5 Tips to Help Step Up Your Styled Shoot Game

Savannah Kilpatrick - Atlanta Wedding Planner Blog

Savannah Kilpatrick has had the opportunity to engage in many styled shoots over the years, doing projects for her own brand as well as brand styling for corporations, commercial shoots, etc. In this time, she has refined some of the biggest challenges she has had to overcome to make scenes of grandeur and beauty. Today, she would like to share with you the following tips to help you guide your magnificent ideas into an artistic masterpiece of the senses, emotions, and inspiration.


1) Balance of Masculinity and Femininity

This is easily one of the most simple, yet misunderstood characteristics of a well-crafted, styled shoot. In fine art, as well as design, there should always be a balance, or yin and yang, if you will. This is what grabs your attention and leaves you longing for more. In most all advertising today, you will see strong lines, rough textures or lighting complimented with soft colors, light materials and smooth skin.

Now let’s be honest, to many creatives, the words “advertising” and “selling” are shunned, for the most part. But the whole reason you are doing a styled shoot in the first place is to show off your abilities and use that new content to post on your site or blog to show potential clients the work you can do. That’s called advertising! Much like the following pictures that truly grasp the balance of masculinity and femininity.

2) Focus on the senses

Let’s engage our audience using ALL of their senses rather than solely relying on their sight to understand what we’ve created. We want to have the person look at our work and feel that they are actually in the scene and involved in what we’ve created. We want them to be able to touch the satin tablecloth, hear the sizzle of the freshly cooked food, smell the fresh, crisp air of the great outdoors, taste the perfectly moistened chocolate ganache. Textures can convey more than just the sense of touch; they suggest the many dimensions in which the scene can be engaged in.

Again, we want to focus on the balance of harsh and soft, male and female. Think glass and silk or feathers and stone, for example. 

3) Use lighting

Where do you find yourself hanging out at any given time during the day? Your house? Work? Outside? Coffee shop? Regardless of where you are, inside or outside, there is always a source of light from above. So as you look at the people all around you, there is always a constant thing happening. Typically the tops of peoples’ noses are brighter than the underside, and the same goes for their chin, eyes and cheekbones.

This is the world you are familiar with. This is the world that you are used to. The soft daylight on skin and polyester/cotton shirts. When designing a styled shoot, why recreate the world your audience is used to? What if your model had a colored light splashed across his or her pathway, leading him or her to a final destination? Is your venue not as beautiful or large as you imagined? Try some uplighting to give the illusion the ceiling is higher than it is. Use a color from your shoot’s color palette to light the walls in a hue of your choosing! Is your model engaging with a product or item that you want to highlight? Light it up! Make it POP!

This leads us to our 4th tip…

4) Get their attention

Use yourself as an example. As you scroll through your Instagram or Facebook feed, what are some items of interest that really make you stop to engage in a specific post? Maybe it’s the pop of color in a photo that stands out against a dull black or white background. Maybe it’s the photo of a six-year-old girl lifting an SUV for a baby food ad? Whatever it may be, there was something that resonated with you and got your attention to make you stop and engage with that post.

Think about this reaction when creating content of your own. Think, “Is this shoot creating content that I would honestly want to engage with?” This is when you begin to not only think about what you would like to see, but also what your target audience is interested in. 

5) Derive emotional reactions

This is such an incredibly important tip that will strengthen any portfolio and step up your brand, as well as that of anyone else involved in the shoot. These are the photos that ACTUALLY are worth a thousand words. The ones you cannot seem to pull away from because you somehow feel connected to the subject and want to know what’s going on in their mind. When you think emotion that inspires you, think about music from Adele. After a terrible heartbreak is when she does some of her best work and you simply cannot stop yourself from belting out “Hello” at the top of your lungs while in the car with the windows down.

A great way of pulling the emotion out of a model is to chat with them while the camera is shooting. Staged photos can be great, but candid shots are what inspire. Many times, some of the best photos come from shifting between two different poses or reacting to something said off the set.

Pro tip: The word “emotion” comes from a Latin word that literally means “to move”. That being said, put your work into motion! We can’t give away too many secrets, though. This one is up to you and your imagination!

Go. Do. Create.

Take these tips as arrows in your quiver of creativity and use them as you see fit. Not all creative styles are alike, but creating scenes with multiple dimensions is what inspires people to be drawn to your artistic form. Unleash that beautiful, tangled mixture of thoughts that resides in your mind’s eye and CREATE!

Images by A Still Breath Photography and Catherine Ann Photography

Savannah Kilpatrick