So I’m going to share with you an ugly, dirty confession. Never in all my years have I ever thought about sharing this until now. It’s a secret I never had any intention telling—ever. However, I think for the greater good, it’s a necessary tale—as a teachable moment. When it comes to sharing for the sake of learning, I’m all about it. It’s a story full of shame, drama, and uncertainty.
3 Styled Shoot Must Haves
Here it is—I once caught a borrowed wedding gown on fire while doing a styled shoot. Yes, I said it. It happened to me. The most careful person in the world. The one who goes out of my way to make sure all items borrowed are respected and carefully handed back—but even with that, it still happened to me. And if it happened to me, it can happen to you too. Today I’m going to share with you my story and what you need to do to cover your butt when doing a styled shoot.
In 2014 I had designed a fabulous neno-vintage industrial shoot. It was full of lush florals, clear chiavari chairs, and pretty little details with a vintage light bulb undertone. The style shoot started out like any shoot—a little crazy and hectic at first, but soon we got into our groove and the magic started to happen. It was going great until the end of the shoot when we were doing our bridal portraits.
We wanted to utilize a staircase and decided to line it with tons and tons of candles. It was truly awe-inspiring. I mean, just beautiful in every way! Some of you might be thinking, well, something bad was bound to happen with all that fire. I will interject and say, sometimes you get caught up in the moment. Looking back, I can see that it was a little disastrous, but when you’re in the moment of magic, you get inspired and don’t think of the potential consequences.
We had the bride sit in the middle of this amazing staircase we just created. We carefully positioned her, the gown illuminated by beautiful candlelight. Then the photographer, also caught up in the moment, asked her to shift her hips. And BAM—lace started to burn. We were able to extinguish the fire with lighting speed, but it ended up leaving a singed, quarter-sized hole.
Styled Shoot Lesson Learned
Can you imagine my horror? My panic? The 100 different scenarios that were going through my head? How were we going to pay for the damages? Who was going to pay for the damages? Did we just totally destroy the vendor relationship with the bridal salon? You can guess right away that this incident totally deflated our inspiration, and we pretty much wrapped up the shoot then and there. It kind of left us all in a somber mood because of the uncertainty. In the end, the dress shop was understanding and we did not have to pay for any damages. This was a miracle and not how I imagined it playing out. They had a seamstress who could fix it, no problem. God bless. Seriously. So there are the 3 styled shoot must haves:
#1 Have a Contract
Accidents happen. Period. No matter how much planning you do or how careful you are, things happen. The very best way to save yourself from any vendor animosity is having a contract that all vendors sign. Who is responsible for the photographer breaking a rental chair when stepping on it to get a bird’s-eye-view shot? Or who is responsible if the ladder gets knocked over and breaks a venue’s window? Before my dirty, shameful incident, I had never even considered having a contract. But to save your vendor relationships, you need to be clear on who is responsible for damages. Is everyone reasonable? Just you, as the planner? A contract will spell it all out.
Make sure you have business insurance! At the very least, you should have general liability. Most of the venues you work in will require this. But also consider getting professional liability for things like style-shoot damages. Hiscox is a great company and is one of the most popular among creative businesses. Make sure you understand your policy and what it entails before doing a styled shoot.
#3 Be an LLC
If you’re really getting to design and plan to do quite a few shoots, consider becoming an LLC. Incfile.com makes it super easy. Obviously, the more styled shoots you do a year, the more likely something will happen. This keeps your personal assets protected, say, if something really catastrophic happens. I mean, if you ever watch Say Yes to the Dress, you know some of those dresses can go for $10,000—can you cover a $10,000 dress right now? Or what if our model got so burned she had to go to the hospital and sued us for pain and suffering? You just never know, so I believe it’s better to be protected than to hope you were protected.
Last Words on Styled Shoot
Moral of the story, accidents happen, so you need to protect yourself with these 3 styled shoot must haves: contract, insurance, and by becoming an LLC. No one wants to hear “I told you so,” so please consider these things before setting out to do a style shoot. Are you interested in learning more about what goes into a styled shoot? Check out our helpful guide here.