Q&A: Why do florists say no to styled shoots?

January 29, 2016

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I need to preface this with a good, solid disclaimer. This post is most certainly simply meant for informative and educational purpose, so that styled shoot planners can understand the WHY behind a florist’s lack of participation in styled shoots. This is not meant to be a planner bashing statement, but just a way to spread the word as to WHY. Florists catch so much shit from planners about this, so I think it’s time someone put a loud speaker on the issue. This is a general statement about styled shoots and their floral costs as a response to my conversations with other floral designers over the past year and hoping to help planners understand WHY florists say no, and why they shouldn’t burn the bridge of vendor friendship.

Let’s get started!

It’s ‘off season’ and it’s that time of year where my inbox fills with requests to do styled shoots during the downtime. I LOVE and appreciate the thought and the request for inclusion into some pretty awesome vendor circles. Some opportunities would actually be great networking, and awesome photography with amazing designers. These are people I’d LOVE to work with. As a general rule, I only do paid styled shoots. I often get unanswered emails from those that inquired when I send back information about my pricing and services for styled shoots. I’ve even had wedding planners and photographers get angry and bad mouth me to other people because they thought I was playing favorites — shocking, right? This doesn’t just happen to me — this happens to pretty much every florist I’ve ever talked to.

If you’re reading this you’re either a wedding planner or a photographer and have tried in the past to contact wedding florists to be a part of styled shoots. You’ve probably also realized that many turn it down. You’re also probably thinking either they aren’t being team players, or that they are playing favorites. Or maybe you’re thinking everyone is doing it for ‘free’ so they should too for trade of the images. Or maybe you’re just a curious reader ;) I want you to understand why you shouldn’t be mad at the florist for not doing your shoot.

Before I go into my explanation, keep in mind this won’t be the reason for ALL the florist “no’s” but my armchair critic opinion for a common reason why. Other reason include but are not limited to availability and brand alignment.

It boils down to one simple reason…

Flowers are perishable

HOLD THE PHONE! WHAT? This might be a total DUH to some people, but often people just don’t think about it, and that’s okay! I understand! It’s not their job to know how much flowers cost, and our job as floral designers to spread the word. But seriously — for me to do a styled shoot (bouquet, centerpiece, cake flowers, other large ceremony display, etc.) is expensive relative to what other vendors PAY to be involved in a styled shoots. Take the babysitter I need for my son and gas out of the equation and it’s still about $750 WHOLESALE just to do designs that fit my standard, quality, brand and style and also fit all those garden rose and peony filled inspirations I get emailed. Not all florists need that much budgeted and not all shoots need that much flowers, but that’s the standard for me. The flowers cannot be reused again, and that expense is entirely a waste other than for the (lovely, I’m sure) photographs. Photographers, rentals companies, bridal salon, stationery, calligraphy, makeup artist – they all already have purchased the products they need to do their job. They are providing more of a service when it comes to joining a styled shoot when compared to florists. Yes, makeup gets used, photographers have to buy lenses, etc. But, all those things can essentially be reused. I’ve had response that ‘well, everyone is doing it for free”. Yes, their TIME is free and maybe a very nominal fee for their gas or the paper for the invitation suite. But, in comparison to florists, the expense is very low, so the return is good for their money. For a florist, the return is very low. From a business standpoint, it’s almost a waste of money unless someone is new to an area, new to the market or wanting to make certain connections that can’t otherwise be made on social media or over coffee. I’ve heard the ‘we’re aiming for Style Me Pretty’ or ‘I hope this starts a long relationship with us and I’ll send you all my weddings’…. I’ve heard it all. Some people that I’ve never heard from again, never worked with again, never got a publication, never saw images, never got a thing from the shoot. So, those words are just words and can’t really be guaranteed. Do you know how hard it is to get published on Style Me Pretty? I’ve been on there probably 8+ times, but each time it got published was something that was so randomly submitted that we honestly didn’t think SMP would pick it up. The ones that you’d think were perfect fits never got chosen. So, telling a florist ‘we’re aiming for ____’ really isn’t a selling point. It’s a goal, yes. But, it’s not a guarantee. A $750 expense for the HOPE of a publication is like buying a lottery ticket. I’d rather spend $750 on a new computer for my business, or my client gifts, a workshop or conference. It’s just one of those things that some florists might think shoots are fun and like to spend money, but for the most part, florists will agree with me that shoots are EXPENSIVE. I won’t go on a tangent about the waste of shoots too much, but who looks at wedding blogs? Mostly wedding vendors. I’ve never once had a bride book me from a wedding blog. That means publications are simply a notch on a belt in relation to the cost. Even if I DID get one wedding from a styled shoot, $750 is a very high price to pay. You might say ‘what if it gets published in PRINT? Well, ya, I had that happen once and print magazines 99% of the time don’t list the florist for images they pick from shoots. I had that happen in the Knot Magazine. This same idea goes for bridal shows, but don’t get me started on those — OY! Honestly, I don’t want to pay $750+ to be published. I’d rather pay that to all my wedding vendor friends for coffee dates, invest in an upgraded website or client experience. As a trade for images, I offer my TIME and my service free just like anyone else, but ask that the wholesale flower and supply costs be covered – this goes for ANY photographer, ANY planner – momma don’t play favorites. Because most shoots don’t have a budget for florals, I tend to only do these for photographer workshops and those kinds of shoots — but to be fair I ALWAYS always charge. $750-1500 that ends up in the trash afterwards for some photographs and the HOPE of a publication is not a good return on investment if we’re trying to discover WHY florists do or don’t participate. At that rate, I’d be better off with a REAL wedding feature. I will backup and say when I was new it was great to get my name out and meet new vendors and make friends. I was able to get some big publications that also made for something to blog about or post about and brag on myself ‘oo oo look where I got published’. I was also designing with a very small budget, and the designs weren’t the best or what I’d put out now. But, even over time I’ve realized that brides don’t book me because I was published in certain places, but from past bride reviews, word of mouth, etc. Not one bride has ever booked me because they found a publication. Although, it’s possible the SEO links have helped the website traffic, but even that I’m not sure of.

I hope this gives some insight! Please don’t be mad at florists for not participating in styled shoots!

  1. Elizabeth Victory says:

    As a new florist, this was so encouraging to read! I have had to turn down so mant styled shoots for this very reason, and wondered if I was just being really mean! Thanks for sharing your insight.

  2. Jennifer Ferencz-Barato says:

    I make keepsake bouquets (handmade clay flowers, brooch bouquets, so I am more than willing to participate in TF shoots…as long as I am able to get the bouquets/bouts back afterwards. :). But I totally understand why florists using fresh flowers need to be paid.

  3. Carleen Grace Le says:

    If you could go back and do it all again, how many styled shoots would you do when you were just starting out?

  4. Amanda Apple Veronee says:

    It’s pretty common! You aren’t alone. Which is why I figured I’d share this common sentiment with planners of shoots ;)

  5. Kara Buntin says:

    I do wedding cakes and I’ve had zero business from styled shoots. That should be the goal, not being published in whatever blog. My cost isn’t as large as what a florist would have to pay, but it’s still more than a full day of time and effort and probably up to $200 in cost as far as sugar flowers etc go. But what makes me really not want to do styled shoots is the fact that the cakes are usually treated like a prop that can be “dressed,” when the design I did is pretty well thought-out for a reason. When the planner takes a bunch of random flowers and sticks them on the cake it changes the intent of the design, and that isn’t my work anymore. It would be like a planner taking the bouquets and ripping them apart to use the flowers in a different way. So I’d sum up my reluctance to do the shoots as a lack of return on investment, plus bad experiences with a lack of respect from the people who are putting it together.

    • Amanda says:

      They’ve just become so overdone that I think people just don’t really even appreciate them anymore! I truly believe styled shoots will no longer be a ‘thing’ in the next few years. So costly!

  6. Inna Olimpiyuk says:

    Oh my goodness Amanda, I loved this post! Sooooo true! I do agree with every single commnet you made.

  7. Victoria Clausen says:

    Great post, girl! Preach it!!! Xxx

  8. Mark Andrew says:

    Great read and totally understandable. Styled shoots should always be taken on selectively with fellow artists that will help to elevate your brand and push you to create. Being a film photographer, my costs for film and processing for a styled shoot can easily amount to $750 – $1,000 so I totally get it. You have to be selective and it has to be worth the investment. Very interesting to read from a florists perspective, thanks for sharing.

    • Amanda says:

      I was wondering how much film costs, I’ve been told it’s expensive! So, you know the pain of being a florist and being requested to do shoots!

  9. Jennifer Collins Maton says:

    Great article! I refuse to do them anymore bc as a calligrapher/invite designer it is very very very time consuming and equals about $1000.00 in lost wages for 4 plus days of work. Most often it is for unrealistic designs. If I am approached and I have time I will do them at regular price. I have been in every magazine, blog, etc and have never gotten a real job from it. I wish people would stop doing them. My 2 cents

  10. Thank you! You just let me know I’m not “rude” to decline or “greedy” to ask to share the cost!
    I also appreciate and respect you for saying what so many of us think but never feel ok to say out loud!

  11. Megan Willis says:

    This is awesome! I just finished my first season as a florist where I did tons of stuff for barely anything compensation. My rule this year is 1-2 styled shoots where I have full creative control! I’ve gotten most of my clients from word of mouth and instagram so images are important to me, but I want to have the final say in the concept. I also try to work with vendors who I trust, so I can just say “do your thing”. They get to try out something they have been wanting to do or fit the project into their timeline!

  12. Carmel Sabourin Goldstein says:

    Very good article! I’ve turned down so many in the past year, and in every single case the person who asked for my participation never even bothered to answer my (very nice) email explaining why I couldn’t do it. I’ve only done 2 this year, one which I organized and completely styled, and another for a planner that sends me pretty much all her clients (which make up about 25% of my income), and she graciously offered we split the cost right from the begining. I feel that the people who have the right attitude are the ones you want to form a long term relationship with anyways, right?

  13. David Rohr says:

    Amanda…I can not agree with you more. Recently I received a request (among many opportunities to donate for “exposure”) for a photo/style shoot in Joshua Tree National Park. For those of you who don’t know what that means, it is at LEAST an one hour drive up into the high desert above Palm Springs. Joshua Trees grow there of course, and not much else. Lots of bolders, HUGE bolders and the occasional snake, gekko and big spider. BUT….what your blog says about the wholesale cost of the product, which is substantial, the TIME is the part of this process I object the most often. Money, well, you can make as much of that as you want, but time? We only get 24 hours in a day. I am very stingy with my TIME that is not valued. For this reason mostly, I decline such opportunities. Like you Amanda, I would rather take that $750 and NOT FACTORING TIME LOST…and do something wonderful with it. Or, save it for a rainy day, or god forbid, a vacation! Thanks for the thoughtful post…know you have someone who is jumping up an down about this!!!!

  14. Sue Dunlap Prutting says:

    OMG! I love you! I that you are a God girl, a mama and your generally cool as shit point of view. I am going to have to stalk you from now on. Sending hugs and prayers that your sweet husband is better. Xo

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