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A close up beauty portrait of a young woman with her lips and glasses covered with sprinkles

A Guide to Planning a Styled Shoot

Whether you are a fellow photographer, make-up artist, hair stylist, model, or a fashion stylist, etc., styled photoshoots are a perfect way to build your portfolio with particular themes. Learn more reasons why you shoot test and style shoot HERE. Very often, the term refers to styled wedding photoshoots where a couple is styled to look like the bride and groom on their wedding day, however, it doesn’t have to stop there. Styled shoot themes can vary from wedding to fashion, fine art and more. Today, I will walk you through the whole process of planning a styled shoot from the initial concept to scheduling your photoshoot.

A collage of eight images of closeup beauty photos of women with creative makeup on

When you’re just starting out I would recommend to tag along with someone else who’s organising a photoshoot. This way you will get used to working within a team, following briefs, tackling challenging projects, and you will build confidence.

When you feel more confident, I strongly encourage you to put together YOUR OWN styled shoot. Be the creative mind behind the project. Yes, it means more responsibility and directing, but this way YOU will be in charge of the direction the final images will go.

Step by step guide on planning a styled shoot:


The major difference between just a photoshoot and a styled shoot is a creative idea. Whether it’s a story or an artistic element, there should be something EXTRA to make the final images interesting.

If you can’t think of a specific concept, find an imagination trigger. It can be a Pinterest photo that you really like, a unique vintage outfit, or a completely random object like a lamp/necklace/old camera, etc. When you have this trigger, your brain will start working on building a concept around it.


Collect as many details and elements as possible and put them all in one place – a mood board!

What to include in your mood board: subject matter (the imagination trigger), mood, lighting, aesthetic, make-up, hair styling, location, reference to a time period, and poses. The more details, the better.

If you think in words and reading a piece of text helps your imagination better, stick to a brief. Write down all the ideas above in a paragraph or two, and be as descriptive as possible.

A mood board/brief is an important tool to communicate your creative vision to your team (a picture is worth a thousand words blah blah). By sharing a single PDF or a written concept with everyone, It’ll also save you plenty of time as opposed to explaining the concept to each individual separately.

Planning a styled shoot you should create a mood board that reflects all the ideas and sources of inspiration
Models: Veronika Jurickova & Leena Chobbah
MUA: Precious Richards


  • Is it just for portfolio building?
  • Do you plan to submit the images to a publication?
  • Are you simply experimenting?

Make sure you know exactly what the images are going to be used for so you can clearly communicate it to your team. Hence everyone will have same expectations.

Find your TEAM

The best thing about planning your OWN styled shoot is that YOU are in charge of models’, MUA’s and stylists’s casting. You choose who you want to work with.

Here are some ideas where you can search for other creatives:

  • Local Facebook groups. Find creative communities in your area in seconds! Post a casting call in any FB group, or apply/show your interest to get involved in someone else’s project. It’s easy and FREE! Here are some of the FB groups I use: West Midlands Models & Photographers; Birmingham Creatives; TFP models Birmingham UK; Models, HMUAs, Photographers & others network, and more.
  • Websites, such as Freelancers Club, The DOTS, Purple Port, Kavyar, etc. Although it can be a pain to register somewhere new and figure out how to use the website from scratch, you will save time later by having your feed full of creatives in your industry.
  • Instagram hashtags. Search for relevant hashtags (industry + your area, ex. #birminghammodels #birminghamphotographers …) and approach people you would love to work with directly.
A collage of two close up beauty photos. On the left a white woman wearing leopard sunglasses and pink her with her lips painted light blue. On the right a black woman with red hair, red eyeshadows and dark blue lips
(Left) Model: Rebecca McCormack; MUA: Eleonora Manzi
(Right) Model: Symone; MUA: Precious Richards

SCHEDULE the shoot

Organising a group of more than 2 people is not always an easy task. Someone might drop out on the day, someone may get ill… this is life, and unforeseen circumstances happen.

Don’t put yourself and your team under stress if something does’t go as planned. Have fun and roll with the flow! As long as you’re enjoying the process, the final result will be great 🙂

That is all for today. If you have any more tips on planning a styled shoot I didn’t mention, I would love to hear from you!

A step by step guide to planning a styled shoot. Collage with black and white and colour photos of two black women posing for beauty images