How to co-ordinate a styled shoot

24 Sep 2018

Gemma Starr, owner of Little Star Events which hosts wedding fairs in Hampshire and Surrey, details where to start when co-ordinating a styled shoot

Image gallery

Image gallery

I love co-ordinating photo shoots so much and have had such wonderful experiences with a range of suppliers. I feel like I have learned so much along on the way and hopefully these tips will help you to co-ordinate your own styled shoot. 

The brief

I think when many people think of organising a photo shoot, they become overwhelmed by the possibility of all of the time needed to create mood boards, Pinterest boards etc. and it therefore never materialises into the shoot. Don’t get me wrong, this certainly is a good way to do it and a good place to start, especially if you are working with a group of suppliers who want a more detailed brief or you are working to a brief for a publication.

However, if you are creative and have the overall theme and colour scheme communicated, it can all come together beautifully on the day. Some of my favourite shoots are those that we have put together on the day with less planning, as it gives you more opportunity to be creative around the theme, to try out new shots. If you are going down this route, it is important to have the the key information to hand such as all of the logistical information (times, venue, an expected timeline) and the overall theme and colour scheme to send to all of the suppliers well in advance.

If you are deciding to keep the brief looser, I would advise you to work with suppliers you know well and be prepared to take the lead on the day in terms of bringing the elements of the shoot together. One theme can be interpreted in many ways, which is what I personally love about doing it this way, however you will need to ensure you are linking all of those elements on the day of the shoot and coming to the shoot with creative ideas about how to do this. Many suppliers love trying something new that they have not had the opportunity to create yet. The downside of having a less detailed brief is that it does take more time, so you will need to allow more time for you, the model/s and all of the suppliers.

If you are hoping for a specific theme, I would recommend going for a detailed brief. Pinterest is great for this as it gives your suppliers an insight into how you are interpreting this theme so they can look at your mood board and know what kind of cake or flowers you are looking for to fulfil the brief. It is also great for letting suppliers know about specific colour palettes you are looking at. In terms of the brief content, if you have specific images you would like to get, you need to be listing these to allow time to factor them in and work closely with your photographer to check these will work for them too.

If you do want everything to be tied into a specific theme, I would recommend going to visit the venue in advance to scope specific areas you would like to hold the shoot. If you are forced to move the whole shoot inside due to awful weather, you will need to ensure that the décor does not clash with your theme. It is a good idea to put a timeline in place to ensure you are covering all of your inside shots together, then your outdoor shots, so you are not having to move back and forth from locations. This should make the shoot more efficient for all of you and avoid it taking longer than it should.

The more detailed option does suit a range of suppliers, however I would be aware about being too specific on the theme and the elements as you do not want to crush the creativity of the other suppliers.

TOP TIP: Bring a clean, white tablecloth or bed sheet with you that you do not mind getting dirty. Use this under your bridal model's feet when you are photographing outside in order to protect the underside of the dress from grass and mud stains. It can be tucked in so it is not visible in the images. Also, bring some heel protectors for your bridal model if you are shooting outside with wet ground to avoid her sinking and appearing unbalanced.

The theme

This is my favourite part. I studied English literature at university and see the photo shoots I organise as stories. It is great to play around with different themes and to try and incorporate them in ways other people may not. Brides and grooms looking for inspiration love to see this as they can see how to put a different twist on popular themes. For example, by adding an urban element to a vintage theme can really highlight some beautiful elements of the vintage theme but also makes it look more contemporary.

Choosing the right photographer to execute specific themes is a must. The amazing Lauren from Lahu Studios was the perfect choice for our Urban Vintage shoot, with Lauren seeking out some amazing spots in Winchester to fulfil the brief.

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(Image above from Lahu Studios taken at our Urban Vintage photo shoot. Dress by Millie Couture. Hair and make-up by Dolly’s Beauty Parlour)

It is also great to juxtapose looks and themes to create real contrast. Sometimes it is only when brides and grooms see two completely different things next to each other, it becomes clear which they like more than the other.

I find creating a story within the theme really works and this can help inspire ideas for individual shots too. For example, we organised a Frozen-themed shoot with the amazing Abi Moore Photography and I created a narrative around using the same model for a warm, princess fairytale theme versus the cold, ice queen look. We used the same model and same hair and make-up but switched in elements to get the different looks which worked perfectly.

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(Images above from Abi Moore Photography. Dresses by Sophie Grace Bridal. Hair and make-up by Natasha Wiggins Hair & Make-Up. Luna the owl from CSR Falconry)

For our English country garden themed shoot with the incredible Ginny Marsh Photography, we had four female models, so I created a team feel with one bride and one bridesmaid on each side with completely opposing looks (one team with strong, dark make-up; one with romantic, soft looks; one bride with a tea dress and bright red heels; and the other with a romantic A-line gown). The models were amazing and had real fun with the team element of the shoot. I love this shot below of one of the bridesmaids.

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(Image above from Ginny Marsh Photography, taken at our English Country Garden photo shoot. Dress by VJ Vintage. Hair and make-up by Sophie Pierson HMUA)

TOP TIP: Experiment! Be creative with your themes. I think a lot of people are a bit wary to try themes that are not out there yet, however you might be setting the next trend.

The suppliers

In my opinion, this is the most important part of co-ordinating a photo shoot. You need to be choosing suppliers who are committed to doing this and who don't drop out unless there is a genuine emergency. These are your experts; you are the facilitator helping to showcase their amazing talents, therefore make sure you listen to them. If you have a wonderful idea about a shot inside the venue and the photographer says the light will not work, you need to listen and be adaptable, taking on ideas about where would be better for that shot.

Some suppliers would like specific information and others like to be creative and run with the theme, so ensure you know how your suppliers like to work. Make sure you keep up the communication with your suppliers from the beginning when you set the date and the venue and all the way through, so everyone is clear about their role in the shoot, who is bringing what and time expectations.

If possible, try to ensure that all of the suppliers stay at the shoot while it is taking place. I have had shoots where suppliers have had to drop items and then leave, but it works much better when the experts are on hand to touch up hair and make-up, ensure the dress is sitting as it should, to make the bouquet slightly smaller/bigger if needed and other things that crop up on the day.

Depending on your theme, you may have specific suppliers in mind. For example, if you are going for a gothic romance themed shoot and would like a theme that is extremely dark, edgy and alternative, you need to make sure you choose suppliers who will be able to fulfil the brief and who would like to be part of it. For some suppliers, this may not fit the market they are targeting and therefore they would prefer not to be a part of it. However, do not pigeonhole wedding suppliers; many of them will love the opportunity to try something a bit different.

You will need to make sure you choose your models wisely too. If you are using an unpaid model, ensure they are reliable enough to turn up on the day. Be specific about the size and look of the model you would like for your shoot and ensure that the model you have booked fits this brief. If you are basing the shoot around a red-haired model for a fire-themed shoot, you need to make sure she still has red hair when the time of the shoot approaches. Make sure the model is aware that they will need to arrive early for hair and make-up.

Make sure you can work well with the photographer. I have been lucky enough to work with so many photographers of varying styles and have loved every experience. You need to be able to explain your vision to them so they can try and capture this; communicate regularly before the event. It is essential to meet with them the morning before all of the other suppliers arrive in order to have one more chat through the brief and how you are going to work together to achieve this.

TOP TIP: Many people think that styled shoots need to involve lots and lots of wedding suppliers, but it can work just as well to have a small number of suppliers. Some of the best shoots I have worked on have involved a handful of suppliers which has been easier to co-ordinate and delivered some amazing results. 

Flexibility

It is great to get as much detail down as possible for how you envisage the shoot, however you will need to make sure you are flexible. Things can happen on the day: the weather might not be on your side or a wedding supplier may have a genuine emergency, so you will need to be prepared to amend your plans. Don’t let this put you off though; think of it as having to adapt for a real wedding day. Likewise, if you are working to a brief for a publication or a venue, you may find that they change elements of the brief throughout, so be prepared to adapt to that and keep up the communication with the other suppliers throughout.

The images

Although it is really exciting when it all comes together, try not to share images on social media or on websites if you are submitting the images to be considered by magazines or online blogs. Many publications prefer exclusivity, so hold back from posting any yourself until you have the go ahead. If you want to give your social media followers a sneak peek, it is a good idea to take a couple of images of the suppliers at work and let them know who was involved.

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(Hana Laurie - Alternative Wedding Photographer at work at our Mandolay Hotel shoot)

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(An image from the shoot at The Mandolay Hotel from Hana Laurie - Alternative Wedding Photographer. Dress by Surrey Brides. Menswear by Hire 5. Hair and make-up by CLJ Make-Up)

Once the images are available to be used, you must always credit all of the suppliers involved in the shoot and work with the photographer to clarify how they are happy for the images to be used. Try to tag each supplier in the social media posts so everyone gains exposure from the shoot. If you are putting them on your website, try to backlink the images to the photographer so they can gain website traffic from the images too.

Ensure you allow time to have shots of the individual elements as well as the whole theme together. Not only is this helpful for the portfolio of the suppliers, but many publications like to publish shots of individual elements of the shoot - for example, a close up of the make-up, the bouquet, cake, button detail on the menswear etc. There are many ways of making these images look amazing, such as this gorgeous image from Jenny Owens Photography where she has placed the rings from Eva Designer Goldsmith on the rocks at our Whimsical shoot.

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(Image above from Jenny Owens Photography. Rings by Eva Designer Goldsmith)

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