Every so often we feature beautiful styled inspiration shoots, real weddings, interiors, and more here on the blog. Unlike other wedding blogs, these features will be a place where our readers will hopefully learn a great deal either about photography, design, or putting together a styled shoot. Today we're introducing you to wedding planner and designer, Ali Miller, who runs her business, Sixpence, in San Luis Obispo, CA.
We had the pleasure of meeting Ali at our California workshop back in April. We noticed right away how sweet and talented she was, so when she told us her FIRST styled shoot was featured on Inspired By This, we knew we had to get our hands on the shoot and feature an interview with Ali immediately. We love when gals who come to Bloom are successful in their creative businesses. Read on to learn more about the importance of styled shoots, how Ali designed this Bohemian Desert shoot, and what she learned at The Bloom Workshop.
1. What was the inspiration behind the shoot? How do you begin piecing together your theme/style?
When coming up with a design concept, I usually start with one small element (a texture, color, flower, material...anything that jumps out at me or has some significant meaning to it). Then I run with it! Soft muted colors and whimsical blooms have been a popular pick for inspiration shoots and real weddings lately. Because of this, I wanted to be bold, a little different, and try something new.
For this shoot, I was mesmerized by the beauty and detail found in natural desert stones. I came across some raw turquoise and peach quartz, and immediately fell in love with how naturally beautiful and unique each piece was. I decided to run the table with a variety of rugged, organic, and raw elements that would bring forth an authentic feel to the tablescape. The heavy rock and chunks of stone, deer antlers and rusted cast iron were accompanied by modern elements of gold himmeli, which brought a contrasting look of sleek lines, dainty material, and a shiny finish. Delicate gold hexagons were sprinkled onto each place setting, creating the perfect compliment to the rough edges surrounding it. As the design for this shoot continued to come together, I wanted to maintain a balance of having opposing elements come together in harmony. Marrying rustic components with modern ones, I made sure to choose everything from the table and chairs, to the picnic blanket, dress, jewelry, dinnerware and venue, with such intentionality. I love how it all came together, and how it all started with one beautiful little rock.
2. What were your goals behind the shoot? What did you want to come out of putting this styled photo shoot together? (Get featured, add to portfolio, work with certain vendors)
This was my first inspiration shoot, so part of my goal was learning how to put it all together. Also, being fairly new to the industry, I was eager to meet some top vendors in my area and collaborate to create something beautiful with them. This was primarily a learning experience for me and a way to stretch my design abilities, grow my portfolio, get my name out there, and learn from the process. I also planned this shoot just before wedding season kicked off, so it was a way of staying busy during off-season, adding content to my social media platforms, and keeping followers interested in what I was doing before real weddings started for the year.
3. As the event designer and planner, what roles did you play in getting this set up? Did you email all the vendors and artists to invite them to be a part of the shoot? How did you pitch your idea to them?
As the event designer and planner, I came up with the design concept first, before setting anything up with other vendors. While the design morphed through the planning process, and many details weren't decided on until closer to the shoot date, the main concepts of the design were created. I put together a design board with a color palette and pictures of some of the elements I was hoping to incorporate, and included a small description to communicate the vision and direction I wanted to go in.
I approached each of the vendors and artists differently to ask them to be a part of the shoot. I had coffee dates with some, emailed others, and talked directly to a few who had storefronts. Relationships are big to me! Whether between me and my clients, or me and other vendors, I really want to create and maintain not just a good working relationship, but a lasting friendship as well. Pitching my idea to the different vendors was so much more than just explaining what I wanted to do. It was recognizing their talents and what they could bring to the table. It was articulating a vision I had and being intentional about explaining why and how I wanted them to be involved. Once my team was set, I made sure to update them on progress, send pictures, check-in, and collaborate as needed before the shoot.
4. Typically vendors partner for inspiration shoots to showcase their work; with that in mind, how much freedom do you give vendors creatively?
I tried to give each vendor the freedom to be creative with whatever they were bringing to the table. The way I see it, I'm including them in the shoot because they are great at what they do. I want whatever team I put together for a shoot to feel the freedom to run with an idea and be creative, while valuing collaboration and teamwork as well.
For example, Ely Roberts, who photographed the shoot beautifully, worked with me in finding a location. I told him what kind of setting I had in mind and gave him the freedom to choose a spot that he felt would have the best lighting, staging, and set-up for him to work with. He narrowed the location down to two places and we scoped them out together before the shoot to decide on one together.
Nikki Caldwell from Fluid Bloom did the florals, but she also enjoys styling and is amazing at it. She collaborated with me on a lot of design elements for this shoot and came with me to choose the desert stone for the tablescape, we picked out air plants together, and the himmeli. Whitney Hoffmann from Rosey Calligraphy really ran with her own idea for all the stationary, and she executed it beautifully. We spoke on the phone about materials being used on my end, and she shared the textures, ink, and type of paper being used on her end.
By communicating the design and vision to all the vendors involved, everyone was on the same page and knew what to base their creativity from. This gave everyone the freedom to each be artistic and really shine their own talent while all moving forward in the same direction.
5. What is your advice to other artists wanting to put together a styled shoot? How have you seen this particular shoot positively influence your business?
My advice would be to have fun, be confident, and be open to learning something new. Putting a shoot together can be a lot of work. I went through a lot of design boards, changed direction a lot, ordered a lot of different pieces for the shoot and then returned them, because they weren't quite right. I did a lot of searching, shopping, and asking around trying to find the perfect pieces for certain details of the shoot. So much goes into a styled shoot for how little you get out of it tangibly. You may get featured, and you may not. Or it might take a very long time to get featured if you do. But, if you are open to the adventure of creating something amazing, then have fun with it!
If during the process, you start feeling discouraged by your design, or you start comparing yourself to what other people are doing, or to the other shoots that are being featured, then stop for a minute and remind yourself of what you're doing, why you're doing it, and what inspired you in the first place. Be confident in your work, and it will likely shine. We are all growing. Even the best out there can always be better. Be open to learning something new, whether in the planning or design process, and grow from it.
This shoot was such a growing experience for me. It's grown me personally by giving me a step of confidence in design and styling, as well as it has grown my business by building my portfolio work, showing other vendors what I can do and how I work, and giving brides a taste of my personality and style as well.
6. We love how you layered so many different textures for each place setting. Can you tell us why this works and how it compliments the theme of the shoot?
I didn't use any linens on the table for two reasons. 1) The desert rocks, crystals and stones were all stunning in and of themselves, that I wanted to use them as my main table runner, and 2) I loved the industrial table we used with the geometric patterned wood and metal legs, so I didn't want to cover the design with a tablecloth. Because of that, I felt that each place setting needed to be layered with different textures and colors, to really help them pop and not get lost on such a busy table. With the theme of the shoot being "Modern-Desert" I tried to pick textures and materials that were opposing but complimentary.
7. What is the most challenging part of envisioning, creating and executing an inspiration shoot?
Being original is one of the most challenging parts of creating an inspiration shoot. It is so hard to be creative and innovative, unique and set-apart, but still trendy and attractive to what's in style. My first idea for this shoot involved agate stone. I think they are beautiful and I wanted to go in a completely different direction using them. But as my design board came together, I started seeing a lot of agate stones being used in a lot of other inspiration shoots. I didn't steal my idea from anyone, it was my own. But, it was so popular! It's hard to come up with an idea when so many of our ideas come from what we see and experience. I ended up changing my design and color palette completely from my first idea because of it.
8. How do you feel like attending the Bloom Workshop will help you in future work and inspiration shoots?
Attending the Bloom Workshop has helped me to make smarter decisions with how to start my business, what to focus on in order to grow, and how to practically move forward in building a group of followers who are interested in what I do. When I first started Sixpence, I had so many ideas, aspirations, and hopes for how I wanted to see my business bloom. But I had no idea how to make it happen. I also felt easily overwhelmed with how many components there were to starting out. The Bloom Workshop not only boosted my confidence to get started, but also provided really helpful and meaningful tools to take those first steps. I feel like what I learned will help my business attract the right people, in the right way.
Design & Styling || Sixpence Wedding Planning & Design || @sixpenceweddings
Photography || Ely Roberts Photography || @elyseyes
Florals & Styling || Fluid Bloom || @fluidbloom
Invitations & Place Cards || Rosey Calligraphy || @whithoffmann
Hair & Makeup || Jenn Hix with The Queens Bees || @jennbeloved
Rentals: Desert Items || Left Field || @leftfieldslo
Rentals: Gold Geometric Prisms || Huckleberry Market || @huckleberry_market
Rentals: Cast Iron Urn || Embellish Vintage Rentals ||@embellishvintagerentals