CNN Photos

Fantasy photos for Chinese weddings

Most newlyweds want their weddings to be picture perfect, but a growing number of Chinese couples are saying cheese in a big way – with pre-wedding photography ranging from $500 to $20,000.

The shoots aren’t designed to capture reality, and rely heavily on imagination and theatrics. The finished albums are ultimately displayed at the actual wedding ceremony as a type of status symbol.

“With the sets of the wedding studios, we can see the dreams of the Chinese,” said photographer Guillaume Herbaut, who documented several couples’ sessions that could have made Hollywood envious.

At wedding studios in Shanghai, Chinese couples can create their most romantic and lavish fantasies. Nothing is too elaborate here – whether they channel their inner Marie Antoinette in the court of Versailles or choose to escape to a snowy winter wonderland or a sun-kissed beach in Greece.

“I was fascinated by the mix of kitsch and professionalism,” Herbaut said.

One of the most prominent studios in Shanghai, the Only Photo studio, houses three floors of sets and employs 300 people, including makeup artists, hairdressers, and costume and set designers, as well as 60 in-house photographers.

Herbaut first stumbled upon the matrimonial movement when he was visiting Shanghai for a shoot with French Elle magazine.

“It was really crazy when we saw the sets,” Herbaut said.

With China’s growing population comes an increasing number of nuptials – more than 10 million couples tie the knot each year. And as China’s economy booms, so does the wedding industry, now worth an estimated $60 billion-plus.

To Herbaut, it comes as no surprise that photographers are snapping up the lucrative market.

- Sarah LeTrent, CNN