how to pull off a styled shoot with two people & $140

It's raining!  I'm sitting in my apartment looking out my sliding glass doors and watching my overgrown, green garden soak up the rain, which looks as though it'll be lasting for several days.  I've already done my dance workout video (ha!) and tidied up the apartment this morning, so now I'm digging into Wedding Planning.  The Little Petunia has 3 weddings planned for 3 lovely couples this Spring/Summer.

While Weddings are a big part of what we do, they are just one slice of our juicy floral pie.  The Little Petunia's Planned Business Mix for 2016 looks something like this:  Weddings (35%),  Local Deliveries (35%), National Shipping (15%), and Styling (15%).

Weddings are a fun 'birthing' process, from the initial meeting to the detailed final plan, all culminating in an adrenaline fueled final 8 hours when installation takes place.  Local deliveries are lovely quick bursts, that are here and gone within a day or two.  National deliveries involve a little more breath-holding between sending off our flowers or wreaths and confirming they've arrived safe and sound in the hands of their recipients.

Styling, while not yet a money-making endeavor for us, is something I squeeze in once a month as a fun, creative outlet.  For each shoot I try to create a setting loosely centered on a character and an underlying narrative.  As I do more and more of these projects I'm finding, surprisingly, that they can be pulled off with pretty minimal resources.  Does spending an afternoon playing dress up, listening to music, and draping your friends in flowers sounds like fun to you?  If yes, keep reading to learn how I put together my February shoot with just $140 and the help of a friend.  I should note here that  I HIGHLY respect photographers and their craft.  I know zilch about photography.  But for a creative on a budget who wants to regularly produce new content, there are ways to go about it on your own.

  • First buy some flowers.  For my February shoot I bought an assortment of seasonal flowers and Branches- some from Carra and some from the Flower market.  I had two palettes - (1) pale whites and greys and (2) juicy reds and berry tones.  Total floral spend came to $75.
  • Next, secure a location with some good natural lighting.  For me it was the studio during late morning/early afternoon.
  • Have an I-phone.  Download VSCO cam (it's free), an app you can use to take and edit your photos.
  • Buy (or borrow) a backdrop, backdrop frame, and a drop cloth or two.  I got my canvas drop cloth from a hardware store and ordered a muslin backdrop ($17) and backdrop support stand kit ($42) from
  • Get a ladder.
  • Find a friend with a unique look - good bone structure, striking hair.....For me, that was my friend Zoe.
  • Raid your closet/home or that of a friend for clothing with movement and texture.  Secure vases or interesting bottles + a table or two of varying heights.

Now that you've got the goods and the venue, it's time to set the scene.  For me, that meant putting on a good spotify playlist and asking Zoe what outfit she wanted to wear first.  From there I arranged flowers in my first palette and then set up a little 'kitchen table' scene.  We had 3 different setups throughout the 2 1/2 hour shoot and you'll notice the pictures seemed to get better as the day went on.  Important note - it's not about the flowers.  The flowers are there to enhance the scene, but really, its about telling a story through a picture.  The character you've created is your subject.


For the first story Zoe put on her faux fur coat and it kind of happened from there.  Neither of us really knows how to light a cigarette, but the scene I wanted to set was a girl just getting home from work....


The second story was centered around Zoe's leather jacket and a spicy bouquet I made, inspired by her fiery personality.

In the third story we were channeling a blend of old hollywood glamour and botanical alchemy.  The idea was that the essence of the flowers surrounding Zoe combined with a potent syrup (that's rose in the crystal decanter) wooed her into a trancelike sleep while she was brushing her hair.  I hopped up on the ladder to take these pictures.  I really did not mess much with these during editing.  The lighting worked out really well for these.

And there you have it!  Have I inspired you to do a shoot of your own?  Use the hashtag #webelieveinplayingdressup when sharing your pictures and I'll repost my favorites on The Little Petunia's Instagram feed.  You might be surprised by what happens when you give yourself the freedom to create just for the sake of creating.