So, now that you've read about how scared I was to do a styled shoot, I'm positive that you want to learn how to create your own!
Come on, I know you do. Remember: FEEL THE FEAR. You'll be so proud once you're done.
Step 1: Determine what type of a shoot you want to collaborate on, and why. Do you want to do bridal or birthday? Grungy or airy? Couple shots or solo? Brainstorm it. Word bubble it. Do you want to create this just for fun, or hopefully submit to publications for potential exposure? (Hint: Bridal shoots have more exposure potential, and being preemptive in the season is important - blogs generally won't publish an August shoot based on summer trends when prepping for the fall.) Deciding your dream and purpose for this shoot will bring you to Step 2.
Step 2: Figure out the scale. Is this shoot going to be small or large? If it is small, are you determined to keep it that way, or would you be open to it growing, should others want to join in? I found that when I told others about my shoot, they were wanting to be a part of it, and help in any way that they could! I was open to this. You may not be. It's your shoot; you can make that decision. But, when you do make a decision, stick to it, whichever decision it may be. The last thing you want is to tell Suzy Jewelry-Maker no thanks and then allow Bella Jewelry-Maker to join in. That's bad juju, and bad business.
Step 3: List out your key players. For my shoot, I knew I wanted to focus on bridal, and that I wanted a unique venue. Those were my two main factors, and biggest drives. I wanted to shoot some art, and these two aspects were what I felt would best allow me to best emulate beautiful, romantic art. I knew I had hair and makeup artists, an invitation designer, and cake artist in my back pocket (networking is your best friend!). I knew I also needed gowns, models, and florals. I figured everything else would fall into place. If I didn't have accessories and tablescapes, no biggie; I knew I could put something together in those respects if (1) necessary and (2) desired. Maybe you want your shoot to be smaller, so all you really need is a gown, model, hair, and makeup. It's your shoot; just be decisive.
Step 4: Ask away. This can be daunting. You may have a lot of doubt. Who has an awesome venue at their fingertips? Not many of us, I guarantee you. But, the only way to find out is to ask. And what's the worst they can say? No? When I was first researching venues, I sent out a slew of email requests to use their spaces. Not the best idea. Although the responses were overwhelmingly positive and open, I ended up with more venues interested than I needed (because who needs more than one venue?), and ended up feeling like a dork for asking to use their space, and then essentially saying, "JK, 143." My advice in this arena would be to create a Google Doc of potential vendors, and reach out to each one individually, giving 24-48 hours for a response. Some places might not write or call you back. Don't sweat it. They're probably just as busy as you are; don't take it personally.
Step 5: Once you have your friendors lined up, create a vision board. Pinterest is not my friend in many aspects of life, but in styled shoot planning, it's the bomb - especially because you can create secret boards. Invite all of your vendors to your Pinterest board, and give them access. This helps you to all be on the same page. Pin photos of poses that you love, the color palette for the day (the Pantone colors for 2016 are Rose Quartz and Serenity, just saying), beautiful bouquets - and photos that just make you smile and evoke the type of emotion in you that you want to eventually draw from your photographs.
Step 6: Communicate. Make sure that all of the vendors know what is expected of them, and what they are receiving in return. Most vendors will offer their services for free in exchange for the use of your images for marketing purposes and potential online exposure. I believe this is the norm. If someone wants to be paid, it's up to you to determine whether or not it would be a good investment for you. If you are dedicating your time and money (think: travel time, gas, COFFEE, snacks) and offering your photos for free, it may not be wise to bring someone on board who would like to be paid - for various reasons. If you are contributing one way for a session like this, it should be returned in kind. This is my personal philosophy. Your work is worth a lot; you shouldn't feel that you need to offer free photos to someone who will only participate in the shoot if they are paid. Is their time and work also valuable? Yes. But you are essentially bartering in this instance - not bartering AND paying.
At this point in the conversation, it's also worth noting that some photographers require vendors to sign a contract, essentially stating that they are dedicated to the date of session, the uses for the photography, and promising to uphold pleasant and cooperative collaboration. I didn't do this, as I didn't feel the need to; however, it may be a good option for you if you happen to be doing business with some people that may seem a little less than dependable. Follow your gut on this. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in how exciting all of this is that we forget to protect ourselves and the others who are collaborating with us so beautifully.
Step 7: Prepare. You have all of your vendors, your vision board, your models, your dreams - now, you prepare. Visit the site for a walkthrough with the coordinator to determine different spots you would love to shoot in. Go with the models to the boutique to try on gowns. Pick out your own outfit - something you feel fierce in. Pack your camera bag. Study your favorite poses. Format your memory cards. (Also, eat some ice cream, because, ice cream is delicious, and why not?)
Step 8: GO OUT THERE AND KILL IT! Pull up your big girl britches, and make some art! You've got this!
Still a little nervous? Take a peek at what I loved and what I could have done better. :)
Part 1: Feel the Fear
Part 2: So, You Want to Plan a Styled Shoot...
Part 3: As You Learn, We All Learn
Curious about the fab-o vendors I've bragged on above? All of the amazing individuals who were a part of this day are listed below. You can also find most of them on my Friendors page.
Venue: Basilica Hudson
Hair: Divine Appointment Salon
Makeup: Annaliese & Co
Models: Katie Parent + Emma Woliver
Rings: Zimmer Brothers
Accessories: Chloe + Isabel
Florals: Trapped in the Attic
Cake: Flour Love
Invitation Design: Down to the Bay Designs