Getting the whole picture

There is a lot of buzz out there about WHAT a styled session is, WHO does them, who NEEDS them, and whether or not attending one makes you a model, real bride, or even a legitimate photographer.

I have been a wedding photographer for 20 years and a fashion photographer & makeup artist before that. In the 1990's we used to call them "test shoots." This meant that the studio hired a few makeup artists, models, and tested out new equipment or trained new assistants. No one got paid, but everyone got prints for their portfolio books.

Later, new models came on the scene, they knew enough to go around asking for test shoots which was then known as "Time For Prints." That kind of collab also was free to most, and everyone got prints. Soon, makeup artists and clothing stylists also wanted some creative output. No pay, lots of get the idea.

Recently, I read a blog post from a Florida photographer who said that 'styled shoots are fake weddings - and that brides shouldn't book a photographer who does those.' Hmm. That's interesting, considering that their studio shoots boudoir & bridal portrait session. (Aren't those styled sessions?)

Quick Q: What exactly is a styled session?

A: It is a collaborative photo session, where vendors in the wedding industry come together with a few [new or untried] ideas. Everyone in attendance gets photos for their social media or albums, and usually no one pays [or pays a minimal fee for the venue rental]. It can be anything the collaborators want or come up with: a themed wedding, color scheme, diverse couples, high end, beach, the possibilities are endless.

Q: Is a styled session a fake wedding?

A: Maybe...maybe not. Most of the time the models are a couple already, that might be her real dress (or else one on loan from a bridal boutique), the cake is real and edible, and the flowers are real. The photos from the session are going to be used in the wedding industry: magazines, websites, and promo material. Just as much work goes into arranging one.

NOTE: Magazines usually have styled sessions each season to highlight what is possible.

Q: Why do a style session?

A: A photographer may be testing new gear, training a second shooter, or wants more creative control with a wedding session. Makeup artists & florists have also told me the same thing. A new venue needs to show what's possible. A baker may have some out-of-the-box get the point.

Q: Why not wait for that specific type of wedding?

A: Weddings are not photo shoots. We don't have the luxury of time, like we do in a styled session. We are busy watching the couple interact and enjoy themselves. Further, a couples' idea of "French Country" or "Elegant Resort Chic" varies. By coming together in a styled session, the photographers & other vendors can agree on one fabulous theme - and everyone has time to shoot it beautifully!

Q: Can brides & grooms tell if a wedding is styled or real?

A. In most cases, yes. There is no guests, no crowds, no reception, no kids running around, no drunk guests dancing, and other tell tale signs.

However, most sessions list all of the vendors involved, just like a real wedding post on social media anyway.

However, some photographers only post their absolute best photos of their couple together on social media.

Brides & grooms are smart enough to look deep within a portfolio before they sign anything. Plus, it's possible to choose a photographer [for your wedding] who has never shot one before.

Finally, I wanted to thank all of the models, collaborators, second shooters, and everyone in the wedding industry in Florida and globally, whom we have worked with! We are all on the same team.

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