When shopping for a wedding photographer one question that comes up with couples is "What is your photography style?". In doing your research and articles you will come across many articles talking about the different styles of photographers. Terms like candid, or photojournalistic, documentary, modern etc. are thrown all over the place as terms used to describe styles of photography. Things can get a bit confusing and what do all these terms mean? I thought I would try to make some sense of these terms in this article on Photography Styles In Wedding Photography.
In wedding photography there is no standardization among photographers and studios. Some photographers went to photography school and spent many years studying, training and taking courses. Some photographers picked up a camera, put out a shingle and start shooting representing themselves as a wedding photographer. Photographers may have been influenced by a type of photography they did before they started shooting weddings or influenced by a photography teacher/mentor etc. All photographers are not alike!! Every photographer is different in the way not only they shoot but even more so, the editing methods and processing of their images they use to create a style that can be very unique to that photographer. There are no right styles or wrong styles. The right style is the one that is right for you and that you prefer and want for your wedding day. A picture is worth 1,000 words. Focus more on the photos of the photographer rather than the words used to describe their style.
There are many photography shooting/editing styles and sub styles out there. I thought I would simplify them by grouping them into 4 major styles.
Style 1: LIGHT AND AIRY
The first style I wanted to explore I call the “Light and Airy”, “Dreamy and Creamy” style. This style is probably the most common in wedding photography today and it is often copied and mimicked by wedding photographers. This style tends to exposure images on the bright side, almost and sometimes to the point of over exposing them. Colors are very desaturated and lose their original color taking on a more pastel look. There is very low contrast to the images between shadows and highlights. Skies are often blown out and rendered not blue but white. Grass and foliage tend not to be green but very washed out and colors in general are rendered not as they are in their natural state but to a lighter desaturated pastel palette hence the name “Light and Airy, Dreamy, Creamy”. Visually, the differentiation regarding the scenery and locale from one wedding to another become quite diminished as the natural colors and characteristics of the scene are lost It can become difficult to differentiate one location from another as they all “look the same” be it an image of a wedding at the Eifel tower in France, or the Arizona desert. Some people like the style, others don’t. You will see this style dominating the wedding photography market currently however there are a lot of other styles out there used by some of the greatest wedding photographers alive today.
Style 2) DARK AND MOODY
The next style out there is what I call the "Dark and Moody, High Contract, Dramatic style." It is the polar opposite of the previous style. Images are more on the underexposed side. Images are exposed for the highlights and the other parts of the image can be rendered in shadow or darker and sometimes even black. The image tends to have a high amount of contract between highlights and shadows and colors offering a more dramatic look. There can be a strong interplay between the shadows and highlights of the image as well. Colors tend to me richer and more saturated than the first type. The dominant tone of the image is on the darker side hence the name “Dark and Moody, High Contrast and dramatic style.”
Style 3) BOHO
The next style I call the “Boho Soho, Hippie Chickie style.” Regarding exposure it tends to fit between the first two styles often leaning a little on the darker side. This style uses the addition of what are called “filters” or presets in the editing process that shifts the colors to a more earthen, brown color. White parts of the image are overlaid with this brownish tone so colors are not rendered as they truly are in their natural state. There is also an increase in contrast in the midtones which can render the image a bit more on the darker side. Often this style is used to give the image more earthy scenes hence the name “Boho Soho, Hippie Chickie style.”
Style 4) NATURAL STYLE
The last style doesn’t really have a formal name. It can be called a “natural style”. I refer it to the middle path or the path of the buddha. I call it such as it doesn’t go to either extreme of the styles above. It falls in the middle of the first two styles in that exposure is balanced and rendered more in the middle between light and dark. It is the style that most closely fits my style of photography shooting and editing. Colors of the scenery and locations are rendered in their true and natural state without altering the colors or applying filters. Blue skies are rendered blue, grass is rendered green and whites are rendered white. This style makes each wedding be unique from the next allowing each venue to represent its true characteristics and beauty. Colors tend to be rich and the images have an overall clean look to them with details being preserved. The colors of receptions are rich and brought out to represent their true characteristics and beauty, hence the name “Natural Style”
The next question that should come up in wedding photography regarding is what style of shooter is the wedding photographer? What method of capturing the moments on your wedding day and interacting with you and your guests will your photographer use. This can often get mixed up with the shooting and editing styles and there can be some overlap and the terms can be used interchangeably so it can get rather confusing. You will hear terms like “candid photographer” or “documentary photographer”, “photojournalistic photographer”, “posed”, “modern”, etc. Many of these terms are used and thrown around without people really taking the time to find out what they mean.
It is rare that a photographer will use only one type of method or style of capturing the moments of your wedding day! This is very important to understand and is never address in any articles I have come across. Different parts of your wedding will call for different methods of capturing the moments of your wedding day so in some senses these terms to differentiate one another can become meaningless. Let me explain. A wedding day is made up of numerous distinct parts. It often starts off with getting ready photos, will have a ceremony followed by a time for portraits often but not limited to the cocktail hour followed by a lengthy reception. Taking the ceremony part of the wedding for example. The ceremony is a fast moving part of your wedding that is happening in the moment!! I don’t care what kind of photographer you call yourself, the photographer is capturing and documenting what is happening. They are using a documentary, candid or photo journalistic style. A photographer is not going to stop the procession in the middle of the ceremony and say “let me pose you”. Another example that is very clear would be reception photos. A photographer is not going to get in the middle of the dance floor and say “let me pose you” and stop your first dance etc. Another example would be the taking of bride/groom or family portraits. Most photographers regardless of their styles are not going to just photograph you where the family is or where the couple is. They will guide you and say, lets go here where the lighting is good, or let’s go here for a great photo with the lake in the background etc. After all that is what you are paying them for and looking for their advice and suggestions. Getting ready photos may combine some aspects of documentary, editorial, candid style and some may be more guided, directed and or posed.
So, as you can see there is no “one style fits all” when it comes to the methods a photographer will use when capturing your wedding day moments. There can be more variances by photographers to capture certain segments like capturing portraits of the bride and groom and bridal party during the portrait session. That variance for example would be capturing a moment of the bride and groom walking and holding hands vs. directing them (posing) to be in a certain area and directing them to get close together hold hands, look in a certain direction etc. In some senses these terms become a bit meaningless as there are no “one style fits all” photographer and a photographer will use these many methods throughout your wedding day.
Looking at a photographer’s website portfolio, Instagram feed, and other social media channels will give you a sense of their shooting methods and photography and editing styles. Make sure to enlarge the images on a computer monitor vs. viewing on your phone so you can better see the details, sharpness, clarity etc. Make sure the photographs you see were taken by your photographer vs. another team member/associate. This can be problematic with the larger studios as you don’t know whose photos are whose. To get even more clarity ask to see a full wedding or more from the photographer so you can see how they capture the moments of each part of your wedding day vs. posting a few hero images.
Helping to understand my client’s vision of their wedding day photos is very important. I take the time before their wedding day through numerous consultations to understand it and find out how they want their wedding moments captured through the various parts of their wedding day. I invite them to create pin boards and send them to me so I can get a sense of what they are drawn to from other photographers’ photos. This way I can best recreate their vision and bring it to manifestation in their wedding day photos. I also create a shoot list with every couple that I take with me on their wedding day so I have a list of what they wanted captured for each moment of their wedding day. I can tailor my methods to meet each couples preferences and needs.
In general, I try to provide different styles and methods of capturing the moments on a wedding day as I feel they all have their strong points. By providing a variety of methods of styles I can better tell the story of your wedding day and capture the many magic moments and providing a variety of angles, perspectives, and styles.
I hope this helps you understand these terms and concepts and I am always happy to set up a consultation to learn more about your wedding photography needs and explain about my services, products and methods of wedding photography.
Your wedding is one of the most important days of your life and you want a photographer who has the skills and experience to capture every precious moment. I have been formally trained in photography through the New York Institute of Photography and The Wedding School. I started my career as a landscape and commercial photographer where precision, detail and accuracy were required in every job. I bring these skills to every wedding assuring you will have a beautiful collection of photographs of your wedding day from beginning to end. Vision, attention, creativity, communication and caring go into every aspect of your wedding. I was awarded Best of the Knot 2018 and 2019 for my hard work, many 5 star reviews and happy clients.