What Constitutes the Art of Wedding Photography? Real Weddings vs. Styled Shoots vs. Commercial Shoots Join the Conversation!

January 17, 2011 | christy

Today were taking a big detour from our normal editorial content to address a topic close to hearts of many in the wedding world What exactly constitutes the art of wedding photography and where do the various sources of images fit within editorial, personal and professional use? As with most industries, wedding photography has changed greatly within the past decade, and commercial shoots and shoots that occur outside of the actual wedding day have grown vigorously over the last couple of years and they have been a hot topic on the minds of wedding bloggers, wedding professionals and wedding photographers alike, all with different opinions about their merits and appropriate use. What we’ve learned in our many conversations on the topic is that, just like in all aspects of life, there are as many opinions and perspectives as there are people in the conversation.

Saturday we received an anonymous e-mail through the contact form on our website criticizing us for including non real wedding images in our 2010 Best of the Best photo collection and threatening action if we do not remove a particular image taken as part of a commercial shoot from it. Here is the e-mail, minus two sentences in the middle:

“I am not sure if you are aware or will even care. Unfortunately , many photographers are now misleading brides with images taken from corporate or commercial shoots. There is nothing wrong with them using their images but misleading wedding blogs and brides I think is horrible and its getting worse. [Two sentences removed here because they contain information specific to the photographer and image being referenced and we do not think its relevant to the conversation]. I would hope that this would concern you and you would remove it from the best of wedding photography. I would hope that only images created for brides would make it this list. I hope you do this on your own accord if, I dont see anything happen there are a few of us that will start a campaign outlining images like this.” from [email protected]

While we’re not going to remove any images from this years collection, we will tell you our thoughts on the topic and how we arrived at the decisions we did regarding non wedding day images in The Best of the Best 2010. After we made our call for submissions for the 2010 photo collection and began seeing images pouring in from around the world, we recognized that there were some photos that seemed to be from shoots that did not occur on a wedding day, whether a styled shoot, commercial shoot, engagement shoot, bridal portrait shoot, or other. Because we did not call out any requirements for or against these kinds of images on our call for submissions page and because there was simply no way for us to know the context of each of the thousands of photos coming in, we decided that this year we would do as we had stated and choose photos simply based on merit, then really look into how and if we should reorganize the structure of submissions for 2011. It’s as simple as that. We did not feel that phtoographers were trying to mislead us, but assumed that if they submitted these images, they considered them legitimate wedding photography. Perhaps we should have addressed it this year, or perhaps not, but we didn’t and so we stood by what we did ask for. As far as we know there are at least 2 images in the Best of the Best 2010 collection that happened during non-wedding day shoots – one that seemed obvious to us but we chose anyway for its beauty and quality, and one that we learned about after the collection was published. There may be even more, but we stand by every beautiful photo and the photographers who worked hard to create them, and we are honored to get to share them with our audience.

We’re a very collaborative bunch here at Junebug, and we welcome discussions like this. We love that being part of an always-evolving industry constantly challenges us to evolve along with it in the most creative, thoughtful and positive way we can. Since this blog is read by a combination of photographers, photo-lovers and engaged couples planning their weddings, we thought that the best way to continue this conversation would be to simply open it up and welcome everyone’s opinions here.

So tell us your perspective, we’d love to hear about your personal experience. There are a million different places to start, but here are a few questions to get the juices flowing

Brides and Grooms – Do you enjoy seeing images from photo shoots on wedding blogs? Do they spark inspiration for your own wedding day or do they leave you feeling frustrated that what is shown is not possible with your budget or local resources? Do you feel like you are aware of when shoots are from real weddings or when they are an editorial or commercial creation? Do you see too many out there, or not enough?

Bloggers and Publishers – What is some of the feedback you’ve heard from your own readers, peers and professional collaborators? Do you like to publish styled or commercial shoots, or do you steer clear of them? Do you explain the circumstances in which all of your imagery was created? Do you create original editorial content for your publication and do you treat it differently than content from real weddings?

Photographers – Do you participate in creative styled shoots? If not, why not? If you do, tell us why and what value they bring to you professionally, artistically, and editorially. From an artistic perspective, do you consider images produced from staged shoots the same as you do you images produced at weddings themselves, and do you submit them to blogs, magazine and image contests? Do you use them in your portfolios? What about images from bridal shoots, day-after shoots, or other conceptual shoots you create with your wedding clients that don’t take place on an actual wedding day? What about wedding related commercial shoots?

Please keep your responses respectful and polite, and above all, constructive. We do not think that anyone is going to win this debate – there is no clear black-and-white or right-or-wrong answer here, just a really interesting discussion that we are excited to support. We will not be publishing comments that are rude, insulting or finger-pointing.

And to our anonymous e-mailer: we absolutely respect your right to your own opinion and we will take your words into consideration as we approach our editorial content throughout the year and our Best of the Best 2011 submission requirements. That said, we do not respect or accept threats and bullying. Junebug is built upon a number of closely held values, two of the most important being kindness and honesty. We believe that the rise of anonymous sources criticizing artists in the marketplace is unfortunate, unproductive and often poisonous, and not something in which were willing to participate. We welcome you to publicly engage in the discussion by commenting below, or to e-mail us openly in order to have a real conversation. In addition we hope that you respect our right, and everyone’s right, to his or her own opinion and ability to express themselves artistically in whatever way is authentic for them.

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  1. This is an interesting topic. I have to say that as a bride I like the styled shoots on some blogs because they show a lot of interesting ideas, but I wouldn’t want a photographer to show them to me in their portfolio as if they were from a wedding. I really like the photos you chose for your year end collection but I wouldn’t choose a photographer based on just one image, I would look to your recommendation list instead.

  2. I am bride and I wish those shoots would give an idea of what each set-up costs. Then they would be more useful. As for put downs given to anyone without a name attached. Ick!

  3. This is an interesting conversation, and I’m so glad you bring up the topic.  As a wedding planner, I personally love pulling inspiration from styled photo shoots.  More often then not, the items shown in the photograph (i.e. orange chivari chairs and antique ceramic vases) are not readily available for me to pitch to clients, but I’m able to replicate the idea or the concept, and infuse it with my style.  I do however, understand the frustration from a bride’s perspective of seeing images of weddings, and falling in love with a specific item, and it not be realistic to obtain.  I find this particularly frustrating in wedding magazines, where bride’s are “shopping” for their goods and services.  That said, for all the amazing photographers out there, please keep providing me with pretty pictures – whether true moments captured in real time, or beautifully crafted through art and creativity.

  4. This is a very hard subject for me. I am a RIT trained photographer, and have been shooting weddings for the last ten years. I recently started a new website Winc Vermont promoting vendors and venues to couples across the US planning their destination weddings in Vermont. I love beautiful images, no matter if I have shot them or not. There is an amazining amount of talented photographers out there. However, I have to say that using images that have been staged whether it was for a commercial shoot or inspiration board on your website to promote your skills as a wedding photographer is very deceiving to couples. As I went through many photographers websites to select my members, I was disappointed to see that many websites and the actual work of these photographers did not go hand in hand. So as a wedding industry I think we have to be very clear to our couples where the photographs have originated. Especially because our couples are not the professional photographer, and do not have the ability to decifer what is a real wedding and what was set up. It is our responsibility to be honest with our clients and readers.

  5. I feel that styled shoots contribute to a need for ‘more’ and a pressure to be perfect for Brides. I’m not sure they always realize they’re not looking at real Weddings. If perhaps there were blogs who clearly defined they only served as inspiration and were NOT real Weddings, that would be helpful to planners and Brides alike most likely. As a photographer, I feel it is less than authentic to present these in the capacity of ‘Wedding Photography’. Brides will possibly get a false sense of the quality of event photography they are receiving since a styled shoot is in no way an event and does not present the same situations and challenges as an event.

  6. As someone who works with photographers, I love looking at great photos regardless of why they are taken. As a bride, I find styled shoots to be, like to said, kind of frustrating. Clearly they are styled by someone with an amazing skill and creative talent, which many brides might not have. We could hire that talent, but not all of us are in the financial situation to do that. I would find more inspiration from a real wedding put together by an average bride. I agree with the commenter above who said that she would like to see an idea of what that set up costs. Or, maybe something that helps readers create that look. Either way, I think the photos are beautiful and they warrant, as does the styling, some kind of recognition.

  7. As photographers, we have been seeing so many real weddings and inspiration boards lately that it can be a bit overwhelming. So we completely sympathize with this bride and her previous comment re guarding price of what she sees. So being on the opposite of of this spectrum we think anything seen on any number of bridal websites does in fact make it wedding photography. But, again, being photographers, we would never show a bride something in our portfolio that was a one off or expensive stylized shoot. They should be clearly labeled as such and not to be confused with real weddings. The good thing is that with communities such as this, and all the different social media outlets, the choices for brides and vendors is through the roof! So many different ways and approaches, it not only keeps us on our toes, but inspires us to keep up with trends! Thanks for the topic and we look forward to checking back to see how it goes!

  8. This is a GREAT conversation. As a photographer, I observed it seemed that probably a good third of the images you guys featured weren’t from the real wedding day but rather styled, day after or commercial. That being said, it showed ridiculously amazing talent. I do think that either you should clarify to photographers that they have to submit ONLY wedding images, OR clarify to the brides that may be looking at this “best of” gallery that the images aren’t always from the wedding day and that they should be looking at full galleries of REAL weddings before ever hiring any photographer. That probably would ease any ill feelings.  From my point of view, it was frustrating as a photographer that submitted really rad REAL wedding images, but was outshone by photographers that were able to get stylists or multiple hours of commitment from a couple for a separate session. But I heart what you feature, it’s amazing. Keep up the great work!

  9. Consider Pandoras box open!

    I ask you, werent you just a tiny bit disappointed to learn that Robert Doisneaus famous image of the Kiss at the Maison Du Ville was posed?  He is a consummate photojournalist.  I confess I felt disappointed to learn it was set up.  But I still love the image.

    There are so many ways to photograph a wedding.  

    Those vintage photos we all love and cherish of our grandmothers (if we are lucky enough to have such a photo) are the ultimate in set-up, posed wedding photography.  By the way, a lot of those portraits did not take place on the wedding day, but rather in a studio before or after the fact.  We call them wedding photographs because of what they represent, not what they are.  They are images of two people in love getting a photograph taken in honor of their  marriage.

    Technology has changed a lot of the way we view wedding photography.  No longer is film and equipment so prohibitively expensive that professional photographers only shoot images that sell.  Thanks initially to 35mm cameras and film, and now digital equipment, we can shoot all those images that sell, plus anything and everything in-between.  Heck, why even limit yourself to just a wedding day to dress up and have fun, or make a bouquet, or set a table?  Shoot that too.

    In my opinion, a styled shoot is a photograph taken to promote a couple, dress, a girl, a photographer, a flower, a shoe, or a something.but what it represents is some piece of the magic that we like to throw in the pot to make a wedding special or unique.  It represents our dreams.  Is it a wedding photograph?  No.  Does it represent a wedding?  Maybe.

    Perhaps the distinction Junebug (and all publications) need too make is something like: wedding day photographs, vs wedding inspirations.

    I recently received this email from a client, who was answering an interviewers questions about me.  To my mind, this groom pinpointed exactly why I do what I do, but I do not pretend that this is the only way.

    “Before you saw the wedding photos, did you have any idea of a particular feeling you were hoping they could convey?

    I didn’t want the photos to convey any particular emotion.  Rather, I wanted them to capture who we were as people and as a couple on that day.  Many wedding photos come across as file photos documenting a dress-up event, but they give no indication of who the people are beyond the role they’re supposed to play that day.  I wanted our photos to capture us and our guests as the people we really are as we all experienced the energy and activity and emotions of a landmark day.

    What was most important to you on your wedding day?  Did the photos capture the emotion of that?

    Tanya’s photographs captured the emotion and energy of us and our guests to a degree beyond what I had hoped for.  The events and people she photographed feel alive and very much present.  Going on a year later, my friends and family still go out of their way to tell me how much they like and continue to enjoy the photos of our wedding.

    What impressed and pleased me most is that her photography overcame the common problem of wedding photos: feeling staged or unnatural.  Too often, one feels the presence of an organizing photographer in wedding photos.  Tanya’s photographs, on the other hand, have not a trace of that kind of stiffness.  There is a fluidity and vitality to the moments she photographed and how she captured those moments.  She is artistic in how she finds and frames images, and she is skilled enough to capture them in a way that feels honest.”

    I think we all appreciate quality work, no matter its purpose or intention.  I think we also appreciate truth in advertising.

    Kim….you’re going to get a LOT of feedback on this one!

  10. I love coming across a beautifully styled shoot on a photog’s blog where every vendor is listed in association with that shoot. It seems so helpful.

  11. As a photographer, I am looking forward to collaborating with designers on inspiration shoots where we can create ideal environments that will hopefully inspire couples. It is true that the time set aside for inspiration or editorial shoots is very different than the amount of time on the wedding day. However, the talent involved in the shoot is unchanged, from the designer, florist, photographer and all other collaborators. I believe in putting forth a truthful representation, and inspiring imagery, and I would always label staged shoots as such on a blog, or when presenting to a couple. I also feel that the line of what’s achievable is blurred with today’s weddings because if a bride wants to include an “editorial- style” shoot on the day of, or the day after- it’s all a possibility.  The key factor is time and planning- if it’s important to you, set aside the time and have the resources available that you wish to include, and those photos can happen on the wedding day as well. If you have 10 minutes in the before the reception, it might be a stretch.

  12. First of all, did anyone that had a photo on the list anonymously complain about another photo on the list? I doubt it. There might be a jealousy issue here. Obviously the photos that were from shoots and not real weddings were fantastic…I think that’s the point. i believe shoots that are set up are inspiring and beautiful and are one of the biggest factors in creating this new wave of greatly detailed creative weddings that we see now. I don’t find any problem with including these in your list.

    On the other hand I didn’t agree with most of your ‘real wedding’ choices. Please, no disrespect for other professionals work, but I was left thinking “really, that one…really?” over and over, and I don’t think my work should have taken the place of any other photo, It’s just a matter of taste and opinion.

    I will say that I thought your list last year was unbeatable in every way. Really SOME of the most supreme photos and photographers in the industry. In my mind, this years list wasn’t for whatever reason, but I love your site and will continue to read it and be a part. I friggin love you ladies and hope our relationship is always, always rad.

  13. Can I just say that I’m over shabby chic? I want photographers to shoot something different.

  14. Thank you to everyone for your comments. Your opinions are extremely valuable to us. Tanya, I feel your pain about the Robert Doisneau shot, that was hard to come to terms with.

  15. Great topic! Love that you’re addressing this. As a photographer I feel the pressure to keep up with the times and work on more stylized shoots to get my images published on blogs and in magazines but I often have to remind myself who my target client is and what they’re looking for. I’m very drawn to working with the down-to-earth realistic bride who most likely cannot afford such elaborate details or wishes to spend her budget and wedding planning time differently. Hopefully my client comes to me in search of a professional who knows how to capture beautiful wedding imagery no matter how big or small the budget and often with very little time allotted for photos. Don’t get me wrong, my clients want to have great and memorable imagery but they dont usually want to spend hours on formal portraits and they even rarely want to spend more then 20 minutes on B&G shots. And tha’ts ok with me because I know they want to spend time with their guests and enjoy their day. They want the photos to be quick, fun and painless. Which I take pride in being able to do provide that service for them.

    I think that is another misleading factor about these stylized and set up shoots. They probably take more time and setup then we are realistically able to do on a real wedding day (without taking away from treasured time with guests and wearing the b&g out).

    In closing I would like to admit that I do love to admire a stylized shoot here and there if it’s done well and tasteful but I don’t like to see stylized shoots that are done with mediocre photography. In my oppinion way to many mediocre photographers get their work published online because they fancy up the photos with cute props (i.e. Balloons, “vintage items”, cute bikes, cool old cars, etc.) but their actual work is not up to par for what shoul be so publicly bragged about. I would love to see more real quality wedding photographers featured even when the “details” are not Martha Stewart quality.

  16. A photographer can only shoot what he/she is given to shoot. It is for this reason that I have included some images in my portfolio from staged/styled shoots to show my clients what I am capable of producing if I am given the right conditions to shoot under.

    Many brides do not consider a photographer’s needs in their wedding day schedule, and many photographers get handed weddings that do not lend themselves to publishable images.

    A bride/groom should look at the body of a photographer’s work, not just at one or two of his/her weddings. If you provide any photographer with the proper conditions/schedule under which to shoot, your wedding photography COULD look like that styled shoot they used in their portfolio.

    That said, I do like to see distinctive categories for wedding photography – real weddings vs. wedding-related photos. I think that making that one simple distinction can resolve the confusion.

  17. Thanks gals for such a great article. I just wanted to chime in from the editor/blogger perspective. First off, styled shoots aren’t new. Martha Stewart Weddings has been featuring them since their inception, and are well-respected for the fresh new ideas they feature in each issue. What I believe they do best is focus on at least one attainable diy element in their features. Styled shoots are best when they offer up an idea that you can take away and run with…be it theme, color scheme, art project, et al.

    Most blogs I know mix real weddings with styled shoots. In fact, it still seems the overwhelming majority of features are real weddings…. Because we know brides love them! And when editorial/styled shoots are featured, they always say that. I cannot recall ever seeing a colleague put up a feature that was misleading. As our industry grows and matures, I believe our blogging community has upheld their responsibility and obligation to readers. It’s not to our benefit to try to pretend like a styled shoot is anything more. Anyway, just wanted to mention that “misleading” readers might be something that happens very rarely, but on the whole, I believe bloggers and photographers are upfront and honest.

  18. GREAT conversation! I think of it this way:

    As a bride: Styled shoots are great inspiration for you to pull from if you’re not necessarily a “stylist” at heart. You can easily pull ideas, especially if a wedding planner or designer is not in your budget. These shoots are beneficial, because although not all brides have the budget to use all of the pieces, a stylized shoot can give you a great starting point.

    As a photographer: I like the idea of stylized shoots to understand the combinations of details and new ways to shoot what my client has on their wedding day. A lot of times, real wedding tables include salt & pepper shakers and a bowl of butter. By using a “stylized” practice, I know to remove these from the photos, so that my clients REAL wedding images start to appear to have a cohesive style to them.

    Wedding photographers should never present stylized shoots as real wedding images, and should only be included on blogs as a noted stylized shoot, and not in portfolios. How about we also offer our clients the ability to view a full-wedding from our final edits? I think that will help to answer the question for them of what is real and what is stylized.

  19. I recently started a company making books for Photographers. As part of that process I’ve had to visit about 600 photographer’s websites and blogs over the past week. One site in particular caught my eye with INCREDIBLE images. I found myself thinking, “HOW COULD I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF THIS PERSON?! THEIR WORK IS AMAZING!”

    After seeing the entirety of their website I headed over to their blog for more inspiration. What I found there was a bit …surprising. Scattered through the numerous styled shoots were a *few* real weddings… badly photographed and terribly unimpressive. My immediate thought is that there had to another photographer working for the company shooting for people who couldn’t afford the person who created the beautiful work I’d seen on the portfolio site. I in investigated further and found that there really was only one photographer producing the work. How could this be!? After looking around a bit more I realized that the beautifully executed work found on the website was composed almost entirely of styled or commercial shoots.

    This didn’t sit right with me. At best it’s disingenuous. At worst it’s deceptive.

    While styled shoots give brides all kinds of ideas and inspirations they can also give a false impression of what a photographer can produce on a wedding day. This photographer in particular, if given unlimited time and perfect conditions could produce amazing work. But that’s not a wedding. A wedding is hectic, fast paced, dynamic, at times frustrating and conditions are *almost never* ideal.  

    I know that there is a place for styled or editorial shoots but my personal opinion is that they have no place in a photographer’s portfolio.  Whether they should be included in a wedding photography competition is still up for debate in my mind, but I’m leaning toward… no.

  20. As a blog editor, I think it’s important to echo Summer’s comment that styled shoots are absolutely not new to the wedding industry.  In fact, they have been regularly featured in magazines for years.  When I blog a styled shoot, I absolutely always refer to them as “inspirational wedding shoots” in both the title and text of the blog, to distinguish them from “Real Weddings” which are also explicitly stated in blog titles.  

    Re: the photographers’ portfolio, I believe that the photographer’s responsibility is the same as the blogger’s, and that they should be presented on the photographer’s blog as a styled shoot.  I also agree with what most have stated above, and I don’t believe they should be a part of the formal portfolio presented to a client.

    Thanks for bringing this subject out so that we can all discuss!

  21. when i flipped through the “best of the best 2010” i wasn’t necessarily looking for pictures FROM WEDDINGS or engagement shoots, or whatever. i was just looking for awesome/amazing/inspiring images from super talented photogs.

    after you brought up this issue, it did occur to me that some might look at the best of the best thinking they’re from actual weddings/related events, but as already mentioned, it was never specified that the images submitted had to be. i think your thinking & logic is completely reasonable and given the concern that has been expressed, would expect this to be made more clean in 2011.

    i recognize at least one of the images from the set that was from a non wedding-day shoot but simultaneously know that those photographers are STELLAR — more than deserving of their title.

    i think styled shoots are fair game for stretching the limit creatively, building up a portfolio for a newbie, or aiming for publication (blogs/magazines, etc) as summer mentioned. *however* i agree with michael that they shouldn’t necessarily be listed on a photog’s portfolio, especially without any mention of the fact that it was a shoot as opposed to a real wedding. pity the bride that doesn’t know to do her research thoroughly and ends up booking a photog based on a commercial shoot, as opposed to a living, moving, breathing wedding day.

  22. Thanks for addressing this ladies.  I completely agree with Michael, above.  While styled shoot can demonstrate a photographers ability and talent to capture a scene, the circumstances during these shoots are often nothing like a wedding day.  That is not to say that the photos are not legitimate or worthy of admiration, just that showing them as a way of representing one’s wedding work is dishonest, in my opinion.

    A similar topic comes up in respect to photography workshops.  Some photographers pay money to attend workshops, shoot over the instructor’s shoulder and then use the images in a portfolio context.  Personally, having taught many workshops, I feel like this is also a little dishonest.  Technically, the shutter was clicked by the photographer in question, but that is only a *very* small part of making a good image.  Lighting choice, directing one’s subject and angle all have just as much a role in determining the quality of a photograph.

    Over all, I feel that it is perfectly fine to show styled shoots, workshop images and commercial work as part of a portfolio, SO LONG AS THE CONTEXT IS MADE CLEAR TO THE CLIENT.  But passing off editorial/commercial images as being captured on a real (and hectic) wedding day is not ok in my book.

  23. Hi all – What a great conversation – thank you SO MUCH for honestly and openly sharing your thoughts! It’s all super refreshing and I love hearing from so many different sources – photographers, brides, bloggers, etc. To those who would like to see more distinction between real wedding images and those from styled shoots, would you share what you would be comfortable labeling a real wedding image? Does that include engagement, bridal portrait or day-after shoots where there may be more time and space for pre-visualized shots? Or do you think of it as only within the span of a wedding day? Again, thank you, and I look forward to more!

  24. Photographer- Upon occasion, I have participated in several styled shoots and I have enjoyed the learning experience it has provided for me. I have taken those photos and placed them on my blog with note to the fact that that they are “styled shoots”. I believe that this is an appropriate action. However, I do not believe that photos from styled shoots should ever be representative of the photographers actual knowledge and ability at a wedding.

    I think it can be misleading to brides when images are posted that are 1) outside in perfect light, 2] with models and/or 3) limitless amounts of time. Real weddings do not often have even 2 of these qualities and brides who wish for photos like them should be willing to spend all the time and $ involved to get the types of photos. Photographers should have separate categories for real weddings vs. styled “weddings”.

    I really agree with Rachel (comment #2) above, I think styled set-ups on blogs should give an approximate price for the help of brides planning there wedding.

  25. This is such a great article! I am a wedding photographer planning to do a winter wedding inspiration shoot this weekend. I’m excited about this photoshoot for a few reasons. All of us vendors are doing everything for free and donating our time and supplies. For us, it’s a chance to collaborate and do something creative. We can try out new things, new equipment and not worry if every shot is perfect or it takes too much time because we’re doing it as a personal project. Its a chance for all of us to grow and stretch in our skills. Only doing paid projects could lead to burnout and I think doing projects for ourselves keeps us fresh.

    With all of that being said, I definitely would not ever want my images to be represented as a real wedding. I plan to put them on my blog and very clearly tell about the process of the shoot and DIY projects and all of the people that worked to make it happen. Inspiration shoots are meant to inspire. Of course I would love it if all of my brides hired a photostylist for their wedding day, but I doubt many of them even know that’s an option.

    Anyway, thanks for the discussion and I hope that what we do inspires instead of misleads or frustrates brides.

  26. As an artist, I could care less what means were necessary to achieve a beautiful image, so long as it is honest and original. But as a professional, I can see how the means very much can justify the ends. I for one would feel dishonest presenting a client with work that has the pretense of a real wedding, that clearly could not have been achieved within the constraints of a wedding day. To me it is like comparing apples to oranges. Commercial shoots, styled personal work, and even images the product of a workshop (another very slippery slope), all have their place in a photographer’s career. But it would be misleading to ever present those shoots that are not obviously “setup” without a clear disclaimer. To me it is akin to lying on you resume. Claiming that one has achieved some accolade on their own, when in fact they were a smaller part of a team, and in a very different context, i.e. presenting work created for a group project in art school as a tear-sheet from a major commercial ad campaign in an artist’s portfolio. Actually, maybe if more wedding photographers went to art school (or just educated themselves on artist ethics), they would understand that it is their own integrity on the line. And establishing a good rapport, dare I say, is even more important than a good portfolio in this business.

  27. I believe on both aproaches all about photography and if they are good why dont we show them?  Photographers look for inspiration in different industries like cinema for instance which is not real, in most cases. Brides may use our imagery as inspiration as well even if they have not been shot ina  real wedding. If the image is good, let’s show them. Thanks to everybody. This is a real good conversation.

  28. The field of wedding photography has had a MAJOR make over in the last 10 years.  Gone are the days of straight formal photos with a Hasselblad sitting on a 10 lbs tripod.  In order to stay relevant, we have had to re-invent ourselves and think way out of the box.  As a result, the creativity of the photographers has branched out into many styles. i.e. Photojournalism, editorial, fashion, classicists, etc. One size does no longer fit all.  Now, a bride can choose exactly what she wants.  This is all great in the surface but in reality, photographers have forgotten that after all it’s said and done, it is still a wedding!  No matter how or what style you shoot, the core of a wedding can not be missed or forgotten simply because it doesn’t fit within your style.  To me, a wedding is a congregation of the most important people of a couple’s life.  Everyone coming together from around the world to celebrate the beginning of a new family.  This, is my opinion, should be the focus of EVERY photographer out there.  Your style of choice should be obtained around the focus of the couple’s love, their families and friends.  In short, we should celebrate the diversity of styles that have risen out of need to keep up with a very quick changing industry, but my hope is that we don’t forget that first and for most , we are there to capture the amazing moments that unfold throughout the day between the couple, their families and their friends.  I believe, this can be done without sacrificing your unique style.  : )

  29. An interesting topic, indeed ! Thanks for sharing the e-mail and opening this up to discussion.

    I’m with Michael/Chenin – As a photographer I participate in styled shoots from time to time for various reasons. The main reason being- when I have shooting downtime (January-April) and want to feel inspired, it’s fun to get friends together and create inspiration for brides-to-be and hone our craft a little under perfect conditions.

    I think, as in many walks of life, honesty is the best policy.

    Shooting in a wedding-day environment is much different from shooting in a styled controlled environment. You can schedule your shoot around the perfect light, find the most photogenic model, and place her in an extremely photogenic atmosphere and poof! All of these things are, of course, possible on a wedding day … but are not likely conditions. If you are honest and are not trying to pass styled shoots off as real weddings- I do not see the harm in sharing them with blog readers, etc.  Most of them are lovely eye-candy and provide for fun creative outlets for us industry professionals!

    In my humble opinion, I think the main problem lies in newer photographers who do not have actual real weddings to show who fill their portfolio site with images of models in fields from workshops. I’m all for honing your craft and practicing – but showcasing images created under only the most perfect conditions does not make you a great wedding photographer. A great wedding photographer creates great images under the worst circumstances. A great wedding IMAGE,  (and the type of image I believe belongs in the “best of the best”) is one that is captured in the mess of it all- in the throws of wedding day crazy.. a passing moment, a quick laugh, tear, smile, wink … To me, those are the images that really constitute a great wedding photographer and, ultimately, those are the type of images I believe belong in the best of the best.

  30. As a photographer I think styled shoots are fantastic as they allow us complete creative freedom as artists. As a wedding photographer I understand how very different shooting on a live wedding day is from shooting an inspiration shoot. As a photographer who likes to have images featured on wedding blogs I will admit that it is frustrating to try to have “real weddings” we’ve shot for real brides in real un-perfect conditions compete for space against perfectly styled perfectly lit perfectly staged shoots by talented stylists and have them both termed “real weddings” on the blogs. I think it gives brides an unrealistic idea of what their wedding should look like and does them a disservice by not showcasing on the blogs the beauty and imperfection of actual real weddings and what beautiful art a photographer can create from that. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that a photographer that is skilled enough to create compelling and beautiful images from a real life wedding should be showcased as much if not more as those who create beautiful images under perfect and controlled conditions. All that to say, I love seeing the inspiration shoots. They are absolutely inspirational, but I think there should be clear disclosure for the readers/viewers.

  31. I’m enjoying this topic.

    As a professional wedding photographer with 10 years experience, I know that the hardest challenge we face is making images that are gorgeous, memorable, interesting and beautiful EVERY time. No stylist, no assistants, no groomers or go-fers. We feel that it’s our responsibility to come home with those photos no matter what we encounter on wedding day. That ability has built our reputation and has become our style.

    However, I sometimes feel frustrated when I find potential brides comparing our real life images (which are magazine worthy, I think but maybe I’m biased) to those that are produced and styled to the Nth degree. It’s apples and oranges in my book. One is easy (or easier), the other is hard.

    Since we also shoot commercially for advertising and magazines, I’m aware that at times we couldn’t live without art directors, designers, stylists, producers (and the go-fers). They make our part of the job so much easier.

    It’s my opinion that responsible journalism should explain and educate about the nature of the images shown. If it’s real, say so. If it’s crafted, well, then those talented folks deserve their credit too.

    Advertising has a different job to do: Build a fantasy or a feeling and let viewers interpret the images any way they desire.

    So the question is: is a blog like Style Me Pretty news or advertising?

  32. This article of course has piqued my interest as an event stylist and wedding planner. Last year alone, we participated as a company in nearly a dozen styled shoots.

    The perks of this, personally, are many:

    1. Get your name out there

    2. Show something alternative to the current trends [for us, it was clean, modern lines and simple tabletops as opposed to the vintage/rustic trends happening in our real weddings]

    3. Be inspirational with color palettes and unique ideas

    Just to name a few.

    But saying that does not mean we don’t understand the issues surrounding them. I will say this- we’ve had styled shoot days that are much much less ideal than real wedding circumstances. What I wouldn’t given, sometimes, for a controlled ballroom environment to act as a simple backdrop opposed to the gusting winds or bad lighting in a natural environment! In each and every nuance of this industry, you just have to have a “make it work” attitude. Same thing with a wedding day [and yes, true colors shining through comes to mind- it will make or break a photographer working under pressure].

    As for passing it off as part of your catalogue: of course, we display our styled shoots. We tout ourselves for the gorgeous images and details we create regardless of if it’s real or staged. Currently on our website, we have a gallery section called “tabletops” [prior to any of our model-included shoots last year]. This is the default gallery that comes up when you browse our site. Yes, we have real weddings too- a whole gallery full of images. But, if you’re booking us for styling your event, you’d better see what we’re capable of. As a growing company, we want to be booked based on what we’re able to do- not just what we’ve done. What if our current clients didn’t have that right “style” to let us do the details we could do? Or not enough budget? That doesn’t mean that people should never see it, and never book us for it.

    Honesty is key. We don’t blog staged shoots and pretend that they’re real. We’re up front with our clients and frankly- we get a TON of detail work from the images we’ve put together in styled shoots. Which is great! Sometimes people are too visual to just “trust you” with something. They need to see it.

    I agree with Summer and Ami- styled shoots are not new. I’m a firm believer in “there’s nothing new under the sun” so, for the most part, all we’re doing is keeping our creative energy alive by doing things that we’re inspired by, pushing the box, and hoping that it continually leads the right clients into our doors.

    As someone that has power when referring photographers, I don’t really worry as much about photographers using styled shoots in their catalogue of work- mainly because when I refer I know their capabilities… but I can be just as disappointed at styled photos as I am at real wedding photos [I’m a tough nut to crack]. Though I could see how, as a bride not armored with the proper info on vendors, it could be a narrow line and a tricky road to navigate.

    Let’s just keep pushing for honesty and genuity in the industry- keep encouraging one another, keep creating for whatever purpose we do, and keep learning and being better than we currently are. 🙂



  33. This is just one more reason I respect Junebug for opening dialogue and sticking by their choices.  Perhaps for 2011 there should be two categories, Wedding Day and Wedding Collaborations? It has been our experience that many of the inspiration shoots are used to in fact build portfolios and that I have a problem with unless it is a portfolio to show a commercial client.  Our brides only want to see real brides, real emotion and gather some unique but attainable ideas when combing the internet.  

    While we collaborate on two to three creative shoots a year, that is to stretch our artists muscles and fine tune parts of our craft that we aren’t always able to with a real wedding.  If our clients see those shoots they are clearly defined as “art projects” and then they think they are cool and imaginative.

    We thought this year’s pick was amazing and inspiring.

  34. Hey Junebug ladies, you know we love you! You’ve provided a classy-timeless blog for photographers to participate in and showcase their work (regardless of real wedding or concept shoot). You showcase the beauty in wedding related photography and that’s why people come to this blog! As for my two bits, I really REALLY enjoy it when I am able to capture a REAL moment between a REAL couple on the biggest day of their lives. This is what gives me "the drive" in my work and it’s AWESOME when that work gets featured for the reality, emotion, and artistic view of that moment. I’m not saying that concept shoots can’t be amazing, I’ve done a few and had a fantastic time doing it, but the "reality" is taken away and my "drive" doesn’t feel as strong because it was set up. I guess what I’m saying is that in my business I’m not just selling cool photography, but I’m selling real emotion…because this is what our clients are letting us be a part of, the emotion on their wedding day! As for the submissions that made it into the Best of 2010 Wedding Photography, I see the beauty in each one, but I would have rather seen more reality and more emotion. Yes Junebug ladies, maybe you should consider making more requirements for next year’s submissions, I think it would eliminate such controversy. Don’t change the what you’ve already chosen thought, next year will be different because you learn and grow, that’s what a new year is all about! To the person that wrote the anonymous email: You should be brave enough to say who you are, ESPECIALLY if you are going to threaten! PS. This is a BLOG, an online journal, and that means that whoever is running it can post WHATEVER they want, WHENEVER they want and NOT post whatever they want, whenever they want!!!

    Good luck ladies, you all rock and we’re so glad to be part of Junebug!

  35. @Amanda Auer

    In no way do I think it is disingenuous for designers, coordinators, florists, linen companies… etc, to show styled shoots as part of their portfolio.  My comments were strictly related to photographers passing the resulting images off as real wedding images or more specifically, a representation of work that they can produce at a real wedding.

    I know that almost no wedding day is ever “ideal” but for the most part as a designer, florist, etc., if you can make it happen one day, you can make it happen another day.

    Photography is a different animal.  Unless you’re shooting in a studio setting, no situation is ever the same.  Producing quality images in less than ideal circumstances is something that should distinguish photographers, however, if styled shoots are being passed off as real weddings, this distinction is difficult, if not impossible.

  36. Good discussion and fun reading all of the perspectives! My feelings are pretty cut and dry on the topic: We are wedding photographers. Our website contains only images created from real weddings, genuine engagement sessions, no models from fashion shoots etc. I think wedding photography is captured during weddings. We have a mixture of stylized imagery and photojournalism, and often people (even potential clients) assume a number of our shots are from fashion shoots, when they are not. I’m not a fan of mixed portfolios: they are misleading. I want people to know this is what we can create on YOUR day. We’ve produced and shot fashion & editorial work: That is what is seen in magazines and blogs and is both fun and inspirational and is not wedding photography. It’s fashion and editorial photography-it’s not a new thing. It’s completely relevant and fun and when promoted as exactly what it is- a fashion or editorial shoot- it’s fantastic and highly relevant. All real weddings we’ve had published have been labeled as such, and fashion editorials have been called fashion editorials. This year’s Junebug Contest: We submitted to the contest only wedding photos (as I understand them to be) and no fashion/editorial work. We were honored to have an image chosen, and that was super fun- we really enjoyed the whole collection (and runners up you also posted over the days following). Though I didn’t recall anything saying one could enter fashion or editorial images, I was thinking a “best of wedding photography” contest would be a collection of what we can all accomplish as we work with our clients on their big day- dealing with all of the challenges thrown at us- this in my opinion is the truest test of a good wedding photographer. Fashion shoots offer a much more controlled environment- lots of work and details and egos and talent and expense- but they do not compare to real results for real brides and grooms. So really, just loving every style of wedding photography I see (images shot at a wedding), and I adore all of the beautiful shoots and collaborations by truly inspiring and creative people we get to see through fashion and editorial shoots. wow, that became long- sorry! 🙂 xo camille & chadwick bensler- JONETSU

  37. For the rest of the photography world test shooting for ones book is de rigueur, magazine editors and art buyers want to see and be inspired by a photographers’ vision in an undiluted form and in turn photographers get the opportunity to try new things, develop their own style and enjoy the creative release that test shooting brings. I think if more wedding photographers tested (styled shoots) then we would have many more inspired photographers producing inspired work for their clients. As long as it’s made clear it is a Styled Shoot, then it’s all good in my book!

  38. Wow, I see this is a big conversation. Beeing French, when I arrived here in USA (2 years ago), I started to look for wedding blogs and photographers…. I have been very surprised when I saw the category “real weddings”…!!! Why a wedding would not be real??? I understood later when I saw all those “fake” ones. I do not say those are looking bad, not at all, but for me this is a totally different concept. A wedding, is real, and the Art of Wedding photography is to capture Art in the moment, the emotion, the perfect moment, generally in a rush. This is for me the essence of Wedding Photography. I think having a portfolio showing wedding pictures taken at a workshop of in a specific setting but not a “real wedding” does not show the work of the artist wedding photographer for the bride. This is two different world, that for me as nothing to do together in a portfolio… But I still love your blog !!!

  39. Dare I comment again? I have to add a point I haven’t seen mentioned directly (though the suggestion is there). Not only are we talking about two different styles of photography here, but the truth is that a photographer who can shoot a wedding, cannot necessarily do a ‘fashion shoot’ and vice versa. Many years ago, I was about to be married and move to Italy. I went to visit the editor of a top Italian fashion magazine, who was a good friend of my fiance, and she said something to me I have never forgotten: “I can see that you are a very good observer and photographer, but I can’t see that you are a good director.” Ouch. She was so right, and though I hated to hear it, I had a lot of respect for her powers of observation. I’m not sure all brides have those powers. In fact, I am certain that most brides don’t. Also many years ago, I collected all kinds of wedding photos and was intrigued by wedding photos of Sharon Stone shot by Herb Ritts, published in some tabloid. They were awful! Truly awful. And who doesn’t think Herb Ritts is one of the greatest photographers who ever lived?? I can understand why she would have hired him, but I can only imagine how disappointed she must have been. Weddings and fashion require a different skill set. A few people, like Elizabeth Messina, excel at both. I think most people are great directors or great followers/observers, but usually not both. More than anything, I think this is why brides looking at wedding photographer’s portfolios need to know what they are looking at, and need to know that a wedding is not a portrait session. If they want a portrait session, they should consider booking one separate from the wedding….even if they don’t book the same photographer.

  40. We point blank refuse to use non-wedding day images to advertise our photography for the very good reason that it is not related in any aspect to the thrill, emotion, reality and lack of ease that a wedding is. I totally agree with Ameila Lyon and Michael Norwood on that. The photos you selected overall were very nice but made me wish for so much more. That realness, rawness and emotion were missing from too many that were selected. A wedding is so much more than a bride and groom looking beautiful against a blank wall or as some distant, tiny object in a field or an abstraction of female hands holding flowers. It is about family, friends and a bridal party celebrating love. But where were those photos featuring the cast of extras interacting with the bride and groom? I love those shots more than anything else. Styling a bride and groom well to get a great photo is a really useful tool for the pro photographer. Photographing the reality of a wedding with all its inherent randomness and doing it brilliantly is the craft of a professional photographer. And that should be rewarded.

  41. I think you brought up an interesting question for photographers in regards to conceptual shoots that aren’t day of wedding. In Utah, they are all the rage right now. I think it is obvious when they are staged (especially because they are posed to look like models, and show no emotion at all), and a lot of clients want that right now. Personally, I prefer the shoots that are created with the couple in mind and that capture their real emotion as they do something they love to do together. I think they will have more value to the client long term.

  42. Each of us has a unique style and to critique one style or the other is to begin to limit some really amazing work. I feel that wedding photography is one area within the larger field where an individual can work somewhat unconstrained by corporate interests, client demands, etc. We are free to express ourselves as artists and allow our clients to find US. I adore that aspect of our field. I fully understand the dilemna that brides today face. overwhelmed by blogs, staged shoots, pressure to have almost commercial quality engagement photos. It’s too MUCH at times. It’s a huge part of my own decision to focus on what is classic, what is real NOW and what will be real in 50 years. Relationships, LOVE,… sentiment… BEAUTY. Trends fade. Those things do not. While I was blown away by the sheer quality and photographic brilliance of the images that were chosen this year for the list, as an industry I agree that we are somewhat out of hand. I agree with Amelia in that I would have felt better… more supported as an artist if I had seen more genuine moments showcased within the images. I will say is that I feel that it is supremely important to create and maintain a forum for photography that IS ….at least in large part… about genuine moments as well as photographic skill and ART. I feel that overall, this is the essence of Junebug. NOT vintage washes and cute styled shoots. There is a place for those things… they are lovely… I enjoy them… but they are not ALL that there is. And frankly… folks… let’s give ourselves more credit as artists then all throwing ourselves in one creative cardboard (vintage cardboard) box! There MUST be SPACE… creative space to explore… and a forum to showcase the products of those explorations. To me… Junebug is ABOUT presenting a forum for the industry’s best. For the people who are NOT following but are setting the trends and are blazing the trails artistically. For me, nothing will ever surpass the importance of capturing the authentic moments that occur between people on the wedding day. In following, i believe that WOULD be an important element to include in any ‘best of’ selection and I can absolutely see why brides would object to the lack of such images in such a gallery. Ultimately I feel that the brides will tell you what they are looking for! Junebug readers are savvy … they have chosen your blog to view images that are chosen for their artistic content. I think at the very LEAST this tells us that there is perhaps a bit more of a forum for the genuine… for the REAL moment. And I am thrilled because I find it exceptionally beautiful! I hope that Junebug remains an AMAZING community supporting the ART of wedding photography.

  43. Excellent, excellent post, ladies. As a wedding photographer, this is awesome to have in the lime light and to just be aware and sensitive of as we build and show our portfolio of work. I think everyone’s commentary has also been enlightening to emphasize the importance of crediting a shoot as being stylized or from a workshop. In the meantime, for the best of the best, I believe all wedding related shoots can be considered if a photographer is able to convey beautiful emotion and imagery. By creating incredible imagery like that at a wedding, even more it shows how amazing a photographer they are. As both a recent bride and a photographer, I find the Best of the Best to be an inspiring collection of imagery, both in details and in upholding what the best photography out there can be for brides and the quality to which other photographers can aspire. I say keep it, but like everyone else, designate which is which. It would be helpful to know what was captured in reality and what was formally staged. But awesome post and topic to bring up, ladies! As always, I’m ever impressed with your work and still consider your blog to truly be among the best of the best.

  44. Richard, I couldn’t agree with you more. I love doing a styled shoot because it allows me to do what I do without any of the complications of my job. The styled shoots I’ve done have been beautifully designed by a stylist and florist who are incredibly talented at their jobs as much as I am at mine. Styled shoots aren’t just for the photographer – they are for the group of vendors putting them together. The florist and designer I regularly work with are so often held to the restraints of a budget, the brides tastes, etc. that I feel it is utterly empowering to say, “Look! Here is what I do when you let me do what I do.” Wedding days are hectic and rushed. In the age of digital photography I have to compete with everyone and their dog with an iPhone to get my shots and to keep them out of those shots. My job is to deliever beauty under extreams. It is one of the most thrilling and rewards parts of my job. But it is lovely for me as an artist to be able to take my time and truly create images I would never be able to on a golf course at 3pm in July with a venue coordinator telling me I have 7 minutes to make magic with the bride and groom. It is divine to breath deep, set up my shot the way I really, really want to and make images that make ME incredibly excited to be a photographer. That excitement inevitably spills over to my regular work, inspires my clients as well as opens communication with them so I can help them put together a time line so we can optimize their wedding day images. At the end of the day, there aren’t any losers when it comes to styled shoots. You have inspired and creative vendors getting really excited and recharged while they are able to share inspiration and excitement with not only their client base, but brides at large.

  45. Fantastic point, Richard. You know I’m such a fan of your work. As photographers and artists, we occasionally exercise the stylized shoot for inspiration. And like water and oxygen, inspiration is a necessity. Been there, done that. Where does a bride go for inspiration? I suppose she goes here. But it is becoming very hard to discern the difference between reality and fantasy, even for those of us in the industry. Imagine how hard it is for the bride. Of course that doesn’t necessarily make the stylized shoot wrong. And maybe the bride doesn’t care. She just wants to see pretty pictures and be inspired. I’ve wrestled with this notion a lot. I agree with Michael Norwood points and especially Chenin re the workshop images. I have a collection of stylized/commercial shots on my site, but they are classified as such. I was recently talking with an editor of a well known wedding magazine. She mentioned (not in as many words) that today’s bride is looking for a photographer who she believes has the vision to make her wedding photographs appear the way she wants to remember her wedding. WOW! To me that’s a fantasy. But I get the point. And I think there’s a balance. Every good photographer will interpret each couple’s story in the way they feel best captures that couple. If the bride is wanting pictures that match this season’s Anthropologie catalog, then she’ll find a photog with lots pictures of vintage-dressed couples sitting on a blanket under an oak tree eating a meal of peaches and cupcakes next to old typewriters, bicycles, and worn out suitcases with pastel balloons attached to them. It’s all fun and cute and very romantic. And the result is often truly beautiful photographs. But I think Amelia hit the nail on the head. There’s nothing more rewarding than delivering a high-impact emotional image to a client. The wedding day moments are not about the moments themselves, they are about the countless stories behind the moments. A father dancing with his daughter doesn’t represent 3 minutes on the dance floor. It represents 26 or 27 years of love and nurture and one of the best relationships a father can have. A couple’s emotional first look is not about a B&G seeing each other, it represents everything that it took those two people to come to that place… both individually AND together. Those moments–and those stories–are infinitely more beautiful than a suspender-wearing guy and a bird-cage-veil-wearing gal on a fake picnic, no matter how spectacular the afternoon light is. Put a picture of a stylized picnic next to a picture of a groom crying when he first sees his bride or a tasteful picture a bride crying as she dances with her father. Then ask her which one she likes better. I’ll bet she goes for the second one.

  46. This is interesting. As a photographer who submitted images for consideration, I never even thought of submitting commercial photographs because I assumed June Bug was looking for “real wedding” images. I actually spent a moment doubting our talent when I looked at some of your winners because I was thinking we’ve never shot at a venue so pristine or had the time on a wedding day to compose some of these shots. We are photojournalists and weddings are so face-paced and organic… I do think it is misleading to couples searching for photographers to think that they will get some images like these obviously staged shots with out some major time and planning. I believe that a photography competition for a wedding site should focus on outstanding images from real weddings; otherwise I don’t see the point of having the competition. To me, the point of it is to show couples planning their wedding what these photographers can do for them at their wedding. My suggestion for the next competition would be to clearly state that the photos submitted should only come from “real weddings” and I also think you should give some categories for the type of photos you’re looking for so there is a good mix photos. It’s so difficult to go through a whole year of photographs and blindly pick a handful of favorites with out having some parameters set. That was my biggest frustration as a photographer submitting images. That’s my two cents! Thanks for posing the question.

  47. Whew, what a topic. As an event planner and designer, I turn to styling shoots as an outlet for my creativity. Styled shoots are an opportunity to style with my imagination, without budget restrictions or within the parameters of what my client desires. I know from my own clients that styled shoots are a source of great inspiration through out their planning process. As a designer, it is my job to show you my style, what I am capable of creating and how my visions translate into environments. NOW, that being said… I am up front when asked about “real weddings” versus “styled shoots” within my portfolio, and I do include both. It is important to dream, and to share your dreams with others.

  48. maybe this could all be solved if everyone getting married had really awesome weddings. (joking) i have no problems with styled shoots or creating art since that is what most of us thrive on, but, in all seriousness, i may have a problem with persuading people to believe that what you have created via a styled shoot is what a wedding is all about. remember when it was about the couple and the actual marriage?  are we to blame for what it has become? maybe we can blame sears and co. for the entire wedding hoopla when they came out with the good old registry system. weddings = consumption.

    i want to see more real weddings on blogs, publications and in real life.  to me, the art of wedding photography is found when we are able to capture the love between the couple and NOT some beautifully styled shoot. if i wanted to persuade one to believe in something, i may have fulfilled my degree in advertising by selling cigarettes.

    sure, as a photographer, i strive to be artistic and make pretty images, but really folks, wedding photography is all about capturing a moment in ones life.

    aside from the best of 2010 and what was chosen, this comment is being made because i truly think that our industry (photographers, bloggers, stylists, and wedding planners) needs to be respectful of what is portrayed to the bride/groom.

  49. I really appreciate all of the comments on this post. There have been a lot of insightful and interesting viewpoints presented. From another photographer’s perspective, I think that part of the skill of being a great photographer, is not just in being able to get the lighting/background/framing, but it is also being able to organize and manipulate the situation in order to accomplish your goals. It’s not easy and takes a lot of diligence to properly coach brides and get the right amount of time with the right light on a wedding day (new years resolution). I commend photographers who coach their brides and help with styling in order to execute their vision as an artist on a wedding day like they would if it were a commercial shoot. If you can pull this off, then it would make it really hard to tell if it were a shot from a *real* wedding or just an *awesomely styled* one. Check Michael Norwood’s Blog (he commented earlier) *real* but *awesome* at the same time. It’s possible.

  50. As a recently wed bride, I have to say that I generally skipped each and every blog post of created wedding photo shoots. I had no interest in seeing something professionally designed, with a who knows what budget and any prop or decoration imaginable available at their fingertips. That was in no way realistic or helpful to me. I wanted to see what real people accomplished, in the real world. I want to see guests, children, real tables, and REAL brides and grooms. I suppose if you’re interviewing a wedding planner or designer, and have that sort of money, then seeing their abilities might be important. But I get the feeling that most blog readers are more like me, a normal girl on a budget in the real world, planning her wedding from her couch. So, no thank you, I do not care to see fake weddings on wedding blogs.

  51. my 2 cents.. one cent – on the real wedding day we don’t always have the luxury or the liberty to show the full extent of our creativity. nothing speaks more clearly than a photograph to convey an idea for style. so we crack our knuckles, gather our forces, create a whirlwind of amazingness and then shoot it. yes, i am a photographer and i’ve done this. i’ve loved the process. it’s been beneficial for all the vendors involved. it’s a competitive market and we have to stay on top of our game so we continue to hone our skills on our own time. the results can be amazing and it’s worth sharing to show what we can do. i’ve had clients that benefited from these as well. awareness of how much time and effort it may take to get that shot is part of the conversation. two cent – there are shoots out there that are setup for workshops. photographers learning from other photographers. the stage is set for them and their hand is held through it all. the subject is posed, the location was selected, the light was even provided. all the photographer had to do was stand in a spot and work their camera. i’ve taught at these workshops and i always tell our attendees to please be mindful of calling a photograph their own. don’t add it to the portfolio unless you set EVERYTHING up. the button press is only the last step. i’ve seen a few of these images on portfolio sites and this is where i get a little bitter. to me, THAT is a lie. if left to their own devices they may or may not be able to recreate the image or even come close. that’s down right deceptive.

  52. To clarify my comment, I want to see real brides and grooms. I’m fine with engagement shoots and post wedding shoots, because those are real people and I understand that those pictures were taken outside of the context of a real wedding day. I just don’t care for models in wedding gowns, prancing through a field of wheat around an antique dresser.

  53. Wedding photography is photography of a wedding. Pretty simple. Wedding photographers are people who often do wedding photography. In addition to wedding photography, wedding photographers often do other shoots that fall under their rubric of client relations, such as engagement shoots and wedding-themed editorial shoots. But there is a difference.

  54. I find anonymous emails/comments to be utter cowardice, and am glad Junebug has taken a stand against engaging. As for the question posed, I don’t think it matters. If a bride and groom pick a photographer based on one shot they obviously don’t put the photography as a top priority. For a couple who does, they would do their homework before choosing, and thus this would be a non-issue.

  55. I think why this is such a controversial issue is because of honesty & integrity. Many photographers shoot both real weddings & stylized shoots, and that’s the choice of the photographer & no one can determine what you do or don’t do with your business. Using stylized shoots and passing them off as, or including them among real weddings is deceptive and unethical. Wedding Photography isn’t harder than fashion or editorial, it’s different, and most photographers aren’t adroit at both. There are many photographers & studios who rarely show real weddings, they seem to produce copius stylized shoots, and they get tons of features, high end bookings & increased business while real weddings are passed over, which is why there is a general feeling of resentment or animosity. The studios & photographers using styled shoots to sell a real wedding are akin to car dealers bating you in with a vintage porsche & selling you an old vw. very few photogs can produce the same quality & caliber of imagery when working on a real timeline, and many of the most popular & celebrated photographers have EARNED their ability to control certain aspects of a wedding. It is unethical to sell a shoot as a wedding, so it is up to those who create both to honor an unspoken understanding to represent your abilities honestly. I agree whole heartedly with Michael Norwood & Amelia Lyon, and believe that it is the collaborative responsibility of vendor & blogger to make the distinction to an uninformed public. If you want a place to showcase your editorial-commercial-or fashion talent, build a separate site. The average bride & a real art director aren’t the same audience.

  56. In awe, Garrett Nudd. You NAILED it! Simply nailed it. You have me in tears this morning. Enough said. xo

  57. The entire Junebug team is deeply touched and enormously grateful this morning for the thoughtfulness and honesty that has gone into the comments left here so far. Brilliant ideas have been brought forward and passionate feelings have been shared, and all without blame or unkindness. In today’s world that is rare and I think truly awesome. Rest assured we are taking your comments to heart. Thank you all so much!

  58. I cannot add anything original to this conversation since I completely agree with Richard & with Garrett. After reading through every comment, I’m pretty sure it all boils down to these “Best of Wedding Photography” contests. Like Ryan said, Wedding Photography is the simple idea that a photographer photographs a wedding. A REAL wedding. So then shouldn’t a “Best of Wedding Photography” showcase the best images from real weddings? Then maybe there could be a separate contest for “Most Creative Stylized Shoot”. Just a thought.

  59. A styled shoot will NEVER replace the integrity and emotion that exists in an actual wedding.  But lets face it folks……weddings are styled events.  They are beautiful and raw, spontaneous moments make them so tender and special, but they are contrived to a certain degree.  A bride (with or without the help of a planner) meticulously plans every detail she can to make her day beautiful and run smoothly.  

    As a photographer I prefer the raw emotions of a non styled shoot but find them creatively fulfilling in their own way.  I love weddings but I also love the art of fashion and editorial photography inside and outside a wedding context.  When I do I styled shoot I view it as a promotional tool and a way to be creative on my own terms, not as a trick or a way to make brides and others think that what we produce is a real wedding.  They are inspirational, they are creative and they are fun.  It is very important that your brides know the difference though and it’s up to you as a professional to open that conversation and debrief them.  

    When I do a styled shoot  it feels very different than a real wedding.  The photos produced do not look or feel like a real wedding to me in any way.  The models are not in love and are modeling, the lighting is perfect, there are no guests, there is an absence of imperfection.  It sort of feels like a “duh” thing to me.  We might be insulting the intelligence of our brides here by assuming they look at there shoots and assume they are real weddings.  I feel the difference is clear (at least with the shoots I do) but I also discuss it with my clients.

    I love finding a balance between making a bride feel amazing, like her own version of a supermodel on her wedding day and capturing the imperfections and rawness that can never be staged at a real wedding.  I feel like that is my job…….to elevate reality slightly but also…..to keep it real.  As long as we as professionals are being clear and never trying to fool a bride into thinking that what she is seeing is a real wedding, styled shoots absolutely have their place in the wedding industry.  They represent a commercial aspect, just as an ad campaign showcases a new designers clothing line.  It’s an art form, it’s beautiful and it’s definitely NOT reality.  I know that if I buy the designer jacket I’m not going to be surrounded by four gorgeous men and that I myself will not look like the model wearing it, but I’m still inspired by the campaign and appreciate it as an art form.  I would assume that as long as we present real and styled shoots in an authentic and honest way that brides are savvy enough to assess the differences between them.

    There is so much talent in our industry.  Lets just kick back and enjoy what everyone has to offer!  It’s fabulous.

  60. Honestly, I didn’t even think of submitting images to the contest that were from commercial shoots.  I thought the images were suppose to be from real weddings although it wasn’t specified.  It looks to me as if as much as half of the imagery chosen in the contest are styled shots, not done on the wedding day.  Although I like many of the shots and think Junebug should choose whatever images they like, I think brides deserve to know what images are actual work done by photographers in real wedding situations.  As many have pointed out, it is a bit deceptive to show styled shoots without letting folks know that they are looking at shots which may have taken all day to produce a couple of shots.  After all, the fun and challenge of being a wedding photographer is that you can produce beautiful images under the pressure,  limits, and oftentimes chaos of an actual wedding day.  I want a bride to see I can produce in a real wedding situation!  I think it would be great if the “real weddings” and set up shoots were clearly defined and separate. That way, when brides are looking for a photographer to shoot their wedding they can look at the “real weddings” and when they are looking for studio photography or ideas and props for their weddings they can look at the styled shoots.  I think the clarity would be helpful for everyone.

  61. As a photographer, we do styled shoots when we can and we love them.  The thing that this blog has to think about is their contest.

    It’s MUCH easier to get an award winning / stunning image from a styled shoot than it is from a real wedding.  If it is well known that your Best of the best will allow styled shoots, that will probably become the majority of submissions.  

    Does Junebug want the Best of the Best contest to be mostly set up shots and not shots from real weddings?  If that’s the case, then that’s great.  If not, then you will have to think about how to restrict it.  

  62. As a photographer, I do enjoy participating in styled shoots. However, under no circumstances would I ever use those in my wedding portfolio (even if they are wedding related). I do find it misleading to show images of brides in a styled shoot as part of a wedding gallery.

    For me shots taken on an actual wedding day, goes in wedding portfolio. Photo shoots, go in photo shoot portfolio.

  63. hello…i wanted to share a few thoughts on this subject…i am an artist, first & foremost….my main (but not only) medium is photography…although i love weddings & have been honored to shoot many…this is not all i do, it never has been….i started as a photojournalist & i feel quite blessed to have also been able to shoot editorial & fashion & advertising…as well as “styled shoots”….from my point of view (& please know this is only my humble opinion- every artist, every photographer, every blogger, every bride…every human is entitled to their own) a wedding photographer is many things…we are documentary photographers, food photographers, portrait photographers, artists & so on….we are story tellers…& there are many aspects to telling a story…it is the blend of real authentic moments with details & more planned shots, all of those images together have the power to tell each couple’s unique & beautiful love story….with that said, i feel there is one aspect that hasn’t been mentioned here…in some ways weddings ARE the ultimate “styled shoots”….event planners, designers, florists, bakers & brides put a lot of time into the look & feel of a wedding…in my humble opinion weddings are so much more work than a “photo shoot” for everyone involved & often have a much larger budget than any creative “styled shoot”….i am always in awe of how much work an event planner does before any of us show up…my point is it is important to honor & acknowledge all the efforts that go into the look & feel of a wedding…even at weddings with no planner, someone has to set up the tables, flowers etc (perhaps the mother of the bride or best friend or the bride herself) furthermore, as an artist, i have always been very touched by the incredible emotions & nuances of love, that are not only abundant but also different at each wedding…i find it is often (albeit intense & unpredictable) easier to capture emotion on a wedding day than on a “styled shoot” because a wedding day is so full of emotion….i also find it interesting that no-one has really addressed the challenges an editorial shoot brings…photographing a model is not necessarily easier than a real bride….i love the challenge of trying to capture a real, natural image during a planned shoot while meeting the needs of an art director or editor…there is so much nuanced beauty in humanity…i search for it whether i am photographing a wedding, a shoot for a magazine or my own children…i hope when a client looks at my work they get a feel for the breadth & depth of my images….each photographer has the freedom to choose & embrace what ever type of shooting resonates with them & brides today have a plethora of choices…personally, i have some couples who ask me to bring props, they love my vintage cameras, crowns & signs, others want no props at all & prefer more classic story telling, and yes some brides want to lay on the ground in their beautiful gowns…this is because i have had the opportunity to share all types of imagery….the more creative i am, the more thoughtfulness & opportunity i have at a real wedding to capture timeless images that tell a story…editorial shoots enhance my ability just as weddings do…i view my job (as a photographer) to meet my client’s needs whatever they may be & to also always be thoughtful of composition, lighting & the comfort level of whomever i am photographing…..i believe all images are collaborations….as we continue to capture the lives of others, i think it is imperative that photographers are not limited by another’s definition…we must seek our own truths & always question ourselves….we must be authentic & still meet our client’s needs….as far as the junebug contest is concerned….first of all, i am honored to have been included on both the 2009 & 2010 lists, thank you so much….ladies, i see this as an opportunity…i think you should consider having a “best of weddings” contest, a “best of editorial” contest…”best engagement” & so on….no matter what, no list will meet the needs of all viewers & anyone not happy with a list, should perhaps consider making their own….also, as a magazine devotee (i love love love magazines) i think it is important to note that there is a “real wedding” section in most wedding magazines…editorial is not labeled “editorial”…i believe the same standard should apply to blogs, which are online magazines….”real weddings” should be labeled as such & anything else should be considered editorial….one last personal thing i’d like to share….the main image on my http://www.elizabethmessina.com page is a pair of red shoes on a white table…the shoes belong to my sister, she walked into my kitchen one morning with these lovely (& inexpensive) red shoes on & i stopped her in her tracks….i took those beauties from her feet & placed them on my (beat up thrift store) kitchen table (the same table i feed my children at)….i have had this image as my leading shot for several years for a couple of reasons….first of all i love to see my sister’s shoes, it warms my heart & is a little personal piece of my life & second the bride who appreciates a red pair of shoes is most likely going to appreciate my work….beauty is all around us, it always has been….much love & beautiful photographs to all….xoxo…elizabeth http://www.kissthegroom.com

    (and thank you sweet tanya for your kind words)

  64. Wedding photography is capturing images on the day of a wedding. A “Day After” session is a portrait session in wedding attire. And a stylized shoot has vitally nothing to do with wedding photography. Stylized shoots have perfectly lit settings, no time constraints, amazing (but also outrageous) decor that most of the time wouldn’t be practical in a real wedding, models (or a great looking couple) that are incredibly photogenic, and effortless to work with from behind the camera, etc, etc, etc. These circumstances are not that of which a wedding photographer deals with day in and day out. Even the “greats” of wedding photography get images during stylized shoots/workshops that are unparalleled by their real wedding photographs. While the images are still great images, they do not constitute wedding photography, and should not be rewarded as such.

    Maybe there could have been a better approach by the anonymous critique, but it got this conversation started. And although most people seem to be disgusted with the fact that the comments weren’t backed with a name, I don’t fault the anonymity of the individual. Wedding photography is most likely that individual’s livelihood, and jeopardizing that would be foolish. Furthermore, the person’s identity is a moot point, the point is that many photographers and others are frustrated with the attention and accolades these faux-weddings receive.

    Last week I shot a wedding in which I had 15 minutes with the bride and groom. To make it worse the sun and pretty much already set and I did not have the time or means to get to the beach. I worked with what I had and I feel the results were spectacular. But at the end of day, if I had all the time in the world, and nothing but awesome backdrops and scenes all around, could I have captured better images? Hell yes! but that’s not realistic, and that’s not wedding photography.

    Junebug, thank you for making this conversation public and providing the arena for it to take place.

  65. Do you all differentiate between styled shoots with models and styled shoots with wedding participants? As in, if you are able to set aside several hours of some day, not the wedding day, and do a styled shoot using actual wedding clients does this count as wedding photography?

  66. Great post ladies! I think Summer and Ami summed it up great from a wedding blogger editor perspective. Styled shoots have been in wedding magazines for years. I think the majority of ones seen on blogs are much more helpful to brides since a lot of them contain diy projects and ideas that a typical bride can incorporate into her wedding – plus link to all the vendors involved. I love seeing how creative people in this industry are and I know my readers love seeing new ideas – especially ones they can incorporate into their day. With that being said, the Real Weddings I share are typically the most popular features. I also label Real Weddings as such and inspiration as such (as I think most wedding blogs do, I haven’t noticed an issue with that on the wedding blogs at least). I also try to share a wide variety of budgets on my site to show brides out there what is possible. Also, just wanted to note that I think most wedding blogs generally share way more real weddings then styled shoots. I try to aim for 12 weddings to 1 styled shoot in my editorial calendar as I also love seeing Real Weddings and the emotions – although a lot of readers don’t care about those photos, they love seeing the design elements. Just my two cents as an editor. Thanks for running such an amazing blog ladies!

  67. As a blogger, I think stylized shoots are fantastic because they provide the readers inspiration. Yes they are not realistic — but at least readers attach themselves to a certain style of photography that they would like to see from their photographer. Explaining to the readers the basis of how the stylized shots were created is something that I think should be incorporated more frequently. Wedding photography strictly relates to shots captured at the moments at the wedding — which if the photographer is good and there might be more than one, a lot of really great shots can be captured! Further, great “competitive and stylized” wedding photography is a possibility. These two concepts do not have to be mutually exclusive. You can have a great set at your wedding and then have the couple madly in love and the photographer capture that — or if a table setting was exceptionally creative and the guests were having a great time — thats a set with real guests! I think you can have both together, but a photographer or anyone else cannot pass off a purely stylized shoot as wedding photography! Great discussion!

  68. As a photojournalist who occasionally shoots weddings and as a woman who recently got married, I think it is imperative for wedding professionals to disclose information like this on styled shoots vs. actual weddings. (Granted, I have never photographed a styled shoot, but I run into issues when I am forced to set things up instead of capturing how things unfold naturally, without me making them happen.) Do I think styled shoots are bad? Not in the least. Do I think they are a good reference for brides looking for inspiration? Heck yes! Would I put images from a styled shoot in my wedding portfolio? No way. Personally, I would much rather have my work featured with an image from an actual wedding – one that was captured without orchestrating the moment – and I would much rather show my clients these images to give them a feel for what they are signing up for when they agree to me photographing their wedding day. I think it is wonderful that y’all have brought up this topic, and I cannot wait to see where all this feedback takes Junebug!

  69. Bonjour, We all love style shoot. As a photographer it is a lot of fun to shoot and to control what is happening and of course it creates beautiful images. But I know it can be frustating when a bride tells you she want 100% photojournalistic approach to her wedding and show you photo she likes she found on blogs and you know these are not real weddings. Brides expect the same imagery without the same conditions that can be time, light, prop,… Sometimes a couple will leave you 20 minutes during the worst time of the day for their couple photos and expect the same kind of images she saw on a blog. It seems it is our role to educate the couples about their expectations and what can be done on a wedding day.

  70. While I know that Summer, Ami and Jen all properly label the stylized shoots as “inspiration” on their blogs, other blogs, big blogs, famous blogs, call them weddings (for SEO purposes, I guess) and in the tiny text that may or may not be read it is revealed that it is a styled shoot.

  71. I must say, I’m glad this discussion is being had! It’s very much long overdue IMHO. In fact, the topic of “business ethics within the wedding biz” in general, is a conversation I would hope will be discussed more often. Here are a few of my thoughts on shoots vs. real weddings: Personally, neither myself nor my wife object to the creation or display of stylized shoots, on this blog or any other. However, where we vehemently take issue, is when these shoots are passed off as “real weddings”. They are not. We all know they are not. I firmly believe in honesty & integrity, both in life and in business, and I would sincerely hope that other talented vendors would be of like mind, & make clear to their potential clients what is real, & what is only “possible”. Just within Southern California alone, the talent pool of amazing photographers, DJ’s, Cake Artisans, Floral Designers, Planners, & so on & so forth, would yield 100+ blog posts of a “Best of Real Weddings” series, would it not? I understand that the vendors involved in these types of shoots, are often gunning for publication in magazines and on blogs (such as this lovely one), not to mention the public showcasing of new products and design ideas. I should know, for I do the same with my stylized shoots. As a photographer, we often like to try out new techniques, new lighting equipment, new lenses, etc. & see what we can do with them, at our own pace, and without the clock running, like it is on-the-job. On a real gig, I could never ever take the opportunity to play around like I do on a shoot. So please, separate “real weddings” & “stylized shoots” from now on. Make it clear. Make it known. Going forward I would hope that the wedding industry will continue to have this kind of introspective conversation. Please. Keep it coming. Keep it going. Pass the torch. Not only will it, I think, make us better people & business owners, but it will also serve to benefit our clientele. After all, this crazy biz is all about “service”…… is it not?

  72. First, I want to say JuneBug team you handled the response beautifully! Well done! I have been photographing weddings for the past 10 years and have seen the major shift in what brides are looking for. While I love collaborating with other vendors for styled shoots, I do find it a tad frustrating because not every bride can afford it and that is all the bloggers/editors are looking for. As some other photographers mentioned, the most frustrating is when mediocre photography is published because they have cute props not because the photos are amazing. But, on the flip side the styled shoots are so fun, inspirational and beautiful and all the vendors are real and showcasing their real talent. There are pros and cons to both styled shoots and real weddings, I think it is a debate that will go on forever. I don’t see styled shoots going away anytime soon. What better way to show your clients and prospects what you are capable of given the right circumstances. If you educate your clients properly there is no misleading or misunderstanding. All these styled shoots are possible. As far as the entry, a beautiful image is a beautiful image, staged or not, and deserves just as much credit. It isn’t the props and cuteness that makes a good image, it is the talent of the photographer and other vendors they may or may not have collaborated with. Styled or not all the images have a place in that photographers portfolio, so long as they shot it!

  73. I think the answer is quite simple, was it a real wedding? I don’t think a styled shoot in studio qualifies at all, that becomes fashion in my opinion. Who can’t get great images with a model in a studio or on set and a few hours with lighting a stylist and make up artist? Also another poster mentioned it’s deceiving to show these as real weddings in a portfolio it means the bride will never get the images that sold her on that photographer in the first place at her own wedding.

  74. Since when was a wedding or anything involving a wedding NOT a part of a very large commercial industry? The business of weddings is commercial, the criticisms of the unnamed photographer are trivial. Why shouldn’t your contest involve all aspects of the industry? As noted, you didn’t make specific guidelines to what imagery can be entered. Which would naturally imply all “commercial photographers” (because a wedding photographer is certainly that) that shoot wedding imagery for whatever client should enter the contest. Regardless of whether it was a actual wedding, a staged shoot for an editorial spread or for some sort of advertising client… it all should qualify.

  75. As a blogger and blog lover, I’d like to reiterate what the other bloggers said, I have never seen a blog misrepresent a style shoot for a real wedding. I, as other bloggers do as well, clearly mark real weddings as such. I don’t believe there are brides being mislead on blogs.

    I think people need to understand the difference between a marriage and a wedding. A marriage is about love and commitment, a wedding is an event. Just like all events they need to be planned and organized. For the normal bride, this is the first time organizing something so large so they go to blogs and magazines for ideas and inspiration. Whether that inspiration comes from another persons wedding or a shoot a planner put together, it is all inspiration. Each person will pull small details and ideas that they like and make them their own, if it comes from another bride or a planner, etc. I cannot imagine a bride looking at something a planner styled and discrediting it because it wasn’t created by someone “normal” enough. Also, I don’t imagine a bride will see a real wedding and want to copy it exactly and be frustrated when it is out of her means. It is all inspiration, and meant to be taken that way. No planner or stylist creates a style shoot for a bride to want to copy exactly, that is not the point. Again, it is meant to inspire you to take what you like and create an event that is truly you. So no, I see no problem with styled shoots because they are meant to inspire and give ideas just the way real weddings do. But I do agree with others as labeling shoots separately in their portfolios. They may not show how they handle the stress of the day and moments, but they show the photographers eye, composition skills, editing, and attention to detail and are helpful for a bride to see, as long as they are portrayed as such.

  76. I share the point of view that while styled or staged shoots can be awesome, there is something truly special about capturing “real” moments on a wedding day that happen naturally. I also believe it requires a distinct and different kind of talent to capture real-time “magic” rather than setting it up. Call me a sucker for photojournalism…I just prefer honest emotion over staged.

  77. Fascinating discussion. Thank you Junebug ladies for your sincere thoughtfulness and care with this topic. It truly shows how much you care about photographers and the industry as a whole.

    My only 2 cents, which is more of a side item is that when it comes to “styled shoots” that are done specifically for a blog… ‘inspiration shoots’ for example,  {that are trying to emulate magazine editorial} Photographers and Designers : please stop doing this for free!

    If you’re creating editorial content commissioned specifically for a magazine or blog should be charging for your services!

    okay, that’s all. continue…

  78. Great discussion!

    As a wedding photographer, it is a very rewarding feeling to deliver emotional moments and timeless portrait images to the couple and their families.

    Stylized shoots are great for us for realizing our artistic ideas and inspirations. Personally I always work with real couple even in a stylized shoots for possibility of taking what I learned from it to a real wedding day. We only use professional models for commercial shoots, not personal.

    I consider wedding images are images that were captured from real wedding day, so I will not submit non-wedding day images to any wedding photography competition.

    It would be great to see more specific categories for next year to separate wedding, engagement, and stylized shoot.

    The wedding can be limited to wedding day(s) only, and stylized portraits for engagement, after the wedding, concept shoot, trash the dress, etc.

  79. What can I say that hasn’t already been said?   There definitely needs to be separate categories…one is real…one is staged with all elements, personnel, lighting, location, etc. hand picked and in place.  Definitely not “real”.    

    As photographers on a wedding day, we have to adapt to every situation( lighting, location, personalities, time constraints, etc.  We take what we’re given and create artistry.   On a stylized or inspiration shoot, it’s the total opposite.   We have more time, scout locations, choose the models, lighting setups, time of day, etc., etc.   Not too mention the other vendors and staff on hand to take care of anything necessary.

    IMHO..publications have a responsibility to their readers to present material as fact or fiction.   Bridal mags have specific features called “real weddings”… so should Junebug.    

  80. Editorial creatives keep you sharp and on your toes as to trends and ideas.

    However they in no way qualify you or attest to your skill set to handle the real issues that arise on a time limited, uncontrolled scenario which is a wedding day. Commercial photographer does not equal wedding photographer. A blog is a virtual magazine so it is the place where those styled images belong. Your portfolio online and in your studio should show what you are capable of in reality. Just sayin.

  81. Elizabeth Messina said it perfectly! Using a few photos that are not from real weddings shouldn’t be an issue. My intro video is a mock wedding I styled but it is a story, it has emotion and it attracts brides that think like me. You can see it here: http://www.richelledante.com. We click from the start which makes it even easier to catch true emotion on their wedding day! I think it’s important that photographers represent who they are and what their style is… does it really matter if it is from real weddings or a styled shoot? Photographers who show images that don’t represent their true style will eventually be figured out and referrals will stop. A key to being successful and staying successful in this business is being true to who you are!

  82. Can I just say that I started reading the comments and my eyes burned by the sheer volume of them!?!?  Clearly it shows this is a hot topic, and one that I truly appreciate is having shed light on by you ladies at Junebug!  

    Being a wedding photographer to real brides is something that brings me such incredible pride and satisfaction.  If I “nail” a shot of a bride giggling, a groom shedding a tear, or a mother absolutely breath-taken by seeing her daughter in her gown for the first time, I feel such an immense sense of accomplishment and know I have captured something that will hopefully be a family heirloom for years to come.

    That being said, I too have to echo the sentiments of Michael Norwood and Chenin (and apologies to others that may have also echoed the sentiment, but I couldn’t possibly read all of the comments!), it is truly disheartening to see so many photographers and blogs advertise staged photos as “wedding” photographs.  I unfortunately personally know many photographers who attend a workshop or two, publish it as a portfolio, then book brides until the pretense that those are wedding photographs.  That to me is SUCH a disservice to those poor couples who will not see a tenth of the quality of those photos emulated on their wedding day.

    That being said, I appreciate blogs that purposefully advertise that shoots are stylized as I feel that should be represented as much as the copyright of the image. However, as a photographer that caters to “real” brides, it is hard to have a chance to get featured on blogs unless I am willing to put together over-the-top stylized shoots with model-like brides.  Not to say that there is not a place for the images nor do they take talent to capture, I just think that this industry is getting a little “prop-crazy” in it’s shoots and should take a step back and focus on what wedding photography is all about…..




    Sofas and tents and birdcages and circus props and dogs and mirrors and insane orchids are fun, but at the end of the day will 95% of couples be able to afford that on their wedding day?  Probably not.



  83. I think things like this can be really valuable. Though I also am not a fan of the posed. I have spun these shoots a bit and use the opportunity to do something that I could not do at a wedding. It’s more of an exploration for me. Practice–If a blog posts it, great. Regardless, it can be an opportunity.

  84. I think this whole fuss is overblown. I suppose some photographers get over zealous with it, but I do shoots occasionally that are not real weddings and I consider them to be research and development, and inspirational. The ones I have done just so happen to be done with ordinary, although attractive people. They are not professional models. I consider these shoots to be directly applicable and reflective of my real wedding work since I give each real wedding couple the opportunity to spend time (20min-1 hour typically) with me on their wedding day during the actual wedding. The shots often come out as good as if they were planned. I believe this is possible in part because of the inspiration I get from the one percent of my port that shows "art shoots". Bottom line, like many things in life this is not a black and white subject! Good discussion 🙂

  85. As a bride to be, I love styled shoots for their inspiration however I do have an issue with photographers who then showcase these images as real weddings!

    I’m having a tough time finding a photographer that not only falls in my budget but also can shoot weddings of real people! In many of these styled shoots, the bride and groom are perfect, that’s not real life but sadly this style of photography is appearing on websites promoting the whole “we only shoot perfect weddings” misconception.

    The average dress size in the UK is a 16-18, so why do we not see more plus-sized brides? Ethnicity is well covered, yet we never get to see the disabled bride, the bearded groom or the couple covered in tattoos! These weddings are the bread and butter of wedding photographers, normal people just wanting great wedding photos, yet how many photographers feature them on their websites?

  86. @Altered Ermie

    Sorry, I’m just now finding this page. Have you seen the Offbeat Bride blog? It’s full of plus size brides, tattooed brides, and zany wedding themes.

  87. No mattdr if some one searches for his required thing,
    therefore he/she desires to be available that in detail, sso
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