Welcome to Part 1 of my guide to assist you with choosing a wedding photographer – I’m going to try to help you navigate your way through what must seem quite overwhelming to begin with! For the majority of people, when they start planning their wedding it will be their first experience of having to look for certain suppliers. If you’ve just launched into the wedding planning stage, don’t feel swamped! Here’s a little guide to start you off – I hope you’ll find it helpful.
When you’re looking for a wedding photographer you may discover certain terms being used to describe their style. Of course, let your eyes and your gut be the judge of whether they’re the sort of photographer you want. If a set of images grab you, try to meet up face-to-face for an informal chat and see if they’re the sort of person you’d be happy to have around on your wedding day. If you’re unsure of what their tagline is getting at, though, I’ve had a go at some descriptions.
(They’re really just a guideline as I find there’s a lot of crossover of styles – much of how a wedding is captured depends on what’s presented before the photographer’s eyes on the day!)
- Documentary involves people-watching in order to tell the story with little details that have been noticed. It’s a little bit fly-on-the-wall and usually unobtrusive. It’s not always the full picture but perhaps a part of it that triggers the brain into reading the image, in order to understand what is going on – and as part of a set of images, will make complete sense. Essentially a documentary wedding photographer works to retell as much as possible through their images, capturing natural reactions, expressions and details as the day unfolds. The photographer might interact with people to capture moments; some may describe themselves as having a ‘photojournalistic approach’ and prefer not to be hands-on, but to simply observe and record. Here are some examples:
- Fine art describes a certain type of image-making where the photographer will work towards their creative vision in an editorial or advertorial style. These can be highly polished, eye-catching pictures with a film-like quality – often, though not always, very light and airy. Some photographers will use a medium format film camera to capture these sort of painterly images. These give an idea:
- Traditional (or Classic) is formal photography, perhaps the sort of frames that your parents want on the mantelpiece. Groups of relatives lined up and smiling at the lens are often very traditional (not saying that they have to be!). There may be a full-length portrait of you as a couple that’s a great record of how you looked on the day, and will usually be a fairly traditional style of picture. It doesn’t mean these photos are less fun, less beautiful, or less skilful – they’re timeless, and simply representative, offering the full picture of how everything appeared… Like this:
- Quirky (or Alternative) is the offbeat opposite of the traditional wedding album. It might be that you take engagement or wedding portraits in a location not considered classically beautiful. It could be having a bit of fun with personality, movement or perhaps off-the-wall unusual angles for unconventional pictures, drawing on the energy of the subjects involved. You may also find the term ‘Creative photographer‘ being used, which is a way of saying that they enjoy finding and creating out-of-the-ordinary, eye-catching images. ‘Vintage‘ would probably come into this category too and may mean that the photographer enjoys capturing a retro-themed wedding, or that they have a distinct style of editing the image that has echoes of another era.
- Natural light photographers will work without using flash or other photographic lighting equipment – only using the available light from outdoors – or reflectors to bounce light where it’s needed – window light and ambient lighting within your venue. Nothing beats natural light or can quite come close to recreating it; often most of the day won’t need additional lighting unless it’s very gloomy or midwinter. Photographs taken in low light levels may show some atmospheric grain in the finished image.
(…and sometimes the bridesmaids are excellent assistants!)
I tend to find that I’ll gravitate towards a friendly documentary style – but in my experience, all wedding days (with so much going on) benefit from flexibility according to what’s happening. The wedding ceremony, for example, is one where the photographer hopes to remain in the background – so there will be a documentary approach as the action takes place, usually only using the available natural light so as not to have distracting flash, but some of the pictures may look very traditional. There is no One-Size-Fits-All, but a good photographer will be consistently adaptable as the day unfolds. How each photographer chooses to edit the collection of photos afterwards is usually very distinctive, so be sure that you love their style of finished image. This is a bespoke commission and you are a unique couple, so don’t be afraid to state what you’re hoping for, and chat to the photographers whose style you already love or have heard great things about. It’s a significant and important one-off investment, so it’s no surprise that most couples put a good deal of thought – and trust – into their choice of photographer.
Come back and visit soon to read Part 2 of my guide!