As many of you know, I have been working this year on starting a new project – The Styled Shoot Project. This was a concept I came up with mid-year in order to give photographers a chance to practice and build their skill, while also building their portfolios.
When I started photography, I taught myself what I wanted to know. As the years go on, and I move into my 10th year of photography, I have been focusing more on educating myself in my downtime. I have slower seasons, and I try to use them to learn new techniques and fill my brain with new creative ideas.
The only problem was – I have NO ONE to practice on! I remember taking an Amy & Jordan class one time, and going outside and chasing down my dog, begging her to sit still so that I could learn how to use my expo disc on something other than lawn furniture. She was a great sport, but it was then that I realized that if I was going through it, so were other photographers. You learn ALL of this amazing new stuff, these creative techniques and new perspectives, and then either practice on your kids or dogs, or an (un)willing family member. And you know what happens? You get sub-par photos. Sure, the quality is there and technically speaking the photograph is great. But the PERSON does not want to be in front of the camera, so it makes the image kind of …. Eh.
So I decided I was going to create a thing. A thing where photographers could practice, and could do it using the help of small business owners who were all trying to get ahead. I love business, especially small business. So that was my plan. Find business owners willing to chip in to make this a reality, and find photographers who would come and be engaged and work together to create magic, while at the same time building their portfolios and developing new content.
For those of you who aren’t photographers, let me explain content. A lot of what we do is driven off of social media (depending on the photographer). And there is nothing worse than a gap in content. Maybe you go a month without a session, or maybe it’s your “off-season”. Whatever the circumstances, it creates a lack of content. That means lack of Instagram posts, lack of blog content, lack of marketing material, etc. For a photographer, that means one thing. Lack of income. Content is crucial to keeping the wheels of our businesses moving forward.
I put into action a plan to do our first event in August in Denver. I was still living in Las Vegas when I started this, so almost everything was done remotely, which was great! I flew out to Denver a few times and checked out some venues and met with some vendors, but everything else was done remotely.
I can’t say that I know exactly how it came to me. I just knew I wanted it to feel “Colorado”. I wanted beer involved, because craft beer is a big thing out here, and I wanted it to feel rustic but elegant, and I wanted it to feel like home. So, “Brews & I-Do’s” came to be.
I chose Chain Reaction for a few reasons. One, I liked the people there. The owner, Chad, is a great guy. He was easy to reach via email, was super helpful and went out of his way to open his facility to us.
The second reason was because of the natural beauty. The wood inside the taphouse is all hand carved and was brought in from a family house that had meaning to the owners. In some of that wood, there is a giant mural along the side of the wall with the Colorado flag. That was the ultimate selling point for me. The flag was gorgeous and I immediately had a vision of how it would play out with the table in front of it.
I was VERY specific and picky about vendors. If you read earlier, you saw that I have a passion for small business. That being said, I wanted to use SMALL business owners. The Styled Shoot Project is just getting on its feet, and I wanted people who wanted to help and wanted to be a part of this thing from the ground up. Yes, large corporations and huge investments and donations are wonderful. But, that wasn’t what I was shooting for. I wanted small.
I started going through vendors. First, I would google “Denver Bridal Gown” or “Denver Wedding Florist” etc and put together a list of names. Then, I would cross-reference with their social media. And I wanted one thing – a SMALL Instagram following. My rule was 2,000 or less. I wanted people who were working hard to start something. I wanted mom and pop. I wanted down home Colorado, working your tail off building the American dream businesses.
Of course, not to say that someone with 5,000 followers on Instagram ISN’T any of those things. Hard work is hard work, my friends. But one of the ways I really narrowed down to smaller home-grown Colorado businesses was to use people who were active on social media but were still growing their followings.
After that, I sent out emails. I set out SO MANY EMAILS. So. Many. Emails. One time, I sent out 12 emails to various Bridal shops and was so distracted that I asked them for florals. They all politely declined, but of course I felt like an idiot.
A handful answered back in minutes. And for those, I am eternally grateful. You helped us put together something that was amazing, and it was all your willingness to be a part of our community and help a fellow creative.
Below I have listed the vendors individually, and each one really deserves a minute of your time. They each bring something amazing to the table and I sincerely hope I get to work with them all in the future again.
- Hair: Kelsey Morrison . Instagram: @klm.303 Email: Kelseymorrison06@gmail.com
- Venue: Chain Reaction Brewing Company. IG: @chainreactionbrewing . Email: Chainreactionbrewing@hotmail.com
- Makeup: Beauty by Ashley Ross. IG: @beautybyashleyross Email: Beautybyashleyross@gmail.com
- Floral: Lehrer’s Flowers. IG @lehrersflowers Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Cake: Whipped Bakery IG: @whippedbakery Email: email@example.com
- Stationary: Ink Topiary. IG: @InkTopiary Email: Ryan@inktopiary.com
- Table Decor: Colorado Party Rentals IG: @COPartyRentals Email: Info@coloradopartyrentals.com
- Dress: Luv Bridal Denver. IG: @Luvbridaldenver . Email: Denver@luvbridal.com
Remember what I was saying up there about how if you take photos of an unwilling subject, they don’t come out good? Well, it’s true. So, I wanted models who WANTED to be in front of the camera. But I had one rule. Just one. Getting sick of my rules yet?
One rule : NO professional models. No one who came with a contract, no one whose agent was going to coordinate something, no one who does this for a living.
Ground up, my friends. I wanted people who wanted to try this. Who wanted to be a part of something.
Veronica, our bride model, was a blessing. I found her through Kelsey (hair vendor, see list above). Kelsey sent me a text and said “so and so would be perfect”. And I said “well, does she want to do it?” and Kelsey says “I don’t know, send her a message and ask”. And so the trend of awkward Instagram messages to people I didn’t know began.
And thank goodness she was all about it!!!! She was SO helpful and SO patient the entire step of the process. She was unbelievably awesome and the photographers LOVED her.
Our groom model was more difficult. Well, not the model himself, he was awesome J But finding him. I reached out to a bunch of people, asked some friends, etc etc. Finally, less than a month away, a friend agreed to put something on her Facebook asking if anyone knew a guy in this 20s or 30s who was interested in being a model for a shoot.
And after a few hours….. a person my friend kinda knew, tagged a guy he kinda knew and I reached out to yet another person I kinda definitely didn’t know. And he was all on board! Thank goodness!
Jeremy was a definitely a gift! He was so friendly, was referred to as “gorgeous” multiple times (I will not vote on this matter *happily recently married and still in wedded bliss*) and the photographers loved him. He was so willing to work with us on everything and be totally adaptable to the changing circumstances.
Have you ever built a business from the ground up? It’s a whole lot of “please trust me” and “give me a chance” over and over again. And this was no different. It wasn’t easy to explain my vision, get people on board and get them to see the value in what I was creating.
Thankfully, I found a small tribe of girls who got it. Of photographer ladies who saw my vision, trusted my instinct and were willing to be a part of it. And I couldn’t be happier with the group and how it turned out! Each one brought a different set of strengths to the event and each one brought a different way of seeing things.
They were all kind enough to send me their galleries, and it is AMAZING to see how 6 different photographers took 6 different sets of photos that are so unique. Different perspectives, editing styled, etc, made for an amazing day with these incredible photographers.
- Allison Ranslow IG: @Allisonranslowphoto
- Lisa Lord . IG: @lilo_photography
- Ashleigh Konopaski IG : @Ashley_noelle_photography
- Tayler Bavender IG: @Taylerbavenderphotography
- Kim Osgood IG: @Kimberlyosgood
And if you were amazing enough to read all the way to the end, Thank You.
Stay tuned. Additional events will be announced very, very soon. 🙂