So Many Photography Styles! Let's Define Your Choices...
Janelle Brooke Co-Founder of Janelle Brooke Photography located on Long Island, NY defines wedding photography styles for couples that aren't sure where to begin.
Wedding photography styles are a bit of a confusing topic for most couples … Unless you have studied photography you are probably not aware of the proper definition of terms such as “photojournalism.” It’s hard to define whether you like “light and airy” or “dark and moody” … what does it all mean anyway? I personally think that once you begin looking through a photographer’s portfolio it is easy to see whether or not the photographs speak to you … do you feel the emotion of what happened that day? Do they make you feel excited for your own wedding? It is important to understand a photographer’s style and make sure it aligns with what you picture for your own special day (no pun intended).
Let’s back up here and start to talk about style as a whole. For photographers there are several different “styles” that make up who they are and the type of work they produce.
Personality is huge because number one you have to like your photographer. On the wedding day you are going to be spending many hours with them so the way they handle situations like things running behind schedule or an unruly bridal party is a big deal. Are they easy to get along with? Are they experienced? Do they make you laugh? Do you feel comfortable? It seems like a silly thing to ask but believe it or not there are many couples that don’t even meet their photographer until the big day. Spending time with your photographer before the wedding will help ensure that you are on the same wavelength. There are plenty of photographers who have a very “hands off” approach while others can almost double as an event coordinator. It’s important to know your photographer’s personality style and make sure that they match your expectations.
Shooting style is comprised of a few different things. In a technical sense it can be the type of camera and lenses a photographer uses. Two photographers shooting the same subject from the same angle with 2 different camera lenses will come out with 2 completely different photographs. As to not bore anyone with a 101 lesson on “what’s in my camera bag” I think it’s important to make sure that when looking through your potential photographers portfolio you see a good mix of close up, mid length and wide photographs. As important as it is to have beautiful close up photos of moments and details also make sure that the environment is also captured.
Traditional wedding photographers are a bit more intrusive and gravitate towards more posed photographs (even in situations that one may think do not need to be posed such as the cake cutting). It is a more controlled way of shooting where the photographer directs what will happen from the beginning of the day straight through to the end instead of letting things happen more naturally. Most of the photographs taken are ones with people looking at the camera.
Many times I hear people requesting “blended styles” or a hybrid of these two different ways of shooting. This is in fact what I consider myself. I think it is perfectly fine to request a photojournalistic photographer to also take traditional family photographs. Weddings do double as a kind of family reunion and for many couples it is the first opportunity to capture the two families together. As a side note, it is super important to have a photo list that you share with your photographer so they know what photo combinations you would like taken.
When it comes to lighting style photographers can take two very different approaches. Some natural light photographers are light and airy meaning that their images are bright and ethereal looking. These types of images rely heavily on the direction of the sun. Usually photographers with this style live for what we call the golden hour (the hour right before sunset). This time of day has the best light for this style of shooting. If it is not possible to shoot during the golden hour photographers of this style usually try to keep the sun behind their subjects so as to not create shadows on their faces.
On the contrary, dark and moody photography styles embrace all types of shadows and harsh light. This type of lighting can invoke a different type of emotion and usually aligns well with cinema in the sense that they are extremely creative. Think of a hairdresser using hair spray on a bride in a dark room in front of window light and seeing the haze of the spray frozen in time. Cool right? Many times photographers who gravitate towards this kind of photography often use some other type of light source such as video lights or strobes to create or enhance these effects.
At the end of the day there is a time and place for everything and in my opinion if you have hired a good photographer they will deliver the right lighting and have the right intention for every aspect of the day.
Reception lighting is a very different approach then outdoor portraits no matter what lighting style you may have. Therefore it is so important when searching for a photographer to look through a FULL wedding gallery or two or three … especially ones that have a similar vibe – time of year, ceremony and venue style, etc.
Interestingly enough, regardless of how a photograph was taken (lighting and equipment wise) editing style can greatly affect the final look of a photograph. Way back in the day hand coloring was considered an editing style … Remember when black and white photos where just the flowers were in color were all the rage? How about sepia toned photos where images looked like they were taken in the 1800s? Nowadays editing style looks a little different and it’s really all about color and light.
Photos can be edited to look warmer/cooler, colors can appear more vibrant or more pastel, colors can also be de-saturated and appear greyish … editing is an endless black hole where a single image can look entirely different based on simple editing techniques. Think about all you can do to change how a photo looks just on Instagram alone.
Editing style just like anything else is based on personal preference. Unfortunately this is something that goes hand in hand with your photographer’s style as a whole so if you like their photos but not their editing it is most likely not a good fit. I personally favor a more natural editing style but that is just who I am as a photographer. I want to deliver timeless photos to my couples that are classic.
Regardless of what you do editing wise to your own photos in today's day and age think about what you want to look back on in 10, 20, 30 years from now and beyond. Your wedding photographs are your first family heirloom and hopefully one day your children and grandchildren will look at them adoringly. Your memories are precious and it is so important to make sure you find the right photographer that will bring your vision to life while also allowing you to enjoy your day.