The 4 Wedding Photography Styles – Making The Right Choice For Your Wedding Day
No choice you make for your wedding day has more implications than that of who you choose to document your most special day for a lifetime to come. We have lots of articles about choosing your ideal wedding photographer and today we want to focus on wedding photography styles – as this is a fundamental aspect in choosing your wedding photographer in Kent, London, or beyond…
Understanding the many different styles of wedding photography is a crucial factor in deciding who to book to be your perfect wedding photographer. Please see below for a run down of the popular styles…
Understanding the Different Styles of Wedding Photography Available
We’ve mentioned in numerous articles before the pitfalls to avoid when hiring a friend/beginner wedding photographer – as well as avoiding the cowboys out there. Now you’ve decided to hire a professional full time wedding photographer you can trust to document the most important day of your relationship – now how do you decide which one?!
There are many popular styles that experienced wedding photographers are known for – from Fine Art to Creative, Documentary & Reportage to Traditional, Contemporary Editorial to Classic. Many photographers use just one style (often Documentary – for reasons discussed below), whilst others will be a mix of various. To decide what you would want most in your wedding photographer, take a look below at a run-down of the various styles.
Underneath each style we’ve included a Too Long Did Not Read summing up for those who just want the general gist of the different wedding photography styles available.
“But I Didn’t Know There Were Different Wedding Photography Styles? Isn’t a Photographer Just a Photographer?!”
Photography is an art form, and no two artists are ever alike. You could give three photographers the same model, same lighting and same location – and they will all produce MASSIVELY different end-results depending upon their level of experience and style of photography. If you’re just looking for ‘a’ photographer, then our advice is maybe to save some money and just get a family friend to do it for you. It’ll save you money for sure, and as we’ve mentioned before in previous articles – if you don’t value it, then don’t spend money on it….
However, if photography is important to you, then it’s equally important that you understand that every photographer is massively different and will create different results based on their photography style.
Documentary or Reportage
Reportage or documentary style photography is by far the most available and available style of wedding photography. Popular for many reasons, Reportage wedding photography is typified by a completely hands-off and non-intrusive approach by the photographer. Joe Buissink is perhaps one of the world leaders in this style – Joe was hired to shoot Tom Cruise’s wedding and hired under him two other photographers who took care of the mundane photos so that he could concentrate solely on catching those rare and illusive candid moments.
The very process of true reportage, journalistic, or documentary wedding photography is that the photographer has minimal (if any) interaction with you or your guests throughout the day. In its pure form, there would be no group shots, no creatives or bridal portraits, and no direction whatsoever. The Bride & Groom are left completely alone to enjoy their day and no grouping or organising of group shots would happen. However, in practice, most working documentary wedding photographers blur the lines with other styles by also including ‘creative’ imagery (to varying degrees of success).
This may seem like an ideal approach – at first glance it certainly does, and this is why it’s so popular. Reportage wedding photography is wonderful if there’s a lot of spontaneity and various events on your wedding day, however for small weddings with few details, not many guests or shy friends, this approach can really struggle. Furthermore, if you want creative or dramatic imagery (the umbrella in the rain shots, that photo by the lake, etc…) or group photos of your family and friends, then this photojournalist approach is not the right fit.
The final pitfall, is that unfortunately, many beginner / inexperienced / incompetent photographers hide their blushes and mistakes behind the label of “natural documentary wedding photographer”.
Missed the big kiss or important moment? “Oh I’m documentary and that happens”, The Group photos look terrible? “Oh I’m documentary and we don’t do them”, Photos are dark or blurry? “Oh I’m documentary and we don’t use off-camera-flash or different lights”, The Creatives and Bridal Portraits aren’t very good? “Oh I’m documentary and we don’t like to pose or do anything unnatural”.
Do not mistake this article’s point as we are not suggesting that the style itself is not very good, there are AMAZING documentary wedding photographers for sure. What we’re saying is that unfortunately there are very many more terrible photographers who are hiding behind this label.
PROS: Natural record of the day, and no interruptions.
CONS: Creative and group photos either won’t happen or may not be very good.
Too Long Did Not Read: Documentary / Reportage / Photojournalistic photography in its true form offers a fuss free and beautiful record of your wedding day, but you have no input into the final result and it can be a bit of a crap-shoot as to what moments are captured and therefore what images are delivered.
Contemporary Magazine or Editorial Wedding Photography
The Contemporary style of wedding photography places an emphasis on couples and the story of their day in a similar way to photojournalistic photography above, but with a slightly more hands on approach. This can mean a nice balance of natural moments with a bit more artistic input from the photographer, ‘leading moments’ but not ‘creating’ them… Similarly they won’t pose groups of do formal photos to the same degree as Fine-Art or Classic Wedding photography (see below), but they aren’t just leaving you to your own devices…
Contemporary Magazine Photographers will create more editorial and fashion inspired imagery in an attempt to create the kind of wedding imagery you might see in a wedding magazine or fashion photo shoot. A unique mix of being in-the-moment and artistic direction can lead to some truly impactful and provocative wedding imagery – but it does require the Bride & Groom and friends to be ‘game’… By which we mean, we find this style can fall flat if the couple are not willing to play along and play up for the camera in the way the photographer is looking for.
PROS: More Creative and hands-on approach than the documentary photography, and an excellent editorial photographer will create a series of images that not only tell your story – but would look perfect published in next year’s edition of ‘Bridal Magazine Quarterly’.
CONS: We hate to use the word ‘cheesy’, but very often this is what this style of photography can produce if the photographer does not direct couples perfectly – or if the couples are not on-board with poses and scenarios the photographer is trying to create. This can lead to the final photos coming across as ‘pose-y’, ‘corny’ or just outright ‘wacky’.
Too Long Did Not Read: Magazine / Editorial / Wedding Photography mixes a hands off approach for the most part with artificial and posed shots during the creative time. The black & white forlorn bride alone staring at the floor in a meadow, or the smartly dressed couple leaning against the graffiti wall whilst not looking at each other, are the most typical examples that come to our minds.
Whilst a truly brilliant Magazine Wedding Photographer will create a story of your day with beautiful imagery, without adequate input from the bride and groom this story may not be the couple’s story…
Fine Art Wedding Photography
Fine Art or Modern Creative Wedding Photography is a style where unique and artistic moments are created where dramatic and stunning wedding imagery is delivered to the Bride & Groom. Often a stunning wedding album or canvas is the best place to view Fine Art Wedding Photographs. The hallmarks of Fine Art Wedding Photographers are lighting and creative vision. With these two tools, Fine Art Wedding Photographers don’t just capture moments, they create them.
For true Creative Wedding Photography to happen, it’s not enough just to hire an amazing Fine Art Wedding Photographer – you also need to give them the time and enthusiasm necessary to create truly stunning imagery. Often it’s the Bride & Groom’s willingness to have fun whilst creating those artistic moments that really ‘make’ wonderful photos. Furthermore a Creative Wedding Photographer will need time with you on your wedding day (not just 15-30 minutes, usually over an hour) to be able to create such imagery.
Fine Art wedding photography requires a lot of specialised skills and equipment, and unfortunately – as with Documentary Photography described above – a lot of novice photographers claim to be of this style when perhaps they shouldn’t. They may have lovely dramatic photos on their website, but unfortunately they are from training courses with models, and not truly representative of what they can capture on your wedding day. Sometimes they don’t even own the lighting equipment, or have the experience necessary, to create true Fine Art wedding imagery to document your wedding day. If you give a true Fine Art Wedding Photographer the time he needs on your day – they should be able to create what you see on their website, making the ordinary, extraordinary!
As opposed to Documentary photography, the modern creative style produces stunning wedding photography that is unique to you and highly distinctive of the photographers’ own style. A Fine Art photographer will tend to produce fewer candid and natural photos of your day, however many Fine Art Photography studios overcome this shortcoming by offering a second shooter as standard in their wedding packages and collections.
PROS: Dramatic stunning wedding imagery – born out of the vision of an artist. Usually delivered on Canvas or presented in beautiful wedding albums that do their artwork justice.
CONS: Fewer Natural photos without a second shooter.
Too Long Did Not Read: Fine Art or Modern Creative Wedding Photography is often the work of a true artist, where they will endeavour to create wedding imagery above and beyond that of other styles in terms of quality and artistic merit. This imagery usually has a higher cost, both in terms of money (Fine Art Photographers are usually more sought after and often charge more than other styles) and also in terms of time they will need you on the day. Without a second shooter, however, they may end up delivering far fewer candid or natural photos than you might like…
Classic & Traditional
Timeless and dependable – this style of wedding photography has the most formal approach of all the wedding styles listed above. The majority and entirety of wedding photos captured are of the ‘posed’ and ‘staged’ variety. This has been the major style of wedding photography since the beginning of wedding photography itself, as its a ‘safe pair of hands’ in that it is reliable and dependable in producing wedding photos that stand the test of time. Back in the film days, photography film was limited and every shot had to count – so an abundance of posing and careful positioning was important. The benefit to this is that you know what you are getting, and you know those images will be good. The downside can be that it removes a lot of the ‘moment’, the ‘passion’ and the spontaneity of a wedding.
A good traditional wedding photographer will be adept at organising groups and creating the formal and group photos that end up in the wedding album. Many traditional wedding photographers have incorporated fine art or documentary skills / approaches into their photography style (see the mash-up section below), making them a definite choice to consider.
PROS: Beautiful classic bridal portraits in a timeless style, with well posed formal group photos of you and your wedding guests.
CONS: This is a style that, whilst it will never disappear entirely, is a much older style that is perhaps not as in favour with younger brides as it once was. The classic imagery can seem a bit unrelated to the day that actually happened, and often are ‘stock poses’ and ‘stock locations’ that these seasoned professionals have used year after year can lead to wedding albums that don’t truly convey the fun atmosphere of a wedding.
Too Long Did Not Read: Classic and traditional photography on it’s own will produce a set of very formal looking shots. If combined with other styles can give a more balanced modern look and feel to photos.
Wait – It’s Not That Simple – Fusion Photography and Style Mash-Ups
Many London and Kent Wedding Photographers will often combine different styles, incorporating various elements from each into their own style to create a distinct and unique approach specific to them and their studio.
For example, as mentioned above, many photo-journalistic wedding photographers will also produce classic or fine-art wedding imagery. Fine-Art Photographers often can produce both Fine-Art and documentary with the simple inclusion of a second shooter. Traditional / Classic Wedding Photography is often fuelled by innovation and new trends.
You need to speak with your photographer about them and their style, and what they aim to produce. Importantly, the style your photographer follows affects not only the imagery they produce – but also their approach (interaction with you and your guests on the wedding day).
Being that many wedding photographers claim to be a ‘mix of styles’ these days (the ‘best of all worlds’ – or ‘Jack of All Trades’…?), it’s important to ask what their core style is. A professional photographer should have been trained – whether that was formal qualifications and training, or studying under another photographer / master for a few years until they learnt all the skills necessary. As such, this training is more often than not within one style, and that is usually the ‘base’ from which they start.
For example, Mykey studied under a Fine Art Wedding photographer who also supplemented their style with Editorial / Contemporary imagery. Mykey has adopted the Fine-Art Photography approach in a big way, with nods to documentary and editorial in his further training…
Whatever style takes your fancy, or you think suits you best, it’s worth knowing the differences and unique brilliance of each style so that you, as a consumer, can make an informed decision about one of the most important choices you will make about your wedding day.
Hopefully with this knowledge, none of you will ever want just “’a’ photographer” ever again!!
Essex & Kent Wedding Photographer Mykey Day
Your Wedding Day will never be as important to anyone else as it is to you, but trust us when we say – your wedding will be crucially important to us as well! Please browse our website for examples of our work, and we look forward to making your wedding photographs special too.