Wedding Photography: Which Style are You? (Part One of Two)

bride & groom kissing in black & white

Oh, for the simple days. When a cup of coffee was decaf or regular, and not soy or skim with whip or an extra shot in a grande or a vente, today or tomorrow.

Now you buy phones based on how well they take pictures, and you send an email agreeing to meet on IM.

You can hardly be surprised to hear that wedding photography went and got different flavors. You used to just pose. A guy with an ungodly sized camera clicked and shot, while you were blinded with flashes. Occasionally he came up and moved short people around and asked tall people to pretend they weren’t, and someone’s chin had to be so, no just so, not there, there, no, yes. And then more flashes. And done.

No more.

These days wedding photography can be loosely defined (although there is a bit of variance in specific nomenclature) into the categories of traditional, artistic and wedding photojournalism.  If you ask a wedding photographer what the difference is, you’re going to get art student answers like, “documentary that has pushed its way into art” and “shooting candid moments from a point of invisibility”.

That’s not entirely helpful. Here’s what it is – three versions of what your dad did with his camera when you were a kid:

Traditional. When you had to stand still in your Halloween costume next to your kid brother and say ‘Cheese’, that was a posed shot. That’s Traditional. Traditional has been the historical choice for weddings. These are planned groups, usually of specific people like the bride with her family, the groom with his family, the wedding party, etc. It’s an arranged photo, and the photographer will direct people where to stand, how to turn their head and when to smile. It’s the version people think of typically when you say wedding photos, and it’s particularly good if it’s important to the bride and groom that specific people are photographed together.

bridal party, formals

Wedding Photojournalism. When you were playing in the sandbox with friends, you heard clicking sounds, you looked up, he’s got that stupid grin and he’s taking pictures and you just go back to playing. That’s Wedding Photojournalism. The photos are not planned; the idea is for the photographer to blend into the crowd and catch moments as they naturally occur. In particular, he or she does not shy away from intimacy that would normally be afforded privacy such as guests getting teary-eyed. Whether laughter or a bit of sadness, the realness of the moment is being captured. It’s good for people who care more about the moments and emotions of the day to be memorialized, and not photos of everyone at their best moment and focused on the camera.  However, wedding photo-journalists still capture the formal photos (posed group shots) of family and friends usually prior to the reception.

Artistic. One Saturday afternoon, your dad is in the backyard with like, produce and rocks and one of your mom’s necklaces and he keeps rearranging stuff and taking photos. He’s taking shots for his ‘studio class’ he says. That’s Artistic. The Artistic style is in some ways a blend of the other two, because technically it is a planned shot like Traditional, but is more intimate like Wedding Photojournalism. The wedding photographer who takes artistic photos will leverage the surroundings of the wedding, incorporating perhaps the meadow, or the beach but also special functions of the camera to create a specific mood in the photo. Perhaps the couple will be clear, and even unplanned, but through a frame of a muted field, which he has manipulated through camera functions or in the studio. The bridal bouquet is photographed, but from the ground up past the stems, to the flower girl who is holding them, looking down at the camera. The flower girl may or may not have been asked to stand still.

If Traditional is about capturing certain people, and wedding photojournalism about capturing certain moments, then artistic is about capturing certain moods.

With these three styles (and there a handful of others at the outer edge like high fashion wedding photography as well), more and more varieties of wedding photos are spilling into the public eye. Which one to choose is a personal decision. But which is most popular? Wedding photojournalism is a fast growing trend among couples today, perhaps the fastest growing. Why? Not even wedding photojournalists  are entirely sure.  But we like to think it’s because people love the human connection and being moved by photographs that convey a strong emotional bond.  But there are also more reasons. . .

Read Why in Part 2: Wedding Photography: Which Style are You?