What's the Deal with Styled Shoots?
If you're a cake artist and you don't know what a styled shoot is, or why people engage in styled shoots, then this blog post is for you!
What is a styled shoot?
A styled shoot is basically a group of wedding-industry vendors, getting together to style and photograph a fake event. I say fake because the event itself is usually just styled for show, and feature models. It's different to something like a "real wedding" where a couple is actually getting married. Styled shoots can be conducted for any type of event but typically weddings are the most popular events to recreate. Styled shoots can be very small-scale events, where just a handful of vendors collaborate on a project, to something very high-end where a lot of vendors collaborate and invest a great deal of time, money, and resources into staging an elaborate shoot.
Why do we do them?
For lots of reasons, for one, they are huge fun. I've had some of the best times working on styled shoots, I've met and formed relationships with other event professionals in the industry- which has allowed me to also grow my business through networking. They have allowed me to expand my portfolio to show potential brides and grooms what I can offer. Sometimes vendors organize a shoot to cover a specific industry trend, such as the Pantone color of the year, or to recreate a famous event, such as the recent royal wedding. Othertimes, vendors like to have the opportunity to flex their creative muscle and create an event based on a vision they've had. Also, if you're not a professional photographer, it's a great opporunity to get those professional, beautiful photos of your work- which is a huge bonus if you're looking to gain exposure through publication!
What's good about them?
Well, all of the above! If you're a florist who's inclusive, but you haven't serviced any LGBT clients, you could stage an LGBT shoot to better appeal to that demographic. In broader terms, styled shoots influence the upcoming trends in the wedding industry. Couples find inspiration from both styled shoots and real weddings when planning for their big day; many people can't tell the difference between a styled shoot and a real wedding. I find that styled shoots can often be more bold and daring than real weddings, which is fantastic for brides and grooms looking for something a little different.
What's not so good about them?
Ultimately, a styled shoot isn't a real event, and so they can be criticized for being unrealistic. As a cake artist, there's been a few times that I've had to inform brides and grooms, who have seen and been inspired by "styled shoot trends", that the cake they're dreaming about, isn't food safe because it's covered in glitter, or that the cake they've set their heart on, isn't remotely within their budget. Styled shoots have raised the expectations of marrying couples, and it can put pressure on vendors to provide the latest Pinterest trend, even if it's beyond our capabilities. I think styled shoots are sometimes seen as setting couples up for disappointment when it comes to the reality of planning their own wedding.
Our model, Nadirah Pasha, strikes a pose.
How can you get involved in a styled shoot.
Most styled shoots can be managed by just about anyone. It doesn't have to be an event planner or a venue that organizes a styled shoot; a baker, florist, photographer - really any event professional can put one together. You just need a team of vendors who are willing to donate their time and their skills (a photographer is a must), and a location. Many venues are willing to donate their space for free, in exchange for photos, and most vendors are willing to donate at least some of their services provided they receive high-resolution photos for their portfolio, and exposure through a magazine or online wedding blog feature. It's important that all vendors understand the expectations and requirements and that they're on board before committing. Keep things professional, even if you're working with friends and make sure that everyone involved in the shoot understands the commitment required. Styled shoots can be expensive, especially if you're a florist, or you have to rent equipment. So, it's important to understand that costs can be prohibitive and to only donate as much as you can afford to loose. Make sure you create a budget for the shoot, and stick to it, and a timeline, so vendors know when to expect photos and features to be delivered.
When is the best time to host a styled shoot?
There's no right answer to this question. A lot of shoots happen in spring and early summer, this is because weather is reliable and wedding season runs from spring to fall, so it more accurately mimics a real wedding. However, couples get married at all times of the year, in all types of locations, so you shouldn't feel restricted by seasonality when planning a shoot. Settle on a theme and then choose a time of the year that works for the vendors involved. It's usually easier to host a shoot on a weekday, as many wedding professionals (and venues) are booked on the weekend.
What to do when things go wrong!
If you take the necessary steps, and plan the shoot in advance, and choose the right vendors, then usually styled shoots go off without a hitch. However, there can be instances where a vendor might not show up, so you need to have a back-up plan for such eventualities. Usually, you can make it work (unless your photographer is a no show). It's helpful to network with several different vendors, and if possible, invite a couple of different vendors in each category to attend and work the event. This way, you've got a plan B if things go awry. Sometimes, creative differences occur - try to keep things professional, finish the shoot, fulfill your obligations to each other and then move on. You never have to work with that person again, but for the sake of the shoot, you should treat this event like you would a real-life event.
What to do after the shoot!
Stay connected with the vendors, make sure that everyone has received photographs and make sure that anytime the shoot is featured in a publication (whether in print or online) that every vendor who participated is appropriately credited with their business name, and a link to their website. There's really nothing worse than spending $1000 on a styled shoot to see your name and website were misspelled in a bridal magazine feature.
Venue: Lavender Heights Bed and Breakfast
Styling: Sharia Barksdale (Eclectic Fete)
Cake: Rebekah Naomi Cake Design
Model: Nadirah Pasha