I teach classes at a photography convention every year in St. Louis called Shutterfest.
It’s the most kick-ass photography conference on the planet (ask any photographer who’s ever attended and they’ll tell you the same). One of my classes is called “Rock Your Styled Shoot” – an actual styled shoot that I put together for my students to shoot so they can build their portfolios. When I started my business as a wedding Photographer, I didn’t have a full wedding to show potential clients, so I put together a styled shoot and still use that sample album today!
This is always a lot of work for multiple reasons. Firstly, planning a styled shoot is a lot of work in itself. It includes all the elements that a wedding would have (or most of them anyway), from the invitations to the tablescape, and everything in between! It takes months of brainstorming, sleepless nights, and even a little budget.
The biggest challenge is always because I am based in Denver, and the shoot takes place in St. Louis! Ideally, it would make sense to have all my vendors based in St. Louis, but this is not always possible. Styled shoots are not as much of “a thing” as they are in Denver and Colorado. We do a ton of them here, but this is not the case in St. Louis. Every vendor has expenses and time associated with the shoot, but it’s all of us coming together with our combined talents to show off what we can do to make the shoot happen.
This year, I had only the most amazing Florist in St. Louis step up to the plate. Not only was she so excited about the concept, but she ROCKED it – Jenny with Stems Florist was wonderful to work with and turned out to be an absolute DOLL to work with. Jenny brought this incredible and huge centerpiece, the bouquet, the boutonniere, and some flowers to use for the ceremony site, plus the table and chairs. She really is wonderful to work with!
Everything else came from Denver! Thankfully, one of my photographer friends was planning on driving, so I loaded as much as I could into his SUV and he drove it all out. There’s no way I would have been able to pull it off as well as I did without that. I couldn’t imagine trying to carry on a cake on the airplane!
I wanted the concept to be completely opposite from the shoot we did the year before. Last year’s theme was “Elvis & Priscilla” – it was very bright / yellow & navy / vintage, and the models looked like Barbie & Ken. This year I wanted something dark and moody, so we went with “Gothic Wedding”! I absolutely love this style personally. In fact, everything the Bride ended up wearing is from my personal collection (if it wasn’t hers)!
I knew I wanted a model to look like Snow White…
Soft, milky skin and black hair….tattoos would be a bonus. Enter Sabrina – she was all that and more and couldn’t have been more excited about my concept!
I had the black dress and we used this Victorian collar from Hysteria Machine to dress it up a bit (it’s such a beautiful piece!). The ring was just something I had laying around, and we found the coolest gold skull ring for our Groom off of Amazon of all places. Sabrina’s shoes and earrings were her own, and I about died when I saw the shoes she brought! I made her horned headband with some stuff from Hobby Lobby, and had the umbrella from a previous shoot (courtesy of one of my antique store hunting). Antique store hunting is also how I came about the vintage leather gloves and silver fox fur stole!
For our Groom Simba, I wanted him in black on black – not something you typically see. He brought the motorcycle boots, and with a little black nail polish and guy-liner, we was the perfect Gothic Groom! We found the gorgeous gold skull cuff links on Etsy.
Some awesome brainstorming with a vendor friend of mine really made the whole shoot come together. Nik and I met at a bridal show and hit it off immediately – she was full of awesome ideas! I found out she was a Booksmith (and quite a popular one at that – she has her own YouTube Channel!). She loved my concept and told me about a book she just created (but already sold). It was a journal type book with a theme from “The Telltale Heart” by Edgar Allen Poe. I thought this would make the most perfect Guest Book for my shoot! I talked her into making me a scaled down version we could use and she agreed! It really is the most beautiful book, and I love that it’s hand-made!
The bonus was stumbling on a guy walking around the venue looking for someone – some way to incorporate his pet boa constrictor…um…look no further!
Yes, we got to use a freakin SNAKE!!! SCORE.
That’s really all I can say…and I am so glad Sabrina wasn’t scared. At one point he even seemed to kiss her cheek!
When I couldn’t find a cake in St. Louis, I reached out to one of the most talented cake artists in Denver. Rachael from Intricate Icings was my first choice! She already had a black cake that would work and all she had to do was change out the flowers on the front to match the shoot. She packed it up so it could travel and we were in business!
I wanted a really cool ceremony set up that the models could pose in front of. In wedding photography, a trend right now is very bohemian, destination set ups in national parks and the desert, and macramé. With a simple pipe-n-drape backdrop with black curtains, I made a dream catcher type hoop with tons of hanging streams and lots of textures. This paired with a ton of candles and a cow hide rug from my studio, it came together beautifully!!
The table scape set up looked amazing! We borrowed the flatware and linens from our friends at Butler Rents in Denver. Barbara, the owner, helped me put together the most elegant and cohesive look! We went with black, maroon, and gold. The flatware was rimmed with gold, and to pull the look together and bring in that Gothic vibe, I found these little teaspoons on Etsy that were skulls. A quick little gold spray paint and they were perfect. I brought a hand-made raccoon skull from home to dress up the centerpiece (it wouldn’t be a Gothic wedding without at least one skull, right?). The black goblets and candle holders are also part of my own collection. We used tablecloths and a sash to cover the chairs so they were billowy and full, and I found some affordable black fur on Amazon to step up the look.
We were looking for something very specific and running out of time!
For favors, we again turned to Etsy when we couldn’t find anything local. I wanted little skull shaped chocolate truffles in little black gift boxes. Mission accomplished – they were delicious too! Special thanks to Alesssandra with SoCozyCreations for making sure we had these in time!
Wanting black of course, we were trying to figure out what to do for invitations! Little Black Dress Paperie popped up on our Instagram feed, and we reached out to them to see if they would send us some options. They send us the coolest acrylic invitation suite with gold flake in a modern and stylish black square envelope.
We found the most perfect spot in the hotel – the wallpaper was perfect and there was plenty of room for my 50+ students to get the shots they needed.
It was the icing on the cake and we used it as a prop for the models to end the shoot with.
My most favorite part of the whole shoot is the car….swoon! My friend Mark at Motoexotica in St. Louis brought the most beautiful car – a 1967 black Cadillac LIMO! Parking it out front of the hotel was the perfect spot since Union Station looks like a castle!
My students were in absolute awe. They couldn’t believe I had all this for them – at the end of the shoot there were hugs and they couldn’t wait to edit their images.
It took an incredible amount of brain power and execution to pull this shoot together and every single element worked perfectly together to make it happen. Each and every vendor did a fantastic job and I certainly couldn’t have done it without everyone’s commitment and talents!
Look for our feature on Offbeat Bride (and more) coming this summer!
Venue: St. Louis Union Station Hotel | Models: Sabrina Dawnn & Joshua Simba Say Loker | Florist: Stems Florist | Cake: Intricate Icings | Rentals: Butler Rents | Car: Motoexotica | Guest Book: Nik the Booksmith | Hair & Makeup: Abbi Luisaidh Chartrand | Invitations: Little Black Dress Paperie
Concept/Design/Planning/Styling, Wardrobe, and Photography by Jewels*
Assistance from my amazing team: Amanda, Sunshine, & Michael