You’ve seen them on every wedding industry blog. Wedding magazines focus entire issues around stylized spreads of bridal models in unlikely places. Even short articles about centerpieces, favors and the perfect shoes are accompanied by carefully constructed tableaus of color coordinated items.
It seems these days people are constantly posting styled shoots online and soliciting vendors to participate (for free, of course). Styled shoots can be a great way to market your company and can allow you to explore your creativity freely with talented vendors in your industry. They can also be a complete waste of your time and energy - and that of your vendor team - if not properly organized and promoted.
Things to Consider Before Participating in a Styled Shoot:
Does the concept fit your brand? This is the first question you should ask. Has a concept been thoroughly defined? Does it align with your company’s values and goals? If the organizer has no clear direction, the shoot may not be a great opportunity. This is especially important to consider if you will be expected to provide space, product or labor (all of which costs money), or to spend an inordinate amount of time involved in the planning. Additionally, if your style, product or services do not match the organizer's objective, you may not be able to deliver what is expected, nor will you benefit from any marketing directed toward the wrong audience.
Is there a plan for marketing or publication? Styled shoots can be fun, but the primary goal should always be to get you and your company exposure - especially if you are going to be investing your time and creativity in the form of products and services. It is a marketing investment, just like online directories, print ads and bridal shows. There should be a defined plan to get the images from the shoot published either in print or online. Your organizer should have contacts lined up with various publications and have already researched how and when would be the best time to submit.
Who are the other vendors participating? Bringing together a team of vendors that work well together to create a seamless shoot is no easy feat. At weddings and events we work with whomever our clients choose, but a styled shoot is an opportunity to bring together your all-star team. The participants should all match your level of professionalism and expertise, as well as have a similar vision for the end product.
Is there a written agreement or contract? While this is not necessary, it is highly recommended and will ensure a level of commitment and professionalism from the participants. There is nothing worse than a vendor pulling out of a project at the last minute or an organizer deciding to "fire" a participant for no reason. Once you commit to a styled shoot, an entire team of vendors is relying on you to follow through. A signed contract assures others that you take the shoot seriously and will deliver the promised product or service. It can also address issues of copyright, proprietary information and non-disclosure to protect your ideas from being stolen or recreated by other vendors.
Who is in charge and do they have a plan of action? Whether it's a planner, a photographer, or a venue coordinator, someone needs to create a timeline so vendors know when to place orders prior to the shoot, what time to set up the day of, and when they can expect the images to be published. A styled shoot has a million moving parts just like an event - if everyone knows what is expected of them, it will run smoothly. If it is being organized as a cooperative effort, there should be a meeting beforehand with all participants to strategize.
How will the images be used and who has access? Thinking about this before the shoot will alleviate any confusion afterward. Will the photographer control the images? Will vendors have access for personal promotion? How long after the shoot will images be made available and in what form? Some magazines require exclusivity for a period of time before and after publication, which means vendors may not get to use the images until after such time. Make sure you are comfortable with where and how the images will be used and that the publications being sought also reflect your brand.
Once you have explored these topics you should be well on your way to deciding if a styled shoot is the right opportunity for you, and will receive the most benefit from the shoots you do choose.