How to Pick a Wedding Photographer Based on their Wedding Photography Style
Hold on to your seat, because we're about to go for a crazy ride! Most couples come to me know they like my wedding photography, but they don't know what style I am - or what style any photographer is. Wouldn't that help you as you're looking for your ideal wedding photographer? I'm going to help you form an educated opinion and articulate what you're looking for from your photographer accurately.
We're going to cover the editing style, shooting style, and specializations. Remember that while these two things are separate, they are also intertwined and affect one another!
Skilled photographers edit their photos and don't deliver them straight out of the camera. Most photographers use photoshop or lightroom to alter the contrast, lighting, and coloration, and it can be very different. The popular editing styles you see on Instagram and Pinterest are Light and Airy, Moody, Golden, Bold and Vibrant, Vintage, True to Color, and you may come across a photographer putting out unedited (straight out of the camera).
Here are the different editing styles placed side by side so you can understand the differences. Which do you prefer?
*** Note: I use the same image so you can understand the difference in color - a photographer may shoot with different settings than I do, so it would also impact their overall aesthetic. Confusing right? A lot goes into making a photo.
Light and Airy Wedding Photography
The light and airy editing style is stunning when done correctly. It usually slightly overexposes the image and desaturates most colors. This editing style is best paired with soft defused natural lighting, minimalist compositions, and environments that already have light colors or lots of white. So if you're having a wedding with lots of dark tones and dark background, this doesn't always pair well.
Moody Wedding Photography
Editing with a moody style is generally the easiest. With that said, it isn't easy to do it well. It's the newest and most popular trend in the wedding industry, and many young photographers are latching on to it because of its ease. Some love this style, and others think it makes images have a cynical vibe. What is your opinion?
Golden Wedding Photography
Some might lump a golden editing style in with moody, but if done well, it's really it's own aesthetic. It generally makes the entire photo very yellow, mutes the blues, and makes you feel like you're trapped in fall forever. It's best paired with the outdoors, and if not, an indoor environment that is white is best. People love it for the warm skin tones it creates.
Vintage Wedding Photography
This where it may start to feel like it's getting overwhelming, vintage, Golden, and Moody all look the same, right? Well, your photographer may not think so. Vintage aesthetics mimic those of film cameras, and no to film camera brands look the same. Most vintage photographers have a moodier look, grain, and loss of details in the highlights or blacks. It may even be faded, with no pure black, or no true whites.
True to Color Wedding Photography
True to color is like it sounds - the photographer is editing it to look exactly what the naked eye saw. They edit the lighting to look natural, maybe add a slight bit of clarity or contrast, and only really change the temperature if needed. Some people believe that this is what photography should be - and that's 100% fine, but it's a more journalistic approach and less artistic.
Bold and Vibrant
Bold and vibrant is not necessarily true to life, the colors can be shifted, and you have a pop of color. This is a difficult editing style, due to any time you add vibrance or saturation, you may need to shift the temperature or hue of specific colors. It takes more time and a very detailed eye. I prefer this style because it won't ever go out of fashion, and it's dreamy!
Un-edited a.ka. Straight Out of the Camera
You probably won't like the image straight out of the camera, but most clients don't understand that. Half the magic happens when editing! So if you're working with a pro, the worst thing you can ask is, "can I have the raws too?" They're also in a different file format that you're most likely unable to open or edit. So trust your photographer when they say they've given you the best of the best!
Shooting style depends on a lot of criteria: preference, equipment, experience, and skill level. Shooting styles are Traditional, Photojournalistic/documentary, illustrative, fine art, and fashion. These shooting styles are not dependent on the editing style and can have any applied to them. However, some may look more natural with individual editing styles.
Traditional Wedding Photography
Traditional is straight forward. You capture the candid moments in the documentary manor, and then you take all the formal family photos and portraits on site. You know what I'm talking about - pictures of everyone smiling at the camera. I call these your "Hi mom photos," because they're the photos she's going to want. The images generally don't have a shallow depth of field, so everyone is in focus. While this may not be a photographers style they market with, this is generally mixed in there gallery because they are essential to have!
This is the most candid form of wedding photography. Unposed, unprompted, unstaged, and solely just there to capture what is happening. Photojournalistic photographers tend to be the fly on the wall; you may not even notice they are there. This documentary-style tends to be more honest and truthful to the day. It doesn't look like a curated set of images from Instagram or Pinterest.
During portrait sessions, precisely that of the bride and groom, you'll tend to see illustrative wedding photography. This is especially popular in elopement photography! These photos are generally not candid, the photographer will give them prompts or tell them how to pose, so it looks as if it is sincere. I call this, "posed candids," when I create a particular moment. You'll notice these generally take place in beautiful landscapes, and the photographer is capturing everything - the gorgeous environment, sunset, the couple, and the emotion. This style best describes my engagement, wedding, and elopement photography.
Fine Art wedding photographers are going to break the rules and redefine them. They are more interested in creating an image that's not easily reproduced. For instance, they may blur the lighting during the dance party for a unique aesthetic, so your image has a motion feel, or they may use prisms and crystals to bend the light and abstract the edges of the image even more.
Fashion Wedding Photography isn't as standard but it also isn't unheard of. Think of your favorite fashion magazine and now picture brides and grooms in very angular and unnatural (yet still flattering) pose. Or they may be natural, but certainly eye-catching and dramatic. If you want your wedding to look like a spread out of Vogue, hire a fashion wedding photographer instead of the other styles.
Other Photography Styles
While some people might say these are shooting styles, I'm going to argue that they're their own category and can be paired with a shooting style and editing style.
Natural Light vs. Flash Photography
Most wedding photographers are natural light photographers until the reception when they're forced to use some flash. Natural light is my favorite lighting condition during sunset; however, it can cause some severe issues during other parts of the day. A seasoned photographer will know how to shoot in direct sunlight at noon or decide not to shoot in it all due to the harsh shadows it creates.
On the other hand, flash photographers can manipulate the light much more comfortably and almost aren't scared away by any lighting conditions. If they use off-camera flash, they can also do unique and commercial type lighting setups.
Any of these photographers can be any editing style or shooting style mentioned above.
Digital vs. Film
Film photography is making a comeback! There are tons of photographers that are photographing weddings in both digital and film. Digital is my go-to and what I recommend because you can reprint, reproduce, alter, and resize those photos as many times as needed quickly.
However, the film creates a unique aesthetic that digital photographers often try to reproduce. Why reproduce it when you can still shoot on it? If you like the film aesthetic hiring a photographer who shoots both is a great idea. The major downside to film is that it doesn't have the same high dynamic range as digital, potentially leaving blown out highlights or too dark of shadows; however, that is an aesthetic!
Which aesthetic is your favorite? Tell me in the comments below! Are you looking for more wedding resources? I have them all! I'm Cassandra Vagher, a Colorado Wedding Photographer and Colorado Elopement Photographer. I specialize in curating adventurous intimate weddings with bold and vibrant wedding photography. Let's grab a coffee and chat about your special day!