You’ve chosen your date, booked your venue, and started shopping for dresses. Now you’re looking for a wedding photographer. There are many wedding photography styles out there, and while people in the industry might know these styles inside out, they are confusing for couples. Remember that not only are you picking a style of photography, but different types of wedding photography can make other demands on your time on your wedding day.
Picking the style of photography you want at your wedding boils down to three things. What kind of images do you want, how long do you want to spend with a photographer on your wedding day, and most importantly, of all your personality and comfort in front of the camera.
There are plenty of different photography buzzwords out there. Vintage, editorial, artistic or contemporary is just a few. Perhaps more confusingly, they are used by other photographers in different ways. Ultimately, it is up to couples to ask questions, do plenty of research before picking a photographer, and rely on seeing a full set of photos from completed weddings. Do not rely on the best five or six shots from several weddings to make a choice.
Wedding photography styles are a compromise between producing fantastic work and keeping to a timetable. A photographer might take brilliant photos, but if he takes too long to have them, you probably won’t enjoy the experience.
Traditional (or Posed) Wedding Photography
Many people think of traditional wedding photography as endless stuffy group photos where everyone looks stiff as aboard. Worse still, the different collections of people seem to go on forever. There is a fashion to be down on traditional wedding photography, but the actual working framework is still the same for most wedding photographers. The photographs may be more stylish, but the experience on the day for the bride and groom is very similar.
There is always a trade-off between the type of work a photographer does and it’s time it takes to shoot it. More formal posed photographs will take longer to set up and achieve. Any photographer who produces posed artistic work will need a certain amount of time to create their best work. It would help if you found out how much time will be needed and how it will fit into your day. Some photographers spend a couple of hours on formal shots. Make sure you are happy with giving over that amount of time on your wedding day. If you are not that comfortable in front of the camera, you may find this type of photography more difficult. A good photographer should help you and put you at your ease, but it can still seem a bit daunting for many individuals.
Reportage Wedding Photography (Wedding Photojournalism)
If traditional is all about posed photographs, then reportage wedding photography is the opposite. It relies on capturing moments as they happen and is more like a fly on the wall documentary. This form of wedding photography means that the photographer spends most of his time in the background, becoming increasingly popular with couples. Weddings are also increasingly less formal than they used to be. Documentary wedding photography demands a different skillset from traditional wedding photography. You have to ensure that your photographer has the correct photographic background and can show you complete weddings to back this up. Wedding photojournalism is more about a complete set of pictures from the whole day than a set of a dozen highlights. Some photographers will jump on the latest bandwagon to gain business but still use the same old style. Wedding photojournalism is all about anticipation and being in the right place at the right time. It is not about closely directing people, so it puts many traditional wedding photographers outside of their skill set. Some less ethical photographers will use the latest buzzwords to improve their search engine presence but still shoot old pictures.
If you are reticent about having your photo taken, wedding photojournalism is probably your best choice. The photography happens without you realizing it, and you’ll look your natural best.
Although these two approaches might appear opposites, in reality, most wedding photographers will offer a blend of these two styles. Not many wedding photojournalists shoot at least some formal photographs, and traditional wedding photographers will also shoot informal pictures. Find out what proportion of each a photographer likes to shoot, and better still, ask them what they want to hit the most – chances are this is what they are best at.
Vintage Wedding Photography
Vintage wedding photography is a style that has been coming into vogue recently, but it’s hard to quantify in many ways. Vintage can mean anything from using old film cameras during a wedding to a different approach to post-production to produce ‘vintage’ looking digital files. There are some great photographers out there but bear in mind that if you are receiving files that are heavily edited in a specific style, you run the risk of your photos looking somewhat dated a few years later. If I were hiring a vintage-style photographer, I would want at least some of the wedding shot on film; I’m not a huge fan of faking things. As always, ask questions, see examples and make an informed decision.
Editorial Wedding Photography
The fashion editorials of glossy magazines, at their best, can produce fantastic high-end images. To create this successfully on a wedding day, the photographer needs to be highly organized and would probably need an assistant to help set up some of the shots in advance, although that would depend on their style. Do your research to ensure that the time requirements for this type of shoot fit in with your plans. If you like this type of photography but don’t want to devote too much time to it on your wedding day, consider booking a separate photo session after the wedding. Often described as a trash or cherish the dress shoot, an individual photo session might be the best way to get the wedding day you want and the photographs you’ll love without losing a huge chunk of your wedding day. It also means that you and your photographer can pick the ideal time of day for the right light, and you have scope for rescheduling if it’s pouring with rain. In many countries, particularly the US, high-end wedding photography evolves towards three shoots: the engagement shoot, the wedding day, and an editorial session. I don’t necessarily think that it all has to be done in one day.
Artistic or Fine Art Wedding Photography
Essentially an evolution of traditional wedding photography, this type offers a contemporary take on the standard set of posed photographs. However, these are both terms that the photographic community has somewhat overused, so again, do your research. At its best, this genre can produce moving romantic images, but some photographers can overuse the same poses, making it feel a bit impersonal. Ask to see lots of shoots, and don’t be afraid to input your ideas at your pre-wedding meeting.
There are many styles of photographers out there, but the main thing is to look beyond the catchy buzzwords and look long and hard at portfolios. Ultimately it is the competence of the photographer you are hiring that matters. Experience, personal service, and professionalism ensure a consistent standard of photography from wedding to wedding and the consistency and ability to deal with the different shooting conditions that present themselves throughout a wedding day. Their portfolio should show a good balance of shots from bridal preparations to the first dance. Ask questions about how much time they will need to complete those all-important formal and couples shots, and work out how much time you are happy to give. Even with more observational styles, planning and communication before the wedding are vital to get the best results and to get them efficiently. Keep to the guidelines, and you are sure to have a memorable wedding day with photos to match.