There’s no doubt about it: I love styled shoots! The creative energy in conceptualising them and finding the right team to bring that spark of an idea to life… the feeling of camaraderie as you get to know other wedding vendors and stretch and challenge one another… the feeling when you see it all come together in a back-of-camera glimpse… and of course, that moment when you get to shout from the rooftops because it’s been published. Best. Thing. Ever. No wonder I’ve styled more than a hundred editorial and brand shoots – and I always have a new idea rattling around my brain!

Most importantly though, collaborative styled shoots have so many amazing benefits for your business. Styled shoots allow you to:

  • build your portfolio (especially as a new creative business)
  • showcase your creativity or try out new ideas without worrying about getting it wrong on a client’s wedding day (eek)
  • gain experience organising and styling an event
  • meet lots of new suppliers and grow your personal business network
  • get free publicity for your business by getting featured in blogs and magazines.

It all sounds amazing. BUT (and there’s always a but, isn’t there?) are styled shoots really free?

Styled shoots, as I mentioned, are often collaborative and that means everyone involved provides their product and/or service and time for free, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t costs involved. In fact, from my experience as a stylist, a styled shoot cost can be anything from £100 to £2500+, depending on the complexity and scale of the shoot, and that’s not including the expenses my suppliers incur.

So which styled shoot costs should each supplier take into account? And who is responsible for each of the costs?

  • Venue: The good news is that venues will usually collaborate in return for images. However, the shoot team may incur costs for security or cleaning that need to be covered.
  • Florals: The florist arguably makes the biggest investment for a styled shoot, especially since it’s a disposable one – afterwards it all sadly goes in the bin! Hard costs for shoot florals can be anything from £100 for a small centrepiece to thousands for a huge installation. That’s not including the early morning at the market, time spent in creating the arrangements, and the logistics of getting it all to the shoot location.
  • Photography: Costs for a photographer include time on the day as well as for editing (as a rule of thumb, allow three days to edit a styled shoot), as well as travel. If you’re shooting on film, you will also need to factor in the cost of film and developing/scans.
  • Stationery: The costs for a stationer include the price of materials, printing and postage (as well as time, of course).
  • Cake: Cake designers incur the cost of materials and ingredients, as well as those of transporting the cake, and any props/stands/knives. Time should also be factored in to overall cost, especially since decoration for a styled shoot cake is often intricate and specialised.
  • Beauty: The hair and makeup artist(s) on a shoot need to budget for the cost of makeup, cleaning, travel, and time.
  • Dresses: You don’t need to buy a wedding dress for a styled shoot, as they can usually be borrowed from the designer or boutique. However, there may be costs for postage/courier fees, as well as cleaning/repairs. These are often passed on to the shoot organiser.
  • Models: In general, professional models are unlikely to collaborate and can be unreliable if booked on a TFP basis (i.e. time for prints, where a model receives a number of prints and the license to use those pictures in return for their time). You should budget at least £250+ to book a model – this cost is usually carried by the planner/stylist.
  • Furniture Hire/Rentals: Smaller rental companies may be willing to collaborate, but in general, larger brands will charge for delivery and collection (at least £150-£600, depending on location).
  • Catering: If food is included in a shoot, the caterer will incur the cost of materials and ingredients, as well as those of transporting the food, and any props/stands/knives that need to be hired or purchased for the occasion, as well as their time.
  • Props: Each shoot has different miscellaneous prop requirements and costs. Props are usually purchased by the planner or stylist and can cost from £100-£500+.
  • Shoot Catering: It’s good etiquette to provide something to eat and drink for the on-the-day team, including the model. This cost is usually covered by the planner/stylist (around £50-£100).

Putting all of these costs together, the minimum total budget for a shoot if you are the organiser should be around £500 – this includes model, food, and some props. In my experience, the average is between £500-£1000, with more for bigger, high end, or particularly complex shoots (or those that require travel).

All of this doesn’t mean that styled shoots aren’t worth doing, of course! As I mentioned at the beginning, they can be incredibly valuable for a wedding business. However, make sure that you see them as a real investment, and not just a fun thing to do with industry friends. This is another reason I strongly advise you to start the process of planning a shoot by having a clear outcome in mind, and working towards connecting with your dream clients. Whether you’re organising (or participating in) a shoot, make sure to consider the costs up-front and add them to your marketing budget.

Want to plan and execute the kind of beautiful editorial shoots that get published time and time again? Sign up for my brand new The Art of Styling Online course today and get a massive £200 off! FIND OUT MORE.

Top image: Hannah Duffy