to shake things up.
This leads to another tip – shoot FAST! Have your settings dialed in before you step up to pose, and be confident in your direction. Once you’ve gotten your shot, say “alright, who’s up next?” and move aside. Keep in mind that especially for natural light photographers, there’s typically one “hero angle” that everyone needs to shoot from to avoid haze and dark shadows, so be sure that everyone gets a chance to shoot from the best angle.
Be kind, courteous, and help one another.
Styled shoots are a team effort! You won’t be shooting 100% of the time. Sometimes, you’ll need to fluff a veil or hold a reflector to help the group. Keep a cheerful attitude and encourage one another. If another photographer comes up with a great pose or chooses an awesome location, tell them! Let’s use this time to build each other up.
STAY. ON. SCHEDULE.
This mostly applies to large scale shoots, but it’s a big one. Whatever you do, do not deviate from the timeline or skip ahead to shoot something else before your allotted time. Large scale shoots adhere to a strict timeline – down to the minute – in order to make sure everyone gets a chance to shoot everything. It is of utmost importance to stick to the timeline, and when the styled shoot leader says it’s time to move on, wrap it up and move on. Remember the guidance about shooting fast and being courteous? This is why that’s so important!
Edit images quickly and confirm sharing requirements.
After the shoot, try to edit your gallery as quickly as you can and share with the vendor team! This is a great way to make a good impression after the shoot is over – I’ve been added to countless preferred vendor lists simply by following up with the vendors and sharing my work with them. Make sure you have credit info for each vendor involved, and be sure to tag them when sharing online. This maximizes the ROI for each vendor and increases the likelihood that they’ll want to work on a styled shoot again in the future!
You’ll also want to verify publication restrictions prior to posting any images. Sometimes, a styled shoot coordinator is planning to submit images to a national publication, and therefore will require you to wait prior to sharing your images – this should be disclosed up front to you, but definitely check to be safe.
That’s about it! Remember to have fun and enjoy the shoot. You’re going to have a blast!