How To Plan a Styled Shoot

This probably won’t come as a surprise to you, but I like to be pretty organized. When I planned my daughter’s first birthday, I put together a production schedule for the week and a run-of-show for the day so I knew when I needed to be baking, crafting, or decorating. But hey, it worked! It was beautiful, I got to enjoy the day with my family, and I knew everything that needed to get done.

I believe the backbone of a good event, whether it’s a wedding, birthday party, or an editorial shoot is a solid and thorough run-of-show. There are many parties to coordinate and organize. Unfortunately, as wedding creatives, we tend to want to experiment and ‘go ham’ when it comes to styled shoots because they’re not real weddings.

We can re-do photos or take extra long to set up so the table or flat lay photographs perfectly. Unfortunately, this can result in a really long day for everyone. And frankly, it can be a waste of time for some. Yes, while some time standing around can’t be helped, you want to make sure you respect everyone’s time who’s part of the shoot.

Today I’m going to share with you my top tips to ensure you maximize everyone’s time at an editorial or styled photoshoot. 

Step One: Know the Goal of the Styled Shoot

First, know what the goal of the shoot is. Is it to meet other vendors? To get published? To form a relationship with a new venue? Add to your portfolio? Honing in on this (and making sure your vendors are also aware of and agree with this goal) is super important.

Styled Shoot Planning Tips for Wedding Vendors | Verve Event Co.
How to plan a styled shoot | Verve Event Co.

Photography by Alexandra Meseke

Step Two: Pick the Right Venue

Second, find your venue. It’s hard to fit a square peg into a round hole. Don’t try to force a certain theme or aesthetic onto a property that doesn’t work. It will come off as contrived. So start with the venue first. The venue will dictate so many elements of the shoot!

Looking for the best venues in New York? Check out my 2020 guide!

Styled Shoot Planning Tips for Wedding Vendors | Verve Event Co. How to plan a styled shoot | Verve Event Co.
Romantic wedding inspiration photographed by Alexandra Meske

Photography by Alexandra Meseke

Step Three: Create a Moodboard

Once you know where you’ll be, put together your overall aesthetic and vision for the shoot with a mood board. For more mood board help, I have made a free template for you to use! This template will help you design a beautiful and cohesive shoot. Get your moodboard template, here! I’ll save how to put together a mood board for a future post because I could talk about my process for hours.

Colorful Wedding Cake
How to plan a styled shoot | Verve Event Co.

Photography by Laura Rose Weddings

Step Four: Put Together Your Plan

Now that you know where you’ll be, have a solid plan of all the vignettes you’re going to shoot. Typically that would include:

  • Ceremony
  • Dessert
  • Reception Table
  • Couple Portraits
  • Food & Drinks
  • Favors
  • Any special features the venue would like to highlight

If your goal is publication, the more details you have, the better. Publications like thorough editorials that have lots of details to inspire their readers. They don’t love several shots of the same few elements.

How to plan a styled shoot | Verve Event Co. Yellow diamond engagement ring

Photography by Laura Rose Weddings

Step Five: Find the Vendors

Know which vendors you need to work with and reach out to ones that are a good fit for the vision and your goals. Most of the time that will include:

  • Photographer
  • Videographer
  • Stationery (invitation, and day-of paper)
  • Calligraphy
  • Floral/decor
  • Rentals (tables, chairs, furniture, lounge seating, ceremony backdrop, table settings, linens, flatware, china, glassware, cake stand, serving dishes)
  • Cake/Dessert 
  • Models
  • Attire (Bridal gown, bridal accessories, suits, bridesmaids dresses, etc.)
  • Hair and Makeup

While you’re reaching out to vendors, you should also be as specific as possible about their contributions and their time commitment on the shoot day(s). That’s where your run-of-show comes in.

Romantic wedding photographed by Lovebug Photography How to plan a styled shoot | Verve Event Co. Styled Shoot Planning Tips for Wedding Vendors | Verve Event Co.

Photographed by Lovebug Photography

Step Six: Create a Detailed Run-of-show

A solid and thorough run-of-show (or timeline) is key to keeping you organized, on task, and to ensure you achieve what you set out to do. I always consult with the photographer the best time to shoot based on the time of year, where and what we’re shooting, and what the like will be light. Once you know when they want to shoot the couple’s portraits, work backward from there. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • At what time do the models need to arrive in order to be ready for portraits?
  • What can we shoot while they’re in hair and makeup?
  • How long will the other elements take to set up? 
  • How long will each vignette take to photograph? 

You’ll want to shoot your vignettes with and without your models, so it’s fine to shoot your stationery, ceremony, and reception tables while the models are still getting ready.

Styled Shoot Planning Tips for Wedding Vendors | Verve Event Co.
How to plan a styled shoot | Verve Event Co.
Photographed by Lovebug Photography

Step Seven: Make a Shot List

It’s also helpful to have a solid list of the most important shots you want the photographer to capture. I like to let them take the lead artistically, but if there’s a specific angle or shot I want, I make a list of them and provide reference photos so they can understand what I mean.

Still unsure of where to start? Lucky for you I’m sharing with you a sample run-of-show from one of my shoots so you can see how I organize everything. I’ve even finished EARLY with certain photographers because we were on the same page and everyone did their part. It might sound crazy, but it’s possible! This timeline will keep you organized during your shoot, and have the vendors singing your praises!

Get your FREE Styled Shoot Timeline Template, here! 

If you scrolled to the bottom…

Planning a styled shoot can be overwhelming! You have to pick a theme, the perfect vendors, and keep it on time. But with my easy-to-use tips, you will be planning your next styled shoot in no time. A photoshoot is just like a wedding. You need to be organized and have a good plan so that you don’t miss important shots or waste people’s time. Plus, I have included a FREE Styled Shoot Timeline Template, so you can keep your next shoot running on time.

This guide will keep you organized during your shoot, and have the vendors singing your praises!

PSST: Don’t forget to pin this post so you can come back to it later!

How to plan a styled shoot | Verve Event Co.

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