How does one go about choosing a photographer for their wedding… there are a lot of lists out there to give you some ideas on what to look for. Most of them say to look for someone with experience, insurance, back-up equipment, etc. So I’m not going to touch on qualifications in this blog post. I figure once you weed out the contenders by their qualifications and the price point for your budget the next thing you are going to look at is their style of work. And really there is no right or wrong answer to this question. It’s really choosing the photographer whose photos speak to you and what you like.
Last week I overheard a bride talking to her bridesmaids at a bridal show we did and her conversation went something like this ” I looked at the venue’s preferred photographer and his work was so bright and washed out. I don’t know, I didn’t like it so I went to such and such’s site and and their photos were bright and colorful….” Just listening to her talk I knew immediately that my blog post was going to be about “Style” this month! From early on while I was in photography school myself and fellow students were encouraged to develop a style. In other words, ” a way we saw the world in our photographs.” Close to twenty years ago there were only two categories for wedding photography: Film or Digital and then in the last ten-fifteen years or so film sort of went out the door and it became traditional or photo-journalistic. Now there has become a wide arrange of photographic styles and even a resurgence of film photography! I can kind of see the appeal for film photography again since it is so different from what’s out there nowadays. Film photography has such a different feel to it than digital, but it also has a lot more challenges. The number one challenge is not being able to see the image until it’s processed after the wedding! So if you go this route you better make sure the photographer you hire knows what they are doing because they won’t be able to double check the image as they are going along! This is the number one reason photographers would get out of shooting weddings in the film years! And the other large hurdle is the cost of film and processing. When I started out photographing weddings twenty years ago if you shot it with film you maybe took 100-300 images and they had to be very deliberate. One photo of the cake, two photos of the first dance. With digital I can take as many as I want to get the best shot… and probably the number one reason I will never go back to shooting film for weddings! While I love the feel you get when you are processing an image in the darkroom, I hated the stress of waiting to see if I got a usable shot for someone’s wedding! No thanks!
As far as digital goes… there are so many ways you can shoot a wedding with a digital camera and the look is pretty much all done after the wedding in the post processing through Photoshop. I thought I’d touch on what’s most popular right now and what my style is and why I prefer it! But first touching on the three different approaches to actually photographing the wedding:
Traditional – A traditional photographer typically will photograph the parts of the wedding that are most important. They may go off a list of the most important shots to the client and may focus heavily on posed portraits. They might have a modern take on the posed portraits, but a lot of what you will see is basic wedding coverage. Someone who considers themselves only a traditional photographer might spend a lot of time with setting up groupings and poses and might not be very good at capturing the emotion of a moment.
Photo-journalistic – A true photo-journalist will never stage a photograph. They will only document things as they happen. Since the term comes from newspaper and magazine photographers you may want to imagine the style of someone documenting an event purely for shock and awe. If having some family photos taken at your event is important to you then I would stay away from someone who says they only do photo-journalism style of shooting. Photojournalists usually do not like taking staged photos at all and may not be willing to do any group portraits.
Mixed Artistic & Documentary – This is the best of both styles. This is a person who is willing to photograph what the client wants, while putting their own artistic spin on the photographs. They will also focus on documenting the entire day much like a photo-journalist. Sometimes a photography company will offer two photographers. One photographer will concentrate mainly on getting the must have traditional shots while the other may spend more time capturing candid moments. This is the way we approach every wedding we’re hired for (even if it’s just one photographer). We do a little bit of the “traditional” poses because it’s the only way to guarantee a shot with grandma and then a whole lot of documenting everything that happened on your special day. From close-ups of your wedding accessories to fun photos of your guests dancing!
Styles of Post-Processing Photos After the Wedding –
Straight Out of the Camera – This will be the cheapest available from the photographers out there… If someone is charging $500 or less for a full day of shooting 6 Hours or longer, more than likely this is what you will be getting. They are what we call the shoot and burn photographers. They will download your images and hand you a disk with the photos with nothing done to them to improve the image. If you find someone who will do more than that for that price snatch them up because they will be burnt out before too long!
Light & Airy – Or what I like to call bright and overexposed. Sometimes I really like these images and then other times I look at them and think how much better the photos would look if the background was just a bit darker and not washed out. Often times the photographer will de-saturate the colors in the photos to make the colors more pastel in tone. The photos tend to have a dreamy feel to them, which I think can work for some photos (including the one below), but if it’s done on an entire wedding can be a little bit too much. This trend typically leads to images with super bright highlights, little contrast, and a more whimsical feel.
Moody & Dark – A relatively newer style in wedding photography is the dark and moody way of editing the images. So it’s the exact opposite of the light and airy look. I sort of compare it to watching a dark Batman movie or murder mystery flick. Really, what the photo editor is doing is editing the photos so that the color is gone and replaced with greys. Again, with some images this can be cool, but doing it on an entire wedding I think is going to date your photos. Much like selective coloring on black & white images back in the late 90’s and early 2000’s was a fad. Do you really want to go back and look at your images and go, wow I should not have gone so trendy!?
Classic/Natural – This is processing the photos closest to the truest color and exposure of the day so that the photos match the natural look of the surroundings. I say that the images will look classic which means ten years from now you won’t be going through your wedding album and go “ugh” look at how dark my wedding images were because I went with the trendy fad that was popular at the time. Your photos will look as good as the day you took them! This is the style that we aim for… correct exposures, colors that are true to how they looked on the day of your wedding which will give you timeless images that you will cherish for years to come!
So after 18 years in the business, I really have developed a style! It’s a hybrid of the traditional and photo-journalistic styles… Or what I like to call documentary storytelling! Along with an appreciation for classic naturally edited images! So now you know what the different types of “styles” there are in wedding photography… I even think there are more than what I listed as I also found one called “Adventurous Style” which I guess is like hiring someone who works for National Geographic to photograph your wedding (often times an elopement because I don’t think many guests are going to hike a peak to watch you get married). Hopefully, this will help you discern what kind of photographer will work the best for your vision… and if my style appeals to you please check us out!
Oh and by the way, I’m not opposed to adventure… just haven’t had much opportunity for it in the wedding world! I would love to go climb a mountain top with the right couple! Most of us photographers are willing to do just about anything to get “the” shot!