If you’re currently researching wedding photography or looking for ideas, you’ve probably found a number of different styles mentioned in magazines, blogs or across social media, including documentary, classic, modern and creative. So what exactly are these styles and do they fall in line with the type of photos you’re looking for? Hopefully I can help you answer that question by running through three of the most popular approaches to wedding photography; Documentary, Creative and Classic.
Also known as reportage, candid, unobtrusive, photojournalistic or journalistic. Documentary wedding photographers like myself pride ourselves on capturing special moments as they unfold, so the majority of photographs aren’t posed. This style of wedding photography is not new by any means, but it has become more popular. By taking on a reportage approach, documentary wedding photographers put their anticipation skills to good use, so they work very quickly most of the time. As an example, during the wedding there will likely be a time when the bride and groom are ready to leave the ceremony and walk outside. Documentary photographers will act fast, adjusting their settings accordingly to capture the couple walking out, whilst a more conventional photographer may ask them to wait at the door and then ask them to pose in a certain way, gently requesting guests to step aside as they frame the shot and take the photo.
This is one of the reasons why I fell in love the documentary approach. Whilst working alongside Ruth Allen in London when I was starting out, I saw such a difference in how she handled situations compared to other photographers I’d worked with. The weddings appeared to run smoother and the couples seemed happier as they were able to move at a pace that suited them. When you’ve booked a professional documentary photographer that you trust, you can spend most of your time enjoying your special day, knowing they’ll capture beautiful yet honest photographs. That said, some photographers, like myself, who regard themselves as documentary photographers will at times intervene and make suggestions in terms of locations and positions. There will of course be photographers who take on a stricter photojournalist approach, refusing to intervene in any way shape or form. This is why it’s always best to speak to the photographer first to learn more about their approach.
The post-production stage will also vary depending on the photographer you choose but strict photojournalists do not spend a great deal of time retouching as they don’t want to manipulate an honest photo in anyway, whilst some convert all of their images to black and white. I’m more modern in my approach, digitally processing my photographs to give them a ‘film look’, whilst my couple’s albums are largely made up of warm colourful photos.
Also known as fashion, artistic, editorial and illustrative. Unlike the reportage approach, the creative approach involves a great deal of planning whilst there can often be more time spent post processing the images too. This style of photography is all about creating artistic moments, but it’s partly inspired by editorial fashion and lifestyle photography. It’s not just about capturing special moments or creating them, there’s also a lot of emphasis on visually interesting images that are unique to the couple. With many artificially created shots, the final photographs may not represent the originality of your wedding day, whilst many of the smaller details can be missed for the sake of 2 or 3 visually interesting and perfectly executed photographs.
Many couples opt to recreate these types of wedding photos with an artistic photographer, usually after the actual wedding, and this is a great option if you want honest photos of the day as it unfolds, with additional shots from a more creative session. It’s also important to note that planning creative shots can take a considerable amount of time, whilst there will be a great deal of critiquing as each photo comes through, so this can at times have the feel of a strict studio environment.
Often referred to as traditional, posed, conventional or formal; this style of photography can be traced back to the days of film cameras, when it really was the only style on offer. Sharing some similarities with the creative approach, this style involves frequent intervention from the photographer, while there’s a great deal of emphasis on the posed shots of the bride and groom as well as group shots. Many photographers who take on the classic approach will work through a shot list, ticking off each photo once complete, and then moving on to the next one. Traditional wedding photographers rarely capture candid photographs, so may not always relive the happiness and excitement of your special day when you’re flicking through your completed album.
How would you describe your style of photography?
My style of wedding photography takes different elements from these three styles, but I’d say that the majority of my photographs are of the documentary kind and I feel it is the word that best describes my approach. I’d say that 70% of my photographs are taken without any direction, whilst 30% will include a helping hand from me. For example, I accept that as much as couples love the reportage approach, many also like the idea of having a series of formal shots too, as well as posed group shots. I often plan these shots in advance, working with the couple to ensure that no important photos are missed, however, the majority of the photos in your album will reflect your special day as it unfolds.