All About Styled Shoots

Recently, we shared a styled shoot that served as an inspiration for lilac-hued color palettes (see that here). No doubt, you have heard the word “styled shoot” from photographers. We’ve been observing on the sidelines for sometime now while engaged couples debate about whether or not photographers are honest about their work because they only show off images from styled shoots. Brides (and grooms) are understandably confused and concerned by this growing phenomenon. So, we’re getting off the sidelines and coming in to help you understand all about styled shoots; what they are, why they’re done, and how to know you’re getting the “real deal” in your chosen photographer!

What is a Styled Shoot?

First, a styled shoot is when a group of professionals collaborate to bring a creative project to life. Similar to a magazine editorial, it presents an idea, product, or persons in a cohesive, visually appealing manner. It can occur in any industry – fashion, wedding, commercial, etc.- but we’re going to address wedding styled shoots for this blog post. In the wedding industry, we are creatives at heart who long to make beauty; as vendors, we love to channel this need into something that can help and inspire our clients.

For instance, when in Alaska, we fell in love with the architecture of a Russian orthodox church that was mere steps from the beach. Our minds buzzed with ways to interpret Russian wedding fashion, old-world charm, and seaside romance in a modern, fresh way.  We contacted other professionals in the area, shared our idea, gave parameters, and the vendors ran with the inspiration but put their own signature spin on the aspect they brought to the table. As a result, couples were also inspired by the styles presented in the project and they were given more planning resources by exposure to more vendors in their community. (see this shoot featured on a wedding blog here)

How Styled Shoots Help Engaged Couples

First, when creatives are allowed to do what they do best- create- magic ensues! Styled shoots give professionals a stress free outlet to unleash their potential. Each vendor has a particular strength or passion within their work. During a styled shoot, we make sure that each collaborator puts his or her signature spin on their contribution- we want their strengths to shine, and we want seeking couples to be able to recognize a vendor by their personal style. When planning a wedding, there are so many options and after a while, everything starts to look the same! When your vendors are able to clearly express what makes them unique, your job becomes easier because there is one less decision to make (whether you recognize and love their style, or recognize and hate it- at least it’s a clear answer for you!).

Furthermore, the point of a styled shoot is to take an idea, present it beautifully, and create inspiration for the viewer to glean. Without styled shoots there would be far fewer wedding ideas on Pinterest, no wedding blogs, and no editorials in bridal magazines. Couples who are searching all things wedding are able to generate inspiration of their own from what they see, and they have access to the vendors involved- resources for the win!

How to Make Sure Your Photographer is the “Real Deal”

Now that you know all about styled shoots, let’s discuss what’s really on your mind- are you getting what you see, or is your photographer inexperienced with real weddings? As a rule of thumb, if all you’re seeing from a photographer is styled shoots, or if they are presenting them as real weddings, do more investigating! There is nothing wrong with styled shoots at all- in fact, we showcase them often; however, balance is key when reviewing a perspective photographer’s work. Here are some simple ways to make sure you’re buying what you see:

  1. Do they continually post/ blog recent work?
  2. Are a variety of  different weddings, people, and moments displayed in their portfolio?
  3. Ask them frankly about the images in their portfolio.
  4. When meeting in person, are they willing to let you review a gallery that represents a recent, full wedding or session?

The most important indicators are probably points one and four. A portfolio is where vendors display the crème de la crème; regular blog posts let you know that photographers are still actively employed and producing new work, and reviewing a full sample of a real wedding day shows you their skill in all the scenarios that arise on the big day.


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