STYLED SHOOTS - The good, bad, and ugly.
Updated: Jun 26
If you’re not a wedding vendor you might be asking “what is a “styled shoot”? In a nut shell its a fake wedding that is planned at a real wedding venue. There are models that play the part of posing as a bride and groom. Sometimes they are a real couple with no modeling experience (married or dating) , and sometimes its models who do it for a living. Depending on how large the shoot is there can also be a whole “bridal party” there as well. Other vendors that are typically involved are, a rentals (tables chairs, linens) , flowers, hair & makeup, an invitation suite, a fake cake, and sweetheart table, etc.
Why do all of this if it’s not even a real wedding? When you should take part in a styled shoot and what to expect, the good, bad, and the ugly truth about styled shoots.
PROS - Why I love styled shoots
1 : If you’re a photographer wanting to break into the wedding market. This a great way to build a wedding portfolio and get in some practice if you have been wanting to shoot weddings but don’t have any wedding photos to add to your website or social media.
2 : If you’re already a seasoned wedding photographer that wants to shoot at a very specific venue. There are so many gorgeous wedding venues here in the Tampa, St Petersburg, and Sarasota areas so if you find a styled shoot thats being held at a venue you really want to shoot at, then this would be a great opportunity to have that venue in your portfolio!
3 : You get a chance to network with amazing wedding vendors and other photographers. This is the main reason why I take part in styled shoots. If you’ve been following me for awhile you know that my husband and I have moved several times over the past few years and each of those moves were big moves (back and forth on each coast of the USA) So every time we have moved I have restarted my business. When you first move somewhere you often don’t know anyone but you need to make connections with other wedding vendors, a styled shoot is a great way to do that! I’ve met some wonderful photographers by going to styled shoots and to this day even years later we are still friends and stay in touch.
4 : You’ll have the chance to get creative. This is a wonderful way and a great excuse to shoot something that you might not usually get to photograph. Taking part in a styled shoots gives you the chance to “think outside the box” and challenge yourself to do something new and original. For example you can experiment with new techniques and ideas that you wouldn’t risk with real clients on their real wedding day.
5 : You can expand and diversify your portfolio by working with and photographing different people of all races, cultures, ethnicities, races, shapes and sizes. I think it’s extremely important to have a wide variety in your portfolio of all kinds of people and from different backgrounds. This is a great way to show that everyone is beautiful in their own way and to feature them on your social media and website.
CONS - The negative side of styled shoots
1 : Styled shoots are not cheap, you can expect to pay anywhere from $75-$350 for a ticket to attend as a photographer. I don’t know about you, but thats a lot of money especially when you’re a small business owner every penny counts!! So you have to really decide if spending that money will reap you any rewards in the future and if it’s worth the investment. I say this because I’ve spent $150 on a ticket before for a styled shoot and I was EXTREMELY disappointed in shoot. It wasn’t at all like the inspiration board and it was very disorganized. So for this reason I am now very cautious about if I choose to attend a styled shoot.
2 : There will be a lot of photographers there. This is probably the number one complaint of most styled shoots, WAY TO MANY “PHOTOGRAPHERS”. I put photographers in quotation marks because a true professional will be kind and considerate of other photographers that have also paid to be apart of a styled shoot. I have been to a few inspirational shoots where there was one or two photographers that gave little to no consideration to others that were in attendance. They either constantly step in front of your shot (and know they are doing this) or they take over posing and don’t allow other photographers to direct the models for a specific pose they want to try. Honestly this is my biggest frustration when it comes to styled shoots. The host of the shoot sells upwards of 20 tickets and so of course there are going to be a lot of people there that want their time with the models. But there is always that one person that just doesn’t care about others around them and ruins it for all of us.
3 : Your images will probably not be published. I don’t say that to be negative or non supportive but it is the honest truth. Many photographers have a misconception that if you have a set of perfectly curated images with lots of details that it will be picked up for publication with no problem. However, it will be very difficult for you to get your photos published with 15 + other photographers are trying to do the same. If just one photographer beats you to the punch with their images being submitted (especially if your editing style is similar) more than likely any other non exclusive blogs or magazines won’t touch it because it’s already been picked up. Each blog and magazine wants fresh content for their blog and social media. So if they see that the shoot as already been shared, published, etc there is no point for them to publish it because it’s no longer authentic or new. I’m not saying that you work isn’t worthy of being published or that it won’t be picked up, I’m just saying it won’t be as easy as you might think.
4 : It can be misleading to bride and grooms. I realize that this kind of contradicts what I said in the beginning about helping you build a portfolio but I’m talking about photographers websites that only feature styled shoots. I think this is extremely misleading and unfair to bride and grooms. Why? Because the timing of a real wedding vrs a styled shoot is one of the biggest differences. Most of the time during a styled shoot you have about 45 minutes with the bride and groom. In a real wedding you might only have 10 minutes and you must to be on your toes and know how to quickly and seamlessly get a large variety of poses and angles. Most real couples have no idea how long it can take you to set up and direct a pose, so I think it’s only fair that you have a combination of real and styled images in your portfolio.
5 : You have the exact same content / set of images as 20 other photographers. A big negative to styled shoots is that there will be at least 15 other photographers there shooting the exact same stuff as you. It is true that every photographer is a little different in how they pose and edit but at the end of the day you will have several other photographers that will have the exact same content (details, models, etc) on their social media and website. So seriously consider if that is something you would be okay with.
6 : Sometimes you don’t get the vendor love in return. This is very disheartening because sometimes you will go out of your way to take very specific shots for vendors for them to use on their social media and the photos never see the light of day. Or if they do share them they don’t credit you as the photographer. It can make you feel like you weren’t appreciated and all that time was wasted.
At the end of the day wedding vendors are artists, and we have an innate desire to create. Being apart of styled shoots gives you a great opportunity spread your creative wings. Inspirational shoots are meant to spark unique ideas so you can try something new and be just that, inspirational. They are not intended to be a carbon copy for a real wedding day.
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