The problem with styled wedding shots

I’ve noticed the growing popularity of styled wedding shoots over the last few years and wanted to address some of the issues. These shoots can be very beneficial, I examined why in the article below…

However, there are some issues with styled wedding shoots, both for the photographers and their potential clients.

Styled bridal shoot
Styled bridal shoot with Shannon ( and a horse )

1.Did they use models for the shoot?

I see a lot of portfolios full of beautiful people in beautiful light. If you are one of these beautiful people, then congratulations! However, most of us are normal people, not models. If a wedding portfolio just contains people who look like models, then it may be that they are showing you styled shoots. Styled shoots are very different to a normal wedding in the UK. You generally have plenty of time to stage perfect shots. You can use studio quality lighting, and are working with models who know how to pose to look great in front of a camera. Here is a link to one of many bridal shoots I’ve done to give you an idea of what is involved.

Reality versus styled wedding

The reality of a wedding is that you will be working with clients who are not models. Very probably they will never have been in front of a professional camera. You will also almost certainly not have time to mess around with lighting to get that perfect shot. Here is an example of a styled model shot that I did, that won’t be going on my wedding portfolio!

Styled bridal image

2.Which country were the images taken in?

You might think the country of origin for a styled wedding image doesn’t make too much difference to you. There is, however, a marked difference in light in certain countries that give images a certain look and feel. If a photographer is showcasing photos from their weddings shot abroad in some sunny climate, ask to see images shot in the UK. Those stylish looking shots from that Italian provincial wedding might not be so easy to get on a rainy day in Croydon.

Setting expectations is key

I’ve heard multiple takes of brides and grooms to be sending photographers styled images from sunny weddings in a foreign country and asking them to replicate those images for their UK wedding. This is not realistic and setting those sorts of expectations will only end in disappointment. UK weddings have their own unique charm that sets them apart from everywhere else. I much prefer to celebrate this rather than to try and make wedding images look like they were taken in a different country.

A uk wedding in the rain
Can you guess this was shot in the UK?

3.Did the photographer create these images themselves?

Wedding workshops are a common thing these days and are another way for experienced photographers to make money. The idea is that a photographer who knows what they are doing hires some models for a day and a fabulous location. They then create a styled wedding look, sort out the lighting and posing, and a bunch of other photographers pay them money to then push the shutter on their cameras and walk away with professional looking wedding images. They will own the copywrite to those images and as long as they don’t make a hash of the editing, they can then post them on their portfolio, probably after they slap on a brown looking style theme they also paid for without really understanding how it works. If you are a client looking to book a wedding photographer, you need to look out for this.

How to avoid booking someone inexperienced

The best way around this pitfall is to ask to see a full wedding gallery from a recent wedding. This is a great way to correctly align your expectations with what the photographer can actually deliver. I always feel much more comfortable as the wedding photographer when I know my client fully understands what to expect and what I can and can’t deliver.

Thanks for reading!

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