Real Wedding versus Styled Shoot

I'd like to take a moment to chat about a recent trend that I am seeing in the photography world.

Styled Bridal Shoots versus Real Weddings

What is a styled shoot, you may be wondering? No worries, I'll explain...

Styled shoot: A styled shoot is a photography shoot that typically involves multiple vendors coming together with a specific "vision" or "theme." Every detail purposely chosen by Professionals who have studied and know how to bring it all together for what I like to refer to as "Pinterest perfect". From the hair and make up to the dress to the florals to the props and so on. A model or models are involved. The time of day is chosen to ensure just the right light. Then a specific number of slots are sold to persons who want to participate in photographing the styled shoot. Sounds amazing right!? Yes it is! I have attend several styled shoots and they are a great way to learn and hone your photography skills without the pressure and time constraints of a real wedding.

Styled shoot from the United Workshop ^

Now let's discuss Real Weddings: Real weddings are exactly what they sound like. Real people who are really getting married. There are authentic emotions and all the details have been planned by the bride and groom with the help of their families and/or a wedding coordinator. Wedding day timelines are often put together or built around the venue and when they have access to it. This means that sometimes ceremonies take place at high noon (harsh light) or after the sun has completely set. Receptions are often in very dark rooms that require flash. Wedding days are made up of an absolutely beautiful chaos and there is nothing in the world like them. They are so very special. Once in a lifetime. 

Real wedding ^

As this industry continues to grow and thrive I am seeing an explosion in styled shoots. This raises a BIG red flag for me. The reason is because brides have no way to tell if a photographer has experience shooting a real wedding! More times than not I see styled shoots advertised as real weddings. They are NOT AT ALL the same thing. There is no "do-over" if you miss a shot or the images are lost on a wedding day!

To clarify, I have absolutely no problem with a photographer using images from a styled shoot in their portfolio. I do! Some of my favorite images are from styled shoots. You will absolutely see styled shoots on my blog, in my portfolio and in my marketing pieces. They are beautiful and I have fun memories from those shoots. My concern is when couples are not told, or are mislead to believe that a styled shoot IS a real wedding. When a photographer has never photographed a real wedding but is advertising with the impression that they have with images from a styled shoot.

So what can a bride and groom do to know the difference? ASK!

1.) Ask the photographer how much experience they have shooting real weddings.

2.) Ask the photographer which of the images in their portfolio are from styled shoots and which are from real weddings.

3.) Ask if the photographer is prepared to shoot a real wedding. Every photographer starts somewhere. Meaning that at some point they will shoot their first real wedding. That can be a wonderful opportunity. Ask the photographer if they are licensed and insured, have back up gear, and know how to shoot in different lighting situations.

Real Wedding ^

What about the new photographer just trying to gain experience and build a portfolio?

1.) Continue to learn! Attend styled shoots and workshops but do label the images styled shoots and communicate that to potential wedding clients.

2.) Second shoot on real weddings! Nothing will prepare you more for being the main photographer on a wedding someday like shooting alongside a professional. It is great hands on experience!

3.) Challenge yourself to shoot in harsh light and after the sun sets. Real weddings are full of these moments! Being confident that you know how to photograph in those conditions will ensure that all your photos will be amazing!


I hope that this blog post helps! Communication is always key! Knowledge is power. Let's continue to see this industry grow and thrive for photographers and clients alike! <3