9 Most Common Wedding Photography Styles & Techniques in 2020

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Best 9 Most Common Wedding Photography Styles & Techniques in 2020

Most Common 9 Wedding Photography Styles BW
Most Common 9 Wedding Photography Styles BW

The wedding photography style and technique is a very important factor to consider, regarding your wedding photographer. You need to know which one is the best photography style for your wedding, based on your wedding theme and the other plans for your wedding. Decades ago we only had one style of wedding photography, but in 2020, our wedding photographers are specialized in a good number of styles.

Below you will find the most common wedding photography styles & techniques that our professional wedding photographers might use.

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#1. Artistic Wedding Photography – Wedding Photography Styles

Artistic Wedding Photography
Artistic Wedding Photography

For many years wedding photography tended to be more conservative, with most sticking to posed shots, lots of makeup, lighting and styling to get the shots just right. The only problem with this method is that the photos can come out a little too staged and perfect, without much spontaneity.

Since then a new phase has gained popularity known as the ‘photojournalistic style’ ( read more below ). This allows the guests and the couple to enjoy their day without any interruptions since the photographer lurks in the background and takes pictures as the day wears on. This style results in much more real and interesting pictures with human, emotional flair. Many wedding photographers now employ a combination of these two techniques in their work when the situation calls for it.

However, a new style has emerged as an option and that is a more artistic, creative and conceptual take on the wedding day. Photographers well-versed in this style can create shots full of drama, adventure and intrigue in a way that is simply impossible with a more standard, journalistic style. This often employs the heavy use of non-standard lenses, developing methods (yes, film at times), interesting post-processing and filters.

The artful combination of these can really make for some extremely eye-catching and unique works of art. Through heavy use of Photoshop, the results can even resemble oil paintings, old, cracked photos or even dreams. These photographers often borrow from landscape, architectural, portraiture, still-life or sports photography disciplines to add some interesting textures and flavors.

As risky and edgy as these results can be, however, it can be quite important to make sure the standard photos are also captured. Parents would not be too impressed if the ring ceremony or vows weren’t captured. This style lends itself really well to special moments after the wedding when things have calmed down and the shots can be posed without interrupting the flow of the wedding.

This is the time to get experimental and have some fun, so don’t be afraid to make some suggestions or try something wild. If you’re an unconventional couple and like things just a little off-center, then a more creative style of photography might suit you perfectly. The personalities of the couple usually dictate the type of styles and looks that will work for their wedding. However, if the newlyweds have something in mind, it’s not too difficult to deliver it with some preparation. One option is to get the standard photographs to document the wedding in a pretty way, and of course to please your parents, then, have some fun and creative shots taken purely for yourselves.

Besides all the creative options, the real key to shooting any kind of wedding is to look for the right body language. It’s vital to catch those magical moments where the couple’s eyes, hand movements and gestures all align to convey the emotion perfectly. This takes years of experience to get right, especially since there is a time limit for the various stages of the ceremony.

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#2. Black and White Wedding Photography – Wedding Photography Styles

Black and White Wedding Photography
Black and White Wedding Photography

It’s been said that black and white photos are a reality, while color photos are just an interpretation of it.

Black and white wedding photos are the way to go if you want to highlight the emotion in your scenes. The feel of a black and white image when compared to a color one just feels a lot more dramatic. The reason for this is that the less color in an image, the less work your eyes have to do to process it. This leaves the subject matter left as the main focus instead of all the pretty, but sometimes distracting colors.

Black and white enable you to pay more attention to the details in a subject so the character of the shot and the emotion behind it is driven home.

This makes the medium perfect for shots such as behind-the-scenes preparation, the first kiss and the first dance. The black and white will help highlight the nerves, love and celebration in each shot. When used with a powerful zoom to fill the frame with the couple’s lips meeting, holding hands or tears rolling down a cheek, the effects are even more powerful and exaggerated. A deep depth of field can accomplish something similar by blurring out the background and making the subject the obvious center of attention.

Black and white have some other great uses too such as making skin seem much less blotchy. Any redness tends to mix in with the rest of the skin’s gray tones and not show up at all in the final photo. This can be used in emergencies and for behind-the-scenes shots to great effect. Save the color for when the hair, makeup and dress are all in place and you’re looking gorgeous.

Color photos on archival paper tend to start fading after about 50 years, whereas black and white photographs will last a lot longer. That’s not the only thing that dates with color, however. Modern fashion is very dependent on color, and this can make wedding photos look quite dated in just a few decades’ time. However, those same exact photos in black and white will look completely timeless.

One of the best things about digital technology these days is that the photographer can choose whether the photos look better in black and white or in color after they’re taken, thanks to Photoshop. With film, the choice needs to be made before the first shot is even taken as the camera needs to be loaded with monochrome film. With digital it’s so easy and a direct A/B comparison can be made with the click of a mouse. Many photographers use this to their advantage by shooting everything in color, and only in post-processing do they make decisions about which direction to go.

Many cameras don’t do this very well since the circuitry needs to process it fast in order to be ready for the next shot. Photoshop, however, can use the entire processor of the computer to perform the task and can take its time. The result? A much cleaner and more accurate conversion.

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#3. Candid Wedding Photography – Wedding Photography Styles

Candid Wedding Photography
Candid Wedding Photography

When thinking about wedding photos, images that immediately come to mind are of the bride and groom cutting the cake, the first kiss and walking down the aisle. However, when couples first go through their photo album, these are not the shots that get the biggest response. These shots have been seen before many times but of course, they are still nice to have.

The photos which everyone goes crazy about are the ones nobody knew were taken. All the shots taken in-between the bigger events of the day are the ones which turn out to be the most special. Since nobody was ready or prepared for them, the emotions in them are really powerful and evident. These are known as candid photos and often form the meat of the album.

Many people are simply looking for a relaxed and unobtrusive photographer to document their wedding day. When a couple mentions this it’s pretty clear they are looking for a more informal or natural style. To pull this off, the photographer can’t be stopping people or making them pose every five minutes. This ruins the flow of the day and annoys people. It’s much better to stay in the background, use longer lenses if need be, but do plenty of running around to find good angles. It’s also smart to switch off any click sounds the camera makes and the flash too wherever possible. All this will keep the guests happy and not too self-conscious.

Even when taking strictly posed or prepared shots, the candid effect can be used to great effect. For example, when the wedding photographer is directing people to look this way, move their arm or stand a certain way, the first pose they strike is usually not the best.

They are somewhat stiff and trying to look perfect. This comes off as a little awkward. It’s often the second, third or fourth shot that comes out the best. This is because they think the photographer has what he needs and that they can relax, which ironically works out much better.

Candid or natural style photography creates a real flow to the story and captures genuine emotions and vulnerability in a way that posing never can. One strategy which can work quite well is to have one photographer capture all the candid stuff and the other covers all the posed shots.

Of the potentially hundreds or even thousands of photos that are taken over the course of the day, the editing process can be even more grueling than the day itself for the photographer. He has to sit down and hand-pick exactly which photos are good enough to be used in the final album. If he’s been shooting all day, this process can take days.

However, once it’s done, not only will the photos be incredible, but they will also tell the story in a linear fashion with great consistency shot-to-shot. Then, once this is done it’s time to clean them, do color correction and crop them if need be before making the final album.

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#4. Documentary Wedding Photography – Wedding Photography Styles

Documentary Wedding Photography
Documentary Wedding Photography Styles

This popular style of wedding photography has a few different names such as candid, reportage, photojournalistic and observational. These names all basically mean the same thing and that is to capture the wedding day as it really happened with no posing, contrived shots or set-ups. This style was developed by photojournalists for covering real events for newspapers and has been borrowed for use in weddings since it works so well.

Black and white really suit this style of photography as it enhances the nostalgic and emotional aspects of the shots. This can help photos feel more timeless as a result.
The documentary philosophy is to capture genuine emotion by being in the right place at the right time, rather than trying to manufacture it by making people act in a certain way.

This method is not only more effective in capturing these magical moments, but it’s also a lot more conducive to letting the guests enjoy themselves without interruption. When a photographer asks guests or the couple to pose every 10 minutes throughout the day, the energy and atmosphere can quickly grind to a halt. This is obviously not ideal since everyone wants to have fun at weddings. This allows the guests, bride and groom to just enjoy themselves and go with the flow, knowing that the photographer will take care of everything for them.

A good wedding photographer needs to have a multitude of skills in order to capture these candid moments. They need to be invisible when necessary so the subjects don’t become self-conscious as soon as they see a camera. They do this by having great social skills and blending into the crowd as if they were just another guest. In fact, many couples claim they noticed the photographer less than 5 times throughout their wedding day, and that’s how it should be. Make sure you choose a photographer that is not too loud, brash or aggressive as these types will find it hard not to draw attention to themselves.

They also need to know where to be at all times to get the best shots. Since weddings move at a rapid pace, the photographer needs to be 5 steps ahead, always anticipating what’s about to happen. The best pictures are usually the ones where real, uncensored emotions are being shared. Classic moments like these include the groom nervously fidgeting with his cufflinks before the bride arrives, the father sadly handing over his daughter to the groom, and the couple sharing an intimate glance at one another. It takes years of experience and skill to capture these moments in a real and vivid way.

Documentary photography may seem like a lazy way to cover a wedding, but it’s actually a lot harder than when the shots are set up and posed. There’s a lot of running around, staying out of people’s line of sight, more focusing, lens changes and of course, lighting challenges to deal with. However, the results are almost always worth the effort.

If you want to get a few group shots over the course of the day, make sure it’s no more than 6. If the photographer is busy setting up and taking group shots for hours it means he is missing all the little moments happening at the same time that would otherwise be captured.

The resulting pictures are usually presented in the form of an album with each photo telling the story of the day in a linear fashion. This lets the viewer relive the moments as they happened and experience all the same emotions again. It usually starts with the preparations in the morning and ends with dancing late into the evening.

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#5. Elegant Wedding Photography – Wedding Photography Styles

Elegant Wedding Photography
Elegant Wedding Photography

When one thinks of elegant wedding photography, images from top bridal magazines immediately spring to mind. These shots are usually set up and controlled down to the finest detail with plenty of Photoshop to get everything looking perfect.

However, elegant wedding photography is less about a specific style and more about a feeling that can be applied to almost any photographic discipline. You can have elegant photos taken in a church, on a tropical island and in both reportage and traditional styles too.

The key to elegant photos lies in the use of natural looks, great lighting and composition. All these elements need to be combined to create this elegant feel which is defined by class, prestige, glamor and timelessness. A good wedding photographer knows exactly how to capture these types of images in almost any setting. However, as the couple, you can contribute a lot too by choosing the right clothing and venue. Elegant weddings usually lean more towards a classic feel, with a sharp suit for the groom and the classic white wedding dress for the bride. A church would go a long way as well. White flowers wouldn’t hurt either so a few vases of white flowers all around would work really well.

When shooting elegant photos, the lighting is absolutely key. These shots need plenty of light as dark, dingy pictures are definitely not elegant. So if the shots are taken indoors and there is little natural light, a lighting rig will need to be set up in advance.

Most of our wedding photographers shoot with digital cameras and this allows them to turn the photos into black and white afterward with Photoshop. This is something worth discussing with your photographer as nothing says elegant quite like black and white. It’s been noted that when compared to color pictures, the eye has less detail to be distracted by monochrome photos. This lets the emotion of the image come through much more vividly and easily. It also has a timeless feel so they will still look great in 50 years’ time, whereas color photos are more likely to look a little dated by comparison.

To capture truly elegant photos the photographer needs to find the most flattering angles at all times and use them as much as possible. Each person has their best angle and this becomes a real challenge when photographing a couple as both need to be captured at the same time.

The final and perhaps most important element of elegant photos is to get the details right. This means that the bride’s hair, makeup and dress need to be refined to perfection as modern cameras will pick up everything. The same goes for the groom’s facial hair, hairstyle and suit. The decorations in the venue like the napkins and tableware make a big difference too.

However, keep in mind that if one’s strives to be too elegant, the intimacy of the shots can suffer somewhat leaving the album feeling a little cold. Make sure you spice things up by including plenty of candid shots among the posed ones to get a nice balance of elegance and real emotion.

Wedding photos are one of those things that can be kept, cherished and enjoyed for the rest of your life. They say so much about the emotions of the day and the special moments that were shared that might otherwise be lost forever. A good wedding photographer will make sure to capture all these little moments so you can relive them over and over.

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#6. Fine Art Wedding Photography – Wedding Photography Styles

Fine Art Wedding Photography
Fine Art Wedding Photography

A huge trend in wedding photography is that couples are choosing more and more artistic styles for their photos each year. This is in conjunction with the fact that weddings are becoming less and less traditional at the same time. People are living in a more relaxed way these days and couples also want to express their personalities and uniqueness on their big day as well.

If you’re looking for pictures that are a little more engaging and extraordinary than the standard wedding photos, then it might be a good idea to look into fine art wedding photography for your wedding day. A skilled photographer in this style has the ability to make each shot look like a work of art with the colors, composition, texture, feel and light in the shot all working together to create something unique and interesting.

A great deal of this visual manipulation can be achieved after the pictures are taken as well by using software like Photoshop. This powerful software can make subtle enhancements such as erasing redness in a person’s cheeks or even going so far as to replace the entire background. While this is a little extreme, and most photographers would never dream of going so far, it illustrates what’s possible. Photoshop is best used to add subtle artistic elements to the picture that would help bring out even more emotion than the photo already has.

For example, if the couple is kissing in a wheat field and the sun is setting in the background, the whole shot could be made a little more yellow to bring out the sunny, warm and joyous feel of the image. The other option is to do the bare minimum in Photoshop and to get the best images possible in the camera.

This can lend itself to a much more minimalist but highly elegant and beautiful style. These are the types of photos that would look great in a magazine or could be framed and placed in one’s living room. This can make the couple feel like celebrities when they finally receive their final pictures. Instead of simply capturing the ceremony, the photographer will try to tell a romantic story with the pictures and make the emotions come alive. It’s up to the photographer to use all his or her skills to capture images that have a really glamorous, yet honest feel to them. This is not an easy task and many struggles to pull this off.

The final wedding photography album should look like an epic saga of love between two people instead of just a ceremony documented in pictures. Black and white is a very popular medium for this style as the elegance and grace in the images are much more apparent.

The technique of deep focus is also used quite a bit where the main subject is in sharp focus and everything else is very heavily blurred. This creates a romantic and dreamy feel, which can be used to bring things to attention such as the ring, the kiss or the wedding cake.

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#7. Modern Wedding Photography – Wedding Photography Styles

Modern Wedding Photography
Modern Wedding Photography

Contemporary or modern wedding photography has become a style unto itself over recent years. In the past, the two main styles to choose from were either traditional or reportage, and one usually had to choose between the two. However, over the last decade, many wedding photographers began to experiment by incorporating both styles into their work with great results. This approach helped create wedding albums with the cheeky and spontaneous fun of the real, natural events as they happened, with more controlled, set up shots too where the photographer’s creativity can run wild. This combination results in a really dynamic collection of photos and has become a very popular choice for couples.

For a contemporary wedding photographer, preparation is one of the most important keys to delivering great pictures. The couple needs to be briefed about what is expected of them as well as how truly special photographs are taken with their involvement. Be prepared to pose at various times throughout the wedding day to get specific shots the photographer has in mind.

However, the more experienced photographers will be able to do this with great skill and not interrupt the wedding at all. They will pick just the right moments to get the shots needed quickly so you and your guests can carry on as nothing happened. Capturing contemporary wedding photos is similar to eating out at a fine dining restaurant. Balance is the most important element with no flavor being too overbearing. Just enough of the right ingredients and that’s it.

In addition to all the raw emotions of the day, this style also makes it possible to highlight moments by exaggerating or enhancing them as well. This can be done by experimenting with locations, clothing, lighting and poses. This adds a whole new dimension to the more candid shots taken when you were unaware and busy having fun. The results of these posed and controlled shots can range from interesting to extremely edgy, something similar to a photo you would find in Vogue. Discuss how far you want to take this with your photographer.

Rarely is there a more important day in one’s life than their wedding. It is a huge event and marks the end of an era for both the bride and groom. It marks a deep commitment to each other and is a beautiful expression of this promise to be shared with friends and family. It’s vital to capture the special moments that are always likely to unfold throughout the day. For the rest of your life, you can relive them any time you want by simply pulling out your wedding photo album and sharing it with a friend.

If you want a playful, romantic and fun portrayal of your wedding, then a contemporary or modern photographic style is the right choice for you. The best part is that you will most likely get a unique album with fresh, creative photographs unlike anyone else’s you’ve seen. Photographers love to leave their mark on their art and push themselves creatively, and in these situations, you as the customer benefit.

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#8. Photojournalistic Wedding Photography – Wedding Photography Styles

Photojournalistic Wedding Photography
Photojournalistic Wedding Photography ( Credit: Joshua Rainey )

When doing your research about which photographers to choose or what style you might like, you have no doubt come across the term ‘photojournalistic’ or ‘reportage’ style wedding photography. Other names include candid, observational or documentary. These terms are heavily used and have become buzzwords in the industry, but what do they really mean?

This reportage style comes from photographers covering events for the news as impartial observers on the scene. They would stay out of people’s lines of sight, use long telephoto lenses to stay far away from the action and not interfere at all. This is exactly what is done with many weddings today. The idea here is to capture the guests and couple in a natural way without them being aware they are being photographed. This usually results in the most authentic shots as they are not posed and are usually completely caught up in the moment.

The emotion is raw and genuine and that comes across in the pictures very clearly. The idea is to capture the day as it really happened and to stand as an honest record of the day as much as possible. Photographers who use this style get very good at blending in with the crowd and being an invisible presence. This takes years of practice but is a vital skill to prevent nervousness as this ruins one’s chances of getting a great shot every single time.

In the past, a much more traditional style was used where at every stage of the wedding, the photographer would pose the couple or the guests to create picture-perfect images. The only problem with this approach was the fact that these albums tended to be quite stiff and rigid when compared to the looser and more natural photojournalistic style. Of course, there should be a few posed shots to get family groups and the couple standing together, however, photographers that practice this style try to keep the number of these shots to the minimum. These set up shots are usually for the benefit of the extended family as opposed to the bride and groom who usually get a much bigger kick out of the more candid ones.

The shots will be ordered as they happened throughout the day so the album tells the story in sequence for the reader. It’s great for the guests too as they can get on with having a great time and not worry about posing for hours or being told what to do. It makes for a much smoother day overall without any breaks in the action.

Interestingly, it’s not the big moments that are the most heart-warming photos of the album. It’s the moments in-between the big events of the day that are the most special, such as the bride and groom sharing a loving glance, the grandparents’ tears or the ring bearer’s nerves before going out into the ceremony. This can say more about the day than the more expected moments like the kiss or the throwing of the bouquet. Great photographers develop a very keen sense for when these moments will occur and they are ready for them in the right position with all the correct settings on their camera in advance.

Black and white remain a very popular choice for the preparation shots before the ceremony. This accomplishes two things: The first is to make the bride, who isn’t wearing any makeup yet, look really great as black and white is much more forgiving than color is. It also adds a dramatic and anticipatory feel to the shots which is just perfect. Then, when the ceremony starts, the shots can burst into color, adding a feel of excitement, energy and vividness.

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#9. Vintage Wedding Photography – Wedding Photography Styles

Vintage Wedding Photography
Vintage Wedding Photography

A huge trend nowadays is to go for a vintage theme for one’s wedding photography. While vintage is a rather broad term, literally covering everything from the 20′s all the way to the 70′s, there are definitely a few universal features that can be applied to any shoot to achieve a somewhat vintage feel, regardless of the era.

If one studies the portraits of the 50′s for instance, like famous photos of Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn, you will notice a heavy reliance on dramatic lighting. This is never overdone though and always remains really flattering. Beauty dishes were no doubt used a lot and this helps to achieve a look of fantasy and elegance, qualities that were very dominant in fashion at the time.

Another popular era is of course the 70′s, and this look relies heavily on extreme coloring, milky shadows and smooth shades. A lot of this look can be achieved in Photoshop, but the clever use of exposure settings can create some interesting effects as well. This produces an instantly recognizable and nostalgic feel for any picture and would work well for any 70′s vintage-themed wedding.

The look of the pictures is only half the recipe, however. What appears in front of the lens can have a much bigger impact on the look and feel of the images than any amount of processing or photography tricks.

If you’re going for a 50′s theme wedding, why not get a jukebox for guests to choose their own songs at the reception? Some snappy vintage suits for the groom and groomsmen would definitely help set the mood too. Classic cars for transport to and from venues always work great and of course, the bride would need a vintage dress to complete the picture. These can easily be found at many vintage clothing boutiques in big cities. If you are working with a wedding planner, they will have an absolute field day planning a wedding like this and can make it into a vintage masterpiece with ease.

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More about Wedding Photography:

Wedding Photography Wikipedia
What is Wedding Photography – A Parker J Pfister’s Article
The Complete Guide To Wedding Photography

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