how to plan an inspiration shoot

Just in time and right on the heels of last week’s styled shoot contest announcement, Chelsea LaVere is here to explain exactly how to put together an inspiration shoot. She wears many hats as a photographer (Bit of Ivory Photography), blogger (Tidewater and Tulle), and styled shoot coordinator (Orchestrated Stylized Shoots) so I can’t think of a better person to lay it all out!

Tidewater and Tulle launch shoot | Jen + Ashley Photography |

From Chelsea – As a wedding photographer who has been orchestrating stylized shoots since 2010, I thrive in this creative realm. When else can you execute a completely “you” vision and communicate an artistic message (or even that quirky wedding obsession you might have) or throw out some trendsetting ideas?

In June 2012, the wheels were put into motion to add a new title to my cap: local wedding blog editor. Taking from my experience and presence in the local wedding community, I knew I could best convey my long-term vision for Tidewater and Tulle through a stylized shoot: branding, image caliber, and community.

It was actually a strange role to play because I wasn’t shooting or setting up like what I normally do with Orchestrated or for personal projects. I was strictly the Creative Director. I’ll have to admit– I loved it. A lot. Sure, I helped out on the day of with setup, but I could step back and really enjoy seeing the pros at work and direct as needed.

Powder blue and white bridal bouquet | Jen + Ashley Photography | powder blue bridesmaid dress | Jen + Ashley Photography | powder blue and white boutonniere | Jen + Ashley Photography | leafy chair garland | Jen + Ashley Photography | Tidewater and Tulle launch shoot | Jen + Ashley Photography |


As bloggers, stylized shoots give a visual voice to what you want to communicate. Whether it’s a branding shoot or an inspirational shoot, you have ultimate control in what your message will say. 2014 wedding trends, the new popular colors, a renaissance of stories. The sky is the limit!

But beyond the message, we all want to feel like we are a part of something big. We crave community, we are not islands. The value of networking and community through a stylized shoot is invaluable. As a regional blog editor, it’s the very foundation of my message. A positive community is vital for creating a genuine and long-withstanding resource for your audience.


If you’ve never done a stylized shoot before, get prepared for a lot of work, long hours, and the sweet, sweet reward of creating inspiration for others and for yourself. It’s so worth it!

Before even planning, look at the calendar. A solid wedding stylized shoot takes at least 3-4 months to plan (there are some that have taken me about 9 months to plan because of venue challenges!). Give yourself plenty of time to make it perfect to your standards because ultimately, you are investing your time, money, and energy into this vision.

1. Know your message and develop the theme. 

Know what your color scheme is first, and then create a Pinterest board of your ideas. Before contacting any vendors, you need a visual so they can create from it. Especially with vendors you’ve never worked with before, you want to invoke confidence and thoughtful planning.

2. Select a venue or location and date.

Before moving to vendors, you need to secure a location where things are happening to let your vendors know. Which venue best communicates your creative vision? Is it rustic, modern, nautical, or urban? Finding the perfect one is key to the entire process.

Having your shoot on a weekday will always garner better response just due to the nature of real weddings. You will also want to ask the venue if they have a “getting ready” room for wardrobe changes and hair and makeup.

Venues will likely be your biggest challenge. Some venues also require a Certificate of Insurance/Liability (up to $1 million). As most bloggers likely don’t have this, check with your photographer. If he/she is an established wedding photographer, he/she should have it as some venues won’t allow them to shoot there without it. If you’re looking at a historical site, government-run location, or museum, this is almost always required.

Soup in a bread bowl | Jen + Ashley Photography | Cloth wedding invitations | Jen + Ashley Photography | Groom in a grey suit | Jen + Ashley Photography | outdoor reception | Jen + Ashley Photography | Bridal bouquet | Jen + Ashley Photography | Soup station | Jen + Ashley Photography | crab reception | Jen + Ashley Photography | Wedding garland for a dog | Jen + Ashley Photography | Wedding oyster bar | Jen + Ashley Photography | Stylish outdoor reception | Jen + Ashley Photography |

3. Consider connecting with a wedding planner/coordinator.

Going to the pros defaults to “win” every time. A planner can be your link to vendors, organizational ease, and everything in between. Even though I am crazy organized and have done this dozens of times, even I knew I needed a professional wedding planner for Tidewater and Tulle’s shoot. Not just for community, but because she does event coordination for a living and made the process much more seamless.

4. Secure your photographer.

As a blogger, you have the unique advantage of seeing bunches of different photography styles. So you probably already had an idea with whom you’d like to work. It’s really just a matter of contacting them and making it happen!

With photographers, be upfront with your expectations and let them know if you prefer exclusivity for the feature. It tends to be a given when working with a blog editor on a stylized shoot, but some photographers might be new to the publication world.

Also be sure to ask if participating vendors will be receiving high-resolution images to use for their own marketing. As a blogger, you don’t have the rights to distribute the photos, so you will need to send any inquiring vendors over to the photographer.

(As a side note since I have the unique advantage of being a photographer as my day job, it’s always an honor when a blogger asks me to shoot for them! Forward-thinking photogs will totally “get” the concept of stylized shoots for publication and be happy to participate and share. If they’re already submitting to your publication, they already know the immense value in what you do. Being respectful in your request and communicative in what you are looking for is like honey to us lil worker bees!)

5. Plan out your vendor choices.

I use Trello for project planning, so I start a list of ideal vendors who match the theme’s style and then I start contacting them with a link to the Pinterest board, intention for the shoot, what benefits are for those involved, and finite dates and locations. Leave no gray area when it comes to early logistics.

Rejection is also part of the process. Some vendors might be too busy, so depending on relationship, see if they can recommend a similar styled vendor. This is where the coordinator comes in handy!

Leafy garland for a dog at your wedding | Jen + Ashley Photography | Tidewater and Tulle shoot | Jen + Ashley Photography | Naked cake | Jen + Ashley Photography | Naked cake | Jen + Ashley Photography | Kraft paper signs | Jen + Ashley Photography | White wedding cake | Jen + Ashley Photography | Tidewater and tulle inspiration shoot | Jen + Ashley Photography |

6. Find your models.

There will be different trains of thought for this, but for me, I only work with real couples (aka everyday people), so I contact vendors’ friends or family. For me, professionally, it’s more authentic and relatable to everyday engaged couples, and on a personal level, past models have said repeatedly that the experience of being pampered, donning a wedding gown, and having a professional shoot with their significant other has meant the world to them particularly if they didn’t have quality wedding photos. And personally, that makes it all even more worth it.

If you are more of the fashion-slanted persuasion, casting calls on social media or modeling agencies will also be beneficial.

Before your shoot, you will also need to send out a Model Release Form to each of your models so they are aware that their likenesses will be on an online publication. Even if they are everyday people, one bad egg can ruin your entire shoot and make it unpublishable if they say “no” after the shoot. Typically, a professional photographer also already has this, so touch base with them to get one.

7. Delegate and excite.

If not already established, be sure to delegate the To Do list and know who’s doing what on the actual shoot day. Communicate with venue, vendors, and your social media audiences. Get everyone excited about what’s happening because really, it is an exciting thing to get pros together to do what they do best!

This is also a good time to make sure you gather all social media links from everyone involved so you can prep your blog feature and schedule out social media shout-outs.

8. Create a day-of schedule.

Particularly when working with a good number of vendors, you want to email the logistics (setup time, breakdown time, et cetera) one week before the shoot. Give your cell phone number or day-of contact information so they know who to contact in case of emergency.

9. And lastly, enjoy the day and wait patiently for the photos to create your feature!

It’s been a ton of work, but the results will be amazing! Inspiration is a domino effect– just watch to see what unfolds next… or what inspires you for next time!

Tidewater and Tulle launch shoot | Jen + Ashley Photography |

Be sure to check out more images and the video from this stylish shoot over on Tidewater and Tulle!


Photography: Jen + Ashley // Concept & Styling: Chelsea LaVere of Tidewater and Tulle // Venue: Hermitage Museum and Gardens // Event Coordination & Custom Linens: Antonia Christianson Events // Hair: Behind the Veil // Cake Backdrop: Bluebird’s Garage Vintage Rentals // Cakes: Cake Delights // Catering: Chef by Design // Chairs: Distinctive Event Rentals // Videography: Jeremy Mitchell Cinema // Makeup: Makeup by Kim Porter // Stationary: PaperDolls Design // Gowns: Pure English Couture Bridal // Wooden Tables: River Design Vintage Furniture Rentals // Floral Design: Roost Flowers.

About Sara Burnett

Editor of Burnett's Boards, which she founded to showcase global creativity in the wedding industry. Sara currently lives out of a suitcase while island hopping the Caribbean and beyond. Learn More // Follow on Instagram.


  1. Great advice from a true industry expert!

  2. Such an honor to have our work on your gorgeous blog! We have been a fan for years! Chelsea’s tips are spot on as well! Thank You!

  3. Ah! Love seeing these images again here today! SUCH an amazing shoot to be a part of, and so many amazing vendors that came together to make this happen! xo!

  4. This is a gorgeous shoot and wonderful advice! As planners and designers who also create editorial for print magazines we agree – and we’d also add that a nice balance between perhaps over-the-top ideas and attainable elements is important. Couples love when they can relate to a styled shoot and can truly recreate ideas for their own celebration! Great piece!

  5. Great advice. I especially agree with connecting with a planner. They help the whole shoot go smoothly!

  6. Thank you so much for the feature! It was an honor to be asked, and I know the vendors involved love the extra love! <3 Hope it's super helpful to a bunch! 🙂

  7. This is just so perfect for me right now! Great advice. Thanks a million xx

  8. Great advice all around, Chelsea! I adored the stylized shoot that you created for Tidewater & Tulle’s launch, and it’s nice to see it here again on BB. You wear your many hats so well!

    • Thank youu, Lauren– the hats are because of a great support team behind me! <3 So appreciate it! Cat moms unite! 🙂

  9. Chelsea rocks! 🙂 Beautiful shoot – that collie is so adorable!

  10. All great tips! I have to agree with you – that styled shoots are one of my favorite parts of my job! Always a lot of work, and, like a wedding, you can always expect for a thing or two to go awry, but in the end, it’s always worth it!

    • I really never knew how much work these styled shoots are. Which is shameful because I publish them all the time. Learning now though by working with Chelsea on Orchestrated’s Hawaii shoot – oh my word it’s a lot of work. And I’m not even doing much for it – it’s all Chelsea! Really exited for it though and to watch it all come together.

      • Aw, thanks, Sara! But don’t cut yourself short! You are the dot connector extraordinaire! 🙂 Total team effort! <3

  11. Hahahha! I was just planning on writing on this too! Great job Chelsea. Coming from someone that just planned one a few weeks back for my launch, I can definitely agree with these points. So much work yet so much fun…and so fulfilling at the end of the day. We learn everyday and styling a shoot was definitely a fun project for me. can’t wait to input the lessons i learned from my first one into the future.

  12. Such great advice and beautiful photography!

  13. Absolutely beautiful!!! You captured all divinely….

  14. So many wonderful tips. I’m planning a styled shoot right now and these are very helpful 🙂

  15. I really love this shoot! Thank you for providing such great advice!

  16. This is so fantastic, Chelsea and Sara I’m doing a shoot right now too and–my word — you are right; there are so many elements to connect! This one has a very short lead time, but I want to do another someday, and I can’t wait to follow all of this great advice (especially about taking time) to the letter!

  17. I LOVE Chelsea’s work and passion, not to mention her generosity in sharing the trick of the trade. Thank you both for featuring this!

  18. Lovely colors! I love the naked cake 🙂

  19. You. Are. Brilliant.


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