How To Pick The Perfect Wedding Photographer

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Couple posing for a wedding photo image

You may just think of a wedding photographer as the icing on the proverbial wedding cake, but they can be so much more than that. Wedding photographs can preserve happy memories forever, and reveal new memories of moments you missed out on in all the fun.

Picking the right wedding photographer for you is important, then, but it can also be difficult. Many photographers use different terminology to stand out from the crowd, and everyone has their own unique style. Here’s a brief guide to some of the jargon and varying approaches of wedding photographers, and how their approach to the craft might sit with your wedding.

The Format

Digital

Digital cameras are how 90% of weddings are shot, and not without reason. Extremely flexible, high quality and featuring almost infinite, easily swappable storage, a good DSLR is a photographer’s best friend.

Digital camera range from extremely compact (letting the photographer get up close and candid) to weighty and stacked with lenses (allowing for higher quality, wider field shots). It’s not unusual to see a wedding photographer sporting two or three digital cameras and a raft of equipment.

Shooting your wedding on digital gives the photographer a chance to (tastefully) touch up the photos in software like Adobe Lightroom, if necessary. It also means you’ll receive them quickly and all at once, either on a memory stick or through an online image sharing service.

Film

An increasingly popular way of shooting weddings, film appeals to everyone. Instagram lovers appreciate its grainy, organic feel, while older couples find the resulting photos nostalgic.

Film cameras are still unrivalled when shooting in abundant natural light, making them a great fit for outdoor weddings. They are also perfect when inclement weather is an issue, as they tend to be more water resistant.

The downside is that these shoots can be more expensive. Supplies of film stock are dwindling, and not all wedding photographers can buy or maintain what is now fairly niche equipment. This is a particular issue when you have to trash another photo because someone bumped into you by the dance floor.

Black & White

Black & white photos can be shot on film or digital, but are so different to colour as to be considered a format in themselves. Black & white photos help to accentuate natural contrasts, picking out key details while shrouding the background.

This is particularly good for emotive shots, where faces are thrown into stark relief. It also lends images a classic feel that can fit brilliantly with retro weddings, particularly those with an art deco or ‘Great Gatsby’ theme.

Some photographers shoot exclusively in black & white as part of their aesthetic, while others will mix up the two. Pure black & white certainly gives you continuity, but not every photo benefits from feeling like a film noir.

The Approach

Traditional

A traditional approach is the same wedding photography you know and possibly love. It involves a roaming photographer who often doesn’t get involved in proceedings, and largely circles around the bride and groom.

They’ll set up a shoot for the couple following the ceremony, and another for the friends and families at the reception. This inevitably involves rows divided up by height, some variation on ‘cheese!’, and lots of awkward posing.

It’s an approach that doesn’t require a lot of thinking about, but I’d argue that wedding photography is too important to avoid that. Ultimately this approach is functional and familiar, but a bit dated.

Documentary

Documentary wedding photography (sometimes known as reportage photography) is a bit different. If your traditional wedding shoot is a bit like an old photo album, documentary photography is like a flipbook.

The photographer aims to tell a continuous story of the wedding day, using human moments to capture the highs and honest lows of proceedings. They tend to avoid group photos in favour of photographing individuals, and there is often a crossover with the ‘natural’ photographic style, as they tend to focus on warm and emotional moments.

The Style

Classic

Classic wedding photography is the sort you might see on a wall in a classy apartment. It tends to be formal and fashion conscious, seeking the perfect combination of lighting, angles and scenery to make the subjects look as good as possible.

The trade-off is that this requires a lot of organisation on the part of the photographer, and a lot of standing and shuffling around for the participants. This micromanagement achieves a smaller set of photos that stand on their own as great pieces, but can lack warmth, and don’t necessarily reflect the reality of the wedding day.

Natural

Natural wedding photography is just that: natural. Photographers with this style focus on capturing people as they are, and finding the beauty in natural, spontaneous moments. This is sometimes referred to as candid photography, but this can conjure up a negative image of people being photographed unwittingly.

The skill of the natural wedding photographer is in picking their moments: spotting a situation that would be great to photograph and waiting for the shot, or getting involved and invoking a natural response. The ultimate idea is to create a record of all the little moments of joy in the day that the busy couple might have missed.

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James is a graduate of English and American Literature and a passionate writer, with a particular interest in travel, architecture, and technology. He's a member of the team at digital marketing agency Gooey Digital, and outside of work his hobbies include playing music, reading, and watching films.

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