How to Put Together a Styled Shoot

There are a few things I wish I would have known when starting off in the photography world. Aspects such as developing your style, understanding the background of your photography niche and delving immediately into self-marketing. Yet, one that I believe is often omitted is the importance of always creating and conceptualizing styled shoots. Although this specifically applies to portrait, lifestyle and fashion photographers, you can use this idea of planning and create personal concepts across all aspects of photography. Let’s talk more about how you create a styled shoot.  

Create a Mood / Idea Board

When I refer to a styled shoot, I am not talking about a fashion editorial. In simple terms, I am talking about photographing a project that has a vision and intention where elements such as the clothes, makeup, and setting are important details. Creating a mood board before you shoot is an effective way to express your idea in order to ensure you achieve the proper colors, poses and overall aesthetic for your images. Creating a mood board is as simple as using magazines or websites like Pinterest to pull photographs that fit into the overall theme for your shoot. Just place these images together into a collage in any way you see fit and share with the members of your team such as the model, makeup artist, etc. A mood board can be targeted toward ideas for a specific location, an era of time or poses and moods for your model to focus on and express.

Photo by Michelle Terris

Pull Clothes from Your Own Closet

With a styled shoot, you want to have the elements of a professional project without necessarily spending any money. A styled shoot is meant for you, the photographer, to be able to show in your portfolio your style and intention to future clients. This means if you are someone who aims to shoot for commercial athletic clients, you would want to tailor your work to match advertisements and creative you have previously seen. As a practical example, if you want to shoot for Nike use clothing that fits the Nike brand – such as sneakers, running shorts, sports bras. Then translate this style within a suitable location such as on a track field, an open road, the beach or even the mountains. Even though you want to emulate a specific brand, you do not need to purchase their apparel just for the shoot. You can simply use what you or the model may already have and pull from your own closets. Remember, the key is to create the bigger picture that allows the clients to envision their brand within your work.

Reach Out to Local Brands for Collaborations

Another way to source clothing for a styled shoot is to reach out to local shops and vendors to propose a collaborative project. In this situation, you are not looking to be compensated for your work, but are instead borrowing the clothes in exchange for images the client can use for their own marketing efforts. This may take some time as vendors will likely be hesitant, but be persistent. The best course of action is to send an introductory email discussing the project and attach your mood board. Be sure to add how such a collaboration would be beneficial for their brand and how interested you are in forming a creative, professional relationship with their company. Inquire about a potential time for an in-person meeting, in which you should bring some of your work samples and have a date already set for your shoot. Now that you have the base, repeat with as many brands as you see fit. Before you know it, you will have a handful of styled projects to showcase in your portfolio that will eventually help you to land future work.

Source Backdrops, Props or Visual Elements

The last point to touch on for achieving a professionally styled shoot is to consider all the elements that will aid in the production of your project. This includes deciding if you want to shoot on a backdrop or in an open location, adding props such as accessories or jewelry and the inclusion of visual elements such as creative lighting or reflectors. Using the example above, if you aimed to shoot commercial athletic wear you may add props such as water bottles, towels or work out gear such as a yoga mat into the setting. By including these small details, your work will be representative of the overall idea a client searches for when sourcing photographers.

Photo by Michelle Terris

Creating a visual idea board, sourcing wardrobe from your own collection, working with local brands and adding additional props are all necessary elements for a styled shoot. As your career in photography progresses, you should aim to only create projects that are full of detail. Although a casual portrait session can be helpful in consistently practicing your craft, photographing a styled model adds credibility and vision to your portfolio. Providing your future clients with an array of your most creative and thought out work, will highlight your professionalism and eventually lead to landing your ideal opportunities.

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