Styled Editorials: How To Make Them Work For You

Let’s get right down to it: are styled editorials or styled shoots worth the effort, time and expense?

My short answer is yes! As long as you set reasonable expectations and realistic goals.

Here’s the long and short of it: if you’re only doing a styled shoot in the hopes of it being published, you probably shouldn’t do one. When it comes to publications the problem is that there is a real influx of styled shoots and print publications are becoming few and far in between. But, if you’re wanting to do a styled shoot for marketing, social media, making connections, or a whole host of other great reasons, go for it!

So what are these reasons? Why do a styled editorial?

  • First, we are in the age of social media where “you book what you post.” A styled shoot is an amazing way to take advantage of creating content that fits exactly to your brand and caters to your ideal client. You are in charge of shooting what you want to shoot and creating content marketed towards your dream client and aesthetic. 
  • Second, doing styled shoots helps lend you credibility in the industry. Calling a florist, planner, etc. together onto one shoot helps you start building relationships, especially if you’re new to the industry. Not only do you get to make personal connections with those more experienced or vendors already working with your dream clients, but these connections help so much in referrals down the road. You can gain recognition and build up referrals through styled shoots.
  • Third, styled shoots help with positive exposure. You can control how you want the content to look and get it in front of couples. If you do decide to get published you get an added credibility and exposure, and if you are published online it can increase organic ranking and backlinks that drive couples to your blog. Styled shoots help to drive name and brand recognition and help you stay relevant!
  • Fourth, styled shoots are an opportunity to take a bit of a risk and try something new. You absolutely must include unique details in your styled shoot to set you apart – the industry is flooded with too many similar looking styled shoots. This is an opportunity to be creative, try a new trend or fashion! Creating something unique will help you stand out in a saturated market. 

So you’ve decided to go ahead and plan a styled editorial. What’s next?

My recommendation for approaching other vendors is to start to build a relationship with them before you reach out about a shoot. Start following them on social media, liking and commenting on their posts and responding to their stories. Then once you do reach out about working together, they will recognize your name and possibly will have already done a dive into your social media profiles and website and will know if it’s a good fit. 

Be strategic about which vendors you work with and the planning for the shoot. When you reach out to various vendors you need to make sure they’re all aligned with the same look – with the same ideal client – by looking at their branding and trends. It’s helpful to create a design deck as well (a vision board with all vendors and their inspiration as well as ideas for each shot) and make sure everyone is on board with it before the shoot. Styled shoots are a time investment as well as a financial one so having a shot list before the shoot day helps to make sure you get everything you wanted out of the shoot. This also applies to thinking of how you’re going to be marketing your shoot afterwards and making sure you have the right shots for that!

Culling images after the shoot is incredibly important. It’s a thoughtful touch to send out personalized galleries to each vendor, but remember that many non-photographer vendors in the wedding industry aren’t pros at knowing which shots are the best. As a photographer it’s your job to make sure you include the best 100 or so photos in the final gallery so you’re pushing out your best work and so are the vendors. 

Be realistic with yourself about the costs before you decide to be a part of a styled shoot. If you’ve been asked to be a part of a shoot as a collaborator make sure that the time and money you are going to sink into it is worth the final product. If you are the organizer, be aware of the many unexpected costs. Even if you have a team of vendors who will work for free there are still many under-the-radar costs like insurance, venue, and shipping of details like stationary. This is another case where having a strategic plan and shot list helps see where costs are coming from and make sure all time and resources are used efficiently. 

My last and biggest recommendation is to use a real couple for your styled shoot and to tell a cohesive story with your photos. Each image and detail should feel like it’s supposed to be there and is a larger part of the whole. It’s important not just to have a vision board with a color palette and inspiration images but a storyboard, giving the couple and the details a background story, even if they are models. Having a real couple brings out genuine emotion and shows your skills in what you can evoke as a photographer. Filtering in real moments into styled shoots is so important and helps set you apart. Don’t forget that if you’re going to be submitting to a print publication they will only be using the best 8-12 shots – most of them unique details. Having thoughtful cohesive details will help you stand apart from other submissions. 

Final Thoughts:

Styled editorials are a great way to practice and perfect skills while building relationships in the industry and creating content that represents you and your brand. Making sure you have a strategy in place is so important for getting the most out of your styled shoot. It’s a great opportunity to create something that is truly special to you!

Check out more images from this styled editorial that I produced for Showit United’s 2019 conference.

If you want to listen to a more in depth podcast episode on styled shoots, head over to this post and give it a listen!

A shout out to the best team ever!

Vendor List:

Creative Direction, Production + Speaker: Sarah Kay Love

Photography: Rebecca Yale

Brand Design, Welcome Bag, Pillows, Paper Goods and Popsicles: Cecile’s Paper Co.

Tabletop Rentals: Hostess Haven and The Confetti Studio

Cake: Mae Flour Cakes

Florals: Bloom and Blueprint

Flatlay Surfaces: Chasing Stone

Videographer: Good Vibes Media

xo, Sarah