Social media influences Utah wedding photos

Evan Fiala stood on the granite steps of the Salt Lake Temple and straightened his tie while his new wife, Sarah, adjusted her wedding dress. A photographer stood nearby and gave directions, her camera pointed fixedly at the newlyweds. The Fialas were used to posing for pictures — they spent three days with a professional photographer in the summer of 2015.

Evan and Sarah Fiala took formal shots outside the Salt Lake temple days before their wedding. Formal shots are a recent trend in wedding photography, made popular partly through social media.
Evan and Sarah Fiala took formal shots outside the Salt Lake Temple days before their wedding. Formal shots are a recent trend in wedding photography, made popular partly through social media. (Janie George)

Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are full of pictures of engaged and newlywed couples. Wedding photography is a profitable venture in Utah, helped along by millennials’ enthusiasm for social media, so the industry is growing and branching in the Internet era.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the photography industry will grow a moderate three percent between 2014 and 2024; however, there may also be a nine percent increase in self-employed photographers during the same time period.

Utah has 0.55 photographers per 1,000 jobs, according to 2014 data. The number looks insignificant at first glance, but it’s the third highest concentration of photographers in the nation, lower than only Hawaii and Nevada. The data also shows that Utah has more photographers than police dispatchers (0.48 per 1,000 jobs) or pediatricians (0.19 per 1,000 jobs).

Utah wedding photographer Rachel Nielsen said clients have hired her after seeing her posts online. Her official website plays a part in attracting clients, but so do her pages on social media.

“For photographers, as we post stuff and put our shots out there, people find us,” Nielsen said. “I’ve gotten clients from Instagram and Pinterest and all kinds of places.”

Social media doesn’t just help the photographer, Nielsen said; it also makes wedding planning easier for engaged couples. About 70 percent of brides-to-be create wedding boards on Pinterest before even getting engaged, according to Mashable.

“It’s really nice to do research online before you actually reach out to the photographer that you’ve had your eye on,” Nielsen said. “You can definitely tell what kind of images the photographer takes.”

The Fialas were no exception to Utah’s wedding photography craze. Sarah said she spent time online as she planned all the photos she wanted to take between the moment Evan proposed and the last minutes of their reception.

“Social media was definitely the way I investigated photographers,” Sarah said. “That’s where people post the majority of their pictures. It definitely helped me decide the style I liked.”

But social media platforms do more than bring photographers and couples together. Social media can also help couples decide on the various types of wedding-related photos they want to take, instead of paying for just the traditional engagement shots and wedding day coverage.

Local wedding photographer Jen Fauset said she’s seen lots of new trends on social media, including formal bride-and-groom pictures, first-look shots and boudoir photos.

Janie George
Evan and Sarah took their engagement photos in a greenhouse and at Guardsman Pass. They used social media to decide on the style they wanted for these photos. (Janie George)

“People are so used to documenting every portion of their lives, and then they think, ‘Who’s going to take pictures of my wedding?'” she said. “You can’t just have a selfie.”

Fauset gave the example of social media posts showing the bride and groom posing together for pre-wedding formal shots. Pre-wedding photoshoots used to just feature the bride, the bling and the bouquet, she said.

“Now the groom comes to the bridal session 95 percent of the time,” Fauset said. “And at least 75 percent of those couples want a first look,” documenting a groom’s initial reaction to the bride in her wedding dress. The first-look trend is especially popular for LDS couples who can’t take photos inside the temple.

The Fialas and their photographer took formal shots on Temple Square just days before the wedding. Sarah wore her wedding dress and brought a bouquet, and Evan wore his tuxedo.

“Taking formal shots alleviated a lot of stress from the actual wedding day,” Sarah said. “The wedding day was so stressful. But since we took some pictures beforehand, we had time to stage things and see what we actually wanted.”

Other recent trends include boudoir shots, or suggestive photos of the bride that she gives to the groom as a wedding present. Most brides have seen these shots on sites like Pinterest but do not upload their own pictures to social media.

Boudoir photos are less popular in Utah than formal shots or first-look pictures, but the trend does exist and has grown in the past few years.

The Fialas are not the first Utah couple to use social media before deciding on a wedding photographer or style of wedding photos, and they won’t be the last. Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are pushing couples to investigate photographers and document every major event related to their wedding from the proposal to the reception.

“I’m obsessed with pictures,” Sarah said. “Looking back, I’m glad we took so many.”

Whitney Hales

Whitney Hales is a journalism major and campus editor for The Universe. She is pursuing a career in travel writing.

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