One of the top reasons to do a styled shoot is to see your name in print. But where should you submit a styled shoot? And how can you maximize your chances of being selected?
Recently, styled shoots have been top of mind. The wedding season is over in the Northern Hemisphere. After a short hiatus, many planners and photographers are planning styled shoots. And while social distancing rules make weddings challenging, styled shoots offer fewer challenges. It’s way easier to stay within regulations when it’s just event pros in a big ol’ venue.
And the reason they’re top of mind? Well, I’ve been noticing an uptick of styled shoots being planning with ThymeBase’s event planning software now that October’s over and planners have the time.
What Is A Styled Shoot?
In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, well, let’s bring you up to speed fast. According to Ruffled, “a Styled Shoot is a wedding setting created by a team of wedding vendors to flex their creative muscles in a collaborative effort where typically everyone provides their services and expertise in exchange for images of their work.“
Got that? In most cases, either an event planner or photographer rustle up a posse of event professionals to stage an event without any guests. It’s an opportunity for professionals to showcase their creativity and skill. But it’s their vision and not that of a client.
Why Plan A Styled Shoot?
There are many reasons to plan a styled shoot, but the ultimate goal is to land more business. Any one of the reasons below might net you a referral that leads to a new booking. So it’s not all about creativity. It’s also about generating new revenue for your business.
Event planners use styled shoots to grow their network and add to their preferred vendor list, and that makes sense. The styled shoot is an opportunity to get to know other wedding vendors. Best of all, you get to network in a “work” environment that lets you see each other in action.
Pro tip: When planning your styled shoot, try to include wedding professionals you’ve never worked with before.
Use the styled shoot to build your preferred vendor list to recommend to clients. And you’ll be on others’ lists too. Which brings me to referrals.
Multiple planners have shared that they’ve booked more weddings through styled shoot referrals than through bridal fairs. Crazy, right? I mean, that’s the whole point of all that effort.
Pushing The Limits Of Your Creativity
In a styled shoot, you’re not beholden to clients. And that means you can get creative. This is an opportunity to be bold, inspired, and maybe even a little bit wild. The same goes for every vendor involved.
While it’s your job as the driving force to unify the styled shoot’s vision, give everyone space to push some boundaries.
Build Your Portfolio
This is an obvious benefit of styled shoots. If you’re just starting your event business, a styled shoot is a quick, if not easy, way to build up your portfolio. You’ll be using these images on your website, Instagram, and elsewhere.
And if you think that only new event professionals need to build their portfolio. That’s not true at all. Many planners and photographers use styled shoots to keep their portfolio up to date with the latest event trends. Most planners I’ve spoken with plan 3 or more styled shoots every year. It keeps the portfolio current.
Social Media Marketing
Digital life means generating content. That’s content for your portfolio, but also for social media. And a styled shoot gives you exquisite material to post on your various social media profiles.
Submit A Styled Shoot
Ah, now we get to the crux of the article. Once you’ve got gorgeous images in hand, it’s time to submit your styled shoot to magazines, websites, blogs, and anywhere else you can think of.
There is something profoundly satisfying in adding a “featured” badge to your website when you’ve been showcased in a publication. And that’s what we’re going to look at now. Or, at least, very shortly.
Who Takes Part In A Styled Shoot?
You need to gather a few event pros together before you can submit a styled shoot anywhere. Sometimes, it’s as few as four or five, but it could be ten or more vendors. Here are a few vendors (or partners) you might consider adding to your shoot.
- Event Planners
- Hair Stylist
- Makeup Artist
- Rental Pro
- Linen Supplier
- Event Decor Specialist (e.g., balloon decor)
- Stationery (e.g., place cards)
- Calligraphy Artists
- Attire (bridal gown, shoes, accessories, suits, bridesmaids dresses, etc.)
- Henna Artists
You probably won’t want every one of those vendors involved, but let that list serve as inspiration when you’re planning your styled shoot.
Most vendors will donate their time and skill in exchange for the pictures, but be prepared to help cover expenses. Often, the highest costs are florals, catering, and other perishables. It’s common for the others to chip in for those costs. Still, it’s also not unusual for the planner or photographer to cover all the costs if they’re the driving force.
Pro tip: Many established venues will charge for doing the styled shoot on location, but newer venues often offer free time, especially during the week.
Pro tip: Treat it like a real event. Create an event timeline, manage your event to-do list, and assign tasks to your fellow event pros. By treating it as a serious undertaking, you’ll avoid some of the pitfalls below.
Styled Shoot Pitfalls
There are a few things to watch out for when putting together a styled shoot. Keep an eye on these three things to avoid disaster.
The Costs Of A Styled Shoot
Costs can rocket up if you’re not careful. Like I mention above, it’s the perishables that often add up, but sometimes venues charge too. It’s normal for florists and caterers to offer their services at costs, but it’s not universal. Make sure you’re aware of all expectations and work within your budget. There are usually workarounds when prices seem to be too high. Talk to any vendors who expect payment and see what they suggest to lower costs.
Flakiness Happens At Styled Shoots
Look, you’re not paying anyone, except maybe for base costs, and that can lead to flaky attendance. I’ve heard that models are often the most unreliable styled shoot contributors.
Build a detailed day-of timeline and share it early with your styled shoot partners. Then confirm aggressively. And since you’re an event professional, you’re probably already an expert at improvising solutions when things go wrong.
Watch The Time
It’s easy for things to run over time, but it might lead to increased costs, especially from a venue. Also, you’re asking people to donate their time and effort. So keep an eye on the time, and minimize standing around. Everyone will appreciate you getting a move on.
Styled Shoot Submission Tips
Every publisher you’ll submit a styled shoot to will have their own requirements. But these near-universal tips will increase the likelihood of your submission being accepted.
Tell A Story
Editors at bridal magazines love a good story as much as anyone else. And when you submit a styled shoot, they want to be swept along in the narrative.
As Wedding Sparrow puts it, “Having a story that is exclusive to you (as the artist and creator), makes it personal and much more likely to be original. What has inspired you so much that you’d like to share it with the world?“
Editors and readers alike want to be wowed by your creativity. Styled shoots that offer unique or unexpected visuals will capture your viewer’s imagination. And will improve your odds of getting featured.
But don’t get silly. Wedding Sparrow says, “We see editorials with ‘brides’ holding golden sprayed pineapples in the middle of a mountain setting. The question we ask? Why?! It’s props for the sake of props and has no meaning.” So be bold, silly, fun, and creative. But make it part of the story and not contrived.
Brand Style Matters
Publishers know their audience well, and you should know them too. If the publisher’s brand is all about rural settings, country-life, and vintage weddings, don’t submit a styled shoot that’s gothic, dark, and moody. You’ll learn what style fits by looking at what they publish. Still, many publishers also add helpful guidelines on their submission page.
There are standard shots that everyone expects to see. And it’s alright to submit them. But include some interesting angles too. You’ll grab attention with exciting takes on classic scenes. And one way to do that is with angles.
But that’s not all to take note of. When you submit a styled shoot, try to include a wide range of shots, from close-ups to full shots. Here’s a comprehensive list of photographic angles and shot types.
Lastly, lean into the vertical options for print magazine submissions. They look better on the printed page and are prioritized by many magazines.
Hairstyling, flowers, and greenery can all get droopy as the styled shoot drags on. It makes things look tired and adds the blahs to the images. It’s one of the reasons that time is of the essence in a styled shoot.
Table Shots With And Without Chairs
Simply put, this allows the editors to focus on the scene or the tablescape and decide which fits their publication best at that moment. A breathtaking centerpiece doesn’t need a chair back in the way, but a pulled out shot of a dinner setting might look peculiar without seating.
Flat Lay With Depth
According to Today’s Bride SF, “a flat lay with the paper items and unique accents to create dimension, is a plus.”
So when you’re doing a flat lay with invitations or menu cards, you can still add dimension and depth. Here are some flat lay tips, but a personal one is to add colored liquid into any cups in the shot. Teacup, with tea, shot from above (with a slice of lemon), looks way lovelier than an empty cup.
Watch The Background
A busy background can ruin a lovely floral arrangement or tablescape. Similarly, a plain background can suck the life out of a shot. Make sure the focal point is enhanced by the environment and not competing.
Wrinkles And Misalignment Ruin The Submission
The little details matter. So be super aware of any wrinkles in the linen or crooked place settings. Check that the forks and knives are aligned and look out for any other jarring elements.
Submit Clean Images
That means no watermarks, frames, or borders. The selection committee (or rather, the editor) won’t bother to call you and ask you to resubmit. They’ll simply skip your styled shoot submission.
Read The Rules
I can’t stress this enough. Every publisher will have their own submission guidelines, and they’ll expect you to read them and abide by them. They’re rules, not suggestions.
Where To Submit A Styled Shoot
By now, you should be confident in the quality of your styled shoot and ready to submit. And I’ll list pretty much every place I can find that will accept submissions.
I’ll break things up into two sections, for sanity’s sake. Magazines, websites.
The magazines are print magazines. They’re the legacy media and are well established. While some websites have a broader readership, magazines bring a lot of credibility and clout.
Websites are, well, you know. Many high-traffic websites are perfect to submit a styled shoot to.
But first, there’s a special place that deserves mention.
Two Bright Lights
Two Bright Lights is a submissions platform that makes it super easy to submit a styled shoot to publishers. It works like this:
You create an album which is then searchable by publishers. So some publishers may even come to you. Super easy. They also list hundreds of publications that you can submit to through their platform. And that’s really all there is to it. Plus, they’ll track your styled shoot submission and let you know when it’s accepted.
Wedding Magazines To Submit A Styled Shoot
There are many more wedding magazines you can submit a styled shoot to. In many cases, the best options are your local magazines. In almost any town, region, or state, there are wedding magazines dedicated to the local industry in every country. It would get cumbersome to list them all here. But here are some big ones to submit to.
Brides Magazine only accepts real weddings, but I had to include them since they’re such a prominent magazine.
Southern Bride also accepts real weddings and has a separate link on their site for that too.
Another big magazine that prefers real weddings, but you can contact their editorial section here.
Bridal Guide accepts both styled shoot and real weddings. They highlight all aspects of a wedding day: detail shots, great candid moments, beautiful posed portraits, and more!
MunaLuchi Bridal is the leading multicultural wedding publication catering to women of color. They accept styled shoot submissions along with real weddings, engagement sessions, and proposal stories.
Pretty Pear Bride looks for photos showcasing plus size brides with extraordinary photography.
They accept a broad range of styles from elegant and classic to quirky and boho.
Ceremony Magazine accepts styled shoots as well as separate forms for print and blog submissions.
According to them, Grace Ormonde is the leading platform of influence in the world of luxury weddings. Their focus is on high fashion, but they do accept styled shoot submissions.
A classic in the wedding industry, Martha Stewart Weddings mostly publishes both real weddings.
12. Destination I Do
Focusing on destination weddings, Destination I Do prefers submissions via Two Bright Lights but also accepts submissions via email.
13. Pacific Weddings
Pacific Weddings is a destination wedding magazine that accepts styled shoots.
Rock N Roll Bride is a magazine dedicated to alternative brides. They prefer real weddings but do accept styled shoots.
Submit here or via Two Bright Lights.
Eco-Beautiful Weddings is the first and only magazine and daily blog dedicated to eco-friendly weddings. The Daily Blog is the resource for eco-couture weddings with planning tips from all angles.
LGBTQ Magazines To Submit A Styled Shoot To
Gay Weddings & Marriage Magazine accepts all their submissions only through Two Bright Lights.
17. Dancing With Her
Dancing With Her is dedicated to celebrating lesbian & same-sex couples in love.
18. Men’s Vows
Men’s Vows appears to accept only real weddings. Still, if you’re doing a same-sex styled shoot, I’d recommend submitting it anyway or reaching out directly here.
19. Equally Wed
Equally Wed showcases gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, and queer weddings that traditional bridal magazines often don’t show.
20. Brooklyn Bride
Founded in April 2007, Brooklyn Bride was the first wedding blog to focus exclusively on modern weddings. The site attracts a core readership of brides, industry professionals, and magazine editors.
Brooklyn Bride accepts real weddings, showers, engagement parties, day-after sessions, rehearsal dinners, tablescapes, inspiration shoots, and even products like invitations, jewelry, cake toppers, etc.
21. Once Wed
Their focus is on simple, classic, elegant, understated, and original weddings and styled shoots. They love celebrations that are surprising, inspirational, and are a true reflection of the couple getting married. They look for unique details, like an amazing venue or one of a kind dress.
22. Offbeat Bride
This website is the ongoing celebration of folks daring to walk off the beaten aisle. They only accept wedding & styled shoot submissions from members of our curated Offbeat Bride vendor community. If you’d like to get in there, here’s more info.
Note: Offbeat Bride is not currently accepting submissions in 2020, but I’m including these details, assuming they’ll open submissions back up sometime in 2021.
While Grey Likes Weddings features a variety of weddings, our selections lean toward a classic, sophisticated, timeless bride with a fashion-forward bent. They also offer tips for submissions here.
24. Wedding Chicks
Wedding Chicks is a stylish wedding blog with wedding inspiration, wedding ideas, and vendor deals for the modern bride.
25. Style Me Pretty
Style Me Pretty is your go-to destination for all things pretty and has been inspiring brides- and grooms-to-be with everything they need to plan the wedding of their dreams since 2007.
When it comes to submissions, they say, “Every. Single. Day. We are asked, “What are you looking for?” Style Me Pretty most definitely has a look. A feel. Pretty. Fresh. Clean. Classic…with a twist. Pretty weddings are everywhere, but those that we carefully choose to publish on-site have something extra. A sparkle. A hint of wow without being over the top. Rooted in the classic but with a fresh, modern approach.”
26. Carats & Cake
Carats & Cake is the premier network representing the best of the wedding industry. Launched in 2013, the platform is an edit of the best of weddings across the country to allow couples to find vendors and venues in their location of interest.
Green Wedding Shoes started with us sharing amazing weddings and has grown to share entertaining, travel, DIY, and fashion + beauty features. For styled shoots, they look for new, fun ideas. For these types of submissions, they are looking for a distinct style, unique themes, or just great editorial photos.
28. Junebug Weddings
Junebug Weddings looks for a distinctive personal style. We love to see unique wedding planning ideas and details that our readers can get excited about and find inspiration in. They also love a great story or connection to the couple and their wedding planning experience. Finally, solid, artistic, and consistently-processed photography is a must.
29. 100 Layer Cake
Submit here. They also accept submissions via Two Bright Lights.
Remember to include detail shots or anything noteworthy about your submission. Their readers love content that is romantic, trend-setting, creative, handmade, unique, or any combination of the above.
Submissions are selected based on photography style, event styling, decor details, and story. They’ve also written extensively about what they want in styled shoots.
31. Love My Dress
They love images that capture human connection, joy, and love and showcase how a couple has injected their personality into their wedding day; decor, detail, and fashion.
32. Bridal Musings
Bridal Musings features real weddings, styled shoots, and films that can be described as one (or all) of the following: chic, stylish, creative, beautiful, or romantic.
Not the same as Belle Bridal Magazine above, Belle The Magazine aims to be a resource for the sophisticated, fashion-forward bride with an eye for luxury details and creative ideas. In their words, “My ideal editorial content includes extravagant weddings and engagement sessions that are lush, glamorous, luxurious, and absolutely breathtaking.”
They only feature styled shoots online (not in the magazine). If you would like to submit for the website, please upload your images, a list of vendors, and a description of the inspiration behind the shoot via the real wedding submission page.
35. Emmaline Bride
Emmaline Bride is “The Handmade Wedding Blog,” and they’ve been sharing our love for handmade wedding finds since 2009. They only accept submissions from members.
With millions of readers, Rustic Wedding Chic is now a leader and trusted resource for couples seeking inspiration and ideas while planning their beautiful, elegant, rustic & chic wedding.
At its heart, The Perfect Palette is a blog dedicated to exploring the color palette possibilities for weddings and parties. From styled shoots to color tips, The Perfect Palette is all about sharing creative and colorful styling ideas.
Intimate Weddings is the go-to site for planning a small wedding. Styled shoots that focus on small weddings are welcome.
39. Boho Weddings
Boho Weddings loves all things “Boho” from luxe to rustic, modern to vintage. They’re interested in lots of different styles of weddings: Bohemian, luxe, rustic, alternative, glam, modern, quirky, DIY, whimsical, destination, anything goes as long as it fits with the BOHO brand.
Whimsical Wonderland Weddings is a friendly & inclusive wedding ideas blog featuring weddings that are not necessarily traditional but utterly gorgeous & filled with love.
41. Signature Bride
Signature Bride is the ultimate digital bridal destination for Black to-be-weds, providing products and services and comprehensive content, among other features.
42. Hello May
Hello May publishes a broad range of styles, from classic to quirky. The story and inspiration behind your styled shoot will go a long way in getting you noticed there.
43. Wedding Sparrow
They specialize in film photography as we think it emotes simple, raw, and unadorned feelings and style. Wedding Sparrow only accepts submissions from its members, but details are available here.
44. Nearly Newlywed
NNW doesn’t specify their aesthetic preferences, but my impression is a classic with a touch of whimsy. Since NNW is a dress-centric site, I’d recommend submissions focus on bridal wear.
Their readers love to see plenty of details, floral designs, tablescapes, and other creative décor inspirations. B’LOV’ED celebrates diversity and welcomes various styles, including modern elegance, boho chic, vintage glamour, botanical beauty, and minimalism. They also love destination weddings with a WOW factor.
46. Bespoke Bride
They prefer submissions to be detail-heavy and be as colorful and bright as possible.
47. The Un-Wedding
The focus of Un-Wedding is on non-traditional, bold, quirky, and unique choices.
48. Love & Lavender
Submit here. They prefer submissions via Two Bright Lights.
They aim to inspire our readers with unique ideas, styles, colors, and themes that they can incorporate into their own wedding day. In short, weddings with pizzazz!
Want That Wedding is managed by Sonia, who shares what she looks for in wedding shoots here. Overall, a mix of stylish and quirky seems to be the site’s aesthetic.
50. Glamour & Grace
Glamour & Grace loves all things chic with vintage touches, handmade details, and phenomenal photography! We are focused on heirloom and handmade details, so please make mention of any unique details that would be of interest. They also feature select unique or vintage styled engagement sessions, bridal shoots, anniversary sessions, or boudoir.
Every Last Detail only accepts submissions from members.
52. One Fab Day
One Fab Day is the number one wedding website in Ireland, providing couples with 1000s of articles, 100s of Real Weddings.
A Note About Exclusivity
Nearly every single place you submit a styled shoot to will insist on a degree of exclusivity. It allows the publisher to feel confident that their content is unique.
The downside is that you’re left spinning your heels, waiting for an acceptance email before submitting the styled shoot elsewhere. Look for places that promise to get back to you fast or who insist on limited exclusivity periods. Many websites ask you to wait 10 days or so before submitting your photos elsewhere.
You’ll need to weigh up your personal feelings about some of the more established or legacy publications that might wait months to get back to you. While it’s not fair, it’s sometimes worth the wait to reach their audience.
Good luck with your styled shoot! And if you’re ever interested in sharing your styled shoot story, let me know.