We’ve all been there: you paid good money for a styled shoot only to stress getting those “money shots” because you’re rubbing shoulders with 20-30 other photographers. There are always go-getters in the group who end up directing the couple while you are left to try and get shots from the side… so how are you going to take advantage of your time and money spent to develop your skills?

Now… let me say that large styled shoots are not BAD, it is great for those looking to get some photos to build their portfolio. However, there are ways to stand out from the crowd, as Instagram is about to be flooded with photos from this event, how will your work stand out? In my humble opinion, paying hundreds of dollars purely for a gallery of photos that look like everyone else’s, is not worth it… at the most those photos are the cherry on top of what a styled shoot could do for you. Let’s get into some ways that you can set yourself up for success to avoid a day of “ok fake laugh for me” prompts.

Start planning days or even a week in advance, for how you can be intentional with your shots since you may be in a large group. Are you going to be mindful of composition, focus heavily on getting detail shots, or focus on perspective shots (emotion from someone’s POV)? I know we all want to say “well… I want to do all of these things” and you very well may be able to! However, walking into this day with a plan is only going to make your life easier. 

This can look like having a cellphone holder on your camera so you can keep screenshots of shots you want to get, verbal prompts you want to try, or notes you’ve taken around composition (thanks Anni Graham for this amazing course)! Styled shoots are amazing tools to show your couples what booking with you could turn into, but then again they could book with anyone who took the same type of photos. This may sound fairly direct for a blog post but I think pushing ourselves to differentiate our work is the whole point! 

One huge piece of advice I give (even when you don’t want to hear it) is yes I understand it’s styled, it’s not real life, but how are you practicing real life emotion/scenarios prior to a paying client in front of you? Whenever I hear “ok fake laugh for me”, I cringe. Although I doubt these photographers say that to their actual clients (let us hope), utilizing prompts like that during practice does not help you build the skills to provide a stellar client experience. When looking back at photos your couple likely may not remember the entire day, but they will remember what made them laugh in that photo, and they’ll remember it even more if someone forced them to laugh at nothing- and how much do you think they’ll treasure that photo? (Insert displeased emoji face here). 

Walking into a styled shoot with prompt ideas is always a toss-up because they all run differently. Sometimes the hosts will be prompting the models, sometimes confident photographers jump right in to do it, but it’s best to be prepared. Have something you are worried about trying with a client- your styled shoot is the time! Want to practice those motion blur shots- boom perfect time! All of those beautiful Instagram pictures you see didn’t just happen, it took dedication to find out what worked and didn’t for that photographer. In a nutshell, if you are going to pay money for a styled shoot:

  • Be prepared with prompts to try that you have been too nervous to have a client try
  • Have an idea of a specific skill you want to practice, and keep the reminder close by (cell phone is easiest).
  • Try to capture perspectives that not many people, maybe no one, is worried about getting. These are those photos that your real life clients will “awwwww” at, the photos they didn’t even know they needed! 

Styled shoots can get expensive, a little stressful, and then IG looks the same for a day or two- but if you are intentional with your plan… there is nothing you can’t accomplish through these shoots! Make sure to follow along via newsletter as we have intimate styled shoots every few months, that cap at 10 photographers to keep development as the top priority! As always I’m here to talk and provide guidance, shoot me a message on Instagram or contact me through the education page for a formal mentor session. 


How to Focus on Intentionality in Styled Shoots

May 31, 2021





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