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How to make the most of a styled shoot

Styled shoots are the hottest thing for photographers. For many, it’s a risk-free opportunity to play with camera gear, practice interacting with couples and models, and collect vital portfolio images to help launch you into your next season of business. 


Seriously, I cannot tell you how important attending styled shoots have been for my portfolio (and bookings!). 


They have gotten me to travel outside of my state—and comfort zone—and introduced me to new vendors, photographers, and an incomprehensible number of opportunities. 


(If you keep an eye on my insta, I host them now and again to be able to offer you the same sort of thing!) 



But they can also be…nightmarish. 


Sometimes content days aren’t what you think they’re gonna be. Styled shoots can often be overcrowded, overstimulating, and hard to navigate. 


So before you attend your next one, here are some tips on how to attend a styled shoot and make the most of your investment 


1. Do some research 


If you’ve purchased a styled shoot ticket make sure you know everything you can about the event ahead of time—what are the locations? What time should you arrive? How far is the drive? What time of day is it? Who is the host? Who are the point of contacts? Is there a rain plan?


Just like a wedding day or photography session, you’ll want to ensure you know the basic details of the event to know what gear to bring, and what to expect upon arrival. 


2. Go in prepared 

 Styled shoots can be full of easy to work with couples, dreamy ceremony set ups and perfect lighting. Buuuttt you also might run into models uncomfortable in their attire, awkward lighting scenarios and rainy weather. 


Even though the styled shoot feels like the work is done for you, often you still want to show up as if it was your own couple you are working with. What would you do if it rained at your client’s engagement session? How would you direct them if you knew the sunlight was harsh? What would you wear to make sure you’re comfortable shooting at the location? 


3. Know that everyone is a human


One time I was at a styled shoot across the country and the couple absolutely did not want to be in front of the camera. Yikes, right? 


I couldn’t blame them, though. It was a blistering hot day and the dress lining was poking the model in the side the whole time. 


One by one the other photographers started backing away to shoot other things, sensing that this couple wasn’t serving (as the cool kids say). 


But I stayed with them to help them feel more comfortable in front of the camera on the sweltering day. I positioned them to get them more comfy, made them laugh a bit, asked them questions about themselves, and ended up creating beautiful work together that I still have in my portfolio today. 


After the event the model specifically reached out to me on instagram to thank me. She was so grateful for my attentiveness to their needs and loved the photos. 


Models are human too and your recognition of that will make a world of a difference in the images you get from the day, and how you are remembered at the event. 


4. Play nice, be fair 


Most styled shoots have timed portions where a group of the photographers will be “on” and a group will be “off.” When you are in the group that is “on” you can typically engage with and direct the models. While this is happening the “off” group will either be resting, networking, or shooting a different station. 


One of the most frustrating things I’ve ever experienced at these events is being in an “off” group patiently waiting my turn, and watching other photographers overstep and shoot while we aren’t supposed to. 


Not only does this hurt the overcrowd the models, and interrupts the photographers who are “on,” but it oversteps the host who is timing the event and trying to make sure the shoot is fair for all participants. 


Each shoot is different, but my best advice is to pay attention to the guidelines when you arrive and do your absolute best to play by the rules. It makes everyone feel that much better about the experience. 



5. Don’t be afraid to speak up


Now when you’re “on” I say, go for it! Don’t be afraid to suggest a pose or ask the models to look at your camera. It may get overwhelming for the models, so be patient with them and your peers. But styled shoots are the time to have fun and get creative shots! Make sure you are pleased with the portfolio you walk away with. 


6. Network 


Most people buy tickets to styled shoots for the images. But another hidden treasure of these events is the value of networking! Be sure to shake hands, trade instagram handles, and introduce yourself to all the vendors, models, and participants.  You’re more likely to triple your ROI by creating more than just images.


7. Give credit where it’s due 


The most important thing to make the most of a styled shoot is using the shining new images in your portfolio. But please know, there are stipulations as to how this is done. The host or organizer of the styled shoot will typically distribute a contract for you to sign with image usage rights—the main thing to note is that you should always, always tag the vendors involved in the shoot. 


It is unfair (and potentially illegal) to not disclose the vendors and hosts involved in a styled shoot. Not to mention dishonest to your potential clients. 


Keep an eye out for the formal list of vendors to credit from the content day host and give them the credit they deserve knowing they will return the favor. 



———


Wheew you made it. 


While it is a lot to consider when attending a styled shoot, keep in mind you will always get out what you put into events like these. 



If you come in upset about the weather or the lighting, or plow your way through the groups without caring about anyone else, you’ll walk away with crummy photos and leaving a bad reputation in your wake. But if you come in excited, determined to work hard and well, and optimistic about the potential, shake hands with everyone and open to collaboration, you’ll walk away with dreamy photos and the creative fuel you need for the next season of business. 

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