Styled shoots, you either love them or hate them. Chances are that if you choose the latter of the two, you’re either burnt out by styled shoots or you have just plain been burned by styled shoots.
As stationery designers, it really can be hit or miss when it comes to these styled shoots. I do agree that they can be a great way to start getting your name out there and building relationships with other local vendors. It’s also a great way to start expanding your design skills while you’re building your portfolio or wanting to try out new techniques.
But how do you know which styled shoots are going to be worth your time? Because let’s be real – these shoots do take your time and resources (aka money) and you want to make sure that the investment is paying off.
So today, I wanted to chat about how to make the most out of styled shoots, especially as a stationery designer. If you have been asked to participate in a styled shoot, below are three tips you can walk through to make sure that you’re going in prepared and informed when it comes to accepting or declining the offer.
I remember when I first started my stationery business, I took any styled shoot that came my way. I thought of it as a way to build my experience, my portfolio, and my business. And while that IS that case, it has to be done thoughtfully for it to really be effective.
After my first few styled shoots, I learned very quickly how to pick styled shoots that worked for me. The very first thing I do when determining if I want to participate is to check out the photographer. As a stationer, they are really the main vendor that matters. I check out their work and their style.
I have a very light and airy design style and a photographer whose style is dark and dramatic, just won’t work for me (or my work). I also check to see how they style and handle details and flat lays. This is HUGE. If I look through their portfolio and Instagram and don’t see a single flat lay or stationery detail, it is probably not going to be a good fit as stationery really needs to be handled by someone who has attention to detail for those specific things.
As much as it pains me, not all photographers care about stationery or flat lays. And the last thing you want is all your hard work thrown (crooked) onto a tile floor with a shoe sticking out the side (you know what I’m talking about…).
*BONUS* When I don’t think it will be a good fit, here is an easy template to follow. “Hello, (name)! Thank you so much for reaching out! This shoot sounds amazing, however, I am unfortunately not accepting styled shoots as this time due to my schedule. –OR- I am already at capacity this year for styled shoots and wouldn’t be able to participate. Thank you so much for thinking of me!”
This one takes a bit of practice as it does get easier the longer you’ve been in business because you also will learn how to call the shots with your clients as well. I know saying that sounds a little “bossy”, but remember – you are the professional stationer that they reached out to.
The first few styled shoots I did the planner or photographer would tell me exactly what they wanted (hello Pinterest with allll the expensive details – foil, silk ribbon, etc.) And let’s be real – for a one-off piece, and you having to fork out the expense, they may not get handmade deckled edge paper with letterpress and gold edging. It just doesn’t always make sense (even though it would look pretty!).
So I learned very quickly to immediately take the ball in my court. I would have them provide me their board to know the style and colors the shoot would be based around, but then I would provide them with MY suggestions on what I could provide. And generally, it was based on items I knew I had on hand or could easily get in low quantities. And honestly, they are happy with whatever you can provide!
And if it is a styled shoot that you really do want to pull out all the stops for (dream vendors, publications, etc) that’s ok, too! I would just set a yearly budget for styled shoots like that and stick to it!
Styled shoots really don’t do you any good if you are creating a product you would never “advertise” on your website or social for your ideal client. I am a light and airy designer, so I would never design for a shoot that was based around a dark, gothic theme (yes, I’ve seen them!). You do you, boo – but that’s just not my style!
And honestly, it would just be a waste of my time and resources. While the goal of styled shoots is to help grow your business and experience, you need to do it in a way that benefits you after all! And that is by choosing a shoot and design that aligns with your ideal client, THAT is how styled shoots can truly help grow your business!
1. When I participate in a styled shoot, I always try to think about the photography and what I would like that to have in it and I will provide extra details and trinkets for them to use in the shots (extra ribbon, stamps, ribbon spools, wax seals, etc). I also try to provide at least 2 suites, so they can photograph maybe an assembled one and have one to pull pieces out for detail shots or photograph the front and back at the same time!
2. Another great tip! If you won’t be at the actual styled shoot and you’ve provided a suite or details that you would like returned, go ahead and print a pre-paid mailing label and provide them in a mailing envelope ready for them to send back!
I hope that if you plan on participating in styled shoots, some of the tips help make it a little smoother for you in the process!
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