Real Weddings vs Fake Weddings

If you’re browsing a lot of online blogs and photography websites while planning your wedding, you will probably stumble upon weddings that look so amazing they simply couldn’t be real — the details look over-the-top with mason jars and candles hanging from trees, the cake looks so pristine you wouldn’t want to cut it, and even the bride and groom look like models. You’re probably right: the bride and groom are models, and that isn’t a real wedding! It’s something called an “Inspiration Shoot”, and it’s disheartening to see so many wedding blogs and photographers advertising these staged photos as if they were taken at a real wedding.

This one happens to be real.Inspiration Shoots, also known as “styled shoots”, are a popular way for wedding vendors to enhance their portfolios by staging a fake wedding. Photographers participate to photograph a model bride and groom with amazing wedding details, and other vendors participate so they can use the photos to show off their own work as well. The most photogenic location is chosen, beautiful models are hired, florists and cake designers slave to produce their best work…every element is hand-picked and set perfectly in place. But while these fake weddings may inspire you, they also give a false impression of what vendors and photographers can produce on a wedding day where it is unlikely to find these ideal conditions.

While an inspiration shoot can demonstrate a photographer’s ability and talent to capture a scene, the photographer did not have to deal with the normal pressures found on a wedding day–like hectic time constraints, the less-than-ideal lighting situations, or Aunt Sally interrupting you to photograph her 5 sisters and 12 cousins from Texas that she never gets to see. A photographer can take an entire day to capture beautiful photos of an inspiration shoot, but can that same photographer handle the pressures of a real wedding?

(I’m very proud to say that all of the photos you see on this website were taken at real weddings, with genuine couples and not models. Any resemblance to an inspiration shoot is purely coincidental, because I try to make every wedding look as glamorous as a styled shoot. Bring it, Aunt Sally!)

This one also happens to be real.If you find a wedding photographer’s portfolio full of perfectly-styled photos and it lacks some ceremony or reception photos, ask the photographer to see images from a full wedding they have photographed. Not only do many photographers unethically display photos from inspiration shoots in their portfolios, but they also display photos of models taken at photography workshops, and photos taken over the shoulder of another photographer they might be assisting. Today it is easy for anyone to take a few snaps at a friend’s wedding or photograph a couple styled shoots, throw everything on a template website, and call themselves a “professional” photographer. But reviewing the images from a full wedding will tell you if the photographer is experienced enough and has the skills to photograph your wedding the way you want!

(I would also like to note that I do not display any photos I’ve taken at photography workshops either.)

So if somebody asked me tomorrow to collaborate on an inspiration shoot, would I do it? Sure! I’m not saying that the photos from inspiration shoots are illegitimate or not worthy of recognition, I just think that displaying them in a portfolio as a real wedding is deceptive and dishonest. For me, photographing an inspiration shoot would be a great chance to produce amazing creative images by trying some new techniques that I’m not comfortable testing out on a real wedding…but will you find the images in my wedding portfolio? No!

2 responses to Real Weddings vs Fake Weddings

  1. Joe says:

    Great point. Style shoots have a purpose… but that purpose isn’t for the photographer to pad their portfolio. (imho)

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