Reasons Why I Don't Like the Concept of Wedding Photography Portfolios

Reasons Why I Don't Like the Concept of Wedding Photography Portfolios

I'm sure you have a beautiful portfolio as do most professional wedding photographers, but have you ever stopped to think what may be wrong with showcasing such a filtered representation of your work to potential clients?

Now, let me get this straight. I am not really providing a solution, instead I am raising a debate on the possible implications of showcasing a heavily curated gallery of our work to potential wedding clients. I have had this in the back of my mind ever since I went to my first wedding show. I remember it clearly; I noticed a beautifully decorated photography stand filled with thick wedding albums, a bunch of framed images scattered on the table, but more importantly, a large framed print right next to the stand which was clearly visible from the other side of the venue. The picture was of a young, beautiful bride with striking hair, and in a perfectly fitted wedding gown. Although on further inspection, she most definitely was a professional model, I didn't really think about it then. The colors of the photograph were vivid and welcoming as was the attractive bride. 

My first impression was: "That's such a beautiful photograph and is presented nicely." But I had only just started out in wedding photography and something like easily swayed me to favor the said stand over others on that day. However, looking back with the experience I have now, it has got me thinking about the wrong impression we may leave on easily impressionable wedding clients who have no experience or knowledge of wedding photography industry as such. We often grow fond of certain images taken during our career that remain on our online portfolio longer than others, and it's inevitable that we will pick the "best" images to act as a visual representation of our business online.

A bride and groom being welcomed by wedding guests.

It's unfortunate that there are still so many couples that fall for the wrong photographer, one who may have stolen photos from others and claimed them as theirs when speaking to potential clients. Or, photographers who have got a plethora of creative couples' shots in their portfolio or a bunch of styled shoots from all over the country but none of the "fillers," namely, images that fill the majority of everyone's wedding gallery and in a way could be seen as the more challenging yet important ones.

Think about it, only a vast minority of clients would like to only have perfectly styled images of them as a couple and no documentation of the actual event, which is a celebration of love, friendships, and family ties. These images are the hardest because you actively have to look for the right moment, and not only react to it but also compose it in a way that tells a compelling story as opposed to a guided session of two people looking into each other's eyes with a beautiful sunset behind them. 

Two young boys at a wedding.

Although I said I am not offering a solution, merely raising a discussion, I have been trying to solve this by following three steps to ensure my clients are aware of what I offer and whether that meets their expectations. Firstly, I make sure that when potential clients go on my website, they do see these "filler" shots. I try and steer them away from only looking at the couples' portrait gallery and instead added various sections that tell the story of different parts of the day, from the morning until the night. However, you could argue that although I've chosen to show these photographs, it is still not a true representation of what they would receive in a gallery because these are actually my favorite shots from each section.

A wedding portfolio gallery online

The portfolio is divided in smaller sections like this one.

Secondly, as many of us are already doing, I implemented a blog section that I named "Stories." Here I give an insight of several weddings and engagement shoots by showcasing a smaller scaled gallery of what these couples actually received. Again, this is not a full wedding gallery but rather a highlight reel of each one of them but it does show a more condensed version of the wedding. And, thirdly, I make it very clear during our face-to-face meetings that what I show on my website is only a small part of what they receive, and as such, I let them choose one or two galleries to look at more thoroughly. As they scroll through the actual final gallery of one of my previous clients, I provide a brief commentary of the things I look out for, how I work, and I always make sure to mention that every wedding is unique and theirs will look completely different but one thing that won't change is that it's me capturing it. I'll still employ the same eye and watch out for those little moments but they will be completely unique to them.

A bride sat at a wedding breakfast table

The reason why I try and filter my clients like this is to ensure that there is only a minute possibility that they will receive something they are disappointed with, hence why through every part of our communication I try my best to both sell myself and the experience I provide but also to be completely realistic. I have nothing against styled shoots or showing breathtaking couples portraits but the issue lays in photographers allowing potential clients to think that this is a true representation of what they'll predominantly receive at the end of it.

What are your thoughts? How would you ensure that clients don't have false expectations based on beautifully curated galleries?

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38 Comments

Leigh Miller's picture

ummm so pull the pin on the grenade...throw it in the room and run with your popcorn and soda?

Daniel Medley's picture

"But I had only just started out in wedding photography and something like easily swayed me to favor the said stand over others on that day."

I'm not sure what this means. And it's just one example of oddly structured sentences and punctuation.

I hate to be nit-picky, but as a professional online publication it behooves us all to have a fundamental grasp of punctuation, sentence structure, and the concept of thorough proofing.

Leigh Miller's picture

lol...behooves. One of those words that makes me giggle.

Sorry...resume the regular broadcast.

Daniel Medley's picture

At least it's not DEhooves :)

Bill Wells's picture

Daniel, I just looked at your website. You have some very nice portraits. More edgy and modern.

Since I can tell what type of photography you do and skill level you have. Please remove your portfolio.

Bill Wells's picture

I'm sure you are serious with this article and I do not intend to mean or disrespectful.

But this is strangest article I've seen in a long time. Ok, maybe ever. If I understand what you are saying.

It appears that you are saying, I should have a website without a portfolio of only my very best images.

I''m sure you are a very good photographer.

Your advise for a shoe store would be, do not put styled and perfect images of their shoes on their website. Instead put pictures of dirty boots outside and under the bed.

I'm so confused, you can find me in fetal position in the corner.

Jeff Walsh's picture

Where are you getting, don't put images on your website? I see three main points in the article: post more "filler" photos to your gallery so people can get a better idea of the whole picture, blog about the reality of wedding photography, and lastly, be extra communicative when face-to-face so they know what to expect from you.

Did I skim by something in the article about not having a gallery? Or did you skim and assume a pretty wild conclusion without actually reading the conclusion?

Anete Lusina's picture

Thank you Jeff for reading the article :) you got it spot on.

Bill Wells's picture

Well there is the title. So there's that.

Jeff Walsh's picture

I dont like the concept of something does not mean the same thing as, you should not have anything at all. Maybe start with the word concept, and work from there

Bill Wells's picture

So if I say I don't like the concept of photography websites what does that statement mean?

Jeff Walsh's picture

Do you not understand what the word "concept" means? I honestly feel like this conversation is going to drag out, and I'm also convinced you didn't read a damn thing other than the title.

The article says the general idea...grasp that ever so important word "idea,"... behind heavily curated, personal galleries, doesn't realistically showcase what clients receive in full. So, an idea...focus on the word "idea" here because it's important...would be to include more "filler" shots, have a clearer conversation with the client so they know what to expect on delivery, and to regularly blog about what is realistic with your photography.

I can't believe I needed to explain every basic point made in an article to a grown adult, but here we are. Good luck in your future reading adventures sir.

Bill Wells's picture

Would you answer MY question.

Here it is again: if I say I don't like the concept of photography websites what does that statement mean? It's a simple question.

Would it be easier if I said: Reasons Why I Don't Like the Concept of Wedding Websites.

I'm not sure why you got so angry, maybe you are just an angry person by nature - I don't know. But I do know that anger like that is not good. But I could be wrong.

You came on like gang busters going to teach me and the others. I'm ready to learn, just look at the two questions above.

Simple question - Simple answer. I am sure.

Bill Wells's picture

Oh and just so you know. You are arguing with yourself. Just in case you didn't know.

You just said "The article says the general idea...grasp that ever so important word "idea,"... behind heavily curated, personal galleries, doesn't realistically showcase what clients receive in full. So, an idea...focus on the word "idea" here because it's important...would be to include more "filler" shots, have a clearer conversation with the client so they know what to expect on delivery, and to regularly blog about what is realistic with your photography."

Now if you would take time to read what everyone is saying you would see.

Oh, please answer my question first.

Even if what you are saying and the way you are saying it were to be the thrust of the article. It is still the worst advise ever.

Truth is neither of you are wedding photographers. That is fine. Both are good photographers. Just not wedding photographers.

Alanna You's picture

I am in the same boat. There seems to be this feedback loop between top photographers in my area. I recently went to a wedding expo where several "luxury" photographers were vying for the same client with similar images of overly made-up model brides next to obnoxiously large windows. The lack of diversity adds to this monotonous trend of similarly Pinterest worthy, yet soulless wedding photography. Also, if one more person mentions wanting to take photos near an "esplanade" of any kind, my eyes may roll to the back of my head and will likely never return.

Bill Wells's picture

First, stop going to wedding expos! LOL Most are just what you are seeing there. In smaller wedding shows, it's just brides looking for cheapest photographer.

I've just never heard of don't put only your best images on your website.

Anete Lusina's picture

Bill, unfortunately you didn't read the article properly. Never ever did I say don't put images on your website.

Lina Forrestal's picture

"I'm sure you have a beautiful portfolio as do most professional wedding photographers, but have you ever stopped to think what may be wrong with showcasing such a filtered representation of your work to potential clients?"

No, why wouldn't I display my showstoppers? All of my competition will be displaying their best work, why shouldn't I? Is there something unethical about displaying your best images, regardless of the type of shoot? I respect your perspective but this article is very confusing and doesn't have a clear argument.

Anete Lusina's picture

Lina, if you read the article thoroughly you'll understand what I'm saying with it.

Jeff McCollough's picture

We have all read it and we still don't get it.

Jeff Walsh's picture

False, it was pretty damn clear what the article was about. Try reading the words instead of just passing your eyes over the letters. The author literally breaks down everything into 3 points, and tells you what each point is. Holy hell, when did basic reading comprehension become such a difficult task?

Anete Lusina's picture

It's today's instantaneous culture - headlines are read but rarely do people read the whole article whether it's a blog entry or news piece, then you go in comments and read what half of people say and think, did anyone actually read this? Even worse when it's a slightly sarcastic headline or headline and intro sentence, and people just jump to conclusions without reading the whole thing. And, that's absolutely fine because I know most people these days want a quick fix of information, a short video, nicely laid out stats etc so don't actually have the time to put into reading things thoroughly :)

Bill Wells's picture

Let me see. Someone writes an article. Of the people who read the article say they don't get it.

I will tell you if 9 out 10 people say there is a dog on the sidewalk, I would bet it was a dog. Now the fact that you want it to be a cat will never make it a cat..

Jeff Walsh's picture

Are you talking about the voices in your head. Stroll through the comments. You're the ONLY ONE who came away with it saying, dont have a gallery haha

Bill Wells's picture

Jeff Jeff Jeff. Answer the question please. That is all we ask.

You my friend need to take a deep breath and stop being so angry. Then read all these comments.

I think you will find most are say it's a poorly written article at best. Plus the points as you call them, are so far off they are out of touch.

If you are not going to answer the questions just say so. We all already know the answer just waiting to get your view.

Jeff Walsh's picture

First off, I'm not going to explain to you what "concept" means. Which is essentially what your weird question was. I explained the article since you seemed to miss it entirely. At this point I feel like you're sort of "in your own world" with all of this, rather than the reality of the actual article and comments. The article didn't say what you've accused it of, and no one here is saying the things you say they are, which makes me question where you're mind is at. So, I'm going to be done chatting with you. Have a good one.

Bill Wells's picture

Jeff, You are like the nerd kid in school and acts they know everything and then defends a girl in hopes that she will say thank you.

I wasn't that guy in school (HS or College) and I'm too old to be that guy now. Besides, in 2019 women are well capable of defending themselves and producing work better than us guys.

Now, the reason you will not answer the question is because I changed a couple of words in the title. If you explained that you would have to admit the true meaning of concept.

You see the title, Why I Don't Like the Concept of Wedding Photography Portfolios, simply means that she / you does not like the idea of wedding photography portfolios.

My question was, Why I Don't Like the Concept of Wedding websites. You think that means that I don't even like the idea, notion, conception, abstraction of wedding websites. Of course it does.

So ok stud, I answered it for you. Now you, my friend, can either read all the post here or better yet just shut up and set down.

I did not intend to sound mean, but you started from jump. Again, I do not know why you are so angry, but I have tried to be nice to you. This just the truth.

Oh, before you respond to something I got wrong, please provide quotes. Those are exact word with these " " little things at the beginning and the end. You know like what I did above.

So goodnight little stud.

Jeff McCollough's picture

Is something wrong with you?

Bill Wells's picture

This can not be your answer to everything.

Felix Wu's picture

Styled shoots are the biggest lies when it comes to wedding photography portfolios.

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