The Business of Blogging – Backstage

There was a lot of talk on twitter yesterday about the how brides feel about styled shoots stemming from the Media Panel at Engage ’11.  While it’s true that SMP has received some push back from brides on styled shoots on our Facebook fan page I don’t take this to mean styled shoots are dead.  I’d state the overall vibe more as “styled shoots are polarizing to brides” and “some of our users feel that SMP shows too many styled shoots”.  I tend to look at the data more and facebook discussions less when analyzing how our readers feel about this stuff.  We’ve had some really successful styled shoots on SMP recently as recently as this Monday (see  this Urban Rustic Photo Shoot).  These shoots have received lots of traffic, tweets, shares on FB, etc..  I don’t have any say on what goes up on SMP but if it were up to me, I’d put these shoots on SMP again in a heart beat.

What do great shoots have in common?  If I were doing styled wedding photo shoots I’d try to do one of the following:
  1. Make them super practical and easy to replicate with lots of info so a bride feels like there’s something she can take away from the shoot.  I’d include long write ups about all the details I used in the shoot.   List out everything.  Make it easy to read.  I’d consider letting the user know where they can buy some of the items used in the shoots.
  2. Design shoots that capture someone’s attention quickly.  Do something different and creative.  You see this with engagement shoots and wedding proposals on SMP all the time.  Ask yourself, how do I capture the attention of the bride who skims 10 posts a day in her google reader?
  3. Do topically relevant shoots.  Recently we have put up shoots for the Kentucky Derby, and the Royal Wedding.  This is perhaps  my least favorite strategy because it can go horribly wrong BUT it can work when done tastefully and creatively.
  4. Drill down on the details. The placecards or menus, the unique decor elements that can be replicated, the new and cooler way to do display cakes or desserts, the fashions that can be found at actual stores.
What types of shoots don’t resonate as much with brides?  Here’s a guess, I haven’t looked at the data, however I think the average bride is less interested in super high fashion or overly ethereal wedding shoots.  When brides are in planning mode start to see models wearing outrageous gowns or headpieces and antique furniture in the middle of the woods and they will immediately feel very disconnected from your shoot.  If you want to incorporate some of those elements in your shoot make sure to include lots of practical elements too.
If anyone is interested in hearing more about our experiences with Wedding Photo Shoots on SMP just leave a comment below.
[Update: Rhi From Hey Gorgeous talks about the importance of Style Shoots.  Check out Why Style Shoots Aren't Going Away. There's a great discussion there too.]

24 Responses to “Are Wedding Photo Shoots Really Dead?”

  1. Lizzie says:

    Personally, I love a styled shoot, I think its a fantastic way to inspire couples by actually showing them what they can do!

    I have seen some on other blogs where they don’t really resonate with a wedding day, its just a model running around in a gown, with out-there make-up!

    When I was a bride, (old married now!!) I preferred seeing shoots with real brides rather then models…I think the excitement, and the knowledge that they are just like you, and not practised or paid for it, made me feel like I could look just as good on my day!!

  2. Mel says:

    Some brides may feel it’s a bit unachievable what they see in a styled shoot. And I agree with OP as a bride you may want to see what other brides do. It’s a bit like when you are pregnant, it’s always the stories of people giving birth that will fascinate you more than the theories and “How to” kind of books. So when I was a bride (a long time ago now) I searched out other brides and what they did.

    As a photographer I love the visual eye candy of a styled shoot, but I guess if I were a bride it may make me feel like I am not cool enough, good enough, not perfect… and no one wants to feel that way.

    However, I also agree that a good stylised shoot will give you ideas that are practical and easy to implement and achievable even if you are on a budget.

  3. Ryan says:

    This is such an insightful post for someone who is currently in the process of planning a styled shoot. I think that I had in my mind that the more “out there” we could get with it, the more likely it would get picked up by an awesome blog and people would buzz about it. Sounds like that’s not really the case. This is definitely forcing me to get back to thinking about what a potential bride would think when they see the shoot rather that what a wedding blog editor would think. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts about this!

  4. Melissa Jean says:

    I think styled shoots definitely have their place in blogs. They shouldn’t be the only kind featured, maybe a 1feature in every four posts would be a good ratio. But I definitely think they serve their purpose. Sure most brides won’t have what’s featured in a styled shoot. But it’s a little bit of magic, inspiration and a feeling of anything is possible which is a great feeling to give brides about their wedding day. As most photographers have their own blogs I think THAT is the place that brides should go to get a feel of how they’ll look on their wedding day with the photographer they choose.

  5. Tait says:

    Hey Ryan,

    Depends on the blog. For instance, I’ve seen R2D2 wedding cakes get coverage from some of the largest geek blogs in the world. That’s “out there” but it’s probably not the audience you want.

    Creative stuff, and to some extent “out there” stuff can go really viral on the web.

    We do put some of the slightly more “out there” photos and videos son our FB page. With social media sometimes you have to hit someone in the face to capture their attention. The “out there” stuff can do this. We’re more careful about what goes on our blog.

    Generally speaking, I’d find a great stylist who knows todays wedding trends and color palettes and do something approachable. I’d write it up well. Once it goes live I’d help market. Tell your friends and brides about it. Get them to share it on social media. Make the blog think that your work resonates with the online wedding world.

  6. Chelea says:

    I agree with a lot of the points made here. Styled shoots are great to get inspiration, but as I peruse hundreds of blogs leading up to my wedding, I find myself worrying more about how my wedding will LOOK and less how my wedding will FEEL. To quote one of my favorite posts from A Practical Wedding (one of my fave blogs) “You know what cool details make for? An awesome wedding album. You know what makes a great wedding? Joy.”

    That’s not to say I don’t totally admire all of the great blogs out there working super hard to create beautiful shoots that all of us drool over, but it’s important not to let yourself feel like you have something to measure up to. Choose details and projects that are important to you, and the rest will take care of itself.

    (Read more from A Practical Wedding’s “It’s Not All in the Details” post here: http://apracticalwedding.com/2008/05/its-not-all-in-details/#ixzz1O8bdKGSK)

  7. Christine says:

    I look to your photo shoots to spot upcoming trends, have for a while.
    Your track record is fabulous. Keep doing it.

    Yes, there may be brides (and critics) that don’t like them. Face it, it is from things like these that brides find their style. Can they recreate it in total. Well no. Can they take the essence of style from it. Why of course, and they do it all the time.

  8. Jen says:

    As a bride currently down to the details on my planning to do list, I’ve spent a ton of time on wedding blogs. They’re my favorite distraction and source of inspiration. I find ideas I’ve never thought of or would have considered from the styled shoots on blogs. But most of the time I leave the site feeling overwhelmed that my wedding won’t live up to the level of gorgeousness that are styled shoots. I get stressed out about the details not being pretty enough, or creative enough, especially since I work in a creative industry. I think that styled shoots are fantastic for inspiration but I think the designers need to keep shoots more practical. They should be attainable and created from a reasonable budget. Sure, some brides can afford to have 300 flowers per table in beautiful antique vases with letter-pressed stationary, but most of us are trying to create things on our own to keep our costs down. I’d love to see more ideas I know I can actually take and execute within my budget, not just try to create a mocked up knock off of an idea that will never look as good as something from a shoot.

  9. Tait says:

    Hey Jen,

    Great comment. If I were a planning a shoot I’d coem up with a budget and try really hard to stick with it. Then I’d do a budget break down on the photo shoot comments.

    Stylists could also show how a very similar set of elements can be rearranged to make a different look. The more versatile you make your shoot the more it can appeal to different types of brides.

  10. Julie says:

    Having just designed a shoot, I can say that I’m always wondering if I’ve done enough. In real life, I am such a less is more person. Clean lines, simple layouts. Beauty in simplicity. So doing a shoot is almost stressful for me because I feel like it won’t measure up. I constantly feel like I have to keep adding and adding to live up to the “fantasy” of what a photo shoot is.

    Looking at other shoots, I can say that it’s a mixed bag. I can appreciate the art of an over the top design. But the realist in me will always gravitate to the Real Wedding features for major inspiration. What I take away from a stylized shoot is the over all theme, not figuring out how to recreate that look exactly.

  11. personally i love styled shoots, almost as much as real weddings. let’s face it – many weddings are going to be just as unattainable as a styled shoot, depending on the budget. so – for me, it is a great way to get my portfolio going, share some inspiration, and show brides how to bring their own vision to reality. if nothing else, it is something pretty to look at, and showcase talents of the vendors involved.

  12. Jenny says:

    As a recently married bride, I loved looking at styled shoots, but realized that there was more time and effort put into these than I wanted to spend during my wedding.
    Everything is so perfect in these vignettes – the brides are so pretty, all the details are arranged perfectly, and everything matches.
    But at a real wedding it’s almost never like that, at least it wasn’t at my wedding. Sure, I had some great elements – and some incredible flowers, but the most important thing by far was my family and friends. The people. And that’s what these shoots lack.

  13. Koru Kate says:

    As a recent Bride & longtime wedding planner, I believe styled shoots provide inspiration, just like real weddings although there is a big difference between the two. As a Bride, I grew weary of styled shoots disguised as real weddings (not on SMP). Either you slowly realized no guests were in the photos or you found the truth in the fine print. Showcase the styled shoots & be honest & upfront about it!

  14. Tait says:

    Really interesting. I had no idea some sites were trying to pass of shoots as real weddings. That would have frustrated me too!

  15. I think its confusing for couples because it makes them unsure of what to expect.

    Its also down the bloggers/photographers integrity to declare that it is indeed a styled shoot.

    Overall though i think they are a positive way of show casing however who wants to be shown something they cant have ?

  16. Because everyone has become accustomed to highly stylized inspiration shoots, if the designs are scaled back to more modest and simple styles of décor (which is the most realistic and attainable for the majority of brides), will viewers/brides then be satisfied with what they see or will they think the shoots are “not good,” “plain,” “boring,” or “too simple”?

    As a formally educated visual artist turned floral artist, I appreciate the more elaborate and unique designs and shoots for their creativity and artistic value. As an artist, those are the types of shoots that truly inspire me and get my creative juices flowing. I do understand, however, how an “over the top” photoshoot can leave a bride disillusioned and disappointed when she takes the photo to her planner or florist and discovers that the tablescape setup and décor in the photo would cost several hundred dollars per table to duplicate. If a bride (or planner, florist, etc) looks at a highly stylized shoot as simply inspiration — a springboard for ideas — and not literally, they are a fantastic consultation tool.

    In 10+ years in the wedding/special event floral business, over 90% of our clients choose their bouquets, centerpieces, and other décor from photos in our portfolios, website, etc, or from inspiration photos in books, magazines, or online. Most brides are not comfortable with rough concepts and verbally described designs and cannot visualize something without a photo. Brides view bridal magazines and blogs for the photos and ideas, and that’s why it is so important to have a vast portfolio of work in a variety of colors, styles, and price points. If the majority of your clients tend to choose conservative and/or low cost styles but you want to include more exotic or extravagant designs in your portfolio, inspiration shoots are perfect for that purpose. Even if a particular concept or design is out of a bride’s reach or budget, a good wedding pro can explain ways the same or a similar look or concept can be designed but in a more conservative or low cost way.

    Long story short, I think stylized/inspiration shoots have tremendous value, and I think brides would miss them (and the new and creative ideas that come from them) if magazines and blogs published only real weddings or very scaled back shoots to only what’s considered “attainable” (which is all relative — every bride’s budget or DIY skill level is different) for the average (what’s “average”?) bride. Real weddings are great but what bride wants to duplicate, verbatim, what another bride has done? Without at least some inspiration shoots, readers/viewers would soon discover a serious lack of variety (same ideas cycled over and over again) and lack of new ideas.

  17. KT says:

    I love hearing everyone’s thoughts on this topic…

    As a photographer, I love an opportunity to step outside the box or to bring an idea to life. I think it is a great way to show your clients what you can do and what the possibilities are. It’s also an amazing opportunity for vend

  18. KT says:

    Got cut off…
    To collaborate.

    As a bride, I loved seeing new, creative ideas. While I may have not felt like I wanted to look exactly like the model in the shoot, I was looking for unique ideas and sometimes you just don’t see that in the real weddings. In the same sense that we leaf through Elle or Vogue, we’re not looking to be just like the people on the pages but that doesn’t mean you don’t get inspiration for a hairstyle or outfit.

  19. Tait says:

    I think the hope with styled shoots or any online wedding inspiration is that brides can share it with the people who are helping them with their wedding and visually demonstrate what they want one aspect of their wedding to look like. Sure brides can’t do everything in a shoot but if they find one take away that’s great.

  20. HiLLjO says:

    I do not prefer styled shoots, interestingly enough. Sure you can make everything “perfect” but this adds to the gap between {how getting married feels} vs. {how you expect it to feel}.
    I also get a similar feeling to how African masks are used… true art is only art when it is used for its intended live use. Wedding art is made with the love of the couple added. African mask art is made when they are used for tribal and ritual dances.
    Making an aesthetic display out of them just isn’t the same!!!
    I’ll take a Real Wedding over a shoot anyday, but I definitely don’t want shoots to die.

  21. Terri says:

    I think a lot of the stylized shoots are silly. The bride is a model – and you’re selling the vendors like hair and makeup – on a model and not a real bride. Also, who gets married out in the woods with overly stylized bed linens blowing in the wind and $250,000.00 worth of floral displays and jewelry hanging about the tree branches? It’s lovely to look at but it’s still an editorial and not a true wedding or real people.

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