Investing in ourselves is the most important thing we can do as photographers. From gear to software to websites to training, investing in ourselves is a continuing process. One of the best investments we can make as a photographer if we shoot portraits and weddings is to participate in a styled photography shoot. The benefits of participating in a styled photo shoot can reap rewards that are everlasting. In this article, I will list some of the benefits of participating in a styled photo shoot.
WHAT IS A STYLED PHOTO SHOOT?
A styled photo shoot is created to inspire creativity in the participants, create and build networks, and to create/build a portfolio.
A styled photo shoot can cover any numbered of genres. There is no limit on what could fall into the realm of being a styled photo shoot. There is also no limit on how much preparation that can go into a styled photo shoot. One of the more famous styled shoots I can think of off the top of my head was done by Von Wong a couple of years ago. That particular series though might be a little “outside of the box” for most people, though. One of the more popular types of styled photo shoots that are done and talked about is the bridal photography shoot.
In a styled bridal photography shoot, several industries come together outside the realm of an actual wedding to create a series of images. Those industries could include bridal vendors (gowns and accessories), gown designers, hair and makeup artists, jewelers, cake vendors, wedding venues, photographers, and videographers.
There is a lot of collaboration that goes on in photography and the success of a styled shoot is dependent on collaboration. The bridal shoot out that I attended was a collaboration between Michael Aguilar and Ashley West, two photographers who reside in Oklahoma City. They had several goals in mind by hosting the styled shoot that would benefit all of the participants.
The collaboration does not stop there, though. The HMUA's (hair and makeup artists) collaborate with the models to make the models look their best. The photographers work with the models to create the best images. Photographers collaborate with other photographers in choosing photo spots, assistance in lighting or even gear. Having a willingness to collaborate leads to the success of the styled shoot.
ADD TO THE PORTFOLIO
It goes without saying in photography that if you want to get paid to shoot a certain genre of photography, you should have a portfolio of images from that genre. That portfolio educates potential clients on the quality of work you can produce.
Even though there are opportunities out there for photographers to start from scratch, when it comes to something like weddings; those opportunities are rare. I have been lucky enough that I was able to break into weddings without a portfolio, but I am not at the level that I want to be at. A styled shoot allows me to do work at the level that I do want to work at. The big benefit of working on a portfolio at a styled shoot is the stress level is a lot lower than at an actual wedding.
The styled photography shoot might have a set schedule, but it will probably be looser than an actual wedding. Instead of having just a short few minutes with the rings, you will have time to create several different shots. Instead of having to rush the bride to create that special bridal portrait, you will have time to work with a model in several different settings and poses. In the case of the event that I attended, each model wore two different wedding gowns throughout the day.
LEARNING WILL OCCUR
If the styled photography shoot is created by photographers and has several different photographers attending, it will be time to go to school. Even though I have shot weddings, and I do several other types of portraits, I went into the event with the goal of learning from those who have more experience than me. Although it the event was a “bridal” event, I walked away with tips that I can use across the board with portraits.
The comfort zone that I live in when shooting portraits were broken at this event. Along with all of the vendors, Ernesto Hernandez, an experienced photographer was also there. In between getting their own shots, Michael and Ernesto would roam around and lend advice to the other photographers. We can become no better if we are not willing to learn.
It is times like a styled photography shoot to sit back and watch the other photographers work. It is a time to ask questions. There were several times that I noticed things that led me to ask questions. The answers I got helped me grow. I even learned that my predisposition against blown highlights was holding me back from capturing some unique images. That predisposition was broken.
And for the old school photography fans, one of the attendees, along with Ernesto shoot film. I did not get to watch them work as much as I would have liked. Yet, what I did get to see will bring back an appreciation since us digital only folks get to “cheat.”
Networking between photographers will occur at a styled photography shoot. You might be like me where you do not have a strong sense of community between photographers where you live. Granted, I do not live near Oklahoma City, but by networking with photographers there, I have been able to get information and assistance in shots I wanted there. At a styled photography shoot that has multiple photographers, you will be able to add to your network.
If the styled photography shoot is local to you, you might end up meeting a photographer who is willing to help you out. This new and expanded network can help you out in the future. Those other photographers could be a future assistant, second photographer, or someone that becomes a friend. You might even get recommended for future jobs from those you meet at the styled shoot.
Along with the network that you build at a styled photography shoot, you will also be networking with HMUA's, the venue, the models and the other vendors who are involved. Down the road, that can point potential clients to you. It goes without saying, “word of mouth” is the strongest marketing tool you can have. All of my clients in the last year have all been people that I have known personally or recommended by someone I knew, including clients. Never let the “word of mouth” marketing tool fail you.
Along with that, by participating in a styled photography shoot might open other doors. One of the other things we have to do as photographers is utilizing the online world as much as possible. In this day and age on the online world, it is difficult for a photographer to gain traction. A photographer has to look for online opportunities that fit their needs. Since the conclusion of the event, we were given the opportunity to submit images to one of the gown designer's blog. That is just one more location where the ever knowing Google machine can grab onto your name and your work. The blog post will be promoting the benefits of styled photography shoots. That means more potential opportunities for photographers. That is a win-win in this camera phone world.
We, as photographers have to invest in ourselves. We have to identify our goals, and we have to identify the tools that help us reach our goals. In my case, attending a styled bridal photography shoot allowed me to grow my wedding portfolio to attract future clients. It allowed me to learn from other photographers to be better at my craft. And it allowed me to meet other photographers who might be able to help me out in the future.
If you ever have the chance to participate in a styled photography shoot, go for it. You will not regret it.