Choosing a real Wedding Photographer

What are styled shoot & Tips to help you spot a styled shoot when planning your wedding

The world of wedding photography has evolved significantly in the past decade. Nowadays, there are boundless resources available to locate suplliers online. With wedding photographer's websites, it's effortless to assume that the content displayed is genuine. The captivating bridal photographs can easily deceive you into believing they are from actual weddings. You may not even consider the possibility that they are staged.

I'm here to guide you and prevent you from falling prey to fake portfolios. But how do these photographers create fake portfolios? The answer is straightforward: they organise styled shoots and in most cases they are actually selling courses to wannabe wedding photographers to showcase the work in their portfolios.

When wedding photographers are first starting out, they lack a solid portfolio. Since, if they are newcomers, why would they have anything in a portfolio? There is a trend among wedding photographers, namely photographers who are just getting started in the business: styled shoots. These have gone on for several years, but for some reason they are rampant lately.

A styled shoot on its own is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact they can be a good way as observing photographer to keep up with the latest trends. But when photographers use them for the bulk of their portfolio, that's a big problem.

Pennard House Real Weddings

These are real weddings

Real Wedding in Wales

A styled shoot is a meticulously organized photography session, arranged by a host who is often the photographer. Each participating supplier contributes a fee to partake in the styled shoot. Usually, hair and makeup professionals, florists, photographers and videographers are involved, with additional supliers considered depending on the shoot's theme. Models are employed to act as the bride and groom, with perfect makeup, attire, and posing skills for ideal photos. None of this reflects real life. To create the desired atmosphere, they rent things including decor, clothing, and any other items preferred by the host and vendors.

Upon the styled shoot's completion, the suppliers receive exquisite photographs showcasing their finest work. It is their best work, which may always be their best work since it was in a controlled setting, without the rush and unpredictability of an actual real wedding day.

Real Welsh Weddings

A real wedding

Most wedding photographers participating in a styled shoot are newcomers. Without a self-built portfolio, they rely on a styled shoot to establish one.

Frequently, photographers utilise photos from styled shoots to persuade couples of their work's quality. They even set their prices to match those of high-end photographers, which is unjust when a seasoned wedding photographer is anticipated.

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Real Wedding

Styled shoots pose a problem as they are too effortless. Ideally, you want a photographer who has been through it all, who has faced the good and the bad and knows what to expect. Styled shoots involve no hiccups or blunders, allowing photographers to shoot for hours to capture perfect shots. Conversely, during a real wedding, we have a mere 30 to 60 minutes (or even less) to take perfect couple shots.

The absence of pressure during styled shoots means photographers do not gain the essential experience of working under pressure, which is integral to a wedding photographer's skillset.

In essence, some styled shoots can be a significant issue if a photographer uses them to deceive couples without stating that they are as such, set up shoots. These photographers can cheat couples out of beautiful photographs they deserve and may not receive them if they hire such photographers.

How can you identify a fake wedding portfolio?

Warning signs:

Absence of guests

No pictures of the bridal party

No photographs of the reception

No images of dancing

Over emphasis of wedding details

No documentation of the ceremony

Solely composed of shots of the bride and groom

To identify a fake portfolio, look out for one that is exclusively composed of pictures of the bride and groom. If you don't see any photos of the remaining wedding party, guests, or the wedding ceremony and reception, it is likely that the portfolio is fake.

However, some photographers produce their best work with bride and groom photos from actual weddings. If you are genuinely fond of their work, reach out and ask them to direct you to these images. Personally I don't allow access to full galleries of my couples. I would absolutely hate the thought of that being my gallery, after all these are personal moments. However many photographers like myself highlight different weddings on their website with blogs and pages to help with their search engine optimisation. I tend to select maybe 30 images from over the whole day with these posts, from the bridal preparations to the first dance to show case that they are real weddings at that venue.

Be mindful that sometimes established photographers also participate in styled shoots. I have only done this once in my career and to be honest its not for me. There is a whole bunch of talent out there, but ultimately choosing a photographer that has built a portfolio off the back of styled shoots is a bit like seeing the burgers McDonalds show on their boards and then when you get, it's not quite the same!

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