It's no secret that I love styled shoots. They allow me to be my most creative self. They are community builders and in the long run can add up to countless referrals which equals the ever important income we need. To date, putting on/ participating in stylized shoots has been one of the best things I've done to grow my business this year. I've seen my fair share of styled shoot inquiry emails over the past year and I'm not saying I'm a professional by any means, but I have gained a plethora of knowledge regarding them and especially involving the ever important email inquiry.
You can catch more of my tips for styled shoots here, but today I wanted to focus specifically on that first email. That initial point of contact is so imperative and I'm here to help you get you started on the right foot.
1. EMAILS ARE A MUST
I'm going to talk a little bit about how shoots should be looked at as work for vendors in #2, but anything work related or collaboration related should be in email form. This doesn't mean that if you have an industry bestie that they will be miffed if you text them about a shoot, but most of the time if there are questions that are asked or information that is given to a colleague, it should simply be in email form. You would be amazed at how many people use my personal Facebook Message option to contact me about a shoot. So much so, I have disabled message notifications on Facebook. I love having everything I need that is OSDIM related in my email. Everything is together and I can easily find what I'm looking for, whether I'm needing to look at the inspiration board again, or check in with another vendor on board with a styled shoot. And emails are so much more professional.
I'll do a quick breakdown of what a styled shoot request email should include before moving on
- An introduction if you've never met before
- How you found them if you've never met before
- Your theme and overall SS vision (you don't have to include your inspiration board up front if you don't want to, if that's something you only feel comfortable sharing once vendors have committed, I feel that that is completely fine.)
- The date, location, and time frame of the shoot.
- A brief explanation of what you would like from that particular vendor.
-Other vendors that are on board.
And here are few other points to make sure you nail styled shoot etiquette...
2. DON'T ASSUME SERVICES ARE FREE
The simple truth is that inspiration shoots should still qualify as work and should be approached in the same way. Somehow it seems that this isn't obvious to everyone and I so wish it was. Don't assume a vendor will "donate" their services for free just because it's a styled shoot. We all understand that the team of vendors will be credited wherever it ends up being featured therefore giving each exposure. It's a wonderful thing for all, but you wouldn't go into a clothing store asking for a free sweater because well, you'll be wearing it in front of a lot of people giving them publicity. That would be crazy. I believe the same for styled shoots. Instead of just asking a industry colleague if they'd like to be involved and leaving the email at that, tell them you'd like them to be included and would love to know what their policies regarding shoots are. This tells them that you respect their work and understand that though they may offer free services, you aren't expecting them free of charge. This goes for all vendors whether florists, planners, photographers, calligraphers, and graphic designers. It may turn out that that certain vendor doesn't donate services and you aren't prepared for the expenses and/or they are out of your budget (flowers, paper, or time put in) and that's ok! You still reached out and didn't assume and no feelings got hurt. Your colleague will remember that and chances are you'll get to work together down the road.
3. PUT TOGETHER THE PERFECT TEAM
Be intentional with your vendor team. Put in the extra effort to create the ideal squad that will effectively bring your vision to life. Maybe your shoot has an organic feel and a lot of neutrals, look for a planner/stylist that you feel will do a fantastic job with the esthetic you're going for. Or if you're looking for a photographer to come aboard, look for editing styles that you feel will go well with your vision. If you are putting on a shoot, you're going to want it to reflect you and your business and the way to get exactly what you want out of it is to do your research on vendors that are in your community or potentially long distance. This would be easier for a calligrapher or graphic designer, but a photographer, planner, or florist-you'll most likely have to cover travel expenses.
Think of it as you are essentially a bride looking for your wedding vendors, just on a smaller scale. Don't just email a vendor only because they might be available on your date, reach out to them because you think they'll be a perfect fit. Not only will your vendors love being part of your vision, but your styled shoot will benefit greatly.
4. BE SURE TO SAY WHY YOU'D LIKE TO INCLUDE THEM
Get personal! We all can do better than an email that says "Hey so and so, I'm putting on a styled shoot and we need a so and so. Would you like to be a part of it?" Vendor relationships are imperative to our business and wherever you can grow a relationship with a fellow industry colleague, you should. Tell an invitation designer WHY she'd be perfect for your shoot. People love words of affirmation and you're more likely to get that yes to be being involved and not only that, they'll be excited to work with you! Nothing better that starting out on the right foot!
5. ASK IF THERE IS ANYTHING THEY WOULD LIKE
We all know an editorial shoot is a team effort. You are all working together to pull off one stunning event and it's a beautiful thing to see it all come together. They are such hard work, but holy moly are they worth it. On the many shoots I have worked on this year, one of my favorite things has been when someone putting on a shoot remembers the other vendors too. And what I mean by that is, they will ask in their emails if there is anything specifically that you would like from the shoot. Maybe a certain angle of a model to really show off the amazing makeup details that the HMUA vendor can use in their portfolio, or a certain shot of a the bouquet. Keeping other vendors in mind when the madness of the shoot is happening is such a huge thing and you better believe that vendor will remember that. If you have some of the vendors there on site with you, double check with them if they'd like anything extra. Little things like that go a long way!
I'll say it again, Styled Shoots are huge business builders. They are the #1 way (in my opinion) to take your small creative business to the next level. I mean, who doesn't want to be a part of something gorgeous, get beautiful images, and build vendor relationships? Just remember to have a little styled shoot etiquette and treat others like you would want to be treated.