How to plan a styled shoot

Styled shoots are a great way to book more clients, network with creatives and you don't even have to be in the wedding industry to make these work for you.

Selling paintings through your Instagram? Put together a team and let the design be inspired by your paintings. Use your work as the inspiration or the backdrop. Work with an interior designer and show how to create a gallery wall.

Virtual assistant looking to book one more client for quarter 4? Put together a shoot geared toward small business owners.

Or if you're in the wedding industry, go ahead and put together the next best styled wedding shoot to hit your favorite blog.

styled shoots for creatives

Here's what I love about styled shoots...

  1. You can be in any industry and make these work for your business

  2. They'll get the creative juices going again

  3. You can use these shoots to target your dream client — both in what is photographed and even through targeted facebook ads

  4. You can book more clients with styled shoots

  5. It's a great way to meet and work with creatives

  6. Organic way for you to share about the creatives you work with and for them to share about you

One of the questions I hear a lot, "But Jordan, how do I put together a styled shoot? Do I just reach out to people and how do I know what the shoot should look like?"

Okay, real quick — yes, you should definitely just reach out to people! People want to work with you. 

And just so you know, you can use color psychology in your styled shoot to get your dream clients. Ready to learn about more about how to plan an inspiration shoot? Here we go...

how to plan a styled wedding shoot

How to plan a styled shoot

Step 1: Set your own goals

First up, get clear on your personal goals for the shoot. Do this before you reach out to anyone so that you can be selective and only bring on creatives who share the same goal.

If you're just getting started in your business, your main goal might be connecting with other creatives or fine-tuning your client experience or brand messaging.

If you've been at this entrepreneur thing for a while, your goal might be to use the traffic you get from the shoot as part of your facebook ads strategy. 

Grab a coffee at your favorite coffee shop, put on your headphones and scribble down what you really need to get out of this shoot. Once you're clear on what you need, you'll be able to put together a team of creatives who are looking for the exact same thing.

That's the first and most important part of putting together a team. If everyone has a different goal, there isn't enough room for creativity.

If you're not in the wedding industry, you can click here to skip this next section about getting published in the wedding industry.


Getting published in the wedding industry

A note about getting published

If you're in the wedding industry, you've probably already seen that the industry is changing and it's changing in a dramatic way. Innovate now so that your bookings don't dwindle.

Here's a new take on getting published.

My goal for styled shoots used to be getting published. Getting published was such a great way to book clients, but the wedding industry is changing and simply going live on a big blog or magazine isn't going to land a booking anymore.

But it's okay. Play this song by Ben Rector and let's talk about how to make this work for you!


The best way to get bookings from blogs and magazines in today's marketing world is to pay for advertising on those blogs and magazines.

I know — this is totally different than 2 years ago when I told you that you didn't need to advertise to book clients.

What does innovation look like with getting published?

  1. Find a blog or magazine that has a specific voice and attracts a very specific type of client

  2. Look for a blog that provides a direct link to your website as opposed to linking to a portfolio hosted on their own site. This is a major tradeoff because (1) you don't get the same SEO and (2) that potential dream client of yours is a lot less likely to leave the website they're on. This means that you might not see inquiries in your inbox after getting published. From a blogging perspective, I guess I get it — these blogs are trying to keep people on their site. Brilliant. But if you're looking for bookings or SEO, this blog might not be the best fit for you. Take a look at how the blog of your dreams is linking to sites before you submit and consider what the tradeoff will be.

  3. Once you know what blog shares the same target audience, see if they offer paid advertising spots.

  4. Take a look at how they share about the vendors they're working with. Every Last Detail does a great job of highlighting their vendors. Click here to take a look at ELD's website. You can tell that they're focusing heavily on the relationship they have built with wedding vendors.

Still listening to that Ben Rector song? Good. Here's a happy breakdown of Every Last Detail's website...

every last detail advertising — how to plan a styled shoot_0001.jpg

You can tell that they're focused on the wedding vendors they're serving and dedicated to serving them. If you're looking for a chilled, detail-driven bride, this blog would be a great fit for you! See how they chose a simplified image and a calm and relaxed pose? This is the type of customer they're targeting for you!

Related Post: iPhone photography tips for creatives

Step 2: contact one person

Now that you know what you most want out of this shoot, it's time to reach out to another creative that you want to work with.

Instead of sending an email to multiple people, try sending an email to one other person. Focus on getting them on board and then decide together who else might be a good fit for the shoot.

The first or second person you bring on to the shoot should be good at planning and styling. You'll need this person to filter through ideas and pull the vision together.

how to plan a styled shoot


Step 3: target your dream client through color psychology

Before the meeting, write down every idea you have for how you could accomplish your one main goal. If it's to book one client from your styled shoot or see an increase in opt-ins from the shoot, think about what your dream client or dream customer really wants to see.

And if you are looking for opt-ins from your styled shoot, try creating a quiz around the shoot before your shoot goes live on your website. 

What's keeping them up at night? What are they looking for — a good laugh, inspiration, rest — let these core desires of your dream client inspire the colors for your shoot.

Do a little research about color psychology and use colors that are going to serve your dream client (and every creative who joins the shoot).

Here's a short list of what each color can communicate (source)...

  1. Red: warmth, danger, energy, strength, confidence

  2. Orange: cheerful, activity, optimism, creativity, high quality

  3. Yellow: happiness, friendliness

  4. Green: freshness, all-natural, stability, healthy, sustainable

  5. Blue: peaceful, clean, calming, trustworthiness, stability

  6. Purple: royalty, honor, luxury

  7. Black: luxury, power, sophistication, exclusivity, clean

Step 4: brainstorming sesh

Time to brainstorm and get all of those ideas out! At this point there will be 2-3 of you who are working on pulling all the details together.

Bring your color psychology research to the table and suggest building the shoot around the dream client you're all wanting.

Create a space for everyone to share ideas and leave it to the planner of the group to filter through everything and bring the vision for the shoot to life.

styled shoot

As seen on Elizabeth Anne Designs

Step 5: Create a pinterest board

Create a pinterest board so you can pull together those colors and get everyone on the same page. It works best if the planner does this part since they will be the person with the complete vision. 

Try not to pin specific design elements or poses that you want to try.

Just keep it very simple so that everyone on the team can get the feel of the shoot.

I think way too many people get stuck in the "copying is my inspiration" trap. That mindset is a limiting mindset because it says that you're not creative enough to think for yourself. 

But you are creative enough!

You don't need to look at anyone else's work — styled shoot, styling, design or images — to put together a great styled shoot.

Related Post: 15 JB blog posts every creative should read

wedding ring at a styled shoot

Step 6: put your whole heart into the shoot

Show up big time for your team. Be the one with the hand written cards, the starbucks drinks, the google doc with everyone's instagram handles, or the swipeable captions that you put together for the shoot.

Put your best work forward and come at it from a servant heart.

When everyone starts showing up with a servant heart, brilliant creative ideas are going to take over the shoot.

Serving others gives them freedom and space to be creative. It takes the pressure off of others to perform.

Step 7: Finish well

Typically the photographer has the least amount of prep work and the most amount of post work. Whether you're the one doing the heavy lifting at the beginning or the end, ask yourself what your team needs from you at the end?

What other strengths do you have to help wrap up this shoot?

Photographers can make photo delivery easy peasy with a Pass gallery delivery.

The planner can put together a google doc with everyone's website, email and social handles.

Or if you're working on a creative styled shoot instead of a wedding inspired shoot, maybe you're the one who provided the props.

Put together a google doc with the sources for every prop so the team can do some proper tagging on Instagram.

Simply having the entire team tag Magnolia Market every time an image is shared with something from their store is a great way to get an extra feature out of the shoot!

Related Post: 5 lessons we can learn from Joanna Gaines

bride at a styled wedding shoot

For the photographers

The question of the decade: film or digital?

Whatever medium is going to serve your team the very best. If your team is looking to get featured on a blog that only accepts film images, shoot film!

Related: Master the HSL in Lightroom & get those film-greens on digital

If you've got a tight deadline and really need to be submitting images or delivering these images a couple of days — or even a week — after the the shoot, go with digital.

I've done it both ways, but I've been on a digital kick as of late just editing everything with my Lightroom presets.

Do what works best for you, your business and your creative team.

Should you charge other creatives for styled shoots?

Not to be overly strong, but no. And if you are going to charge, be very up front about it. Don't limit the number of downloads

Use a styled shoot to help your business — network, market, etc — and don't worry about charging other creatives.

Now that that's out there, there are some times that you should charge other creatives.

You should charge if...

An etsy shop owner asks you to photograph all of her shop products. This is no longer a styled shoot or a collaborative shoot since you'll be working for this etsy shop owner.

A florist is hosting a workshop and wants you to take head shots for all the attendees. In this case, the florist is trying to increase the value of the workshop and is expecting to pay you for your services.

A magazine reaches out wanting to work with you for the cover image of their website. This image is going to grab attention and sell their magazine, so go ahead and charge your commercial rate for that. 

Should you put your watermark on the images?

Leave your watermark off of every image you deliver unless someone on the creative team specifically requests watermarked images.

If you want referrals from other creatives, leave the watermark off. Instead, use that time to create cover photos and market the shoot.

If you want to be featured on other creatives' websites or social media channels, leave the watermark off. Use that time to send an encourage a creative and keep at your networking game.

Shot last March and a mix of digital and film! All digital edited with the Light & Airy Preset Suite.

Maine PPA Workshop Team

Photographer — Jordan Brittley
Planning, styling & floral design — Field Floral
Venue — Cliff House
Stationer — Little Yellow Leaf
Hair & Makeup — Reeve Baker
Charcoal Veil — Love Sparkle Pretty
Cake — Lisa Parker Cakes
Rentals — A+ Party Rentals
Wedding dresses — Andreas Bridal
Tux — Andreas Bridal
Custom Ring — Jen Burrall Design
Sign up for the conference — Maine PPA