I've heard a lot of photographers recently expand their thoughts on styled shoots, especially after the closing of Style Me Pretty. I have heard people say "See, this is why I don't do styled shoots.." "This is why real couples are more important" etc. Let me be the first to say, the wedding photography market has become over-saturated with styled shoots and elaborate designs that make the typical bride feel inferior when planning her own wedding. I will also say, that wedding photographers have put too big of an emphasis on ribbon, Mrs. boxes, and all the pretty things that we stylize and shoot to be featured. Wedding blogs scream DETAILS and if a bride doesn't have details, well then she's just not good enough to be featured. So, I definitely see the side of things where people are saying that "This is why I don't do styled shoots". But that statement right there is why I am writing this post. If you have stated that, I believe you are looking at things from only one perspective.
I believe that styled shoots can be a great tool for photographers and for future brides, but only if you let it.
One BIG reason that I continue to do styled shoots is so I can improve as a photographer. This is like my practice field and the wedding day is the game field. This allows me to practice using different equipment, film stocks, posing techniques, and lighting without the pressure of a wedding day. If you are a wedding photographer and you think you don't need to practice, you should think again.. Just like any other skill set, you have to continue to practice so you can keep up with your craft and your field.
In college I took several drawing classes, and ended up really enjoying pencil drawings. I created some of my favorite work in those classes and truly felt myself excel in that area. Well, a few years passed and I hadn't sketched in quite a while, but I wanted to create a drawing as a gift to someone in my family. I finished that drawing after several days of hard work and stepped back to look at it... wow-not my best work. My skill had declined so much since those drawing classes that I took for several hours a day, 3 days a week. Why? Because I hadn't kept up with the craft- I hadn't practiced!
The same can be true about different hobbies, talents, and careers. When you don't practice, you won't improve, and dare I say your skill may even decline! So the big reason for me to create and photograph styled shoots is to practice and improve my craft.
Another large reason I continue to do styled shoots is to meet and connect with different vendors. While I will argue that a personal connection with my real couples are important to me, I will also say that a personal connection with my fellow wedding professionals is just as important to me! They are real people too, and on wedding days, there really isn't that time to connect- except for a short introduction with each other. I love that during styled shoots, I can truly see the creativity and talent of these wedding professionals. They all shine and excel in their own areas and take ownership of their tasks. We are able to truly collaborate, lift up each others work, and get to know each other more during the planning process and the day of the shoot!
Another benefit from working with fellow vendors is the ability to recommend them to brides with confidence, because we know them on a deeper level and can truly say that they have our couples best interest at heart.