I’ll happily spend hours creating something new and exciting if someone asks me to take part in any kind of wedding shoot. Does it pay? I think so… and being involved in shoots can have massive benefits for everyone involved. Here’s why I love them:
- Shoots mean I can get great images of my work in context. Etsy tells me to use “droolworthy” photos – and the best way to do this is to give my stuff to awesome photographers so they can put it in a wedding setting and share the images.
- I get to meet people, in real life or online – a rare thing for a wedding stationer!
- Shoots push me to make new things, even if they’re a bit odd! In the last year I’ve written on an old window frame, made watercolour flowers and written song lyrics on massive paper backdrops then slashed them into pieces with a knife…
Images from a styled shoot at Aspire, by Melissa Beattie Photography
Working for free?
Helen from Cutture wrote a great post about styled shoots called “There’s no such thing as a free lunch” which still rings true with me. If you plan a shoot carefully, collaborate and make sure everyone benefits afterwards, it’s worth the time invested.
As a small wedding craft business I spend a major chunk of my time working for free: nobody pays me by the hour for marketing, pr, advertising, interviews, accounting or cleaning the office. I see shoots as an opportunity to focus on new product development, and it’s pretty easy to add them to my list of essential jobs which will pay off later.
Fair for photographers?
For a long while I wondered about photographers working for free… I struggled to decide if the balance was fair. A photographer will spend all day on a shoot, sending processed images to half a dozen suppliers afterwards… and does the photographer benefit? I think so.
Before I went to Aspire Photography Training I wasn’t sure. It seemed photographers on shoots were working hardest of all and it seemed the benefit wasn’t in proportion to the hours they spent. Having watched photographers learn on the job at Aspire and add gorgeous images to their portfolios, I’m totally convinced shoots can be worth their weight in gold.
Styled shoots – my top tips for photographers:
- make sure images from shoots are contemporary, exciting and fit your brand
- keep the watermarks on them wherever they’re used*
- push other suppliers to share the images, to link back, and to keep the momentum going for as long as possible
- Get the images published on local and national wedding blogs, in local wedding magazines (and national ones if you can), on suppliers’ websites and in your advertising.
*I have never understood why blogs or magazines expect to publish images without a watermark. We exist to promote photographers: if the industry standard was to use watermarks no one would mind, surely… and in these days of Pinterest and Facebook sharing is rife, so images should carry a watermark wherever they’re shown. I always ask for watermarked images (though some photographers choose not to use them even on my blog).
It pays to be careful…
Occasionally I’ve been let down by shoots. Sometimes it happens: a photographer doesn’t return your work, or a shoot is promised and never happens, or it’s published but without anything you’ve contributed. It hurts – the hours invested for nothing, and it feels as though you’ve been taken advantage of, or worse: they don’t like your work or it’s gone in the bin.
My worst experience was for a Manchester bridal shop who contacted me to ask for tags for a big launch event which would be photographed. I wrote the names of all their dresses on hand-torn tags in beautiful calligraphy, added ribbons and posted them ready for the launch. The tags were worth £200 but I sent them for free. In return I was promised the launch event would be blogged, with links to my website, mentions of my work and I’d also have a little area in the bridal shop to display my calligraphy. It seemed worthwhile but I got nothing: not even an email to say thank you despite my repeatedly contacting the shop owner afterwards. I haven’t named her online… yet… but I’ll never forget her name!
Styled shoots to help you get established in the wedding industry
I’d especially recommend styled shoots as a way of getting your business noticed in the wedding industry. As a photographer you can style the shoot and control its promotion, and I promise there will always be designers and makers in your area who’d love to be involved. Don’t be shy to ask!
Images from a styled shoot by Petra Opperman, Matthew Bishop Photography
- Bridal gown – Phillipa Lepley – www.phillipalepley.com/
- Groom Attire – Stephen Bishop Suiting: www.stephenbishopsuiting.com/
- Bridal hair accessories: www.gillianmillion.com/
- Flowers – Foxgloves and Roses: www.foxglovesandroses.co.uk/
- Wedding cake design – Emily Jane Cakes – www.emilyjanecakes.co.uk/
- Hair and Makeup – www.lizpateymakeup.co.uk
- Photography – www.mbishopphotography.co.uk
- Wedding design – www.petraoppermanweddings.co.uk
If you’re planning your first shoot, keep it simple. Find a model (friend), a dress (not necessarily a wedding gown, flowers (buy a bouquet!) and set up a table with some stationery, a cake if you can find one, and any details you love which will fit your style. Find an accessory or backdrop to make a statement, see if you can work with an up and coming local venue (or head for woodland or fields instead) and go play. Remember: watermark your images and then send them to wedding blogs and local wedding magazines at first. You’ll be surprised when we say YES to publishing your shoot! Have fun…