• Lauren Alexander

Styled Shoot vs. Real Wedding

We so often see beautiful images covering our Pinterest, popping up on our Instagram feeds and smattering the inside of magazines, but how do we truly know if this is a photograph that is of a real wedding, or one carefully curated by wedding industry professionals to mimic that of a wedding day?


Now big disclaimer before we go fully into this little blog post - I love styled shoots. I think they are one of the best things that the wedding industry can do to showcase what truly is possible. For those new to the industry, it gives you a great way to meet other suppliers and showcase what you can offer. It allows you to think outside of the box, it gives you the license to be more creative and with that inspire others (be that supplier or couple). So often I get briefs from clients that follow a simple rustic look, country look, or tailored around two-tone colour scheme which is stunning but there isn't much space for going a little bit different. I fully understand that some couples will go with the trends that we see on social media, or they may be open to something a little more out of the box, yet this isn't so often!

I started my career with a shoot that I learnt so much from and I look back with fondness at just how far I have come too.


An interesting element around trends and the wedding industry is that most of these trends start with wedding-styled shoots. Pampas grass became a huge thing in 2020, however, shoots were using pampas a year or two before. Images started to make their rounds and were added to mood boards within 2019/2020 ready for weddings in 2020/2021/2022. To become 'on trend' within the wedding industry, like fashion, can take a few years for your creations to come to light. For example, back in 2019 I dreamt up my uber-romantic Jane Austen-inspired styled shoot when the Regency period wasn't necessarily a cool look for weddings. At that time it was all rustic logs, amber tones, browns and greens. The light and airy elements of the Georgian decade weren't deep or dark enough, however now with the likes of Bridgerton making it's Netflix debut - I am being inundated with couples looking for a more refined, demure, and Regency-inspired wedding day.


But back to Styled Shoots vs Real Wedding images...

Styled shoots are created by a group of wedding suppliers coming together to create a beautifully crafted image/images. Suppliers most likely give their time, product etc for free and in return they get stunning images which are then shared by the other suppliers in the group. Ideally (and if you play by the etiquette of styled shoots) you will be tagged in those images too on social media. They aim might be to get the images published on websites/blogs and in the press - so a great form of marketing. Some suppliers may just come together for fun to exercise their creativity, showcase a new product or just to be involved with a supplier they like. The important takeaway here though to remember is that the image you see, has been carefully styled, the couples in the images are often models, and have spent hours being told by the photographer where to stand and how.


It isn't real life.


There isn't your Aunt Maggy in the background cackling wildly, your cousins eating bits off the cake, your napkins being blown around by the gust of wind that shrieks through the marquee, and there isn't a drunk friend passed out somewhere in the bushes.


That is fully okay as long as we as suppliers tell people that it was a shoot, instead of trying to pass it off as a real wedding. The harm in letting couples believe that these perfect images are in fact a real wedding stem from a number of areas.


The first being the comparison of couples looking at model couples and feeling saddened by their own images in the mirror. Not just the image of the models, but also the image of the day. So often I hear that couples are looking for the perfect day, and images are only a highlight reel. Social media is only a highlight reel of snapshots of great times. By adding to that with perfect images from styled shoots, can augment how we see and comprehend how a wedding should look rather than being understanding that things can and often will go a little tits up.


The second being the comparison on the scale of the wedding and all the little elements. So often with shoots, they can grow and grow as more suppliers want to be involved. As such, you end up with lots of gorgeous extras such as personalised napkins, amazing favours, expensive candles, chair backs, insane floral installations... which if someone was looking at to replicate would be incredibly tricky to coordinate and to pull off on their own.


The third and most important I feel is cost. When presented with these insanely beautiful images on social media by clients, showing what they want to achieve with their wedding day, they are not necessarily aware of the cost. They look at each element as a whole image, rather than as individual expenses. Now this is the truth not just for styled shoots, but also for real weddings too. But you are more likely to have a photograph of a wedding table from a styled shoot presented at a styling meeting as they are usually captured in a more aesthetically pleasing way. (not always though of course!) When you break down the image, take a look at the costs, couples are often shocked by how much things can cost as well as how many different suppliers they will need to engage to recreate or create a version of the look they so admire.


I think it would be amazing if we as a wedding industry were able to make it obvious that images were from a styled shoot so that couples looking at the images are inspired but are still aware that it doesn't necessarily mimic real life.


What do you think? Does it matter to you? Do you know the difference between a styled shoot image vs a real wedding image?


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