Planning a wedding is often a weighty undertaking. However, it can also be an endeavor of great joy and partnership for the couple - one which creates lasting memories of love and closeness. Selecting your photographer is, of course, one of the many important decisions to make.
Prior to selecting your photographer, invest some time in looking at the different photographic styles of wedding photography across the U.S. and even in other countries. To help you expand your appreciation of the different styles, start a web search for wedding photographers in 3 or 4 different large cities of your choice. Look at the imagery and save any examples of the ones that truly move and "speak" to you. Select the ones that make a strong first impression, but don't consider why just yet; that will be the next step. This is a photo-imagery brainstorming session. After doing this with as many photographers in as many different cities as you care to explore, you are now ready to revisit the ones that have inspired you most. Remember to research imagery from artists that are not in your area, for in this way you will be introducing yourself to a broader range of styles. Very often local markets will have a very similar look or style. That is in no way bad, but at this point I am encouraging you to find your style and this will be a great way to do so.
[This image is created to give a slight ethereal look to the Bride's dress and her Father's shirt. It is stylized with a hint of grain for nostalgia, and a cool bluish hue to compliment the old wood and stone of this Norwegian church. It is not a true formal portrait since I captured the bride's reaction to onlookers as she enjoyed the moment.]
Now take notice of any similarities between your selected photos. Consider any commonality of theme, style, color, mood, or feeling that first drew you to them. As you do this you will likely begin to define what is your preference in styles.
This blog will in no way be all inclusive nor comprehensive of all the artistic styles you might find. We are after all considering art and the interpretation that any given photographer may have of it. That being said, some general classifications can be made with the understanding that your photographer is an artist and will bring their own unique twist to the final look.
The Classic Style
What I call the classic style is one that includes images that are predetermined and include a set variety of formal poses of the bride and groom and wedding party. These beautiful creations were traditionally photographed in a studio, but today will also be shot on location.
The Modern-Classic or Contemporary Style
This style is similar to the classic style but with the inclusion of selected standard images of scheduled high points of the day. Most wedding photographers today shoot the formal bride photographs either in a studio or at the venue, and then get selected shots of the wedding. These can include photos of the bride and groom with their bridesmaids and groomsmen from getting ready through the ceremony and on to the reception. You can even hire a professional to cover everything from start to finish. (More on what different photographers may offer in Part 2.)
You may choose to hire a photographer who shoots the poses or stylings that are the trend of the day. Some examples of current or recent styling trends include: false mustaches being worn by members of the wedding party, the wedding couple posed behind or holding a large picture frame, groups and individuals set amongst gritty or unusual locations and/or doing fun or unexpected actions, to name just a few. You might love the work of an artist that uses coloration and styling of the images to craft an artful or mood- filled look, or you may choose one who creates a bright and light feeling to their images. Each style has its own appeal to the right viewer. Which brings us to the slippery slope issue of just who is the viewer. More on that in a moment.
[Example of a Modern-Classic style bridal party group shot. The playful informality of the portrait is a frequent feature of contemporary wedding sessions. This group shot is still referred to as a"formal" (as opposed to candid), but it has captured the personality of the subjects. I love the groom's expression.]
The Journalistic Style
Wedding photography in the journalistic style is a fairly easy style to identify and is rapidly gaining popularity. It can be described as one that captures the mood, events, emotion, grandeur, and moments as they happen and in a way that tells a story of the day from start to finish; accomplished through candid photographs. Unlike traditional wedding photographers, (whose skill is based on their ability to impose order and structure to the day as they organize the wedding party for photographs), the journalistic wedding photographer's skill is in the telling of the story. Images will not be primarily of members of the wedding party. The telling of the complete story will require the photographer to perhaps take a different approach with each wedding in order to capture the unique personalities of those in attendance.
Photo-artists who are of a purest nature in this genre will provide their client with incredibly poignant and beautiful results showing the full emotion of the day. However, these are not setup or posed photos. If you desire to have photographs that are formal or posed, this artist may not be right for you.
Formals and Candids
Formal photographs or "formals" are images of groups and individuals that are set up, staged or posed by the photographer. Portraits of the bride alone, with her groom, or group shots of the bridal party and key or selected family members fall into this category. They are most often taken directly after the ceremony, however, formals of the bride can be scheduled well before the wedding day. This method can be very beneficial to both bride and photographer. The bride can use this as a dress rehearsal; giving her the chance to see the full look of hair, make-up, gown, and perhaps even the bouquet, in advance. Her photographer has the ability to bring their "A game" by having a relaxed bride and the time to be creative and artful with the styling of her images. Providing the photo-artist with this chance to create will make an incredible difference to the final images.
Few brides would ever consider not having candids taken of the pre-ceremony preparation, ceremony, and reception. These mostly non-staged shots are the "candids" of the wedding. They capture the emotion and events of course, but also the details both large and small. Brides that invest significant time and money creating and seeing to the smallist details of their wedding will want these skillfully captured in photographs.
Candids and The Journalistic Style…all journalistic photos are candid, but not all candids are in the journalist style.
Don't confuse one with the other. Candids can be taken by guests and family members attending the wedding. However, professionals have the skill and equipment to capture candid images with the greatest degree of impact and style from start to finish. Of course the serious amateur, friend or family member, can get good to great images as well, but they are taking photographs according to their own tastes. For your wedding, the definition of what is good or great must be defined by the bride and groom. What price satisfaction, how much are you willing to pay, and most importantly what are you paying for? I will address the professional photographer and what to consider when selecting one in Part 2. For now, let's continue to address selecting a style.
Who is the viewer…the difficulty of a possibly well-meaning influence.
Wedding photographs that are well taken and in a style that appeal to the bride and groom will become a source of cherished memories. Long after the special day and as details start to fade, your photographs will provide the episodic memory trigger to transport you back to all of the joy of that moment.
So what will you want to see? What is the most likely kind of image that will provide you the strongest stimulation? This is where well-meaning suggestions may turn into pressure as to what your wedding photos should look like.
Like most things, wedding photography has a trend of the day. In my opinion no one trend is better then another, but some are more timeless. What do you think you will love to see ten or twenty years from now? The classic bride or bride&groom formals make great art works for the wall. Humorous photos that were well crafted will delight and photos that tell the story of the full range of emotion will move the viewer back to the day and feelings of the moment.
As you continue your search to find your style and eventually communicate with a wedding photographer, remember it is you the bride and groom who will cherish most the images captured of your day. Consider the counsel given to you by family or friends as to how the wedding should be photographed. But, if you are prepared with an understanding of your desires, which are supported by your research on the different styles, you can feel good about what you have chosen for your look. As to some thoughts on selecting the right photographer, I will share that in Part 2 here on my blog.
Richard von Trapp is a photographer in Texas who travels the world creating works that are glamorous and beautiful with inspiration taken from fashion-magizines and with cinematic styling.