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It’s important to pick a wedding photography style that suits you

Well, the title says it all: it is important to pick a wedding photography style that reflects your personality. That’s a great piece of advice. The problem is that most of us aren’t professional photographers, models or industry specialists. We don’t know the names and descriptions of photography styles, so how are we supposed to pick one that suits us?

It’s all very mysterious and intimidating. Not any more! We are going to lift the veil on wedding photography styles so you can choose the style of photography you really want.

Traditional

African Bear Photography

Traditional has got a bit of a bad rap of late. Couples want ‘real and spontaneous’. They don’t want stuffy and formal. But hold up a minute. Traditional hasn’t thrown in the towel just yet. These carefully prepared and skilfully posed shots have their place. You know all those wedding photos of your grandparents, great grandparents and even beyond that hold pride of place in your homes? The ones with a sense of gravitas in keeping with such a momentous occasion? Yip, traditional wedding photography.

What’s the deal on The Day?

It’s unlikely that your wedding photographer will only do traditional shots. They’ll fuse it with other styles (and let’s be honest, some of those seemingly “real” and “unposed” shots from other styles have so totally been staged). So, there’s a blurring of lines and a certain merging going on. However, traditional shots are easily identified by their careful posing. The photographer guides and directs people until the image is as perfect as they can get it. Traditional photographs are usually taken to capture key moments - cake cutting, first dance, signing the register and so on, and for portrait shots of the couple, bridal party, groomsmen, family groups and significant others.

Is it for you?

If you want photographs from your wedding that are classic and timeless, then you’ll want to consider a more traditional wedding photographer. If you want to make sure that you get a well-posed picture with all the right people in it - no one is left out and nothing left to chance, then this style is for you.  And if you want to inject a little bit of fun in the formal portraits, see what portrait photographers can do with a bit of licence.

Contemporary


This is probably the style you are most familiar with. It’s a mash-up between traditional photography, creative shoots and documentary/reportage style. Couples gravitate towards this style because they feel like they cover all the bases, it’s what they see on Pintrest and they like the variety. Family group shots - check. Romantic and glamorous bride and groom shoot - check. Spontaneous and organic pics as the day progresses - check.

What’s the deal on The Day?

Here your photographer will be hands-on in some moments. Especially the posed shots during the creative shoot, but also in the key moments - bride and groom preparation, cutting the cake, signing the register etc. They’ll have earmarked time for formal family group shots and will know ahead of time which ones you want taken. The photographer will have planned for a creative shoot - where they whip the bride and groom away after the ceremony to a few predetermined locations to create striking and stylised photographs of the couple. They use the setting, unusual angles and lighting to compose shots that capture a myriad of moods from light-hearted to deeply romantic. Finally, the contemporary photographer will know when it’s time to fade into the background and get some organic, unposed shots of the wedding action.

Is it for you?

If you want to make sure you have a happy range of photos from classics to quirky and are keen to incorporate current trends, then this is the style for you. There are stacks of portfolios out there showcasing contemporary wedding photographers. Here’s one from Stories by Joseph Radhik from India and a home grown portfolio from Eileen Laubscher at BrightGirl Photography.

Photojournalistic


It’s the rise of the wedding photojournalist at the moment. Call it photojournalism, reportage or documentary, it seems everyone is doing it. The style’s roots lie, unsurprisingly, in the art of photographically recording real events for newspaper or magazine publications. This raw and unposed approach to capturing unfolding drama has crossed over into the realm of wedding photography and its popularity is on the increase.

What’s the deal on The Day?

Well, your photographer’s aim is to melt into the background and take photographs without you even being aware. It is this unobtrusiveness which enables the photographer to capture the real emotions of a moment. They document the events of the day as it unfolds naturally. This means no artificial set ups or post production “fix-ups”. Photographers work with ambient lighting, no props and have the skills to artfully capture a moment in the blink of a camera’s shutter. They don’t direct or guide you - it’s supposed to be spontaneous.

It takes an enormous amount of skill and training to pull this off successfully, but the results are beautifully unscripted, honest, imperfect and intensely personal photographs of your wedding day.

Is it for you?

If you hate mugging in front of the camera, prefer the authentic to the posed and are happy to be caught unawares without all the glamour, then photojournalistic wedding style is probably for you. Confirm this by looking at portfolios from photographers who follow a photojournalistic style. Dennis Regie is a well-known American wedding photojournalist and here’s an example of photojournalistic style a little closer to home from Daniel West.

Fine Art


This style’s all about photography as an art form. Each fine art shot is planned and composed with an end vision in mind. Dramatic angles, strategic lighting, interesting compositions and backdrops are used to create striking images that tell a story. Some fine art photographers will do post production techniques, like filters or textures, to increase the visual impact, while others will opt to use film and forego digital entirely.

How’s this different from a contemporary creative shoot? yes, the distinctions do get fuzzy here. The bottom line is for the photo to be fine art, it should be able to hold up on its own as a work of art without people necessarily having gone to your wedding or even knowing you. Sort of like we’d hang a portrait of the couple depicted in The Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck on our walls (if we we could afford to prise it from the National Gallery!) because it’s bewitching art, not because it was our bestie’s wedding.

What’s the deal on The Day?

This really depends on how your fine art photographer likes to operate. Some shots will be very stylised and posed, meaning that the photographer will give you loads of direction and be very involved in the creation of the shot. There may be alternative light sources used, staged scenes set to tell a story and very carefully chosen locations. Because the photographer is trying to compose and then capture a work of art, set up may take time and you will need to be prepared to take direction and perform like a model. Many love working from film, so they need to be very deliberate in their shots and this takes time and patience. Like traditional fine art subject matter, they will take a range of candid, portrait, natural and posed pictures throughout the day.

At other times, they will have the experience to know when to anticipate a naturally occurring moment and be prepared to capture it in a highly artistic way without their presence intruding on it.

Is it for you?

If you are comfortable striking a pose, at home in front of the camera, happy to take direction and pull it off naturally, this could be the style for you! In the end you get some of the most captivating, interesting and arresting photographs fit for an art gallery. Here’s an example from a wedding shoot in Mexico from fine art wedding photographer Greg Finck. And the astonishing work of Jacki Bruniquel, a Durban-based photographer with the talent and training of a fine artist.

Now, go and find the style that fits you!

As you no doubt gathered, wedding photographers tend to blur the boundaries between styles (and we haven’t even covered all of them!). This is a good thing. It shows versatility and adaptability. But, like with any industry expert, if they stand out in their genre it’s because they are highly-trained and talented in that specific area. You’ll find your really top-notch photographers have a definite style they lean towards.

Now, you just need to find the one with a style that speaks to you and you’ll have yourself a wedding album you’ll love forever.

References

The Brahman Hills Team
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