Photo shoots are a fantastic way to build your portfolio and gain use of professional photos that can be used for marketing yourself and your products. As with many things in the small business world, they can be a little tricky to navigate. Here are the 3 main types of photo shoots and some tips on making the most out of them!
Collaboration (Product for Photos)
Here, rather than pay money for professional photographs, you’ll be bartering your product. This is a fantastic, comparatively low-cost way of growing your own business while supporting the small business ecosystem. (After all, as florists, we can’t succeed without product shots. Meanwhile, photographers are often on the hunt for interesting subjects to photograph!)
Here’s what to think about when you’re considering a collaboration with a professional photographer.
- Great for product shots
- You can choose between flat lays or lifestyle imagery
- The only cost is materials, your time to create the piece, and shipping (unless it is a local photographer)
- You have complete control over what products you create to have photographed
- The product is NOT returned to you – your payment for the photographer’s service is your product
- You receive a set number of photos (many collab groups limit this to 3-5 per product)
- You are not on-site for the session which means the shoot itself is in the control of the photographer
This type of shoot is best for:
- New product lines
- Small, lower-cost products that won’t hurt your inventory costs too much
- Product listing photos
- Longer lead times (Some photo shoots could take a month or more to deliver on their photographs).
Photo Credit: Doe Eyed Photography
Photo Credit: Lauren Nygard Photography
Photo Credit: Madralynn Haye Photography
Styled Shoots (Trade for Photos)
In a collaboration, you trade your labor for professional photos. In this type of photoshoot, you get to keep your product at the end of the day. However, you’ll be paying your photographer(s) with your time.
This is one of the most common means of gaining access to incredible photographs. Within it, there are two paths - 1. find a styled shoot to participate in or 2. create your own!
Find a Styled Shoot:
Here, you get cozy with a photographer and/or lead planner (preferably local but you can ship out florals if needed!) and become the preferred florist for their shoot. The key thing to remember, however, is that this isn’t your shoot! They’re the coach, you’re the player. And while you’re a valued part of the day, creative direction duties for all vendors will be at the behest of the photographer or lead planner. To find these opportunities, search for local styled shoot groups on Facebook.
Here are some pros and cons to consider:
- The photographer/lead planner does all the planning. This takes a significant amount of labor off your plate
- There are usually 3+ photographers at styled shoots so you will likely get a range of different creative takes and editing styles
- If you are able to be on site during the shoot, you can ask the photographers for certain poses or close ups if you have certain shots you want captured
- This is a fantastic opportunity to network with other vendors, such as makeup artists, models, and more
- In addition to networking, you’ll be giving other vendors a first-hand look at your products, talent, and day-of work ethic. This kind of exposure is incredibly valuable!
- You get to keep your pieces at the end of the day, meaning you can resell or re-use these pieces for other photo shoots.
- If you’re newer to a market, it may take you awhile to get vetted and “break in,” so to speak
- If it’s their photo shoot, it’s their vision. You’ll have to abide by the fixed creative parameters put in place by whoever is in charge
- Most typically, these kinds of shoots are for engagement and wedding photos. If your small business focuses on other aspects of floral design, like home decor or corporate events, this may not be the right fit
- Wedding, engagement and other event photos
- Lifestyle shots (showing your product(s) in action
- Networking with other wedding vendors and promoting yourself/your brand in those circles
Photo Credit: Cara Ann Photography
Create Your Own Styled Shoot:
If you’re running into roadblocks finding a photo shoot – for instance, if you’re having difficulty breaking in, or the subject matter/mood board isn’t your preference – you could always take control and plan your own photo shoot!
Now, the pros and cons for this are largely the same: you get to keep your products, you’ll network and gain exposure with local talent, and so on. The biggest pro is, in fact, also the biggest con:
You’re in control of everything.
This means the creative vision of the day is entirely up to you! You’re calling the shots, and you can do whatever you want!
BUT it also means that every facet of the day comes down to YOU. What time does everyone get there? Do you want to take advantage of golden hour? Depending on the time of year, will golden hour be too hot or too cold? Should you have bagels and coffee for your vendors? Are there bathrooms nearby? Put another way: in addition to executing a stage for your products, you also need to be part client services director and part event planner.
That said, the end result is definitely worth it. And hey, you’re a small business owner, right? This level of planning and work is just a normal Tuesday for you, right?!
Now, I had the opportunity to coordinate a few styled shoots within the last year. Here’s a breakdown of the shoots as well as my costs:
Main Street Station
Here, I created a wedding shoot at my local train station downtown. A breakdown of the costs and the unforeseen intangibles is as follows:
Venue: The venue allowed us to shoot for free in order to gain exposure on their social channels.
Models: Roughly $10 for a six-pack of beer. I used my next-door neighbors as models :)
Wardrobe: A $33 dress off of Amazon
Hair and Makeup: Here, I wasn’t able to find someone with whom to exchange services. So, I did pay a fantastic local vendor for her work. Her fee was $75 for one female model.
Bouquet and boutonniere materials cost: ~$65 actual cost. If everything was purchased at full retail value, my materials cost would be ~$100.
Intangibles: $20 for bottled water and granola bars for everyone to snack on during the shoot
Total Cost: $203
Time Invested: 12-15 hours
The venue is stunning and there were so many different areas to shoot! That said, I also wanted to make sure we got some great close up photos of the flowers themselves. And boy did we get those shots too!
Photo Credit: Kajed Photo & Film
Libby Hill Park
Here’s another wedding photo shoot I put together. This one was at a historical local park near my house. Because this was at a public park, that created the added wrinkle of coordinating with my local parks and recreation department – as well as paying a permit fee!
Here’s the breakdown of this photoshoot:
Venue: Since this was a public park, I had to pay a $150 permit fee (this covered 4 hours at the park)
Models: The models wanted to build their portfolios and were happy to provide their skills for photo galleries from the shoot. The dog (my furbaby) just requested extra treats when he got home.
Wardrobe: $62 total. A $40 dress from Amazon, $12 for a bow tie/suspender set, $10 for the toddler bow tie (for the dog!)
Hair and Makeup: TFP (trade for pay). Our HMUA provided her services for the photo galleries post-shoot.
Bouquet and boutonniere materials cost: ~$140 (this was a very large bouquet that used a LOT of greenery). Full retail price would have been around $235.
Intangibles: $30. Since we hosted hair and makeup at our house, we covered breakfast and coffee for everyone. We also invested time to make sure our house was company ready!
Total Cost: $382
Time Invested: 15-18 hours
Photo Credit: Hart of Grace Photography
The above photos are one photographer's take on this shoot. Her edits are a bit more of the light and airy style. The photographer below went for a more moody vibe. Both are stunning - you'll just need to take a mental note of your preferred style and ask for that when booking photographers for your shoots!
Photo Credit: Ready or Not Photography
And, of course, Shay the dog:
Book a Photographer (Pay for Photos)
At times, collaborations and styled shoots may not be options. Or, you may have built up an incredible rapport with a photographer whose style fits your branding to a T. In those cases, it may make the most sense to actually hire a photographer to do a shoot for your products!
Now, no matter what, you’re giving up something for photoshoots: product, labor/time, or money. As a small business owner, it’s likely that money will be the least appealing. However, if you have the capital for it, do not be scared of paying for photographs!
Here are some pros and cons to consider if you go down this path:
- You’re the client. It’s in the photographer’s best interest to make your creative vision come to life
- This creates an opportunity for networking and exposure. Paying for professional photographers early on could lead to one of the other kinds of photoshoots mentioned above down the line.
- You’ll get the craftsmanship and artistry of a professional photographer. You may be tempted to take your own photographs on your phone, but these folks are professionals for a reason – and they’re worth every penny.
- There’s just one here, and it’s a doozy: cost. A photographer that is a true professional with experience and knowledge under their belt won’t come cheap. As a small business owner, that may seem like profits out of your pocket. But the power of a professional photograph is well worth the cost!
Having great product photos is quintessential to running your business. Potential clients will use these as shorthand for what kind of work you may do for their business. If your photographs are clean, professional, and breathtaking, that will surely be a sign of security for future clients of what kind of work and professionalism they can expect from you!
A quick cheat sheet on everything we’ve discussed is as follows:
Paying a Photographer
How do you pay?
Do you get to keep
Networking and Exposure?
Is It Your Creative Vision?
Any of these paths are viable, but we do recommend using at least one of them! And no matter which path you take, we strongly recommend having a written agreement formally laying out terms, conditions, timing, services, expectations, and every other potential intangible. Even if you’re working with a friend or a trusted vendor, this is critical for ensuring that everything is agreed upon in writing ahead of time.
Good luck – and don’t forget to share your lovely photoshoot photos with us when you’re done!