While you’re on your hunt for your wedding photographer, it’s always good to make sure that their wedding photography style matches up with your own personal tastes. I’m often asked by brides to describe my style, and it’s a great question to ask. And Before I explain my style of shooting, I always think it’s important that we have a good discussion on what a photography style is.

A style of wedding photography is more like a genre, or a category that you can classify photography in. There are a lot of buzz-words out there in the wedding photography world – traditional, photo-journalistic, portraiture, etc. These words can often seem undefined, and (depending on anyone’s definition of these words) can often blend into each other.

I am going to take a humble stab at setting up a few broad categories and definitions for you. Whether you’re a pro photographer looking for some words to classify yourself, or you’re a bride just trying to figure out what you’re looking for in a photographer – here’s a snapshot of what “style” means.

A Broad Spectrum

Truthfully, the best way to approach the wedding photography world (in regards to style) is to visualize the wedding photography world as a spectrum of styles, a range of approaches to photography. Imagine a horizontal line, spanning from right to left. Each photographic style will have it’s place on the line, some farther to the left, some further on the right.

There are two opposing ends of this horizontal spectrum (not competing – just opposite sides of the spectrum). These two can roughly be categorized as PhotoJournalistic, and Traditional/Portraiture. As an artist, I tend to shy away from strict definitions… so just think of these two styles as some sandboxes – a rough outline to the world of wedding photography. Let me define these two styles for you a bit.

PhotoJournalistic

Much the buzzword in the wedding photography world these days, is the idea of the photojournalist. Characterized by unplanned and unexpected moment to moment photography – this style has it’s roots in photojournalists (yes, news photographers) joining the ranks of the wedding photography world. Their unique approach to a news situation (don’t plan, interrupt, or impede on the events – just let them transpire) made the style what it is today. Much like shooting world political events, these photographers create their art from the unexpected, and un-arranged.

Now here’s the catch; many photographers will describe themselves as “photojournalists”, simply to cash in on the buzz-word. True photojournalists actually refuse to stage or set up shots. Not kidding – no family portraiture, no planned portraiture, no fancily set-up ring shots – it’s all about real moments.  If there is a beer bottle in the middle the picture – it’s not getting moved.  There is a actually a society of Wedding Photojournalists that you can apply to join as a photographer – but the catch is – you mustn’t have a single set-up or staged shot in your portfolio.

Now, although I don’t subscribe to some of the extreme concepts of this approach – I certainly respect it a ton, and borrow from it heavily.   I’ll get into my style (and Making the Moment’s style) in a bit – but I certainly look a lot to this approach in my wedding photography, it really has impacted how I work with a couple.

If I could place wedding photojournalism on the “spectrum” of wedding photography styles, I’d say that it would sit on the far left. Being a bit hipper, and more liberal in it’s approach to photography earns it this side of the spectrum.

Traditional/Portraiture

If photojournalism sits on the far left side of the spectrum – the traditional/portraiture photographer is the counter-balance on the far right. More conservative, more standardized and regimented in their approach to a day, these photographers are the originators of wedding photography.

Many traditional photographers have been around for years – and probably shot your parents wedding!   In fact, the wedding photography industry is based and rooted in the traditional style. This style is characterized by a more methodical and organized approach to a wedding day. Although art has its room here, it’s much more pronounced in set-up and planning, than capturing candid unplanned moments.

Traditional photographers will usually shoot from a “shot sheet”, or a repertoire of planned shots. These shots are often repeated over and over again for each bride and groom that the photographer works with. The advantage here?   Repetition breeds perfection. These photographers often times have a very striking portfolio, with some wonderful, highly perfected shots.

The downside? While you will likely get a handful of great shots – your photography will most likely feel less personal… and will look much like every other brides. More over, traditional photographers are not looking for unplanned moments – with a more rigid approach and much set-up, they are often limited in their ability to capture the candid stuff.  Getting your hair done with your bridesmaids in the morning?  That moment he started crying as you came down the aisle?  These unplanned moments might get captured – but are not the forte of the traditional photographer.

Now before you think I’m judging this style too harshly – please don’t be remiss.   I think that every photography style has it’s place in the wedding world, and I think that those brides who find themselves drawn to this style of photographer are going to be very happy with the quality of the imagery the get back. Remember – there is no “perfect” wedding photographer – photography style is so subjective, ultimately you need to decide for yourself what you want.

My Style

I’d like to think of myself (and all Making the Moment photographers) as a careful blend of the two extremes. Like the photojournalist – (hence the name of blog) we find ourselves thriving in the unplanned, creative territories that you can’t map out. I love candidly capturing the laughter and fun of getting ready, and I love snapping away at all the little details a couple would ordinarily miss out on during the course of a day.   Where I differ from the pure photojournalist, is that I do like to set-up some shots and I do believe in family and couple portraiture.

Like the portraiture photographer – I gravitate towards fun posing and playing pretend in front of the camera.  My big difference here is that I throw away the shot-sheet, and embrace creativity.   I try often to approach every day as a blank canvas, hoping to not repeat previous work. Whether it’s bringing along my Polaroid camera, or taking advantage of random elements surround us, this is where I live.

So what is my style? I’d like to think of it a genre-breaking expression of free-flow photographic art. Sound to contrived? It might be – but it’s the best way I can describe my approach. There is a growing movement in the photographic world (wedding & otherwise) of redefining the genres of what photography is, and I’m a huge fan of progressive thinking photography.

I like to have fun, come up with ideas with couples, to try new things – and to laugh a lot. I think I’ve been heavily privileged to photograph some great couples – and 90% of my photographic skill isn’t my ability to work a camera, it’s in getting people to be themselves. If it helps – peg me somewhere closer to the left of photo-journalism.

To sum up this ultra-long blog entry (kudos to you if you’ve read the whole thing!), choosing your photographer should be more about finding a photographer who fits your personal style. Budget is important, and their experience is a must, but you always need to find someone who can be depended upon to craft the sort of images that you most desire.

Good luck on your search brides! Photographers reading this – I’d love your thoughts on how I’ve defined the genres – feedback is welcome (and appreciated).

Brett

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Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Nick says:

    I favor photojournalistic shots because of my news background.

    However, you need group shots and portraits. It’s the best way to chronicle how everyone looked that day. What’s the odds of getting everyone lined up in some candid shot?

    The problem I have with some traditional wedding photography is its contrived nature. When people are posing for these shots, they look uncomfortable, which makes for terrible pictures. Same with framing them in obviously made-up scenes. It looks artificial.

  • Brett says:

    Agreed, on both ends. The problem with the “pure” photojournalistic approach is the lack of portraits and group shots… and conversely, the problem with the “pure” portraiture stance is the fakeness of it all. Hence my “blended” approach.

    You’re right, people can’t get comfy when they’re forced into something fake. It’s hard as a photographer to keep it fresh, and get people to feel comfortable in front of a camera lens, all the while keeping things original and fun.

    Good comment.

  • Benjamin says:

    “lifestyle photography” is a fast growing group. often modeled after a fashion photo-shoot, elegant poses, loose candid and posed all in one. A lot of photographers on the west coast are describing themselves with this term… it also fits in well with “editorial” which caries more of a story than “photo journalistic”. But I don think that these categories have made their way into mainstream Ohio yet.. but they’re coming.

    Great post, it’s an educational part of every wedding meeting 🙂

    Cheers!

  • Nick says:

    More important than anything else is grandma. I guarantee you grandma (or mom or dad) want portrait shots, even if the bride/groom don’t. Those members of the family are most likely calling the shots.

  • Brett says:

    Great thoughts Benjamin… I remember you showing me your west coast inspiration some time ago. I too am motivated by much of what is coming from the other side of the country.

    Motivated from that, this year we had a wedding “portrait” session at South park mall in Strongsville, it made me think of how different photography can be, if you just take a few risks.

    Nick – good thoughts, and I’m always careful to remind couples that the “standard” family portraiture (in my opinion) is an important part of the day. However, (again, in my opinion) it’s just a place to start, after that, let the creative fun portraiture happen!

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