Are we over styled shoots?

Jun 21, 2016 | Industry

It's something we hear lots of at workshops and at industry events - are there too many styled shoots out there? Being a publication that gets sent approximately 50-100 styled shoots every week, we can for sure say at times, definitely! Don't get us wrong, we heart a well executed, well styled editorial that is original and inspires us in this extremely saturated industry. We're ALL OVER great work and appreciate it for what it is - art. So why do we turn away so many styled shoots from Wedding Sparrow? Here's some useful pointers on what we look for:


The lack of a story within an editorial is the number one turn off for us in the Submissions department. A focus on the color pink (or whatever the Pantone color of the year is) simply isn't enough for our audience and they love to see the in-depth story behind the inspiration. A pretty girl in a white dress will only make your editorial go so far and ultimately it makes the shoot look very similar to lots of other styled shoots in the industry and we feel like we've seen it all before. Having a story that is exclusive to you (as the artist and creator), makes it personal and much more likely to be original. Think outside the box, your inspiration should not come from an existing place in the wedding industry, this just sees replication in an already very saturated industry. Take inspiration from anywhere else - art, history, literature, travel - anything except the wedding world!


We see all too often, the over-use of styling and props in an editorial and it doesn't work for our audience. Our brand is all about timelessness and ultimately the vast majority of styling 'props' simply date an editorial and make it trend-driven. Not something we look for. We used to see engagement picnics with vintage typewriters in fields. The question we ask? Who on earth are they typing a letter to?! It's not appropriate in this setting or situation. We see editorials with 'brides' holding golden sprayed pineapples in the middle of a mountain setting. The question we ask? Why?! It's props for the sake of props and has no meaning. Less is more when it comes to styling and don't forget to use your talents as a photographer/florist/stylist to get a wide range of images to ensure the the editorial has depth and variety.


In terms of photography, we see lots of editorials that are shot from a similar stand point meaning the subject is always the same distance from the camera. This doesn't lend itself well to variety of images for the reader and once we've seen one image of the 'bride' at this position, we don't need to see the rest. Don't underestimate the use of space either. Space can be so emotive in an image and we love to see a great use of space. We also love to see out of focus shots, macro shots, emotive shots and details such as movement, make up details (Editor Sara has a thing for lips!) and the classic back of head shot (this does great on Instagram and Pinterest!).


Before submitting to any publication, you need to research what their brand is all about. Wedding Sparrow is all about light, natural, muted, organic, authentic and quality work. If you send us dark, bright, heavily saturated, over styled editorials, it's a straightforward 'no' from us due to the lack of brand consistency we would offer our audience.


It's the easiest thing in the world to say 'just be original!' when actually it can be very difficult for some. We are all heavily inspired by what we see online and on social media and we often see original editorials in the industry replicated. So how do we create without replicating? We need to regularly exercise our 'creativity' muscle. What starts as a kernel of an idea should then be inspired by your personal experience, mood, personality and even the season. When we start with a simple idea (a moment in time, an emotion, a location), it needs to be fleshed out and the only way it will remain original is simply if we put a piece of ourselves into it. For example, if we use a simple olive tree as the starting point of our idea, the end result should differ depending on what day of the week it is, what mood we're in, what season it is and lots of other external factors. It could take us to hot climates, spice driven color palettes, dark skinned models if we think of olive oil and the effect it has on light, sheen and luminessence. Or it could take us to a dry arid desert, with black burnt trees, epic movement shots in a dress with yards of material if we think of the shape of the tree itself and how it bends. Flexing this 'muscle' takes practice and we should all be doing it often as creatives. Don't create that moodboard without thinking of your 'why' - the reason you're creating this editorial.

We'd love to hear your take on styled shoots in the industry and if we see too much replication. How do you keep pushing yourself to be original in a saturated market?


Elyse Alexandria - 26 June 2016

I’m surprised & disappointed to not see that my comment was approved. I did not disagree with the post, I simply pointed out why so many in the wedding industry do & seek publication for styled shoots.

Camilla Bloom - 22 June 2016

But is not that you - wedding online and offline issues who made all this FAKE styled weddings so popular? You brought up the wedding standards to the Highest level?

You publish mostly fit and pretty brides and handsome grooms. The wedding gown should be expensive and unique,  the rings at least tiffany with 2 kt diamond, guest all skinny and young (i hardly see a guest in wheelchair,  an XXXl sized aunt, a drunk uncle with red nose in an old brown suit ) and every corner should be stuffed with flowers, crystals and antique things

In Finland 99% of real weddings don’t even look like what you publish here….  And they never will….

Jana - 22 June 2016

Great article Sara! Being a wedding photographer I’m constantly surfing on wedding blogs, instagram etc and I have noticed our recent shoot have been declined and I do think it’s because we started to loose our voice. I agree, there are a lot of styled shoots on web. But I think this is something wedding blogs should be looking at. If wedding blogs don’t want to feature small real weddings or real couple sessions, then photographers start shooting more styled shoots to get featured.
We have decided to stop surfing on wedding blogs for sometime. Also decided to shoot more for our portfolio update and networking rather then submissions.  Will see where it will take us.

Elyse Alexandria - 22 June 2016

Do you know why photographers do so many styled shoots, especially with the intent of submitting? I promise it’s not just to photograph something pretty, though it is fun to do & nice to have for their portfolio. It’s because every wedding that I shoot that I think is “submission worthy” or has a beautiful love story, doesn’t have enough details, or doesn’t have the right details, or the flowers aren’t big and beautiful enough to submit, or the bride is “too big,” or there’s a single mason jar in sight, or the invitations aren’t cute enough, or there’s something about the wedding that just isn’t “submission worthy.”  With a styled shoot, you can at least control many of the things you simply can’t control at someone else’s wedding.

You also mention the overuse of props, which you bring up several good points, but at the same time, so often submissions are turned down for “lack of details.” So styled shoot planners & brides feel like they need to have all these details in order to have some hope of getting published. And the details need to be original, which is probably why you’re getting golden pineapples on a mountaintop, that’s pretty unique, lol.

Anyway, you do bring up lots of good points, especially since you guys are the ones that receive all these submissions. Just hoping to bring a new perspective as to why :)

Kristen - 22 June 2016

This is a great post! Very informative and insightful - thanks for sharing! -Kristen

Stephanie - 22 June 2016

Great article! As an event planner and a designer, while we loved styled shoots, we believe that they sometimes set couples up with unrealistic expectations of what their dining table will look like upon guest arrival to their reception. Yes, you can rent a 12”, 10” and 8” plate to be layered on the table for your guests to see as they sit BUT consider those “dummy” plates as your caterer or food provider cannot use them for food service. In my opinion and experience, a 200 person wedding isn’t going to frivolously spend additional cash for something that is used just for presentation, not for function. Obviously, it is our jobs as planners and designers to educate our clients of function versus presentation.

Lauren - 22 June 2016

I am not a photographer, but in the creative industry, have participated in styled shoots, and was recently married in 2015. My concern had become how unrealistic these weddings are to replicate from average girls’ perspective. Outside of the industry, one would have no way to know if a picture was a real wedding or a styled shoot. Especially on Pinterest and Instagram. Beautiful and carefully curated scenes set for a table of 6. Unless you elope, you’re going to have way more than 6 people at your wedding. The cost of creating these looks for 100+ people is only realistic for the 1%. I understand they are meant for inspiration. But it may be difficult to be inspired by things that are barely attainable. I’d love to see at least some styled shoots that are achievable and taking budget into consideration. I feel that would be popular, helpful and appreciated by the majority of brides out there!

Lindsay Bishop - 22 June 2016

Absolutely loved reading this! I don’t think that there are too many shoots, but I do agree about inspiration. After reading an article by Ginny Au I made it my goal this year not to use any inspiration from the wedding industry in my shoots, and it has been so much more fun!

Skylar Caitlin - 22 June 2016

Thank you so much for taking the time to remind us to consider the art behind our styled shoots. I loved what you said about asking yourself “why?” to edit your ideas an produce the most creative and authentic styled shoot you can. Great tips for everyone in the industry, new and experienced!

Betsy Blue - 22 June 2016

I LOVE this…THANK YOU for posting, being honest, and exposing what should be behind everything we shoot. It’s so easy to follow the flock of what’s popular. While we all agree that a certain style or look is beautiful, what might seem hard, but is actually so freeing, is delving deep within ourselves as artists to CREATE something fresh and meaningfully new from within our own, unique, individual world. What better way to distinguish ourselves as individual artists, grow art as a whole, and reach out to a clientele that clicks with us as we are, than to dig deep within ourselves. This is why you’re so inspiring Sara…thank you for looking deeper, staying true and asking for a bit more. xo

Nicole - 22 June 2016

I see way too many styled shoots in the city I work in and they’re all so similar to the last one they’ve created. As a wedding planner and stylist I love creating styled shoots to show my creativity but I’ve limited myself to a certain amount of shoots a year to give it more exclusivity.

Nina - 21 June 2016

Great post!  So many great thoughts and advice.  We need more of this honesty from blogs.  I agree with all of it!  :)

Erica Schneider - 21 June 2016

This is a great article!

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