One of the biggest questions photographers have when first getting started is what gear is worth investing in?
If this is you: let me tell you, I’ve been there! I know what it’s like to lust after all the newest gorgeous cameras + lenses. Of course, we’d all love to be in the position to say TAKE MY $$$$, throw down 20k and call it a day. But in reality, when you’re just getting started, all you have is a dream, limited funds… and an ever-growing checklist of all things you feel you need just to begin. It can definitely be a little overwhelming.
So it’s no surprise that ‘What’s your favorite lens?’ and ‘What gear do you recommend?’ are two of the most frequently asked questions I get from other photographers.
I recently put together a video sharing the essential camera gear I take to every wedding I photograph – including a quick breakdown of each lens I use and why & the two lenses I’d recommend for beginner photographers starting out with a limited budget. To top it all off, I put together a free ‘Inside My Camera Bag‘ PDF with links to the gear I use/recommend and a few extra essentials I bring with me for weddings!
— Click below to download the free ‘Inside My Camera Bag’ resource. Download it, and keep it handy for future reference!
These two hold a special place in my heart. Have you ever met someone that you just immediately felt like they could be best friends? Or maybe more. Maybe like family? That’s the case with Dil and Ty! (And their entire family!)
These two adventurers found each other five years ago at a pool party. For that story (and the details of Ty’s tacky shorts!) check out their engagement session photos here: Snowy Brian Head Engagement
But today is all about one of the most special weddings I’ve had the fortune to be a part of. Dilyana and Tyler chose a beautiful location in Temecula: Mount Palomar Winery. The day started with a relaxed morning, hanging out with their favorite people and getting ready for the life-changing day ahead.
Knowing them as well as I do, and how long they’ve waited for this moment, this first look took my breath away. <3 Dilyana and Tyler shared the most heartfelt custom vows in front of family and friends (seriously, everyone cried!) with the mountains and Mount Palomar’s vineyards as their backdrop. Their beautiful ceremony was officiated by Tyler’s mom, Lisa, making every moment even more special and personal. Dilyana and Tyler have traveled to 13 countries in their 5 years together (and they’re adding to the list with an epic honeymoon in the Maldives, Dubai, Bulgaria and London!) They recently started a travel blog, The Hubbs and I, to share their adventures. So it was only fitting there be a little nod to their love of travel. They named each table after a destination they’ve been, along with a photo. Perfect table decor for these globetrotters!
Loved getting the chance to work with Taylor Vesp of Tailored Events who helped make sure the day kept on track & was styled to perfection!For more from Dilyana and Tyler’s wedding day, watch the special wedding slideshow here: LINK!
Dil + Tyler: Congrats on becoming ‘Wifey and Hubbs’!! Such an exciting, amazing new adventure (the best yet!) and Jayse and I are both so happy for you guys! :-) <3
Styled shoots are a photographers best friend! I’ve used them in my business to keep inspired & fresh, test out new ideas & techniques and to collaborate with other talented professionals. As creative entrepreneurs it’s important to constantly grow and push ourselves, and styled shoots are an awesome way to do just that! And it’s also one of the best ways to take your business to the next level, helping you book more of the work you love with your dream clients. :-) In short, they rock!
But maybe you’re feeling stumped on coming up with a unique enough idea? OR, you have an awesome idea you’re totally stoked about, but just aren’t sure where to start? I’ve been there too. With my first styled shoots there was a lot to figure out – as well as hiccups, stress, and pressure (though, each time, it was all totally worth it in the end!) But with time and experience I’ve refined my process for how to plan them and wanted to share it with you in hopes that some small tid-bit will help with your next shooting adventure!
In my latest YouTube video I talk about my method for organizing & plan a styled shoots. I’m also breaking everything down in this post and as a bonus sharing my personal StyledShoot Checklist!
Have you already created styled shoots before but want to start taking a more active role in the planning and design process? Or do you want to plan your first and are unsure how to approach them. In either case I’ve got you covered! Here are my five TOP tips to help make the process a whole lot easier AND more fun!
1. Start with Intention
Before you do anything else: Set an intention so that you know exactly what you need to get out of this shoot to make it a success! So step 1 is answering the question: What’s my end goal?
Some of your goals might be:
Building your portfolio, or transitioning into a new market with your photography
Testing out a new technique(s) – Learn something new! New gear? New Lenses!?
Networking – Build new relationships with awesome people!
Getting featured – Get your work out there!
Refueling yourself creatively – Bring back those sparks!
Whatever your main goal(s) are, it’s important to define them early on since it will play a big role when planning for the shoot.
2. Decide Your Level of Involvement
While your level of involvement will differ from shoot to shoot in how you break up and share tasks and how complex or simple the shoot is, there are two general levels of involvement: 1. Show up and shoot, 2. Actively involved.
Show up & Shoot: In this scenario, you’re usually brought into the shoot by another professional (often the planner). You’re time commitment is usually limited to the day of the shoot & post-shoot (editing, delivering to the team and possibly sending out for submission.) While the commitment is less on the front end, you’re still going to be pouring a LOT of your time and creative energy into this shoot. So it’s important to make sure it fits the goals for your business & photography. Show up & Shoot scenarios are fantastic when your end goal is networking and building relationships with vendors that are in line with your company, or if you trust and love the vision of the people planning and styling the shoot. Preferably a combo of both of these! :)
Actively Involved: In this scenario, you’re often acting as the ‘Art Director’ of the shoot and taking an active role in the vision, planning and design. This is my favorite type of shoot since it allows for the most creative expression as an artist, and also enables you to have more control over the end result.
You can also be actively involved while sharing the Art Director role – starting with or bringing in another person early on in the process (often a planner or stylist) who you will work with closely and split tasks with. It’s important this be someone you trust and who shares a similar vision. When things sync up right, this scenario can be fantastic to bounce ideas off of each other and have two creative minds working together. :)
Pro tip: Don’t invite ‘too’ many cooks int0 the kitchen! A focused vision is always better!
“There’s nothing worse than a sharp image of a fuzzy concept.” – Ansel Adams
3. The Creative Process
Brainstorming To kickstart the creative process, you’ll want to start collecting inspiration. One of my favorite tools for this is Pinterest, but inspiration can be found everywhere. Photos, paintings, music, music videos, magazines, movies, poetry, locations, fashion… Basically anything that ignites your imagination.
Once you’ve collected your ideas, you can start to narrow in on an idea or concept to frame your shoot around. This doesn’t necessarily need to be a theme, it can also be based around a mood, style, location or something you find inspiring.
Another way is taking two or more disparate concepts or themes and merging them to form something unique. Below is an example of inspiration I pulled for a Pinboard I put together with the contrasting concepts of Feminine and calm vs. BOLD and Alluring, inspired by the ebb & flow of the sea.
Story Many times the best shoots will include a story element to them. This adds depth to the shoot, giving something for everyone on the team to latch onto, get excited about and revolve around. This is also helpful to give model(s) a ‘character’ or vibe you’re going for. Don’t get too hung up on this – keeping it a bit rough allows for your collaborators to bring their own creativity and imagination to the shoot.
Moodboard Next I will put together a moodboard to convey the general mood and direction for the shoot. I use this to share the color palette and overall vibe for the shoot. I’ll share this when pitching the shoot idea to collaborators, and it also helps keep everyone on the same page. Having a visual guide allows everyone involved to express themselves creatively and do what they do best, while also ensuring everything comes together in a cohesive way.
For the shoot in this example, I put together two moodboards: one for the overall style and color palette, and a second, more focused one to share the mood with the model.
4. Collaborators + Models
After you have your overall vision nailed down, you’ll start putting together your creative team of collaborators.
Depending on the scope of the shoot and your goals, this will vary. You can keep it super simple with just model, hair and makeup & attire. Remember complex doesn’t necessarily = better. I love simple shoots and find they really allow you to focus on your craft and trying out new techniques. If you’re new to photography, this may be your best option to get good work in your portfolio.
From there you can scale up to create a shoot with more layers to it, or go all out with a full blown styled shoot. This might include a planner or event designer, florist, stylist – designer – or bridal shop, cake designer, invitation and stationary designer, calligrapher, rentals company, and more. When choosing your team it’s important that you share similar goals. Since everyone is trading their time and resources, it needs to be mutually beneficial. And you should also share high resolution copies of the images once the shoot is done (or after the feature, if the magazine or blog wants exclusivity) for everyone to use on social media and in their portfolios.
Models One of your most important collaborators is your model(s) since they will have a major impact in the end images. There are many professional modeling agencies if you’re more established. However you can also find models at sites such as Model Mayhem, through social media, friends (or friends or friends).When searching for your perfect model, it’s good to have the vision and vibe for the shoot in mind since their ‘look’ will play a major role in the end images. For example: If going for an innocent look you might look for a model with large eyes, slightly rounder facial features, fairer skin, maybe even some freckles. If going for a lifestyle, carefree vibe I’ll usually stray away from models with a ‘high fashion’ look and pay attention to their smile and how they carry themselves. In the images above I was looking for someone with a feminine yet bold look: strong eyes, yet soft lips and an ability to move effortlessly. ‘Ebb and Flow’.
Last, you’ll need a location for your shoot. Usually I’ll have an idea or two in mind by this point and even start my search early on in the Creative Process. For this shoot I knew I wanted a beach that would provide a rocky backdrop to play off of the blue and peach hues and add visual interest to the compositions. I started my search in Malibu, and ended up going with El Pescador Beach. It was fantastic, fairly easy to get to, and inspiring.
So that’s it! Combine those five steps together and you have the makin’s of a great Styled Shoot!
1. Start with Intention, 2. Decide Your Level of Involvement, 3. Rock the Creative Process, 4. Find Your Collaborators + Models, 5. Lock Your Location
Hope you found this helpful! I know that’s a bit to remember, so to help you out with your next styled shoot, I’m sharing my Styled Shoot Checklist. It’s everything you need to focus on, all collected nice and tidy on one simple sheet. I put it together years ago to help me stay organized & streamline the process of planning styled shoots. I use it for every shoot I put together because it helps me know exactly where I’m at in the process, making things more efficient and saving a ton of time!
If you want to know exactly what to do, click the big purple box below and keep it in a handy place!
Definitely drop a comment if you have any questions! I can’t wait to see the next awesome styled shoot you plan!
…And their snow-dog, Milo! He eats snow, he catches snowballs, he runs and buries himself in snow. He IS snow! :-P
I’m posting this today because in a few short moments I am on my way to Temecula to photograph their wedding tomorrow!
Their adventure-filled life together started five short years ago at a mutual friends pool party. Dilyana’s first memory of Tyler was his ‘short European-looking, polka-dotted shorts.’ She concedes, however, that at least they ‘went along with his spunky personality.’ They hit it off over conversations of snowboarding and Dilyana was immediately intrigued by his adventurous side.
Just a few days later (Easter weekend,) Dilyana was packing her bags for a spontaneous trip to Brian Head with Tyler and friends at his family’s cabin. When the friends suddenly cancelled, leaving just the two of them, they shed no tears! After all, they had eggs to paint! They spent the rest of the weekend snowboarding, star gazing, and falling in love.
For their engagement session, I thought it only fitting to return to this cabin and capture where they are now: five years later, with 2 degrees, 2 houses, 1 new career, 1 snowy dog, 13 countries, and countless cities travelled together.
And, as I post this today, these two are getting married TOMORROW at the beautiful Mount Palomar Winery in Temecula, CA.
Dilyana + Tyler: Adventurers for LIFE!
You both have a contagious energy which was a joy to shoot until the moon came out! You guys are so clearly meant for each other, and I’m so happy I get to capture it!! Love you guys and can’t wait for tomorrow! XOXO
Celeste and Matt first met at a friends party where they were both were smitten with each other. But it wasn’t until a year later they would cross paths again. After secretly thinking of each other for the whole time in between, they bumped into each other one night in town, exchanged #s and the rest was history!
After a 5-year engagement and two beautiful children together, Celeste and Matthew decided it was time to make things official! They didn’t want to wait anymore, so their spontaneous hearts and love of travel brought them from their home in beautiful Byron Bay, Australia, to the desert of Las Vegas for an intimate elopement with just the two of them. Their wedding day reflected their love for each other, relaxed bohemian style, and fun adventurous spirits.
We started the afternoon cruising through the city in a vintage Buick convertible, exploring the Neon Museum and dancing through the streets of downtown Vegas.
Next, we were off to the desert!
When your car breaks down middle of the nowhere… keep calm and shoot on! ;)
After letting the car cool down and gurgle back to life, we drove out to Celeste and Matt’s ceremony site. It was set on a beautiful expanse of dry lakebed surrounded by mountains, and officiated by the lovely Victoria of Flora Pop, with her matching yellow hair and pop-up teardrop-trailer. They also rented an airstream from Silver Trailer which they used to freshen up and relax in before the ceremony.
Seven beautiful, adventure-filled years together led up to this one beautiful moment…
At long last: MARRIED!!
Celeste + Matt: HAPPY ANNIVERSARY! Hope you’re celebrating with some champagne today! I loved being a part of your wedding adventure, and it always puts the biggest smile on my face thinking back to that beautiful day. :) Sending you two so much love from Vegas! XOXO
Witty, lively and good hearted – I knew I was going to love these two from the start! :-) These two sweethearts met in high school. In the fall of 2000 they went to homecoming together. Later that night, Steve romanced Shanna with an evening dance under the football bleachers. The song he played was N’Sync’s ‘This I Promise You’. (Smooth, Steve, really smooth!) As high school crushes often go, they eventually lost touch, but reconnected a few years later and fell head-over-heals again. Steve said “I was hooked.. and wasn’t letting her go!” Later, on a trip back to their hometown of Detroit, Steve took Shanna for a car ride to share a trip down memory lane, ending back at the same football field. He played the same song, but, this time, he also had a ring. He got down on one knee, and she said YES!
Shanna + Steve shared the sweetest private First Look before their ceremony. <3
Shanna + Steve both love the outdoors, and once they saw the Springs Preserve they knew it would be the place they were going to get married. Thanks to their amazing wedding planner Paulina Clute, the day was just as they had imagined it!
The ceremony was held in the Garden Arboretum where the arch was draped with beautiful pink and cream flowers from By Dzign.
After the ceremony Shanna and Steve joined their guests for cocktail hour and shared a first dance beneath the garden gazebo to ‘This I Promise You’.
Shanna + Steve: I’m so happy that I got to be a part of your love story. :-) Capturing the love between you two was magical!! <3