Getting started as a photographer can be tricky! Clients want to see your work, but you need clients to have work to show. Luckily for you, I’ve got the perfect way to “fake” your way to ideal, paying clients!
If you’ve just started your photography business or are thinking about opening a photography business, you have probably encountered this troubling conundrum: You need photos to get business, but you need business to get photos. Yikes! What’s a photographer to do?
I’ve got two words for you: styled shoot. Styled shoots are super common in the wedding world. Typically, a group of wedding industry professionals will collaborate to feature their individual skills. A baker, stationer, calligrapher, hair and makeup artist, event planner, florist, and others will choose a wedding vibe or theme and create a “fake wedding,” complete with a model or two.
These comprehensive wedding styled shoots can be expensive to participate in, so if you’re just getting started and don’t have the budget, don’t worry. The styled shoot strategy is possible on a smaller scale and for other niches outside of wedding photography. Let me show you how to create the magic!
Choose someone who represents your ideal client. If you’re focusing on senior photos, choose a high school-age student who represents the students you want to photograph. If you’re a family photographer, find a family who fits the description of the families you’d love to shoot. It’s also best if you ask someone you know will be relaxed and confident in front of the camera.
Don’t ask someone if you can offer them a free shoot. Remember the styled part of the styled shoot? You need this photo shoot to fulfill your stylistic needs as a photographer, so you need to maintain control of the shoot. Instead of offering someone free photos, try saying, “I have a new lens I’m excited try out! Could you come pose for me?” Make sure you give them specific instructions on how to dress and style their hair and makeup. The model needs to match the aesthetics and vibe of the shoot you’ve designed. You don’t want someone turning up in dark, dramatic makeup for your light and airy shoot.
If you photograph one model in one outfit, you’ve got a few shots you can use on your social media. Shoot a model in several outfits, or even use two or three different models, and you’ve suddenly got the look of several separate photo shoots. If you’re creative with your staging and design, you could walk away from a single styled shoot with enough content to span weeks of social media!
Done right, a styled shoot can make you look like a super in-demand photographer and the shots will showcase your ideal clients in your desired style. It’s an awesome chance to really highlight your photography vibe and let your audience see your skills. Just remember to be careful with your captions when posting on Instagram or Facebook. Don’t claim that you shot a wedding that was really a styled shoot. You don’t have to explicitly state that it was a free session, just be smart with your words. Space out your styled shoot photos on your Instagram feed as well. Pop in other photos to keep your grid visually interesting and avoid it looking like all of your pictures are from one place. When your ideal clients can see examples of your work, they’re much more likely to book you for the paid gigs you want to shoot!