I wrote a piece for the magazine “Your Sussex Wedding” on photography styles…. You may wish to read it here. If you are planning your wedding, then take a minute to read through some of the options as seen through my eyes…

Choosing Your Wedding Photographer

When couples are looking for a wedding photographer they can often be split into two groups. There are those that want someone within a given budget, the cost-conscious couple; and there are those that have a specific style or “image art” in mind and focus on the photographer’s quality and ability primarily. There is of course no right or wrong route to take, as every wedding is different as is every bride and groom’s tastes or view on what art is and what is wedding photography.

The fee a wedding photographer will charge is often no indication on the potential outcome of the photography either. You may think that an amateur or inexperienced photographer will be exposed as they will charge less than a professional or more experienced one, or that a pro will naturally charge a lot more, and be way outside your budget, but this is not the case. Photographer’s by-and-large charge what they believe their work is worth or what the market will support. So it is not uncommon at all for someone who got a new digital camera for Christmas to Google their local competition and set their prices the same! Likewise, I see many pro and experienced photographer’s dropping their prices to deal with the hard economic environment we are all in.

So what to make of it all!

There is one common point that you should always have at the forefront of your mind. ‘Do I want to trust the capture of some of the most important memories I will ever have to a person who has no experience, training or qualification? Or to someone that I have not met, not viewed their work and not decided whether I liked? Your can’t hold your wedding day again should something go wrong. Around 80% of your wedding budget will be spent on how your wedding looks or is perceived visually, unless you have a photographic memory, what will remind you about the cake that was eaten, the car that showed up briefly and was gone, and the boy’s tux’s which have now been returned to the suit hire shop….? Quality wedding photography. I would also argue that we all have a responsibility to document our lives for our descendants, so that they can participate in our memories and enjoy the moments that they either can’t remember as they were not even born or too young to experience… The wedding album is the definitive heirloom…

Wedding Photography Styles

When you are looking at choosing your wedding photographer, it is worth getting a bird’s eye view of the styles that are available before getting into the serious business of selecting the person who will capture the memories of your wedding day on your behalf. The styles available can be broadly classified into three as follows.

Classic or Traditional

When you think of wedding photography, these classic images are probably the first that spring to mind and definitely your parent’s and grandparent’s minds. It is what you could call the shots of the day, the groom and the best man before the ceremony shaking hands, the bride walking down the aisle with dad, signing of the register and of course the family and friends group shots after the ceremony. This was the primary style up until the recent introduction of digital photography. It suited shooting on film, which of course had a direct cost element in the developing and printing of film. Photographers had to manage their costs and therefore they needed to control the photography. Posing key moments and family groups ensured they nailed the principle images and that no one was blinking or not ready and therefore the film was not wasted. These days, this style is often the most dreaded of the day by all concerned!

However, it must be said that some things are traditional because they are a good idea and a smattering of these kind of shots can really hang an album together (and also have the added advantage of making the older folk in your family happy). The personality of the photographer and their creative eye can make all the difference with this style of photography, the days of the photographer barking instructions from behind a tripod are (or at least should be) gone and the group set ups can actually be a fun way for everyone to get together and capture the moment.

This type of photography is usually presented in what is called an ‘Overlay Album’ which is traditionally a leather bound book type of album with one or two images on a page, surrounded by a shaped frame. Of course, there are lots of variations on a theme these days, with both the covers and overlays having been updated to reflect modern styles by most of the leading album manufacturers.

This style has a fair degree of subject involvement, as the posing requires interaction with your photographer, and for your photographer to interact with your family and friends. Their personality is important, as guests can become irritated with waiting around and jumping in and out of shot when required. A qualified and experienced photographer will know how to work the situation to get the best images with the least involvement from everyone and will always ensure that everyone is having fun!

Reportage, Candid or photo-journalistic

The advent of digital technology has meant that photographers are now not limited by the fact that each click costs money. The digital photographer is now less cost conscious with regards to the amount of images taken and therefore many new and different wedding subjects, items, settings and ideas are being shown in the wedding album. Hand-in-hand with this style, is the new wave of wedding storybook albums from manufactures such as Graphistudio which allows far more imagery to be displayed, free from the constraints of page overlays and offers additional creative opportunity in page layout. Often referred to as a magazine style album the images are laid out in design software to fill a double page spread. The result is a perfect bound ‘book’ of images that are designed to be left out on your coffee table for all comers to admire.

So what is reportage photography? This is a journalistic approach to capturing images from your day and the end result is the photographer’s view of the story of your wedding day. Definitions of what this style entails will differ between photographers but for the purists it is a style where the photographer is as unobtrusive as possible and doesn’t intervene in the running of the day. The key is for the photographer to capture the story as it unfolds. The bride getting ready at home, the fun and champagne, the wedding dress hanging up in the corner of the bedroom, the wedding shoes still boxed…. the arrival of the bride’s bouquet, a tear from Dad’s eye as his beloved daughter walks downstairs in the bridal gown. The Groom waiting nervously at the church, he looks at his watch… Family and guests arrive, the hats, the colours, excitement of the bride arriving…. This story captured in photographs is the Reportage Wedding Photography. Then, when the album arrives, as each page is turned the images retell the story… and there isn’t a dry-eye in the house!

The type of shots will vary from the capturing of the smallest details such as table settings, buttonholes, and the bride’s shoes through to wide angle shots gathering in the environment, showing the wedding in the wider context and surroundings in which it occurred.

This type of photography is particularly appealing where the bride or groom is nervous of the camera or where they don’t want the photography to dominate the day. Of course, working without intervention, you have to be very confident that your photographer has a good understanding of what you would like captured and has a track record of working in a style that appeals to you and therefore experience as well as creativity is a must when you review photographer’s offering this style. A key point to remember is that a lot of new wedding photographers will adopt this style as it can allow them to hide when they are not sure what they are doing. They will stay out the way clicking for all they are worth with the hope that given the volume of shots they are taking, some should come out ok!

Contemporary – Artistic

This style is a little more difficult to define as it really is a fusion of the previous two. Of course, regardless of the style you choose, the images should be captured with a creative eye and artistic flair this is, after all, why you would select an experienced professional photographer in the first place. However, ‘art’ is in the eye of the beholder and in this style of photography, in the individual ‘eye’ of the photographer, and their ability to find creative environments and create images that appeal to you. You have to take time to look at their work and discuss with them how they go about getting the images they show you – don’t select based on a few award winning images from the photographer’s website, which may have been snapped by chance anyway. They still need to cover the day for you and provide you with more than just a piece of wall art – however ‘wow’ it may be. A wedding photography artist will be able to show you how these special images are taken and when is the best time during the day to take them. What is required from you the bride and groom and how long the session may be.

It is not uncommon to take the ‘Art’ shots after the wedding, when time and attention is more available. A new concept that originated in America and Australia called “Trash-the-Dress” has taken this theme on and developed it further. Trash the dress is where a photographer will take shots contrasting the beauty and extravagance of the wedding dress and bride with completely out of place surrounds and environment. For example a bride running into the sea, maybe jumping into a hotel swimming pool, or simply running across a graveyard at the church or perhaps up against a colourful graffiti wall… In extreme cases some photographer’s have set fire to dresses (without the bride in it of course) or thrown paint over it, but the serious key point here is to create abstract or extreme wedding art for the ‘X-factor’ shot in the middle of the wedding album. It should turn heads and create a discussion point with your family and friends. If this interests you, then talk it over with your photographer, make sure that you are comfortable with the planned images and that your photographer has the creative abilities you are looking for and think about doing it ‘after’ your wedding day!

Generally speaking, the Contemporary, Artistic wedding style should show a flair for different angles on the day, using the environment to create contrast or harmony (such as using the beauty of the environment to enhance the beauty of the bride), and they should make the space that the subject doesn’t occupy in the image (the negative space) just as important providing a path for the eye to follow. Such contemporary images should provoke memories, emotions, interest, discussion and maybe argument.

More than with any other style, it is important to look at plenty of the photographer’s work, to meet them and speak with them and to see if their approach fits with your plans. They will be working closely with you on the day to set up the images that you want and so you need to be relaxed and happy to work with them. This style is ideal for couples who are looking for the wedding photography ‘wow’ and who want to make the photography a key part of their day.

VisualChaos Studios

Photographers will offer photography based upon what they are comfortable shooting. No point asking a film based photographer who may be heading towards retirement to shot a bride climbing a tree while being shot at with a paint-ball gun, unless they can or want to. Photographers are often as good as their last work, so ask to see recent pictures as well as the fab ones they took 10 years ago. Also it is important to remember that the day is quite long, and the wedding story can be varied, complex, hurried or drawn out, so not every image will win awards some will just make you smile. The simple shots are just as important and can often reveal more about the photographer than the key ones…

VisualChaos Studios prides itself in trying to be different – when a couple allows us! We look for the unusual where possible or the contrast, as well as the story. We believe the wedding album must be a wondrous place, filled with emotion, memories, the supporting cast as well as the main players. We want to tell your story and wow you at the same time. Our wedding images are designed to be viewed and then viewed some more.. We would be heartbroken if you throw our images in a drawer or trunk in the loft… So left to our own devices we will look for the contemporary, modern and different. If not asked to, then we will be more than happy to use our professional, industry qualified and extensive experience to capture your day traditionally or with a reportage style.

Steve Fisher LBIPP  LSWPP
Professional Photographer