Wedding Reception Photo at Mountain Winery, Saratoga, CA

Wedding Photography Styles

One of the questions which comes to mind to many brides and frankly for many grooms is the question:

“What kind of wedding photography style I like and should look for when hiring a wedding photographer?”

Knowing the wedding photography styles, what each style characteristics are and some of the pros and cons of each style is very important before the bride and groom start their search for a wedding photographer. The style has to match what the expectations of the couple are and how they would like their final wedding photos to look into the their wedding album.

As you can imagine there are multiple wedding photography styles, some used since the beginning of the wedding photography and some more recent. Knowing which style to look for and avoid having a mismatch in the final photos between what the bride think she is getting and what the wedding photographer thinks the bride is looking for, is very important. Apart from knowing a particular style, the reality is that in most cases couples are looking for a mix of styles and most likely for a specific ratio of styles.

It’s very helpful to first identify the main wedding photography style a couple is looking for and them to be able to describe the additional styles to be mixed with the main style and what percentage of each style the overall mix should be.

To help my wedding clients understand what styles currently exist and how to choose the main and additional styles for your wedding, I have created the following wedding photography style reference.

1. The Traditional Wedding Photography Style

Formal Wedding Photo at Rengstorff house, Shoreline Park, Mountain View, CA

This is the oldest form of wedding photography used since the time of the first cameras allowed the photographers to capture everyone’s photos on a wedding for the future generations. I am sure everyone has seen the pictures of their grandparents in their wedding clothes standing tall and looking straight in the camera. Well, times have changed a bit and this photographic style has evolved but the main idea is the same.

The main characteristic of this style is the format and posed portrait. Bride and groom together, bride and groom with each side of the parents, with grandparents, siblings, etc. All possible combinations in different locations and against different backgrounds. This wedding photography style produces the photos you might have seen in each wedding album: carefully arranged and posed groups of people, looking into the camera and smiling.

A wedding photographer shooting this style is typically very involved into the process: selecting a location with beautiful and uncluttered background, arranging bride and groom in the middle and then everyone around them in the same height and carefully spaced from each other order. The photographer needs to have the experience directing how people should position themselves, where to look and how to look at their best. Knowing how to connect with people and how to make everyone cooperate during the group photos is also a must.

Despite the fact that the traditional wedding photography style has been around for quite some time already, it has evolved overtime and nowadays many wedding photographers incorporate funny poses during the group photos, add creative props and untraditional angles to make the formal photos have a unique and fresh look.

Although I am not a 100% traditional wedding photographer, I do work with clients in my studio on portrait sessions to pose and direct them for their formal portraits. Also as an event and wedding photographer I have captured many formal group portraits in the past when required. My style is to capture the real life moments and spontaneous emotions, but understand that the traditional group portraits are part of each wedding and many couples requests them.

Formal Wedding Photo at Indian Wedding in Hercules, CA

Most clients who request to have the traditional wedding photography style either have a large extended family attending their weddings or simply prefer their photos to have the following:

  • Clean and well organized style which captures everyone carefully arranged and posed
  • A more classic look of their wedding photos and prefer portraits rather than spontaneous compositions of their wedding guests
  • A particular list or set of group photos requested by their parents or relatives
  • A more contained and serious look without having any candid (unprepared) or artistic look
  • Very flattering poses and perfect compositions
  • Meticulously edited photos with soft focus and airbrushing finish may be

Pros: This style is easy to communicate, explain and prepare for. Once you come up with the list of poses, combinations and agree on the location, you can be sure that the photographer would capture each one of the poses as you wanted. There are no hard to explain artistic effects or depending on unplanned and spontaneous emotions to be captured. Your photos would have a very consistent look, everyone would look and be posed to perfection and your photos will have the classy and “Vanity Fair” magazine look. Another benefit is that you will most likely not hear any complains from the relatives attending your wedding that they are missing in the photos. The predictability is the main characteristic of this style: you ask for specific poses and this is what you should get after the wedding.

Cons: As I already mentioned with this style you are guaranteed consistency and predictability of your wedding photos, but as this could be a benefit on one side, it could be a major drawback on the other. Your photos would have the same look at many other couples who choose this style. Same carefully arranged and posed group photos. Could be quite boring, couldn’t be? If you are looking for a unique look and wedding photos which stand out from the rest, one which other couple will pin on Pinterest as creative and unique, then this style might be for you.

2. The Artistic Wedding Photography Style

Bride and Groom Photo in Livermore, CA

The artistic wedding photography style is mainly described as photos which contain many artistic elements like different point of views (ground level, above, angled compositions), composition of you and your groom around monumental architecture (bridges, buildings, pillars, etc) or landscape elements (trees, rivers, lakes, etc). This style also makes use of props (old suitcases, bikes, flowers, chairs, etc) which the photographer will bring on the set in order to create a certain theme and enhance the compositions. This style also make use of the natural light at dusk or dawn and in many cases incorporates light flares and leaks to create unique look and almost dreamy look.

Each of the photos created with this style are like masterpieces: unique and beautiful with all elements in the image carefully arranged and blending together to create a very artistic looking photo. The preparation and time required for this style is significant and require the photographer to be well experienced and knowledgeable of incorporating all elements in a masterful composition along with knowing and using the light in a creative ways.

The artistic wedding photography style is further enhanced by extensive and involving post processing of the wedding photos to achieve the final fine art look and feel. Professional digital editing application as Adobe Photoshop are used to enhance and add textures, light effects and remove any imperfections form the final photos. The final photos would have stunning look and would leave strong visual impression to you and everyone who looks at these photos. Most of the photos from this style and best seen in large prints or canvases and most of the couples display them in their homes.

Bride and Groom Photo in Livermore, CA

Pros: Your wedding photos will have an unique look and will not be as anything and anyone have seen before. You can count that people will praise your photos and the photos would have the “Wow” factor. They will be so pleasing to look at and wonderfully beautiful that you will cry everything you look at them. Each one of photos will be a masterpiece. Your photos will be timeless and will be interesting even for few generations to come.

Cons: Artistic style could be abstract and unusual for others to understand. If you are not a creative person or like certain compositions, this style might not be for you. In order to capture artistic photos, the photographer and you will need to allocate lots of time time and energy to travel to different locations with your hair, makeup and wedding dress (mostly as dusk or dawn) and participate into the image creation process. Standing on a ocean cliff, walking on a hill as sunset, repeating the same pose over and over until captured perfectly: this is just a small list of things you will be willing to endure in order to create timeless art pieces.

As art is hard to communicate in general, the artistic style and look might not be easy for you to communicate to the wedding photographer. If you are not an art person or trained visual artists, explaining the look you are looking for or wish as a final product might be hard for you. Plus art can be interpreted in many different ways and is usually in the eyes of the beholder.

Bottom line is that you might not get what you are looking for. The photographer would try to incorporate your requirements into his artistic photography style but might not want to compromise his vision and ideas to fit your goals. As they say: an artist is an artist for the unique art it creates and by not following others.

Final thing to keep in mind is that there are not so many famous artistic wedding photographers and the best one are highly sought after. It might be hard to book them for your wedding date unless you book years in advance and that would be quite expensive.

Related: Step By Step Guide For Hiring Wedding Photographer

3. The Wedding Photojournalistic Style

Cocktail Hour at Mountain Winery, Saratoga, CA

The best way to think about the wedding photojournalistic style is to think the way how a silent observer to major life event would tell the story to someone who was not present on the wedding. This story telling style of wedding photography involves very minimal involvement on the part of the wedding photographer. It’s important to remember that only the involvement (directing guests, arranging details and props before taking pictures, etc) is minimal not the participation. The wedding photographer is still very present and aware of everything happening throughout the wedding day.

A photographer who uses a journalistic style understands that a wedding is a real-time and unchoreographed event and focuses his entire energy and attention on capturing all the important moments and events in a candid and observational way. A photojournalistic wedding photographer knows and anticipates what events, moments and emotions are going to unfold and when based on his experience and instead of trying to stage them and pose the subjects, it allows these moments to unfold while using creative point of views and perspectives to capture them. While most photojournalistic wedding photographer also offer the more formal and posed pictures a traditional wedding photographer would provide, the majority of the pictures will be candid (non camera aware) and spontaneous.

Simply ask yourself: Do I like things which are artistic and contemporary or do I like things which are formal and structured? If you answered the former, then the journalistic style of wedding photography is for you. You will see many of your wedding pictures in black and white as in a documentary movie and all will have an artistic and unique look. The wedding photographers specializing in photojournalistic style have been photo reporters in printed media (magazines, newspapers) and have the experience to read human emotions and truly capture the wedding party mood to its full extend.

Cocktail Hour at Private Residence in Livermore, CA

Pros: Your pictures will reflect the true moments of your wedding, they will spontaneous and touching as life events are. You will see sincere smiles, tears, laughs and deep emotions reflected into your pictures. The photography coverage would be to the real events as they happened and you will be able to replay your wedding day by looking at the final pictures.

You will not be required to pose much and give the photographer unconditional and constant attention. You will not be constantly directed where to look and where to place your hands, where to tilt your head. This is great if you like to hang out with friends and have fun rather than being constrained to a schedule or being constantly told what to do and how to feel. Great for small weddings and mostly friends weddings with not much family members.

Cons: As will all candid photography, there will be very little posed or arranged pictures. Group family portraits might not include everyone and depending on who is active during the wedding, he or she might get featured more than others. Remember this style captures emotions and feelings, so if your parents are sitting emotionless and bored on your wedding, this is the way how they will look on your pictures. If you also imagined people being in a certain location at a certain time of the day, remember that this have to be staged and choreographed and this is not what the photojournalistic style is all about. It’s about the unstaged and spontaneous expression of emotions and capturing this in photographs.

4. The Destination Wedding Photography Style

Destination Wedding Photo at Pacific Ocean Beach in Seadide, CA

This style as the name suggests is about having your wedding pictures taken in a location away from your place of residence and in most cases involves traveling to a remote destination or foreign country. Think Hawaii (if you are not already leave there), Napa Valley, Yosemite National Park, Lake Tahoe as wedding destinations for the West Cost, or Puerto Rico, Caribbeans, Bali, Bora Bora, etc.

The reason that couples choose a specific destination for their wedding is because they have fell in love with the destination, its climate, architecture and overall theme. One can think of the destination wedding photography style as mix of artistic and photojournalistic styles. Most remote destinations offer breathtaking landscape views, amazing architecture, almost pictorial scenes and look and feel of a foreign place and culture.

The style seeks to incorporate all the landscape, architecture, cultural, religious and nature elements with the beauty of both bride and groom and create memorable pictures. it’s as much as for the location as for the compositions, light and artistic feel of the pictures. Think Paris and feeling of love and passion, Hawaii and the feeling of serenity and relaxation, Puerto Rico and the flame of love and passion.

This style also has an editorial feel where the photographer is creating almost like ravel travel magazine pictures, featuring both the wedding details, couple and local cultural and architectural details. One looking at the pictures can understand where the location was, what was the main characteristic of the location and match that to the wedding style.

Destination Wedding Photo at Costa Rica

Pros: Your wedding pictures will be unique and unforgettable. You will achieve your dream of traveling to this remote destination and having the best day of your life with the person you love and commit spending the rest of your life together. You will be pleasantly reminded every time you look at your pictures how wonderful the destination was and virtually travel there every time you open your wedding album.

Most wedding photographers who photograph in destination style are experienced travelers, know the local country and language and can assist you with being at placed you will otherwise not know.

Cons: Travel to a remote destinations plus paying the travel and accommodations for your photographer is something to consider. Most couples who consider this style are not under strict budget but still is something to keep in mind.

You will not be able to fly all of your family members and relatives and sometimes this might create tensions. Make sure to check with parents and discuss your plans, especially if they are the one paying for your wedding.

You will be required to adjust to another timezone, have your makeup and hair done by someone who you never met before and adjusting to the destination after the flight might take some time.

5. Trash The Dress Wedding Photography Style

Trash The Dress Photo in Los Gatos, CA

While this is not a main photography style per say, I am adding it to the list because many couples nowadays decide to to “Trash The Dress” photo shoot after the wedding day. it’s getting quite popular in my area lately and it is a way to relieve the post-wedding stress after the big day. Plus let’s face it: the bride will never wear the wedding dress again and the chances of someone wearing it (either sale it or gift it) are very slim, so why not have some fun destroying it.

If you are this type of bride which likes to have such experience, Contact Us and I will be more than happy to arrange a session with you. Luckily in San Francisco Bay Area and around Pacific Ocean there are many wonderful locations for this photography style. Cliffs, ocean rocks, lakes and streams, I know the locations where you can have blast ruining your wedding dress.

Pros: It will be lots of fun if you are looking to trash your wedding dress and I can guarantee you it will relieve your post-wedding stress. Well for the last one, it totally depends on you, so no guarantees. Your pictures will be unique and will generate lots of comments from friends and family members (both pleasant and unpleasant :-) ). You will have done something you really wanted to do and what a better way to test your relationship with your husband than to trust him to keep you from drawing with your wedding dress in the ocean.

Cons: It’s adventures and unusual experience and might not be for everyone. Seeing your wedding dress being destroyed and thinking about the money your parents spend to buy it could be hard to forget. You will have to do yet another photoshoot after the wedding day which means more time spent with your photograph and additional cost.

6. So which wedding style is right for you?

Trash The Dress Photo in Los Gatos, CATrash The Dress Photo in Los Gatos, CATrash The Dress Photo in Los Gatos, CA

The truth is most photographers incorporate a mix of styles in their approach, but you will usually find that each photographer is most prominent in one particular style. For example, I would describe my style as 70% photojournalistic, 25% artistic, and 5% traditional. I love capturing real moments to help couples remember how they felt on their wedding day, and I also enjoy finding the unique angles that create an extra layer of artistic feeling to an image. I add the 5% traditional, because I incorporate formal family portraits at the couple’s request.

You should ask your wedding photographer about his or her photography style and if he also experienced into the mix of styles you might need. Once you figure out what wedding photography style you are looking for, take your time to find the right photographer for you. When you meet them in person, bring some pictures from wedding magazines or online and show them what exactly you like and would like to see in your pictures.

So after describing all the different wedding photography styles, the pros and cons of each one, one might ask: What should I do next?

Well as a starter, look at the online portfolio of each wedding photographer you are considering. If you cannot find a wedding photography portfolio for a photographer, ask yourself:

Do I really want to hire a photographer who doesn’t yet have a wedding portfolio?

Can I risk the best moments of my life and the beginning of the long lasting union with my husband not to be captured and lost forever?

The portfolio is a good starting point as each photographer selects pictures for its portfolio consistent with its style and preferences. If after looking at the portfolio, you cannot understand what the style is, then the next step is after you meet with the photographers you are considering, ask them to describe their photography style and what this style means to them. After reading this article, you have some idea on what answers to expect and some of the considerations to keep in mind for each style.

Wedding Decoration at Rancho Canada Golf Course at Carmel, CAWedding Reception at Los Altos History Museum, Los Altos, CAWedding Flowers at Castlewood Country Club in Pleasanton, CA

Have a discussion with your photographer and make sure his and your understanding of a particular style are not completely different. If you are looking for a mix of styles, it’s perfectly fine to put this in your contract: ex. 50% Traditional Style, 15% Details, 25% Artistic, 20% Photojournalistic.

You can review my Wedding Online Portfolio and contact me for a complimentary pre-wedding, absolutely no strings attached, consultation where we can discuss my style and the style you are looking for.

7. Conclusion

I hope this information is valuable for brides, grooms, their families and everyone who is involved into planning or coordinating with a wedding photographer. If you find this article useful, help your friends who are thinking to get married by sharing it with them so they can be prepared and know what to expect.

If you have any questions or feedback for this article, feel free to Contact Us

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