Start at the finish

As my coach Louise Beukes taught me, you start at the finish and work backwards. I remember thinking surely this is when I can start pinning thousands of gorgeous images from Pinterest and create the most amazing mood board right – wrong! Let me explain. Before you jump in with the pretty think about what it is that you want to achieve with your styled shoot. What’s your goal, who is your target audience, which magazine or blogs are you aiming to submit to. Think about when you would like your shoot to be featured in the year, that’s going to have some impact on the venue you want to use which I will cover further on. Most importantly who is your ideal client? Once you know this you can gear everything towards finding her including styling the perfect styled shoot to attract her. Do your research first and make sure your shoot is perfectly aligned to the magazine or blog you want to submit to and ensure that your aesthetics align to theirs.

Ideal Client

Who is she, who you are trying to attract to get more bookings. If that’s your goal. This is your dream client remember. Think about where your ideal client would shop, what books or magazines does she / they read. Where does she/ the couple work and how much does she earn. What are her hobbies. Where does she go on holiday and where would she get married. What dress would she wear, what’s her style. What’s her favorite colour and how old is she. Is she a classic, modern, vintage or boho bride. What music does she listen to. Try to create a visual of your ideal client so that you know everything about her. Build a separate mood board of her to be really precise. Have you got a clear picture of who she is and where you might find her?


No venue, no shoot. Before you start booking your suppliers or creating your amazing mood board and selecting your colour palette, get this one organized first to avoid disappointment. You’ve thought about who your ideal client is and where she might get married now you can begin your search to find the perfect venue. Remember your aligning everything towards finding her. This was by far the hardest challenge for me. Getting venues to collaborate on styled shoots is difficult especially if you’re doing a shoot right in the middle of the wedding season. You’re going to have to write your best sales pitch. Too long and they’ll get bored too short and not enough information they won’t be sold on the why. Why should they work with you. In my view and from what I’ve learnt it helps to get straight to the point without being too blunt. Who am I. What do I want and What’s in it for them. Keep it simple! Do name drop if you have a superb bridal dress designer on board or your photographer has been featured before or if indeed you have been featured. Mention the magazines or blogs that you are going to be submitting this shoot to and of course that all images and social media handles will be shared. Rather than always going for the biggest or the most popular venues maybe you should research some new venues who would welcome the free advertising and some lovely images to add to their portfolio. This is a joint venture after all.


When I planned my Wild At Heart styled shoot I had been watching The Last Kingdom. I loved the mix of gold with the rustic earthy materials, the brutal characters’ who were in complete contrast to the wealthy royals. The romancing and the fighting, the different textures, colour palettes and moods between the rich and the poor. I happen to love drama, colour and movement and so I knew I wanted to capture this for my bridal themed wedding set deep in the forest of Hertfordshire. A forest queen in love with nature and all its surroundings with a nod to glamour. And to capture the true essence of the forest and this theme I wanted birds of prey. No easy task I assure you, but I was determined to have them appear to complete the story.

This is where you can really let your imagination run wild and play around with the story you want to tell. What inspired you in the first place to do a styled shoot. What is it that you want to promote? To bring it up to date informative and beautiful include on trend fashions, hair and makeup styles along with colours within your story and give your shoot a name. This is more than just planning a beautiful styled shoot, remember I said start with your end goal. You want to submit this styled shoot to your dream magazine or blog and if you can create the perfect story line for them with a catchy title you will save them a lot of work.


Choose wisely!  My first styled shoot in Gibraltar was a success on the very glitzy 5 Star floating hotel The Sunborn.  It was however a big learning curve.  The second shoot in the UK was a success to, but more challenging and I learnt so much more this time.  It was the team I had chosen to work with who shared the same vision that made it a success. Don’t just pick the photographer, florist or cake designer because they are your friends and you don’t want to hurt their feelings.  This styled shoot if planned meticulously and methodically should take the best part of 3 to 4 months.  You really cannot afford to take risks by selecting the wrong provider.  Do your homework.  Have a look at their work, their website and their Instagram page.  Does their style and aesthetic suit yours?  Will the photographer capture the photographs as you want them. Everyone has their own unique style and there’s no right or wrong.  If your styled shoot is moody and dark then selecting a photographer whose style is light and bright this isn’t going to work for you.

The biggest learning curve for me on the second shoot was to have a backup of suppliers including the model.  Two weeks left to go until D day and very sadly my florist had to pull out.  One week left to go and my model pulled out!  Despite me booking the model through an agency.  Always have a supplier/ model who is willing to step in should you need them.  There’s no harm in asking suppliers if they would be willing to stand in should you need them.  My policy is always don’t ask, you don’t get.

Don’t be put off by the title of the person who is organizing the styled shoot.  Look at their work and their success story.  We don’t all fit into precise little boxes in life.  There’s no rule to say that a photographer cannot organize a styled shoot.  I’ve worked with some great florists and photographers who have organized successful beautifully styled shoots and they’ve all been published.  Research and make your own mind up.


This one goes without saying. Create a mailing list with all your supplier’s details, phone numbers etc. and email them the plan and timings for the day, include the mood board and don’t forget your contact details.  Include the address of the location they need to be at with directions including the sat nav post code.

Don’t forget to mail your model on how she should prepare for the shoot.  Even if she is a professional model.  I’ve seen models turn up with greasy hair and the wrong colour underwear.  Be precise.  If you are selecting a model from a FB page ask to see their portfolio or most recent work.  Don’t forget to ask what their dress size is, although most dresses for shoots will be on the larger size if you can get the right size it will help forgo the bulldog clips!  As well as communicating with your team be sure to communicate with any providers that are lending props, shoes including the wedding dress!  If they are sending shoes or dresses, personally I think it’s best to collect these rather expensive items or have them couriered to your home address NOT to the venue where they can get lost.  This may also seem like an obvious one, but look after the items even if they are specifically for collaborations especially if you want to work with these providers again.

Have fun and look after the team

Whilst you will have gone to a lot of trouble planning this shoot and gathering your team I think it’s equally important to remember that people have given up their free time to help you on the day. Show them some love and look after them with some food and drink, it doesn’t have to be expensive. If your shoot is in the woods, check out the facilities. Are there any? Do your research and communicate so that everyone knows exactly what’s there. Don’t forget to take a little life saver bag. I call it my life saver bag because it’s filled with safety pins, elastic bands, small scissors, ribbons, plasters, needle and thread. Anything I think I may need to save the day.

Have fun! As with a lot of shoots this may be the first time that you meet someone else from the wedding industry. It’s a great way to network and meet people. Give the right impression, look after them so that they will want to work with you again. When your shoot is finished don’t forget to take the team photograph. It’s always a nice memento of the day. When you’re done, remember to send out a thank you to everyone who was involved and keep them posted on how you get on with your submissions. That’s the next thing I’ll be talking about.

Have any questions? Feel free to get in touch, I’m always happy to help.


1 Comment

  1. Gina

    Refreshingly thorough and valuable, Mari.


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