Styled Shoots Aren’t a Real Wedding

Having been in the wedding industry for a decade now (gosh, time flies!), I’ve seen a lot of changes in the biz. The explosion of wedding blogs has had a huge impact, with brides having greater access to vendors’ work in a timely manner. Brides today are far more savvy about details thanks to the proliferation of eye-candy just a mouseclick away. Wedding blogs have given brides the equivalent of 20 wedding magazines a day to oggle. And our industry is better for it, as the bar has been raised for all wedding pros to be more creative.

Styled photo shoots are hugely popular as they give pros a chance to flex their creativity in a controlled environment. Stylists have free rein with the flowers, accessories and locations since they aren’t worrying about facilitating guests’ discussions across the table or that the design can fit in the budget when multiplied by 20 sets of tables or the linens won’t clash with the ballroom’s hideous carpeting (what is up with ugly hotel carpeting? But I digress…). Focusing on just one table, and having the time to shoot from every angle imaginable, photo shoots are able to showcase design in ways a real wedding can only dream of.

And there’s the rub. Styled shoots are what dreams are made of. They are there to inspire, to be cherry-picked to fit into the harsh reality of a real wedding’s confines. But they are not real weddings and should not be presented as such.

Planning a photo shoot and planning a wedding are two very different things. I have seen a number of rookie planners and photographers present styled shoots on their sites or blogs as if they are real, honest-to-goodness weddings. I understand that they may not have a large body of work from real weddings and hey, we all have to start somewhere. But the bug in my craw is presenting a photo shoot as though it was a wedding – it’s misleading. It’s the equivalent of walking into the bridal shop, putting on a wedding dress and expecting to look identical to the Photo-shopped/airbrushed/studio-lit model in the magazine ad. Real weddings don’t have the luxury of placing every little item ‘just so’, making sure the light is perfect and moving things about to get the right angle. Usually, the photographer has a few minutes to take detail shots before the hordes of guests descend upon the reception space.

So brides, when perusing the web, if you see a gorgeous setting but there are no guests nor bridal party in any of the shots and it’s not labeled as an elopement, chances are that it’s a styled shoot. FYI.

And wedding pros, please, call a spade a spade. It’s OK to have styled shoots on your site or blog – just call it that.


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  1. AMEN! There’s nothing I loathe more than taking shots of styled tables. Sure I did it for good editorial for few years, but oui.
    It’s the connection w/my Clients that drives the creativity & passion in my work. When you take the people away, even the prettiest of details go bland over time.

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