Every few years we go through trends in wedding photography. The latest trend seems to be stylized photo shoots. Though stylized photo shoots are gorgeous and ripe with portfolio-worthy images, could they be hurting the industry?   

If you’re not familiar with the idea of a stylized photo shoot, or stylized session, it’s when one or more photographers partner with other vendors like florists, cake designers, dress companies, and jewelers to put together a decadent photo session, usually a mock wedding or elopement, to create portfolio images for all vendors involved. Ordinarily stylized photoshoots are ripe with gorgeous details that wedding publications eat up to display to their audiences.

I have been a part of a handful of stylized photo sessions and have walked away with great images. I also have many friends who are great photographers that arrange stylized photo shoots throughout the year for other photographers to grow their portfolios. However, as I assess the state of the wedding photo industry I’ve often wondered if stylized sessions, in the long-run, are setting our industry up for failure.

Stylized Sessions Set the Wrong Expectations

For brides-to-be, the internet is the go-to place to find wedding information and inspiration. Brides seek out wedding-related publications to find inspiration for their wedding and often stumble upon stylized sessions. Unfortunately, it is not often apparent or stated that photos come from a stylized session and therefore can set the wrong expectation with future brides as to what is and is not realistic for their wedding day and budget. Most of the details provided to photographers for stylized shoots are donated by vendors who want to display their best products and services in the hopes that they’ll receive future business from the photos that come out of the stylized sessions. Because of this, brides may be misled as to what is actually doable for their wedding.

pink wedding table decor

Stylized photoshoots often include expensive and abundant details. A double-edged sword, stylized photoshoots give inspiration while also setting the wrong expectations for photographers and brides alike. Photo by Ibrahim Asad via Pexels.

As I mentioned earlier, one of the benefits of a stylized session is the fact that vendors provide some incredibly gorgeous details to photographers to be photographed. For wedding-related publications, details are extremely appealing as their readers are often seeking ideas for details for their wedding. But as any wedding photographer knows, great and abundant details aren’t always available during a real wedding, and less often available for a real elopement. This makes it hard for photographers with real weddings and elopements that they want to get showcased in wedding-related publications because those same publications are more prone to featuring stylized sessions with all the dreamy details included. Luckily, some wedding-related publications make a distinction between stylized sessions and real weddings, but the standards are being changed by stylized sessions, making it even harder for real weddings with real budgets to get featured.

Stylized Weddings Don’t Prepare Photographers for Real Weddings

For photographers who are aspiring wedding photographers, a stylized photo shoot is an understandably appealing option for growing their portfolio with gorgeous photos. Sadly, though, stylized sessions will only give photographers experience with lighting, posing, and composition, they will not prepare a photographer for the struggles and unique challenges of a real wedding day. And because of this, potential couples may be hiring photographers that are much more inexperienced than their portfolios make them appear. 

I’m not staunchly opposed to stylized sessions, but I do wonder if the growing trend will either elevate the industry or put us back a few steps. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. 

Lead image by Leah Kelley via Pexels.