A Stylist Guide To Getting A Gown For Your Styled Shoot 

Image By: Jackie Averill

As a Stylist, I often get inquiries from wedding pros old and new asking for my help pulling gowns or needing advice on how to get gowns for their styled shoots. I’ve learned a lot over the years and  I’m happy to share my experience. It’s my job as a stylist to network, make connections and build relationship with industry professionals. I spend a good amount of time on Linkedin every single day trying to make meaningful connections. One of the most important relationships that is crucial to producing successful styled shoots is with dress designers, PR agencies and local dress shops. The bridal gown is the most important factor in a shoot. Upon getting engaged, the dress is the first thing brides search for online to gain inspiration and ideas for their big day. So wether you’re a budding photographer, wedding planner, event designer, florist or stylist or a seasoned pro, here are my tips for getting gowns for your styled shoot.

First Things First! Before you start shooting off emails and calling around, you need to have a plan, purpose and goal for your shoot. 

Image By: Jackie Averill

What is your purpose for shooting?

Are you doing a shoot for creative expression? To shoot at a venue you want to be associated with? Are you looking to build relationships with local vendors? Are you trying to build your portfolio? Looking to get published? Before you go out requesting other vendor services, you have to identify your reasons for doing the shoot and have an actionable plan. Styled shoots that are done without a guarantee of publication are harder to get vendors on board with. When creatives come together to do a shoot, the results are often times amazing but it’s a big commitment, a lot of work and cost most parties involved cold hard cash. Have a clear cut purpose and goal for the shoot so others are more excited to be a part of the project. Use referrals and try to reach out to mutual contacts that you, a friend or colleague may have in common. It is also important to have an idea of what blog or publication  you want to submit to. They all have unique styles and look for different things when choosing submissions. Take the time to research which will be the right fit for you and shoot with that in mind. Being an advertiser of those publications also helps and is sometimes a requirement.

Why Should They Do A Shoot With You?

When I decided I wanted to get out of the wedding game and focus solely on being a content creator, blogger and stylist I put a plan in motion to achieve those goals. I started doing shoots on my own dime and reached out to local vendors to whom it would be mutually beneficial to do a shoot with. Working with vendors in your area who are all trying to get work at the same venues is a great reason to work together. Having a great portfolio of work so other vendors are confident in the results you will produce is also key. If you are a newbie, I would suggest working with other industry new comers. When I first started doing shoots, I had no guarantee of publications but I did had a solid floral and event design portfolio and 10 years worth of connections in the industry and at local magazines. These early shoots are what I would call portfolio shoots. I organized a great team of professionals who came together for the shoot, offering their time and services to create an inspirational styled shoot. The photographers for the shoots agreed to allow usage of the photos with credit on blogs, social media and in portfolios. Everyone came out with great images of their work and content for their blogs and websites. Using my connections, I was also able to get most of those shoots published so that was great for all parties involved as well and should always be an end goal. Getting your styled shoots into the hands of editors is easier then ever with websites like Two Bright Lights and most sites even have their own submission form. You can also find most editors emails right in the pages of the magazine.

What Is Your Plan For The Shoot?

Having a plan is key. Someone needs to be running the show and directing the shots. Creating unique and interesting shots is key to getting published and getting noticed by your target audience. Things get very hectic on game day and the most obvious shots can sometimes get missed! ( check out my blog on my top 10 details shots ( http://detailsofido.com/10-must-have-wedding-detail-photos/ ). I spend a ton of time researching and visiting my shoot location, planning out shots and deciding what I want to capture at a shoot. I also plan a shot list to support a number of different blogs I am planning on writing following the shoot. Take a look at a snippet of my shot list for an upcoming shoot to see what I mean. This is key to having a successful shoot where you come out with oodles and oodles of useable images and content.


10:00 am ~ Vendors Arrive / Breakfast

10:30 – 12 ~ Model 1 Hair & Makeup

10:30 – 12 ~ Shoot Model Prep, Still Vignettes & Details

10:30 – 1 ~ Model 2 & 3 Hair and Makeup

12 – 2:30 ~ Shoot ( 2.5 hours )

2:30 – 3 ~ Lunch

3 – 3:30 ~ Hair ReTouch / Makeup Touch Ups

3 :30 – 7:30 ~ Shoot ( 3.5 hours ) ~ 7:20 Sunset

Shot List  

10:30 – 11:15   ~ Pre Shoot Details  in Bridal Suite

  • Bouquets

**** Blog – return of the petite bouquet / bye bye blush

  • Bouquets Single – on chair / bench / black wall
  • In a circle ( floor )
  • laid out flat in a line  ( floor )
  • Drink Display

**** Blog – Create the perfect setting for bridal prep

  • Pink Old Fashioned Juicer, Fruit Slices, Fruit Bowl, Pitcher of Sangria , Glasses on Tray
  • Perfume / Tray / Makeup Brushes

**** Blog – Pre Wedding Day Skin Prep

  • Dress in Suitcase ( Bridal Suite )

**** Blog – traveling with dress tips

12 – 12:45  ~ Bridal Suite

Set 1

  • Model in Robe in Hair Sink / shot from above
  • Model in Robe Holding Perfume / Jewelry Tray

*** Can use secondary model for this

Set 2  ~ Winnie Couture Pavia Gown

  • Model in front of mirror ( back shot )
  • Model lounging on couches

Set 3 ~ Winnie Couture Ozma Gown

  • Model Holding Signature Drink
  • Model Holding Invite
  • Model Holding Bouquets
    • shoot same set up for all 5 bouquets

Who Should You Ask?

Image By: Jackie Averill

Ok! So here is the big question. How do you get gowns for your shoot? Where do you start?

What are the options?

  1. Local Designers / Bridal Shops ~ For styled shoots that are not being shot for a publication, this is your best bet. Building relationships with local vendors is key to building your wedding business and getting more referrals.  When working with a local shop, be sure to ask them what they would like to feature and what they are hoping to get out of the shoot.  Be very up front about what your plans for the gown are. Many shops are not on board their gown being shot outdoors or in conditions that may cause the gown to be damaged or get dirty. I always prefer that a shop owner transports the gowns to and from the location and is on hand to get the models in and out of the gowns. This is a big responsibility and if you decide to handle it on your own, make sure you have liability insurance.
  2. Designers / PR Agencies ~ It’s taken me years to earn these connections and they mostly get passed down to me from magazine editors for shoots I am doing for them. These connections are not easy to get and it’s even less likely they will respond to you unless you are shooting for a publication. But once you gain these connections and you have proven results promoting their products, you are golden! I also spend a ton of time on Linkedin hunting down the right people to build connections with. I also use my professional network as well as friends who work in the industry to  gain access to the in house public relations contact. If you are able to get in touch with a designer rep or PR agency, they are going to check out your work and ask what your shoot is for. If you go this route, you will need a big social media and blog following with lots of published shoots in your portfolio to be taken seriously. Also, have a back up plan in place. I often get substitute gowns, gowns a day late and sometimes not at all. Request gowns 2 days prior to your shoot just in case.
  3. Real Brides ~ I have always had brides over the years that are more then happy to break out their gowns and play dress up for a shoot! I myself pulled out my decade old Monique Lhuillier ball gown skirt for many a shoot! I was able to use different tops and accessories to give it new life for several shoots. Because I also was not concerned with getting it dirty, I was able to shoot with it outside without any worries!
  4. Floravere ~ This new gown company is perfect for styled shoots. Their pitch to brides is that you can fill a bride box with up to 3 gowns and try them on at home for only $25 per gown! I created an account and got 3 dresses for my shoot for $75. While it’s not a service intended for stylists, it’s the perfect way to score new gowns for a small fee to shoot with! It’s also great content as you are working with and promoting a new brand and concept that is up and coming.
  5. Rent The Runway ~ This is another one of my go to sources! This works especially well if I’m looking for a fashion forward modern look, a colorful gown or bridesmaid looks. You also get 2 sizes for the price of one which is perfect for shooting a bridal party. I also love that I can blog about current fashion, bridal inspiration and tag trending designers.
  6. Amazon ~ I use Amazon products for every single shoot!  They have great accessories, veils, cardigans, tops, belts, scarves for bouquets and props and decor at super low prices! Check out my Amazon Weddings Blog to see how I use their products for shoots. They also have great bridal tulle skirts and ball gowns for under $100. This is especially helpful if you have visions of your model frolicking in the waves at a beach shoot. The quality  and craftsmanship doesn’t have to be great because that won’t be noticeable in the images.

Image By: Jackie Averill

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Details of I do is a brides go to source for fresh, fun and inspiring wedding day details! Details of I do was created by Kristin Rockhill. She is passionate about all the little things that make weddings special from the flowers to decor and everything in between. Her love of vintage charm, rustic details, modern lines and lush blooms are what inspires her daily posts. Check in daily for your dose of inspiring wedding day details.

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