Work with professionals to help create the right ‘wow’ shots to promote your function venue, says Isabel Smith.
Regular readers will have caught my advice in the last issue on how to design and style your wedding venue in line with your business aims and target market. This month I want to expand further on the subject of styling, this time focusing on how to host your own styled shoot and how learning this process will help you support your couples in designing their own wedding days.
Step 1: Clarify your aims
As with any marketing activity, before you begin you need to be very clear about your aims and what you are trying to achieve. By styling a mock wedding at your venue you get to:
obtain high quality imagery of your venue looking its aspirational best for use on your website and across your marketing activities
cement relationships with the suppliers in your area by getting them involved
actively promote your business by getting your imagery featured in a magazine or online
flex your creative muscles and learn how to design a wedding.
These are all fantastic plus points to having a styled shoot take place at your venue, but which are your biggest priorities? If you want complete design control, you might have to work outside of your usual circle of suppliers to get all you need. If you are on a tight budget and have to compromise on design, will the images be good enough to get featured on a blog? Think carefully about your main priority and keep that in mind when planning.
Step 2: Get an outline design clear
Just as brides are, you might find yourself bombarded with inspiration online and struggling to decide on a unified theme, falling in love with new ideas every five minutes! This is where the online image bookmarking site Pinterest comes in. You can explore multiple ideas by starting a board around each theme that you like the look of before narrowing down to one main ‘look’. You can then pin more specific images in line with all you’ll need to source for the shoot itself. You should be thinking about all the same things that a bride needs to have in mind when designing; food and drink, tables and chairs, linen, cutlery, crockery, glassware, florals, lighting, displays, stationery, cake, hair, make-up, dress, suit and so on.
If your main aim is to use the images to promote the venue in a magazine or to illustrate a blog, having a really clear, strong theme displayed on your final Pinterest board will go a long way to piquing media interest.
Step 3: Get sourcing
I wish I could say that this part is easy, but the truth is that unless you have the budget to pay commercial rates for all that you want, it can be tricky to find all the wares to create a certain look. Where possible of course, work with suppliers you already have a relationship with. They might well be happy to offer their services free or at cost price in return for use of the images or for being credited in the media if the shoot gets picked up. You can ‘make do and mend’ up to a point with a shoot, but keep those priorities in mind – a blogger will want the best of the best in terms of design (although that doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive of everything of course – it depends on the style of blog you are aiming for). If the shoot is just for your own website, there is more room for compromise.
Areas that should absolutely not be compromised on include the photographer (and remember, the photographers on your preferred suppliers list might not shoot in the style you want for aspirational imagery!) and the models (go pro every single time!).
Step 4: The shoot itself
The day of your photo shoot is an event in itself and needs to be planned as such. Think through how long each part of the set-up will take (no point having the florist arrive to dress a table that isn’t in place!) as well as how long the models will take in hair and make-up (no point having the photographer arrive if there is nothing and no-one to shoot!). Remember that many of your suppliers are doing this at low or no cost so make sure you are not wasting anyone’s time. Be prepared to get your hands dirty to make sure everything is perfect. Photographs show up any and all imperfections so attention to detail is key.
Step 5: Using the images for promotion
If your plan is just to use your fabulous new images for your own purposes, then by all means splash them across your website, printed materials and social media as you please. When targeting the media with your images there are two golden rules:
1) Pick your outlet well – If your shoot was based around a traditional English country garden look, there isn’t a lot of point in approaching the more avant-garde publications and bloggers. The media outlet you want to feature in should be the one most read by your target market and your shoot style should reflect their desires.
2) Exclusivity – Any media outlet will want exclusive use of any images they pick. You therefore need to separate out the images you will use for your own website from those you will be presenting to the press. You will also need to approach your outlets one by one, letting each pick up or decline the imagery before moving on to the next. Most editors will let you release images to a second outlet a few months after they have featured them.
With the media blasting out amazing imagery of carefully created events from all over the world several times a day, how their wedding looks is becoming more and more important to modern couples. They too will go through the design process to make the following decisions: What do I want to achieve with my wedding? How do I want it to look? Where do I get all the bits and pieces I need to create the look from? How will the photos turn out?
Having experienced this process first hand (possibly with an even tighter budget than your couples have!) you will be far better placed to help them create a Pinterest board that works for them within your venue’s setting and source all the suppliers, hirewares and props that they will need to create the look.
If you just aren’t the designer type or can’t face the work involved in styling a shoot (and believe me there is more time involved than you think), then as I have said before, engage the services of a professional to ensure that all your aims are met. A fully established designer or planner will charge in excess of £2,000 for their services (depending on where you are in the country), but if your budget doesn’t stretch that far, start-up wedding planning companies are often keen to get a styled shoot or two under their belts to help with their own promotion so do shop around.
About the Author
Isabel Smith has 10 years in the wedding industry behind her as one of the UK’s top wedding planners and business consultants to venues and other suppliers. Isabel’s expertise spans marketing, sales and operations as she helps new vendors launch as well as assisting established businesses should they find their sales fallings. www.isabelsmithconsulting.co.uk / www.isabelsmithweddings.co.uk