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10 Successful Steps Every Concept Shoot Needs

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Creating your own shoot is beneficial for several reasons. You'll have the ability to be the creative director and to challenge yourself to build your portfolio. Collaborating with other businesses, however, can really boost the publicity of your shoot, possibly stirring up some new leads and business. I typically engage in at least two concept shoots a year just to encourage team creativity with some of my favorite local vendors.

Here is what it entails to create a successful concept shoot and how doing one can help elevate your photography business and brand. Below are images from past concept shoots I have helped create.


1. A Clear Goal

If you feel uninspired, or you’re waiting for that special assignment to come in, but you don’t know when it will, take it in your own hands and create your special shoot. You don’t have to go at it alone and even if the creation seems costly, you can most likely collaborate with other vendors that would be more than happy to help supply items or provide their time and services in order to use the images to build their portfolio as well.

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Concept shoots can allow photographers to showcase what they really want to capture and their specific style since you are your own client. Sometimes there are photography workshops that include a concept shoot which is great, however by doing one on your own you have exclusivity to the shoot itself. You'll find networking with local vendors to be most beneficial in growing your business.


2. Create Your Vision

If you are a wedding photographer and your goal is to get a high-end bride or perhaps a crafty bride, make sure your concept shoot gives off that vibe. For high end, research what details are necessary to achieve it. Is it the location, the type of dress, designer shoes, a sophisticated style?

If you want a bride who loves details, make sure your concept shoot includes a lot of the little details for every step: from the menu, favors, invitations, and drinks down to the details of the dress. It will be your job and goal to capture as many of these details and showcase them in your portfolio and on your blog to attract clients that would identify with the shoot.


3. Select a Designer with a Similar Style

Since you can’t do everything on your own, you should research and enlist the help of a local wedding planner or event designer. Most vendors are always looking to expand their portfolio and dream up something different than what their paying clients have asked them to create.

Make sure you select a designer who you not only get along with, but who tends to draw in the clients you would be attracted to.

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There are lots of up and comers who would love the chance to put their creativity to the test, so don’t be discouraged if an already established event designer doesn’t have the time.

Once someone is signed on board, be on the same page when it comes to location and what the theme of the shoot will be. Allow the designer to do exactly what she is trained to do, which is touch base and contact as well as run the entire day. However, you should give her a timeline of the day with the times and how long you will shoot since lighting is your expertise.

If you aren’t doing a wedding concept shoot, you can probably team up with a wardrobe stylist, and or makeup artist and hair stylist. You don’t need to go overboard depending on the necessities and details you need.


4. Enlist the Help of Other Vendors

Selecting local vendors should be a priority since there will be lots of social media sharing with these images. The goal is first to shoot something amazing for your portfolio, but it's just as important to cross promote one another.

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While I do trust the designer, her taste, as well as her connections, I include a few of my favorite vendors as well. My hope is that I can work with my friends in the industry that I have successfully worked for in the past and help promote their business as well.


5. Selecting Your Models

Not everyone’s friend or sister is the ideal model. Be very hands on in selecting who you are photographing. If they are professional models from a local agency, note some fees may apply, while some models may want to simply update their portfolio and work for free. If you loved a past client, don’t be afraid to ask them to model for you. If they loved your work, they may like to have additional photos.

The last thing you want is to show up unexpectedly and see that the model has neon colored nail polish that doesn’t match the theme, or has an unexpected tattoo that you will find difficult to remove in Photoshop. That’s why screening and selecting them allows you to be better prepared.

Selecting the models yourself also allows you to accurately select a model based upon height and body type for the purpose of dress fitting and scaling with other models. Perhaps you don't want a very short bride with an extremely tall groom or bridesmaid that might overpower the shot.

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Always be involved in how you hope to see the hair and makeup. Discuss with your models if they must go in for a gown fitting or have their fingernails and toenails neatly manicured. Don’t be afraid to be in complete control of this concept shoot right down to selecting your bride and groom. This is your shoot and you are the art director, and everyone is looking forward to hearing your opinions since your shots are the final capture that the vendors can share.

Create a model release form for your models, including children. My model releases state they may use the images for personal use only and understand that they will not be compensated for their time during the shoot or thereafter should the images, that I own full copyrights to, be sold or used for marketing purposes for myself and the vendors involved.

If they are professional models from an agency, you should let the agents be aware of the release their models will be signing so you don’t upset them. The more information and honesty you provide up front, the better you'll avoid confusion down the line.


6. Create the Timeline of the Shoot

The day can be as condensed as you wish since you don’t have to manage an entire day like an elaborate wedding day. As the photographer, give a schedule of when you will be photographing everything. The event designer can then manage when vendors are to drop off their goods for her to set up and the makeup and hair people can decide how much time they need before the model is ready.

For example, this is the short timeline I give to the event designer:

  • 4:30 PM - Details ready
  • 5:30 PM - Bridal shoot begins
  • 6:00 PM - Additional models ready (bridal party)
  • 6:30 PM - Goal to wrap
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Of course times are subject to change and it’s fine to run behind as long as you don’t run out of light to complete your shots.

If you are working with children on this shoot, be mindful the parent may want to be there to capture the shoot. This is usually not a problem, however you suggest they observe from a different angle where the child can make sure they are smiling and looking only at you to avoid loss in time or confusion.


7. Maintain Professionalism During the Shoot

You will be working with several industry professionals that are eager to meet and work with you. Start by arriving early and greeting the models and vendors and thank them each for being there. Do not assume every one knows who you are. Touch base with them, and no matter what, always keep a professional composure. All eyes are on you.

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If you run behind, don’t act stressed, like a diva, or anything out of character. This is a huge opportunity to walk away with new relationships with vendors and models that will praise you to their friends about how great it was to work with you. Every person is a potential contact or client, so be aware of your conduct and don’t burn bridges.


8. Shooting for a Blog Submission and the Vendors

Your goal during this concept shoot is not only to add an exclusive creative shoot to your portfolio and cross promote with other vendors’ clients, but to also get the images published. This is a great opportunity if you haven’t been published on a major blog to make this shoot blog-worthy.

Keep in mind wedding blogs favor lots of details along with a very pretty location, and a lovely looking bride and groom. If you scan blogs to see what they feature, you’ll notice most concentrate on the details with smaller glimpses of the couple.

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Since this is such a reverse mentality for most photographers on a paid job, you can take as much or little time on your favorite or least favorite parts and gear your session around what brides want to see.

While shooting, capture horizontal and vertical shots of the same subject so blogs can decide which image to use for their layouts.

Also keep in mind all the vendors that are involved and make sure you capture at least a handful of images just for them. If a vendor gave a necklace, make sure you get a shot of all the necklaces. For the makeup artist, capture a beauty shot showing off the makeup. Get a shot of the elaborate braid for the hairstylist, and a shot of the cake for the pastry chef.

Most importantly, remember you are shooting for yourself, so nail the images you need for your portfolio and showcase your style.


9. Submitting and Sharing the Images

I do not share final images from the session until my blog post goes up with the first reveal of the shoot. This allows participating vendors to immediately showcase their work by directing their following of customers to my blog, a direct marketing technique.

Don’t forget to accurately list and credit each participating vendor at the end of your blog post.

Once the post is published on my own blog, I tag participating vendors in the announcement on Facebook and the same on Twitter. I also send an email with the direct link so they can share their amazing work and contribution to the images with their fans.

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Later that day or in the week, I invite the vendors to the Dropbox folder so they can find their own images and download them, reminding them not to remove or delete images since it is a shared folder. Watermarking the images is entirely up to you, I do not and I simply request photo credit for their own blog posts.

When submitting to a big wedding blog, be aware that they want exclusivity to that session, so only submit to one blog at a time until you hear a "yes" or a "no," or if you do not hear from them by the time they state on their blog. Blogs can take up to two weeks to respond to your submission and up to a month or more to finally publish your session.


10. Laying Ground Rules for Image Usage Rights

Along with the email invitation to download the images, you should thank the participating vendors for their hard work and kindly remind them of their usage rights.

I allow the images to be used for marketing for the participating vendor’s work, whether it be on their own website or a published advertisement in a bridal magazine. I request that a credit line be added if convenient, but not necessary. Typically they will comply because they will be so grateful to use your images.

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However, I do make it clear that I own the official copyrights to those images. I recently had two vendors in one of my concept shoots have their product line picked up by a popular online shopping website. I was thrilled and the shopping site wanted to use the images I took because they felt it would increase sales in their products. Rather than handing over the images, my vendor friends notified me and put me in contact with their accounting department and I was able to successfully made a profit by charging them a usage fee.

Concept shoots can be a lot of fun, but more than that, they can really help the position of your business. If you network well, keep a professional attitude and make sure all the parties involved are happy, I'm sure your next concept shoot will be a success.

Have you completed a concept shoot recently? Do you have more questions about creating your own? Drop a comment below!

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