Those people are models: photographer Angie Gaul wants to let you in on a wedding blog secret

Guestpost by Angie Gaul on May. 8th

Remember when we talked about all those pretty people that you keep seeing on wedding blogs? Angie Gaul, of New York's Milestone Images, has got a little secret to tell you about them, along with two not-so-little discounts for you to take advantage of ASAP!

Here's something you might not know about the wedding photography industry. MANY MANY MANY of the photos you see on the wedding blogs and planning sites are not real couples.

Some of them are models. Some of them are extremely photogenic newlyweds who agree to get dressed up again for dramatic photos. And some of them are the photographers' skinniest friends in borrowed dresses. And there's nothing wrong with that, until, as Offbeat Bride Ericka so beautifully put it in her amazing guest post, your "tornado touches down." (I want to print out her entry and give it to every single one of my clients and every woman I love, whose wedding planning is hurting her self-esteem; that's how much I love it.)

What all these fake wedding shoots have in common is that these are hand-picked, super-attractive people taken to attractive locations to look thin and pretty, which can ultimately end up making you feel — intentionally or not — like you are somehow lacking. Coupled with the pressure that you must BUY ALL THE THINGS and DO ALL THE THINGS and BECOME THIS PERFECT PERSON WITH REALLY WHITE TEETH before your wedding, and it's… not good.

Some professional wedding photographers have started standing up and calling their peers out. Kevin Weinstein, a wedding photographer in Chicago, wrote a fantastic entry on his blog about the industry practice of passing off staged and styled shoots with models in: Why Clients Need Fact Not Fiction.

Weinstein talks in part about how at least three of Junebug Weddings' (a self-described "style inspiration" website) winners in their Best of the Best 2010 wedding images were not even taken at real weddings — two winning shots were taken of models at workshops, and one at a styled session on a weekday.

Junebug responded, to their credit, in this entry: What Constitutes the Art of Wedding Photography? Real Weddings vs. Styled Shoots vs. Commercial Shoots. They say that they're all about providing inspiration, which is all well and good, but as Kevin Weinstein puts it…

Over the past seven years, workshops have exploded, offering newcomers a chance to define their craft while photographing staged weddings with models. I have seen many photographers post workshop images on their blogs as if they were shot at a real wedding. Why is this problematic? First, it misleads potential clients. It's false advertising. It also misrepresents your ability to make pictures under pressure, in real time.

So how do you know if what you're seeing is authentic shots of a real couple in love?

If a photographer posts, say, four amazing photos from a "recent session" (NOT "a recent wedding") and gives a lot of linky love to a caterer, baker, florist, dress shop, beautician etc., then most likely? Those vendors got together on a weekday and shot gorgeous pictures of everyone's very best efforts in a controlled, styled environment to mutually promote their services.

Again, NOT THAT THERE'S ANYTHING WRONG WITH THAT… as long as we as photographers own it AND make sure clients know that the photographs they're seeing aren't necessarily reflective of the results one might get in 30 minutes before cocktail hour on the hottest Saturday in June.

As a rule, anything that shows a bride posing with a horse was almost definitely not taken on the wedding day. Think about it. Unless you are a horse person, own a horse, or getting married on a location with horses (I have two weddings booked this summer that will take place on working farms, where there will probably be horses somewhere), are you really going to take time out before cocktail hour to go to a farm? Are you going to risk dragging your dress through poop and show up at your reception where you plan to hug 100 people while smelling like horse?

I'm being facetious, somewhat, and not just because one of my clients wrote an entry here on Offbeat Bride about loving a photo I shot of her doing an ugly cry. The stylized shoot with models thing? Not my cup of tea. The photos on my website are all real couples who hired me, not models I've hired.

To expand upon a 1998 self-esteem campaign slogan from the Body Shop that said, "There are 3 billion women who don't look like supermodels and only 8 who do."… Well, there are so many more of us imperfect, snaggletoothed, plus-sized, frizzy-haired, sweaty-faced-on-the-dance-floor real brides (like I was) than there are perfect, dewy princess brides.

If you happen to be an interracial, multicultural, differently abled, plus-sized, and/or LGBT couple, check out, oh, pretty much everybody featured on my blog, like, ever. Psst… Polyamorous nearlyweds? Your union won't be my first time at that rodeo.

My client brides come in every shape and size and some (gasp!) are taller than their grooms!

Other than the horse thing, how can you know if what you're seeing is an authentic image of a real couple in love? You can ask. If you have a photographer whose work you love whom you're considering hiring, ask him or her if the specific images that caught your eye were taken of a real couple. In general, if it seems to be good too be true, it probably is.

That doesn't mean you can't find a photographer who makes you look amazing, who helps you feel good about posing, who captures your real personalities and who will help you create save-the-date cards, engagement pictures, wedding albums, and artwork where you've never looked happier or more in love. In fact, you deserve nothing less.

ANGIE'S OFFBEAT DISCOUNT: As always, Offbeat Bride readers get a 10% discount, which always saves you sales tax plus a little extra.

The first two couples to book with a deposit and a date after this entry save 15% on any package, and the first couple to book the "Unicorns and Rainbows" package saves 25%.

Many thanks to Angie for her perspective. This is a great reminder of why, at Offbeat Bride, we ONLY feature real couples on their actual wedding day. Styled shoots just aren't our jam.