Just like your wedding gown has it’s own style (mermaid, a-line, dropped waist, etc.), photographers are all different – no two are alike. The way one photographer does something may not be the same as another, and while it doesn’t make either of them wrong, it does mean making a difficult choice on your part! Fads in photography change throughout the years, just as fads in clothing change (remember wedding gowns with the puff sleeves, or family portraits with the floating heads looking into the light a la Olan Mills (most people these days just refer to these as the “Awkward Family Photos”)? A little bit of everything was popular at one point or another!), so it’s important to understand the current styles of photography and their differences. These days, most photographers mix styles depending on the portion of the day to create an overall experience for couples – my own style is done this way, with an emphasis on lifestyle and fine-art. Some of the terms used to describe photography can be a little confusing, so I’m here to help!
(Note: Don’t confuse photographic style with editing style. While certain photographic styles lean towards similar editing styles, you can’t always group them together because the way a photo is edited is solely dependent upon the photographer themselves. Be sure to choose a photographer not only whose photographic style you love, but also their editing style. As with any art, it should make you have all the feels!)
Traditional / Classic
Traditional style photography is very simple, classic, and a bit more formal than most. These are the ones that stand the test of time as photography fads come and go. Think of your grandparents wedding photos – standing outside of the chapel, hand-in-hand, beaming at the camera in black and white as they happily embark on their new life together. Now days, the spin on traditional photography is that it’s still done very simply – no crazy angles, editing done to reflect real-life colors and tones, and more traditional posing – but the photographer will take care to infuse their own artistic style.
Lifestyle (or Photojournalistic) photography is the style that many photographers lean towards these days. This style of photography is candid with a bit of direction – relaxed and comfortable. Helping couples to look natural, or to look as though they actually are being candid. Most couples don’t know how to act in front of the camera (what do I do with my hands!?) but still want that candid feel, so photographers with this style understand how to guide their clients to interact in a natural way in front of the camera. I will have my couples do a movement that ends in the result I want (i.e. the groom whispering to the bride = the bride laughing naturally as I shoot away), or I’ll shoot in-between poses when they think we’re moving on, to really capture those real life moments, all while chatting away to make them feel comfortable and relaxed in front of my camera. This style of photography is also prevalent during the getting ready portion of the day with my own personal way of shooting – I’ll clean up the area where I’m going to be shooting, and have the bride or groom face the window while they dress, or sit in a chair to put their shoes on, ask them to move their hands or hair if it’s in the way, etc., and shoot the scene as it unfolds, all the while checking to be sure that everything looks just-so.
Fine art photography is about the creation of something beautiful, taking time to think about making the most of every moment and every shot – it’s done the most deliberately and intentionally. Not every photo has the bride and groom looking straight at the camera. Some photographers step outside of the norm and take more of an artistic and creative approach. This style can be seen the most during bride and groom portraits where the photographer has the ability to take their time, and also sometimes when it comes to shooting details (the dress hung from a window, or the rings in the bouquet), but anytime where the photographer has taken the time to see more of the “scene” and exercise more artistic license.
Low-light with off-camera flash, wide angles with the city in the background, or sexy or stylized, dramatic and editorial photography is done to create a “wow” factor and posed intentionally. Lighting can be key, so if this style of photography is something you love, asking your potential photographer questions about their knowledge of artificial lighting might be on your list.
Lastly, documentary style photography is also known as candid photography – the photographer shoots the scene as it unfolds without any interference. The goal is to catch those real moments of real emotion to photograph the wedding day as authentically as possible. That way, the couple can look back on their wedding day as it actually happened. For me, this can be seen the most during the ceremony, first look, and reception!