Your talent as an event professional is turning your clients’ dreams into a reality—and what better way to place a spotlight on how you work your magic than through photography? “Wedding pros love to create styled shoots to showcase their skills, attract new clients, rebrand, build valuable relationships, be featured in publications, and fill up their website with gorgeous imagery,” explains Kirsten Palladino, co-founder and editorial director of Equally Wed.
The photographs you put out into the world can also send a message to potential clients about your values and inclusivity of all races, religions, genders, sexual orientations, shapes, and sizes. When a couple sees your portfolio, they should see people they relate to and also know that you are an ally. With that in mind, here are some simple ways you can be mindful and intentional when planning styled shoots.
Commit to Representation
As Palladino points out, when it comes to putting together a styled shoot many vendors often go the typical route of featuring skinny, white, heterosexual, cisgender couples.
“My first suggestion for anyone planning a styled shoot is to consider representing society at large, not just repeat what the industry tries to feed us,” she explains.
Have a Diverse Creative Team
Are the vendors that you work with a diverse group of people? Alejandra Baca, founder and editor in chief of Belle The Magazine, recommends putting together a talented team that has experience working with the community—and even better, are a part of the community—you want to include in the shoot. Not only will this ensure that any cultural elements are included in “an authentic and accurate way,” but you can also confirm that you’re working with professionals who share your inclusive values.
Be Aware of Cultural Differences
“Be sensitive that ethnicities/cultures (Hispanic, Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern) come from many different countries and each country has its own culture,” notes Baca. "It's disrespectful to lump them all into one group." Communities have different traditions and practices depending on region. So never assume that everyone is the same and wants the same thing. Instead educate yourself on diverse traditions so you're well equipped.
Don’t Feed Into Stereotypes
A couple’s religion or ethnicity doesn’t dictate their wedding day style, cautions Baca, adding, for example, that “not all Hispanic couples want a fiesta-theme wedding; they might want a modern art gallery event.” Remember, you don’t want your photographs to promote stereotypes.
Consider Real Couples
No matter what their background may be, most people have a hard time relating to professional models. With that in mind, think about using real couples for your styled shoots. Choosing actual couples will show that you are comfortable shooting people from various backgrounds.
If you want to show off an LGBTQ+ wedding, for example, use actual LGBTQ+ couples for your shoot. You want your work to be completely authentic, and it is never acceptable to have models pretending to be something that they’re not.
Make Models Feel Comfortable
On the day of the shoot, you want to make sure that all of your models—professional or not—are comfortable in the environment that you have set up. If anyone voices any concerns, listen to them and make necessary changes so that everyone leaves the shoot feeling good about the work.
Hero photo courtesy by Stephanie Parshall Photography