Styled shoots are not real events. They are like a movie set, an area setup to create what appears to be an event like a wedding, or engagement session etc… Many times styled shoots are used by magazines or vendors to inspire trends. They can be costly and time consuming.
Ideas like practice makes perfect and you can build your portfolio are the main concepts in support of styled shoots for newer photographers. Styled shoots can be a way for photographers to practice and improve their skills, since they are able to try new styles as well as new techniques. It also could help build a portfolio to showcase their work and style for future potential clients to review. There is also the opportunity to network with other vendors during the process of completing a styled shoot since there is so much that goes into one, the more time you can spend working together the better the opportunity for good relationships to be built.
Although, I find that it can set unrealistic expectations for both yourself and future clients. Styled shoots have a lot invested into them, and most factors in styled shoots are controlled. The sets are made aesthetically pleasing with nothing distracting that doesn’t belong, usually you have models who know how to pose and move in front of the camera for the better angles. You can wait for the cloud that appeared or disappeared…
But a photographer can’t learn how to adjust settings under time/pressure, guide subjects into a flattering pose, work around consistently changing sky/lighting, what to do when you show up to a location that isn’t aesthetically pleasing… Once you get to a real event almost everything is uncontrollable.
Another factor that makes styled shoots less than ideal is cost. Styled shoots like those you see in magazines cost a lot of money. Purchasing the props and items used for the backdrops, perishable items like flowers or cakes, paying the models… the cost adds up. Not to mention the time it will take to plan, purchase and execute the styled shoot. Running a business already costs a lot of money. What would you get out of a styled shoot? How long would it take you to get a return on that investment? Will you be able to recreate that for all of your clients??
Although styled shoots can be a great way to improve or try new skills, network with industry professionals, and get quality photos to build your portfolio, you have to consider the negative side to them as well. Evaluate the pros and cons, consider what you may be able to gain out of them and decide if it’s worth it before deciding to do one.
So after all of this you realize a styled shoot isn’t for you. How do you build a portfolio???? Well, my recommendation instead of a styled shoot, would be to do a model call. Offer a session at no charge for a limited number of people, 2-3, giving them 3-5 images for their time, allowing them the opportunity to purchase more if they choose. This will allow you to target the niche or niches you’d like to build your portfolio with and investment will be much more manageable, since it’s your time. You don’t need a lot of photos in your portfolio. After all, I actually started my business with one session… You’ve got this!
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