Today, we’re posting something a little different and are spitting some TRUTH about styled shoots. In the past decade or so, these staged photo shoots that mimic a real wedding have become increasingly popular. But with that increased popularity has come a whole lot of misunderstanding. A few weeks ago, we polled the Burgh Brides Instagram followers to get an idea of how YOU felt about seeing styled shoots featured on blogs. Boy, did you speak up! From saying they set unattainable expectations for couples to assuming every detail is out of budget, your thoughts on styled shoots were made clear. However, what was also made clear is that there are several myths and misconceptions out there. While we don’t aim to change the minds of those who aren’t a fan of this type of wedding blog content, we do hope to further educate our readers who do enjoy seeing a beautifully styled shoot from time to time. So here goes!
They aren’t meant to be realistic…
The content you’ll find on Burgh Brides is written in a very specific style. We’re honest over here. We aren’t afraid to (politely) remind our readers that their wedding isn’t the only one their vendors are working on, and we don’t tip toe around the fact that it’s YOUR day and we think you should do whatever the heck you want, parents’ and family members’ opinions be damned. We tell you like it is and we keep it real; we think it’s one of the reasons our content has resonated with so many of you. But there is one type of content that isn’t meant to be real, and that is styled shoot features.
If you want to see what other Pittsburgh couples have done or what your chosen venue looks like on an actual wedding day, visit the real Pittsburgh weddings section of our site. But that isn’t the purpose of a styled shoot.
Styled shoots are intended to be aspirational, not realistic.
They are the wedding blog equivalent of a magazine editorial photo shoot with the goal of communicating a story, embellishing a visual theme, or illustrating an idea. Have you ever opened up a copy of Vogue, seen the fashion, and thought to yourself, “Oh, yes, I’d definitely walk down the streets of Pittsburgh wearing THAT”? Of course not, because it’s meant to be art, not reality.
And much like the haute couture pieces seen on runways and in the pages of high fashion magazines has a way of determining the selection at your local Macy’s, styled shoots have a trickle down, influential effect on wedding trends. They’re often imitated but never duplicated.
But that’s ok; they aren’t meant to be duplicated. They’re meant to inspire! Take aspects of a styled shoot and put your own spin on them. Make them work for you and your wedding style, venue, color scheme, and budget. Trust us…you’ll be much happier with the results anyways.
But that doesn’t mean the emotions are always “fake” though.
One of the absolute best things about a real wedding is the emotion felt by the couple and their families. Some of the most moving wedding photos we’ve had the pleasure of viewing capture raw, authentic, pure happiness, joy, bittersweetness, excitement, nervousness, or whatever other feeling the subject has been overcome with in that exact moment. Emotions are what make weddings so incredibly special, and it’s one reason styled shoots have trouble winning over some hearts.
It’s true that often times professional or amateur models are used as stand ins for brides, grooms, or even bridal party members in styled shoots. But this isn’t always the case! While some photographers prefer to work with experienced models who know how to move their bodies, angle their faces, and replicate real emotions, other photographers will choose a real couple any day! Many of the styled shoots you see on wedding blogs include a bona fide, living and breathing couple whose chemistry is just as real as they are. Because it can be difficult for models to truly capture the essence of what makes two people so connected, real couples are sometimes used. It might mean a bit more coaching and posing on the photographer’s part, but it also leads to genuine emotions and uninhibited chemistry. So, while the rest of a styled shoot might be contrived with expertly placed details and perfectly positioned everything, the emotions you’re seeing on the “models’” faces just might be as real as it gets.
They’re often quite costly to produce…
Let’s be honest…weddings are expensive AF. Much of the stress attributed to planning a wedding stems from unrealistic or misinformed expectations when it comes to common wedding expenses. Because unless you are a member of the Kardashian clan, you likely have some kind of wedding budget. Be it small or large, there is a set amount of money that you have to work, and there’s no shame in that. But in the same way that weddings can burn a hole right in your pocket, styled shoots can do the exact same thing to the vendors producing them.
One of the major gripes many brides seem to have with styled shoots is the idea that they appear to be completely out of budget for most couples. With extravagant details, lush florals, and a couture gown, it’s easy to make this assumption. What you should not assume, however, is that they don’t also come with a pretty price tag for anyone contributing to them.
Yes, most vendors participate in styled shoots at no charge, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t costing them in valuable time, products, or services.
Some – especially those with hard goods that cannot be resold or reused, like a florist or cake baker – end up sinking thousands of dollars into a styled shoot. Others spend hours upon hours designing, crafting, executing, editing, or a myriad of other tasks related to the production, and time is money.
So, while it might appear to be “free” for vendors to participate in styled shoots – thereby, making them unrealistic for couples since they have a wedding budget to contend with – please know that this is far from the case.
But it could be REALLY hard to estimate actual costs to a client.
Some of you have suggested that, when featuring styled shoots, wedding blogs such as Burgh Brides should include estimated costs of reproducing certain details of a styled shoot for a real wedding. In other words, saying something like, “If you love the invitation suite featured in this styled shoot, you can get it from XYZ Design for $(insert projected cost here).” You believe this will give readers a more realistic viewpoint of the shoot, and whether or not certain aspects of it even fit into their wedding budget. While that’s a great idea in theory, unfortunately, it isn’t very practical.
Think back to when you were researching and hiring wedding vendors. Many vendors have very explicit packages. Your photographer charges a certain amount for a set number of hours; the makeup artist has a set price for each bridesmaid; most DJ packages are based on the length of time playing at the reception; etc. In many cases, even these can be a bit fluid. On the other hand, other vendors base their pricing on various factors. The type of flowers and even the season will impact your florist’s total; the cost of your cake will be based on the size, as well as the intricacy of the design; paper choice, printing options, embellishments, and total number printed are all things that will affect your stationery cost; etc.
As you can see, estimating actual costs of styled shoot details isn’t always as cut and dry as it might seem.
Weddings are SO personal, and what it takes to execute them – including the costs – is as well. Perhaps more importantly though, we don’t think you should ever hire a vendor or purchase a product based on price alone. While price will of course play a factor, we don’t think it should be the only determinant. Consider things like style, experience, personality, and overall cohesiveness with the rest of your wedding day. For more tips on what to consider when hiring your wedding vendors, review this old post!
In many cases, they serve a higher purpose…
If you know anything about marketing, you know it’s a marathon not a sprint. Even if someone is completely booked with clients for the next year, that doesn’t mean they can stop thinking about booking new clients for thereafter. It’s the same for wedding vendors; even if their current season is booked solid, they’re already thinking ahead to filling up the season after that. Creating future business for themselves is a HUGE driving force in much of what they do…but it isn’t the only motivator.
Wedding vendors are artists, and just like most artists, some of them have an innate drive to create. Styled shoots give them the opportunity to do just that.
While vendors love serving their clients, they’re often at the mercy of them – their style, budget, and even parents’ opinions. Styled shoots afford them the chance to make magic that is limited only by their own imagination.
Whether it’s the chance to create something fresh, an opportunity to work with new vendors, or just additional photographic material to add to their portfolios, there are all sorts of reasons professionals participate in or benefit from a styled shoot. While it might seem like real couples are (or should be) the intended benefactors of a styled shoot, often times vendors don’t produce a shoot with brides or grooms in mind. Yes, that’s right, styled shoots aren’t always for YOU, the person reading this. Sometimes, they’re for the vendors themselves.
So, use them as inspiration, not a blueprint.
Remember…inspiration, not replication. If you keep this mantra in the back of your head while viewing a styled shoot feature, you’ll be just fine.
Styled shoots are meant to spark ideas, drum up creativity, and be a reference point; they are not intended to be a blueprint for a realistic wedding day.
Just like with Pinterest or Instagram, these shoots are a tool that can be used in the wedding planning process, from researching upcoming trends to being inspired to finding vendors to hire. But just like with the social media platforms, it’s really easy to fall into the FOMO trap quickly.
When looking at a styled shoot feature, try not to play the comparison game. Think “How can I make this idea work for ME and MY budget” or “That’s cool but I’d do it THIS way instead,” rather than feeling self-doubt or like your wedding will never live up to the arbitrary “standards” of a styled shoot.
Don’t compare your wedding to something that was never meant to be realistic in the first place!
Your love story is as unique as you are, and you deserve a wedding day just as personal. Your celebration should be a reflection of the two lives being joined together and everything that brought you to that day, not a regurgitation of whatever The Knot, Pinterest – and yes, even a styled shoot – is saying is cool at the moment.
Have we debunked any styled shoot myths for you? Did we change your opinion of them at all? We’re happy to answer any questions or clear up any misconceptions about styled shoots you might have. Leave us a comment below or DM us on Instagram! We’d love to hear your thoughts!