Wedding Photography Approaches & Styles
There are two different artistic criteria you have to consider when searching for a wedding photographer.
- Approach — how a photographer goes about photographing your wedding
- Style — the look and feel of the images
The approach is the overall way a photographer goes about photographing a wedding. This will determine how much time they need, what their objective is (we’ll get into that below), and
When saying what the main focus of these types of photographers is doesn’t mean they can’t provide images that cross over various approaches. It just means this is what they specialize in and why they should be selected to collaborate with you on your wedding photography.
Keep in mind, if you’re selecting a photographer that matches the approach and the style, don’t ask them to change up the way they edit their images. The contrast, tone, colors are all part of their style brand which they’ve taken a while to develop. If you don’t like the final look of the images as it pertains to the editing, keep looking. If you’ve given yourself enough time (at least nine months), you’ll find a photographer that checks all the boxes on your list.
Traditional aka Classical
With the traditional approach, the focus is on people and places. Everyone is much more camera aware for the images. It’s wedding photography just as it was when your parents were married. The photographer shows up for the ceremony and then portraits. Nothing fancy, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. If you’re simply wanting images of the ceremony, important people in the wedding, and highlight some of the areas where you were married, this is the approach for you.
The photographer will more than likely work from a shot list of the details, people and moments that are important to you. With a traditional wedding photographer you have to be specific on your expectations, wants and needs.
Over the years as more and more approaches and styles have come onto the scene, traditional wedding photographers have become varied and tend to offer a bit more versatility.
If you’re on a budget, and this approach suits you, this may be the most cost-effective wedding photographer because they don’t require a lot of time to capture the images.
Keep in mind, candid moments or magazine-looking images aren’t the specialties of a traditional photographer.
Pros — very straightforward approach and uses a shot list so you know what you’re getting
Con — doesn’t specialize in capturing candids or creative/artistic portraits
Fine Art aka Contemporary, Editorial
These photographers focus on making magazine worthy images. Think of the bridal blogs and magazine images you see, and that’s what a fine art photographer’s goal is.
A key term for this type of photography is perfection. There’s a lot of styling and posing to make sure everything looks just right in the image.
Most fine art wedding photographers like to have more time for the details and portraits. Some photographers will even bring styling products like fabrics and boards for the invitations and rings, and even artisan hangers for the dresses.
If you’re wanting your wedding images to look like they belong in Vanity Fair magazine, this is the way to go. Make sure you know the photographers expectations when it comes to the amount of time they need for specific parts of your day like the details (dress, shoes, ring, stationary, ceremony and reception detail items) and portraits.
Pros — you’ll get fashion/bridal magazine quality imagery
Con — may need more time commitment for portraits and details
Documentary aka Photojournalistic, Candid
In the early 2000s, as newspapers were laying off photojournalists, these talented photographers were looking for areas where they could put their moment-capturing skills to good use. Weddings were a perfect fit for a lot of these photographers.
With a documentary photographer, their goal on a wedding day is to captures moments and to tell a story with images.
The benefit of a documentary wedding photographer is they’ll focus on the wedding day as a whole. If having candid images of the guests enjoying themselves, seeing laughter and tears, as well as images of the bridal party, this is the photographer for you.
Dream weddings for these photographers are couples who don’t care about portraits and details (although most typically capture these images still) and want to have an emotional reaction to their wedding images.
Pros — will have an emotion-moment based story highlighting your wedding
Con — portraits won’t be as posed and details won’t have that magazine-styled quality
The photographer relies solely on the light that’s available. This could be a perfect fit if you’re getting married earlier in the day and your reception will still have some natural light available. Some natural light photographers will bring out a light or two when the reception comes along if the area is too dark. Be sure to ask about reception lighting during your consultation.
Epic, big scene setter portraits and moments, as well as layers of activities in a single image. Think of a post card scene with you in it, or emotion-evoking moments.
Bright & Airy
Think soft, bright, romantic, and elegant images.
This is the Vanity Fair type portraits. Every portrait has a very intentional pose and the lighting may tend to be a little more dramatic. For someone who doesn’t mind spending more time on portraits due to the amount of posing and lighting involved.
Dark & Moody
Images with a some drama due to the darker editing style.
There’s a lot of use of lights, mirrors, colors and texture (and perhaps Photoshop) to get a certain look that is graphically appealing and well ... artsy.
It’s just was it says. A photographer who shoots film. These photographers tend to charge a bit more because of the costs for film and developing. Some film photographers shoot in a hybrid style where they’ll also have a digital camera for receptions.
Filters, editing presets, and the early days of Pinterest have brought this style back. Colors and tones tend to be faded and there may be an overall color tone to the images (think old west sepia toned cowboy images).
As you dive into your photographer search, it’s important to first determine the approach you appreciate the most. Once you determine that, start finding photographers with that approach and see which styles you connect with more. Once you have a selection of photographers whose approach and style are a fit for you, then you’re onto the next steps of making sure they’re within your budget, reading reviews and testimonials, having a consultation, and review full wedding galleries (don’t ever solely rely on what’s on a website).