Friday, July 16, 2010

Staged Photo Shoots for Wedding Blogs

There's been some chatter on and offline recently about the abundance of staged photoshoots for wedding blogs. Some see it as a positive: providing inspirational photos to couples planning their weddings. Others see it as losing sight of what the wedding is really about. Many see it as a marketing tool to stay front and center while business is slow.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on the topic here. Join the conversation in the comments below and share your opinion on the wedding blog photo shoot phenomenon.


Chaz said...

It is better to try some outrageous idea with a willing model rather than a client. Setting the bar high and giving brides something to reach for is a good thing, etc.

Katherine said...

As a planner and a blogger, I love the fact that people are getting creative and sharing it, even if it's not an actual event.

As a romantic person, I also see the side of it not being the main point of the wedding. In that regard though, neither are the flowers, the cake, nor any of the extras that typically come along with planning a wedding.

In the end, I think it doesn't hurt the industry. The shoots are actually enhancing it, by getting our own and our clients' creative wheels spinning. I say keep at it!

Janice Carnevale of Bellwether Events said...

Liene, I think it is all of the things you mentioned above. When I don't have many weddings going on, I will do a photo shoot or two to keep building my portfolio, and to keep busy. But it needs to be something really different, something I haven't seen before. I don't want to produce something that looks like everything else.

Photo shoots can be beautiful and inspirational, but I'd say the majority of them (at least 51% that is) are not feasible for an average or even above average wedding budget. And unfortunately when one tries to execute these looks inexpensively, it often comes looking out disjointed and incomplete.

Maybe this is a whole other topic, but I do feel that many of the things I see on blogs (either real weddings or photo shoots) are really redundant. I understand that the ideas showcased aren't redundant to the brides or the wedding guests, who look at far less of these images, and attend far fewer weddings than I do. But I would be fine if there were a few days in a row when I didn't see an Alice in Wonderland concept, an outdoor wedding under a huge tree, succulents, and mustaches on a stick. I would LOVE to see some church weddings, some indoor/urban receptions, maybe even (gasp!) a chair cover. Because these real weddings are also happening every weekend all over the country.

Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this topic!

lucia|paul said...

My opinion (since we recently just did one for a blog) is that it is a great opportunity to provide wedding industry professionals a no holds barred opportunity on the creativity process. Sometimes you are limited on what you can do with a client and what you can't do because of budgets, styles, etc. While that's real life, we all want to show off what we do best. We used our recent experience to allow some the industries finest to particular some that may not typically ever get any credit or exposure at all. I think doing more than 1 or 2 is a little excessive, but why not do one to show your own uniqueness and your creative ability. We should all have a platform to shine on our own terms and provide some inspiration out there.

With that being said, what I do think is important, if you do a photo shoot, make it realistic and use items and props that can be accessible to a potential client...and be honest if you do an over the top design that could costs thousands of dollars. We need to be responsible and educate brides/clients on what things cost so they have realistic expectations.

Also, use the photo shoot as an educational experience. Treat it as a drill and run the numbers just like you would for a client so you do in fact know how much something like that would cost to create...include every element, including the venue, photographer, videographer, etc. Ask yourself, how much would this cost if I were providing this to a client? You just might be asked if someone loves that design and wants you to recreate it for need to be prepared to tell them!

Practice makes perfect and I think that this is a great tool to fine tune your abilities (and I beleive this goes for any industry professional). Any opportunity that I get to "practice" my trade I almost always jump long as it doesn't take me away from my main objective of running a successful business and staying true to myself. It's all about staying educated and on top of your game and in the end.

ralswang said...

I am glad you have put this out to us all. I think blog's and photographer's should be clear about what was taken at a real event and what is staged photo shoots. The lines are getting to blurred between the real and set up. We need to be clear so clients can be inspired by great design idea's and still understand how they will look in the real world

Cathleya said...

I don't see anything wrong with it; no one questions print magazines and their highly styled and stylized shoots. Staged shoots are just one part of wedding blogs, and they are inspirational to many. It's simply taking things one step further---whereas you could simply feature different products and elements of inspiration (like inspiration boards featuring design elements), instead now lots of blogs will have a designer put it all together in a nice setting. There indeed are SO many aspects to planning the wedding---crafting the ceremony, becoming emotionally ready for marriage, bringing your family together, and---yes---decorating the event. I think there are plenty of blogs that touch on all of these parts of wedding planning, even though the "design" aspect is more saturated.

In the end, staged photo shoots should be taken for what they were intended to be---pretty inspiration for brides to take home and make their own.

Khris Cochran said...

I admit that I'm amused that (and perplexed why) this is an issue.

My confusion here is about the "losing site of what the wedding is about" part. I'm not sure how that relates to photos on blogs. Couldn't that be said of of all of the wedding magazines, TV shows, vendor portfolios too? All of them produce "staged" content in one way or another. Why are blogs being singled out here?

And, to be utterly nitpicky, how is a staged shoot any different than a "real" wedding that's been micro-planned and orchestrated to the Nth degree by someone other than the couple? Doesn't that pull away from what a wedding is really about as well?

Readers come to us (bloggers) for inspiration and information. As blogs are a publishing medium, it makes sense to produce one's own content - just like a print publication would do.

Staged photos can provide a great deal of value to one's readers, one's blog, and the greater wedding community. Here's a great opportunity to provide inspiration, showcase the talents of a wide array of artists and vendors, and create tailor-made content that perfectly suits the bloggers' target demographic. I'm not seeing a down side in any of that.

Becka @Studio222 said...

I think it only becomes an issue when a photographer only showcases (or only primarily showcases) images from staged shoots in their blog or portfolio because it's easier to shoot when it's staged and you're in total control of the elements. It's different when it's a wedding and things are going wrong and the lighting is bad, etc.

As far as wedding blogs, I think of them like magazines so I think they should keep showing staged shoots as inspiration, but they should let people know when something is a "real wedding" because brides will be led to believe that all weddings look like staged editorial shoots and that can lead to misplaced expectations and sadness on their wedding day when everything isn't picture perfect.

brooke @ claremont road said...

As a fairly recent bride, one thing I always appreciated about wedding blogs is that the focus was always more on real weddings -- the staged shots were more for the print magazines. While I don't have a problem with a few staged shots on wedding blogs here and there, the abundance of them on some blogs have turned me off -- perhaps because they lack the personal stories and budget realities that most couples face today. They have no "heart," so to speak. Sure, anyone can decorate one table elaborately... but what about 12 tables? How are these ideas actually adaptable to real brides who are planning weddings in a bad economy?

The wedding industry is very good at making brides feel inadequate (and I am not pointing fingers -- I work in the wedding industry, myself!). I just worry that the shift towards featuring more staged photo shoots on blogs than real, live weddings is overshadowing that authenticity of weddings that has come to the forefront with the help of blogs in the last several years.

With all that said -- I do see the benefit of occasional shoots like this for wedding vendors who get to have more creative freedom and show off their skills the way they choose. I just hope that the main focus of some of my favorite blogs remains the real weddings with the interesting stories and real budgets behind them.

Blair said...

We've been discussing this topic at Junebug a lot lately. Some of our readers feel that staged shoots are annoying, but most of them are inspired by the ideas that are captured. We want to be sure that the professionals who create these shoots feel fairly compensated by the coverage they receive. We strongly believe in mutually beneficial relationships, so as long as the artists involved enjoy working together while they create images for their own marketing and portfolios, as well as for our blogs, we're happy to ensure they get great coverage. It's our job to cover the shoot in a way that brides find inspirational and to show all the little details so they can re-create all or part of what they see.

Megan C. said...

I see it being a creative outlet for wedding professionals and inspiration to couples.
However I could do without seeing any more men in bow ties while holding vintage cameras.

Emily Steffen said...

Khris, you bring up an excellent point. Why ARE blogs just singled out here...filp through any recent wedding mag (or lifestyle mag, Mommy mag, food mag, etc) and find many styled shoots.

Not to mention the point that some weddings ARE orchestrated to the Nth degree and what would be the difference here?

I always take the stance that styling shoots is cool for brides to see, but I see it as being extremely helpful for vendors. I have done many myself and I find that the bar has been raised for myself after shooting/styling these events. Not only are others inspired from the decor, creativity and the artistry of some vendors, but I benefit EXTREMELY from these shoots. They allow me to let my hair down, not be boxed in from the style of a clients wedding and get creative with other vendors. THe possibilities are endless and the relationships created in the process are fabulous.

For me, they have been great! :)

Evelyn Clark said...

Wow, well said, everyone...I basically have nothing left to say except that I think those are all very valid points! And, Janice, I really agree with you in regards to your last point about seeing a church wedding and etc. Wonderful insight!

Liene Stevens said...

I wanted to chime in quickly to answer the question as to why I singled out blogs over magazines for this post.

Magazines have always had photo shoots, for blogs, it seems to be a newer trend (within the past 12-18 months). Also, with the ability to publish much more frequently and with the sheer number of blogs vs magazines available, the shoots seem to have taken over the bridal blogosphere.

Also, MOST reputable wedding magazines (most, not all) pay for their photoshoots. They pay the photographers, for product, for stylists to be on set, etc. Some of the items are comped/donated/lended, but they generally pay for time and at the very least reimburse for perishable, not lendable items (such as florals, shipping, etc).

MOST wedding blogs (again, most, not all) do not pay for the shoots produced for them. Some reimburse for hard costs, but many do not.

If a vendor wants to produce a shoot and cover the costs out of their marketing budget, that is their call and a legitimate one, however it is still a different scenario than shoots produced for magazines.

{lauryl} said...

Liene, I have to agree with you that magazine photoshoots and blog photoshoots are completely different. Having worked on dozens of each over the years, I can say in all honesty that they create an equal amount of work. However, magazines pay me, so I'm actually "working." Blogs rely on vendors to finance shoots, so when I design for a blog, I'm not only not being paid, but I'm also losing money by investing in flowers and supplies that have no reusable value.

Someone mentioned that blogs allow unknown vendors to get some exposure. That's great in theory, but the truth of the matter is that it also allows people who aren't trained in their specific wedding industry field to market themselves as experienced vendors. Anyone, including a newlywed bride who now fancies herself a "stylist," can create a lovely tablescape. But does that mean she can design a typical 200-guest wedding? Absolutely not.

So I feel that there upsides but also definite downsides to the current styled shoot trend on blogs. Personally, I spent many years and many dollars getting educated to do what I do, and many more years working for others and learning the trade inside and out before going into business for myself. With the investment I've made to have a career as a wedding/event designer, I don't have the time or the resources to "play" on photoshoots. Working is how I want to spend my time. I'm just lucky that my work is creative and fun. ;-) Hopefully, blogs will eventually join magazines in paying for editorial content!

Meg said...

Here's my take...

I LOVE them. Staged, planned, styled shoots are fun creative outlets for photographers, planners, stylists. etc. and are GREAT resources for general "design concepts" for brides to start from. I don't have an issue with them as a fun way to make a "Dream" shoot come to fruition.

That said, it really bothers me when I see photographers that use images from these styled shoots in their portfolio ... a bride should not look at an album or print hanging on the wall of a bride and groom out in a field, with a huge piano, a horse, a vintage car, and whatever else and be led to think this photographer captured this on the wedding day. (unless it was of course!) It sets unrealistic expectations on them as "models" and us as professionals. A huge part of being a wedding professional is knowing how to think on your toes, go with the flow, deal with disasters the day of a big event - a styled shoot cuts out all of that - I think for us in the wedding industry we understand that- but brides and grooms seeing all of these gorgeous shoots don't.

Just comes back to education- wonderful eye candy but shouldn't be considered realistic.

Honestly though, I would like to see way more real weddings that show moments captured not just details- rather than more styled shoots on blogs, especially this time of year. I understand Dec-April can be slow for real wedding submissions so it makes sense then to supplement reading material w/ inspirational stuff, but now that its mid-July lets show some real work! (and honestly, I can't fathom how anyone has time this time of year to do a huge shoot like that for free?? I wish!) :)

Megan Kocher said...

I met with a bride last week who wanted to know why so many people were suddenly getting married on farms or in barns. She showed me a bunch of pictures she had saved on her computer. They were all staged shoots.

Shoots have their place in terms of freedom of design and offering inspiration, but I do think it is important to be clear that it is not an actual wedding. Sometimes what is shown in a shoot is not practical for a typical bride to carry out on a larger scale.

Michelle said...

I don't work in the wedding industry, I'm just a recent bride who would like to chime in from a non-professional perspective. I can't stand staged wedding shoots on blogs for a variety of reasons. I remember a few months ago there was a "wedding" that make the blog rounds. It was so amazing and perfect and gorgeous. About a week after I saw it, the truth came out that it was a staged shoot. It wasn't a wedding at all. It was just a couple of models and stylists and photographers and designers who wanted to collaborate and do something creative.

I felt lied to. I even felt like my trust was betrayed. If a blog is going to post pictures of a staged wedding, please, please, please let us know that it isn't a real wedding.

Maybe I would be more interested in staged wedding shoots if they didn't all look EXACTLY THE SAME. I understand that certain themes are going to be in trend and certain colors are going to have their moment in the spotlight, but oh dear lordy, if I have to look at another "wedding" that is "Anthrolopogie inspired with vintage accents and wildflowers" I'm going to barf. Lose the milk glass, lose the vintage tins as vases, lose the barns and the twinkle lights and the bicycles and the vintage cars. I want to see a staged, styled wedding shoot that is actually creative. As a recent bride, I would have wanted to see something different and unusual and maybe even a little crazy and unexpected.

If you are going to work on a completely styled wedding shoot, A)make it memorable, and B)let me know that it's a fake wedding.

Melissa Miville said...

I think they're great. They give future brides and grooms ideas on how they would like their wedding to be. They give ideas on dress, makeup, colors, cakes, etc. They help everyone involved in the shoot. I am currently planning a staged shoot for next Sunday. In addition to the photographer I have involved a cake person, makeup artist, linens, venue, and more. My goal then is to put together some inspiration boards to give couples ideas on how they would like their wedding to be.

Heather at Outstanding Occasions said...

Everyone has said it already, but I agree that if the photos are from a staged shoot, the blog should make it clear that they are staged and not a real wedding. This, of course, means that the person submitting the photos also has to make it known that they are photos from a staged shoot. I think the shoots are fine as long as the photographer, designer, planner etc. is not using these staged shoots for their portfolio of real weddings.

Christine Gallagher said...

I am personally over it. I feel like it all looks like the same thing.

Spending 2-3 hours setting up a shoot then 2-3 hours photographing a shoot does not give a TRUE bride a realistic view of what her images and or wedding can be like.

I say feature REAL events and get rid of the vintage, antique cameras, bikes for two, balloons, over done, staged shoots

Ivor Tetteh-Lartey said...

A staged wedding shoot should be classified as such and not create the impression of an actual event. Perhaps they should be labeled as fantasy weddings.
I can understand why it occurs,there is a lot of pressure to constantly produce relevant content for hungry search engines and also develop a portfolio and style. But what is wrong with photographing a real wedding set up before the reception starts. This will have a far higher integrity and gain more value for marketing in terms of venue and location search terms. Indeed I have photographed many actual wedding sets for event planner's portfolio.

Kristen Nichols said...
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weddirazzi said...

This has been a subject of discussion for our team recently. Since we are relatively "new" to the wedding industry, we have been considering doing some set-up shoots in order to showcase our abilities. This is very common in commercial photography where you are always working on your portfolio (our commercial port is constantly being worked on). While that may suit well for the commercial market, which is viewed by editors, art directors, etc, we feel it can be detrimental for the wedding market.

Staged wedding shoots are great for showcasing your talent to the wedding industry publications, tv shows, trade shows, etc... where the emphasis is on perfection, yet highly unrealistic. Although this type of content is great to look at, and at most times inspirational, the wedding market may not connect with the images, and even less with the photographer.

Our market is comprised of real people looking for a personal photography service, mainly weddings, engagements, and portraits. People want to see other real people, in images showing the emotions and situations that were "captured in the moment".

Anyone that considers themselves a professional photographer is capable of creating beautiful staged shoots with the right team, gear, location, and models.

Most people will hire a photographer based on how the images speak to them and how they relate to the subjects in the photos. Weddings are NOT perfect, so a photog must be able to deliver quality images on the fly, with minimal amount of time and resources.

Some of the best wedding photos are unstaged and void of perfection... and we thrive on the imperfections!

LaKendra Kennedy said...

I don't understand what the big deal is. Didn't the event planner design the tablescape (including linen, chairs, china, theme, color palette, etc)? Didn't the photographer still take awesome photos of the staged shoot? Didn't the florist still create the gorgeous centerpiece(s)? Didn't the stationer design all of the paper goods to perfectly coordinate with all the other design elements?

I don't see anything wrong with each of these vendors including photos of the shoot in their portfolio. After all, they did do the work therefore they are showcasing their skills.

I agree with others on 2 points. One, if you are going to do staged photo shoots then at least create a shoot that is both creative and inspirational. I don't see the point of doing what has already been done over and over and over again. And two, the shoots should be referenced as such on the blogs that post/publish them and by the vendor showing them in their portfolio.

Courtney said...

I don't mind styled shoots on the blogs but they really need to say it clearly that it is not a wedding!!! People don't read the text they read the title and look at the pictures.
Inspiration is inspiration, but realistically it can be a bit overwhelming for a bride, and to us photographers. As expectations are skewed. :)

As a photographer we are lucky if we can get 10 minutes to photograph details at the reception before guests have taken all the escort cards or destroyed (or actually and more importantly ENJOYED) the table with their coats, drinks, purses etc.. Most wedding timelines don't allow for all those details. And as much as we plan and try to do cute pics of brides holding their stationery or some cute something, Most of our brides being real people want to enjoy the party they planned for over a year not stand in the corner as they hold various decorative items.
Lately a lot of our brides can't stand these shoots because it makes them feel completely overwhelmed about planning all these tiny details. Which looks great if you only have to make them(or pay to have them made) for a table of 6 but times that by 15 tables and it is a lot of work and money. plus if they are already in the final stages of planning it makes them doubt their decisions already made.

It also puts a ridiculous level of expectation on the photography in a situation that just doesn't allow for it. For example we can't make a reception table look like it is in perfect open shaded light at the magic hour around sunset when in fact it is in high sun at a lunch wedding where the tables are in harsh sunlight, we do our best and may bracket and do a bunch of work in post but still is way different.
The time of day makes a huge difference but most all weddings can't be planned around the perfect light and times. Sure on an inspiration shoot we could set up a 12 foot silk over the table to shade it to give it a perfect light but at a wedding you can't. Anyways on a wedding day we'd rather photograph the couple in the perfect light not the table. :)

The inspiration shoots should be used to express the quality of planning, the difference of light during the day and how it can effect the photos and staging areas, and the importance of smooth timelines...

What is more important?? Are you going to frame a pic of your table or a charming honest photo of yourselves on your wedding day. I choose the latter. :)

Alexandra said...

Yes I was the one that said "we are losing focus on what the wedding is all about". The wedding is about two people that are in love and decided to unite in marriage. Unfortunately, models (no matter how beautiful they are) can't recreate that. I much rather see a real wedding in a venue were my future clients will get married. It gives my client's a better idea on the lighting, the layout of the space and one of the many possibilities. In a perfect world we would give a photographer two hours to go crazy taking pictures before the guests sit down for dinner or enter the venue. But as many have pointed out in the comments, there is really no time for that when you are in the middle of a wedding, nor trying to find the right light. As a planner on the day of a wedding my job is not to be asking the photographer to be taking pictures of all the details. If the photographer can do this and time allows then that's great. However, my job is to make my clients happy and execute the wedding as we planned it. If I wanted pictures of the details of their wedding I would just hire a separate photographer to do that for my portfolio.

I applaud all the staged shoots many blogs do to showcase their work and creativity. They take a lot of time, energy and money. When you do these ask yourself "how can my readers get inspired by this shoot?", "Is this cost effective to do in 15 or more tables"?, "Is this a quick setup?" and last but not least " Will Grandma have a heart attack after she realizes her grandaughter's wedding centerpieces are dandelions, old boxes and she's sitting in a wooden bench for two hours for dinner?"

In conclusion, the florals, the food, the big band, the designer's all icing on a very nice cake. Don't lose focus what a wedding is all about.

Ariel said...

I can only offer my perspective as a wedding blogger and say that, on Offbeat Bride, we don't ever feature fashion shoots, non-wedding day bridal shoots like Trash The Dress, or even engagement shoots. I like to keep the blog focused on photography from actual weddings. I already have more amazing weddings submitted than I have the space/time to blog about -- I just don't have the time for non-wedding photos. Plus, anyone can play dress up -- I'm much more interested in how real brides expressing themselves on their wedding days.

Andria of Andria Lewis Events said...

Has anyone noticed that planners and photographers are the main ones defending this medium? And that brides and non-wedding industry people find these shoots annoying, fake and something that doesn't speak to them? That should be taken in.

Those of us in the industry have our reasons. I think mostly it is to gain exposure and get published when your weddings can't. I'm in that boat. My market is in the South and most of my brides are Black. We all know how many Black weddings we see published, but I digress. What I'm saying is that some of us HAVE to do this to show that, YES, we really do have talent. I just think that some planner/designers need to slow it down a bit. Some of us seem to plan more shoots than weddings. If the shoots are producing revenue, then so be it. But, I would wager that they're not.

Amber Events said...

My only issue is with blogs that don't say that this is a staged shoot, and "event designers" who are booking jobs from their staged shoots, yet are not nearly seasoned enough to handle what comes down the pipeline on a real wedding day. Yet, again, I have to prove myself to every new venue as a professional because people before me give us a bad name.

On a side note, in my opinion: the people who are cranking out multiple staged shoots in a year don't have much work that they're getting paid for. I'd rather pay my bills than be on a blog for a day. But to each their own.

Rose said...

I agree with Amber Events. A pretty photo is inspiring but only requires a creative eye and the ability to style a photo shoot. It takes so much more to be a great event planner or wedding photographer. It takes years of practical experience... I've been at this 10 years and I still learn something on each event. A good wedding photographer knows how to capture all the special moments of a wedding day as they happen without being obtrusive. And for “designers” or planners… can the person who styled that scene pull off the same look at a real wedding for 150-200 people? And can they create an experience that translates the mood of that pretty picture to an ambiance for guests? Will those guests be comfortable? well fed? graciously served? Entertained? Come away feeling like they have experienced a great party? Or will they wait endlessly for food or stand in the dark for 25 minutes waiting for a ride back to the parking lot? One bad experience like that will take away any memory of a cute escort display...

I think my greatest concern with these shoots being featured on blogs is that brides look to these blogs for more than inspiration. They are also looking for practical guidance and sometimes for vendor referrals. A vendor's presence on a blog implies that they are credible or experienced on events when it might only mean they are skilled at marketing themselves. I know of one newbie planner who has been in business for 6 months but has already had shoots featured in 3 of the major wedding blogs. If they are going to feature these shoots, maybe bloggers should go the extra mile and make sure the people submitting actually have some credentials. Otherwise go with a beautiful real wedding feature where they can speak all involved and find out how the wedding really went.

Valerie said...

I think just like anything, there is a need for balance and moderation.

As a wedding planner, I have done two shoots and...
1. Personally loved the experience of the actual shoot day. Working with other creative vendors, seeing their own personalities and talents shine through was inspiring. There are always limitations when working with clients but here there are none. BUT we must do things that are realistic to what brides can do.
2. I live in South Louisiana and weddings here are still very traditional and very "Well I saw this at my friends wedding and I want to do it." The goal with the photo shoots has been to get brides thinking about how to create their wedding to reflect THEM. BUT photo shoots must not become a "how to" but simply a way to get their creative juices flowing and show them all the possibilities.
3. There is an expert in the wedding industry who says, mirror the clients you want. If I have a portfolio of traditional weddings but am gearing my business to brides looking for more event design rather than planning, I have to show them I am actually capable of that. BUT it should be clear that these are photo shoots and not real weddings.

As a bride (getting married 09.25!)
1. Wedding blogs have become overly saturated in general (slightly off subject!) Everything starts to run together. I don't even try to keep up with blogs that post more than once a day anymore. Although the idea to inspire brides is great, for myself and many of my clients, the problem isn't not having ideas, it's having too many and figuring out how to filter them.
2. Weddings ideas are becoming obsolete much faster today like a hit song that's been played to death on the radio. There are so many great ideas no one will want to touch because they've been blogged to death. Even some ideas I thought of doing only 4 months ago, I'm sick of myself because they are everywhere.
3. I had to take a wedding planning sabbatical ( this week which included no looking at wedding inspiration blogs because although inspiration is great, it can't be everything. I can't get lost in the frills and lose sight of the big day

As a wedding blogger
1. It's so nice to hear when a shoot you have featured was exactly what a bride needed to see to create her vision.
2. Your blog post as well as the comments have given me so much to think about. It may be time to simplify my own blog.
Thank you!

Brandi Thompson said...

I am pretty over it, at this point. At first I was like.. oh that's interesting, but when STAGED, or as I think of them, fake weddings, are the bulk of what you post (and this goes for many wedding inspiration blogs too) it's too much. Not to mention so many of them feature the same elements. I always like to see real weddings versus staged shoots. I feel blessed because my clients always provide a lot of interesting variety, so I don't feel the need to hold a staged shoot.

Amy Nichols Special Events said...

I am so glad Liene brought up this topic -- and I agree with many of the things above. Here's my two cents....

1. Not everyone is disclosing that these are "inspirational" - let's try to make that an industry standard! Professionals should clearly disclose on their own sites and when meeting w/ clients that these shoots are not actual weddings. I have a new term for them: Faux-to Shoots!

2. I agreed w/ the point that someone who could have NO experience as a planner can easily "promote" their business by creating and submitting shoots to blogs, without having enough practical, hands-on experience. I understand though why people are wanting to show their potential.

3. Many shoots are completely unrealistic -- I saw a beautiful one yesterday that had the ceremony aisle lined with tons of low vases with candles. This is a huge fire issue and no venue would allow something like this.

4. I am a little less opposed to the shoots that are limited to still life/tablescapes. I think the ones w/ models have just gotten to be too much.

5. I really truly prefer seeing real weddings because you know that the details and things that the couple chose are special to them - and are part of their story.

1. What is great about an inspirational shoot (and I haven't done one for a wedding) is it does allow you to take an idea and "go for it" from an artistic point of view. That said, I think what you create should be realistic in a real wedding setting. I am actually doing an inspirational shoot tomorrow for a kid's birthday party. I got an idea and just wanted to see it come to life.

2. Inspirational shoots are just that - inspirational. I have of course seen details or florals that I love, and I'm grateful for that inspirational. In general I feel like they've gotten WAY TOO themey though.

3. We have to keep in mind as professionals we probably are reading/seeing WAY MORE than the average bride, so we probably need to take it with a grain of salt. What's old to us is new to a newly engaged bride.

On a bit of an unrelated, but similar topic - I am personally a little tired of the engagement shoots getting posted everywhere. I feel like they've gotten too theme-y. I understand wanting to do something fun and to have pix of you and your man, but they've gotten to be too much. As a planner, I think the biggest advantage is for the photographer to get to know you better, to see how you photograph so they can do a fantastic job on your wedding. When you're dressed up like a flapper, riding a bike, it seems more about the props and less about the relationship with you and your photographer.

I love this debate and am so glad to see people sharing their opinions. Thanks Liene, for providing the opportunity!

Amy Nichols Special Events said...
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Laura Stone said...

I am a photographer with a steady base of clients who typically do not think far outside the box. So no matter how emotional the event is or how beautiful the photographs are, if the details aren't remarkable it's not going to get picked up for publication. My solution to stretch for clients who are a bit more creative has been to add a few stylish elements to my engagement sessions, where I have some control. So far this has been inspiring and adds to my style. In short, I just want to shoot weddings that have more unique and thoughtful details, and still capture the emotion of the couple and their families. I think of this as "style and substance". If I don't personally introduce some styled elements to my shoots, I feel it's unlikely the clients to whom this appeals will hire me. People buy what they see.

However, in my opinion certain themes are entirely too frequent and I'm careful not to let the new minimal style elements overtake why I shoot pictures- to record an authentic story.

Paige said...

I think in general we as professionals and couples are being bombarded with staged photoshoots. And truthfully they are all starting to look the same. Which is causing many blogs to loose their unique voice and look.

The real eyecandy is from real weddings, capturing real emotions from the day. We are so focused on the details of what surrounds a wedding that we have lost site of what is really important, the two people making a committment to one another. A celebration of their life's journey.

Maybe I am a little old fashion, but if you take away all the little details from your staged photoshoots what do you have at the end of the day? But if you take all the details away from a real wedding what do you have?

Carla Gonzalez-Chong said...

As a recent bride, I honestly think this debate is the equivalent to comparing an actor "acting" for a movie versus "acting" for theater. Or like if a singer that is recording in studio is less credible then singing live. Both, in the studio and on the set they have all the time in the world to do their best, be creative and shine, and doing it "live" is slightly different, but not by much.

So why get so angry and judgemental about styled shoots? I don't see anything wrong with it. It helps the entire industry and provides inspiration for brides to be. Yes, they are fake, or unrealistic, but they still show off all the abilities of those involved in the shoot. Bridal magazines show off shoots with models, and reality tv shows are also over the top, and clearly "scripted".

Blogs and online publications and people involve in the wedding business have to figure out a way to attract clients, and by setting up styled shoots they get to build their portfolio. Again, graphic designers and architects do it too... It is part of the creative process, to practice and have fun!

Most real wedding shoots I saw while planning mine were very simple and "traditional" while style the "non-real" shoots that I've seen are like a "call-to-action" for couples to put into the wedding their personalities.

Holly Chapple said...

I have been a wedding and event floral designer for 18 years. The last 18 months have been the most inspired and creative time in my artistic career. I totally contribute my new found passion not only to my interest in photo shoots but my love of blogs and blogging. In the past I preformed exactly as my clients asked; today, with photo shoots and my personal blog, I want to create for creation’s sake. I am able to take a concept and totally bring it to life. I am able to show my talents as not only a florist but also as a designer. I develop relationships with all of the vendors involved at the shoot, and I own something. So many times I have provided beautiful floral designs to an event only to find that every other detail is lacking and that the photographer is not qualified. Yes, my client was happy, and that of course is always my goal, but my art is perishable, and when I deliver my lovely work, I want to see it captured in a way that is worthy of my creation. If I can plan a shoot and have a photographer I trust record the look, then I am creating something that can be enjoyed, used, and published forever.

I am thankful, thankful, thankful, that the top weddings blogs are publishing these photo shoots. I do fully believe whole heartedly that the blogs should not bill the shoots as real weddings but call them photo shoots or inspirations. I promise you not only do these photo shoots or inspiration shoots make me thrive and flourish as a designer, they are also helping the bride to visualize and style her day. I am a mom with 7 kids and I understand budget better than most people, but quite frankly if you do have the money for all of these lovely little details, it is fabulous to be able to find them so easily and conveniently on the top wedding blogs.

Also don't be fooled: a many a "real wedding" has a few extra details that are staged to make the "real wedding" a little more worthy of submission either in a magazine or for a blog. I think they call that the money shot!! I have not personally done this, but I know of several professionals that do this to get their work published. A few extra props, confections, or paper, brought along by the planner, designer, photographer or bride just to push a normal lovely wedding over to the OMG wedding.

I believe it is our job as designers to bring new looks to the editors of magazines and blogs. These shoots are expensive for the person styling them, but they are money well spent because they are the best form of advertisement, and at the end you have a tangible, beautiful good that you can cherish and share all over the world wide web. In addition to my new found love of my career, I see a new light in my clients’ eyes; they are thinking and creating as well. The more they know, the more they see, the more they may want to purchase and buy from us. Showing merchandise that is available for sale is no more wrong than Anthropologie hanging clothes on the rack. This is a win, win situation. One that has put me back at the top of my game. The designs I have made for shoots are now my most sought after designs. Instead of a bride bringing me the picture of a Martha Stewart design she wants me to recreate she is bringing me my Holly Heider Chapple bouquet that she saw on one of the top wedding blogs. The little props I have featured in a shoot are now requested and rented items. Every photo shoot I have done has paid off 100 percent, either by an increase in sales, a renewed belief in my talents as a full fledged event designer, or by payment as well--yes I have actually been paid in dollars for my work on photo shoots. I love them...

Erica OBrien Cake Design said...

I actually wrote a whole post about this very question. You can find it here:

Yelena - The Stylish Soiree said...

Personally I love seeing styled shoots, as long as it's made clear on the blogs that they are not a real wedding.

For me, it all started with one styled shoot that would show how my love and background in fashion can inspire a wedding design. After that one was published, lots of my photographer friends wanted me to style a shoot with them too, and now I have done a handful of them. Collaborating and working together with talented people is such a fun part of this industry, and for me it's one of the few times I get to see my favorite design ideas come to life.

When designing for a client, I take their particular tastes, backgrounds, styles, guilty pleasures, budget and their venue into consideration to create an event or wedding that is all about them.

When designing for a shoot, I get to be as creative as possible and feel that the design wholly reflects my own personal aesthetic. This has helped new clients who have a similar aesthetic find me, which I just love.

Not everyone has enough time in their year for styled shoots on top of paid events, but I choose to only book 15 full service events a year so I have time to dedicate to each client individually, have a life and still have time for creative inspiration and exploration. What I love most about designing events is the creative aspect. The shoots help exercise my creativity and refresh my own inspirations, which I feel makes me a better planner for my paying clients.

Anonymous said...

I'm so grateful to Liene that this subject is being addressed. I have felt so conflicted and concerned about this issue for awhile now.

I work with many different planners and designers - in my role, I am essentially endorsing them so I'm extremely careful and selective about who I will allow on what I will call my "List". If they are really new, haven't developed any vendor relationships, don't know the area, and don't have at least a few major events on their resumes I ask them to kindly contact us again when they do. I try to be very encouraging, offer suggestions and give feedback as well.

Recently I have noticed that many of the brand new Planners, that I have not felt comfortable recommending yet, have gone from unknown to fully-booked, via savvy blogging and strategic use of staged photo shoots. While I applaud their resourcefulness, I can't help but find it somewhat disconcerting for the client.

I think that photo shoots are a wonderful creative outlet in slow times. I find them inspiring, eye-candy and love looking at them when done well. I would caution brides to continue to do their homework when hiring vendors, because a few good photo shoots do not make a great wedding planner!

Kristy@RiceInk said...

We are artists and our clients hire us because we can express their story in a meaningful and often times visual manner. The ability to translate a client's vision into a tangible and memorable wedding day reality requires confidence, experimentation and creative exercise. Staged shoots satisfy a sense of "play" that any artist needs to excel in their craft.

While I agree that done-before themed shoots are becoming exhausting I disagree that shoots are altogether misleading or unsubstantial at their core.

Bloggers and designers have a mutual responsibility to communicate the origins of the shoot and spin the story to provide Bride readers with useful fodder for their own day as pretty -for-pretty's sake eye candy can only go so far in real wedding planning.

Khris Cochran said...

I'm so glad I came back to read the replies. There is wonderful feedback and well-stated opinions here. Love, love, love the dialogue!

The big concern seems to not to be that the photos are staged but that the staged photos are being passed off as a real event. I wasn't really aware that was happening. I can understand how couples and vendors would be angry or disappointed at being mislead.

I still believe that staged shots, if presented as such, can be a hugely positive thing for vendors, publishers, and brides + grooms.

saundra, event engineer said...

I've never done a staged shoot, don't know that it is on my radar to do one. My blog is more practical and frankly, I use mostly photos of real weddings that we have planned.

I have never created or posted an inspiration board.

However, we sell full design/decor to our planning clients. I would imagine doing staged shoots is like flexing your artistic muscle ... like a painter with a blank canvas. It's fulfilling and creative.

I don't find that they are diminishing what the wedding is "really about" as someone mentioned above. They aren't practical. So what?

Because honestly, if you want to get that focused.... all you need for a wedding is an officiant, bride, groom and a witness. You don't need ANY of us.

Lauren @ Every Last Detail said...

Wow, so many comments! I'm a little late, but I'll put in my two cents anyways. :) As a blogger, a recent bride, and a planner, I see so many different sides to staged shoots.

As a blogger, I love staged shoots. But I only love shoots that showcase innovative details and realistic looks. Ghost chairs, loads of peonies, and $500 linens aren't going to make the cut. I've actually started a series for my own blog for photographers and vendors to create inspiration shoots styled around a "Style Dictionary" word, keeping everything easily replicable for brides and staying true to the TRUE definition of the word.

On a planner's viewpoint, I love them and I hate them. Too many shoots aren't realistic for brides to be able to replicate, and then they're disappointed when they can't have what they envision for their wedding. On the other hand, they're great for presenting fresh, new ideas to brides. Doing styled shoots for myself an industry professional is incredibly important, mostly to showcase new ideas that I have so brides can see new trends better, and hopefully not just replicate the same wedding that has been going around the magazines for the past year.

Ultimately, I love them. If they're showing something that is completely realistic and doable for brides, they're perfect! Let's stick to realistic designs vendors! :)