For a while now we’ve using our Tuesday posts to explain in a little more detail about all the different styles of wedding photography and what they actually mean. There’s still a couple of categories we haven’t yet covered and we’ll be resuming the series next week, but, the reason we’ve been talking you through these styles is to put you on the right footing; to help you to get a grasp of the sort of photographer that you’re most likely to connect with depending on what you’re really looking for from your wedding photos. Hopefully these posts have been helpful in establishing some guidelines, but now we’re about to blow those pigeonholes wide open.
We’ve restated each week that although photographers do on the whole adopt particular styles whether it be Contemporary, Editorial, Fine Art etc, the styles do often cross over in each individual’s work. Documentary photographers will usually still do some posing if they’re asked to and virtually all photographers will at various points of the day shoot documentary images because that’s what’s called for at that particular time. The guidelines are just that: a guideline, and whatever category they fall under no two photographers will capture and present an image in exactly the same way.
This is true even of photographers who work closely together. Myself and my brother Liam have worked very hard over many years to unify our images and make it look like they’re from the same photographer, but even we don’t capture moments in exactly the same way. What we do works for us because I know what type of shot Liam will be looking for and vice versa, but there are still subtle differences in the way we see the world, and whilst together they create our overall style if you were to put them side by side you would see two quite different perspectives of events.
Wedding photography is a strange occupation. It is to all intents and purposes a commercial enterprise – the photographer isn’t going to do it for free – it’s their livelihood and they need to make money out of it. But for any photographer worth their salt that’s not WHY they’re there, and if they are you should run for the hills. Although many photographers are also brilliant business people, great wedding photographers become truly great because they are artists and they think about what they do in a highly creative way. Their photography is a reflection of their own personalities and the way they see the world and they care about it deeply. Ask a great photographer to shoot an image in a style different from their own and they can do it: they have the technical skills and experience to know how to take just about any picture, but it will never have the same impact as someone who prefers to shoot in that style because they’re effectively seeing it through someone else’s eyes rather than their own.
So what is it that makes each photographer unique even when shooting in the same style? Why would two photographs of the same bride and groom taken from the same position look completely different taken by two different photographers even if they are both, for instance, contemporary photographers? There’s several things to take into account:
The way they frame the picture might be different – one might see something amazing in the expressions on the couple’s faces, the other might see a great image in just photographing the couple’s feet. It’s a split second decision but with two completely different (though equally brilliant) results.
The way they make use of light might be different. One might like really dark, moody shots where the other is looking for something bright and fun – it’s still contemporary, just seen completely differently.
The personality of the photographer will also come through in the way they talk to the couple: one photographer might want to make you laugh, the other might be looking for a very straight-faced image. If you’re all about big smiles then the latter photographer isn’t going to create the style you’re looking for.
Individual styles aren’t just about what’s captured in camera though, it’s about what happens after the day itself. In these digital days we expect our photographer to have taken hundreds of pictures and a lot of couples expect to get them all, but that’s not what a lot of photographers are about. All photographers will of course record your day as fully as possible, but whereas with some photographers they’re looking to capture every last moment, for others their focus is not on capturing hundreds of very good photographs, but on capturing maybe 10 absolutely EPIC photographs that will truly blow you away. They may not take as many, but their mission is to capture something just as memorable in only a few frames – the ones you’re going to be desperate to hang on your wall. That might be often considered a trait of the Fine Art photographer but it’s not exclusive to that style. Each photographer differs in the way they select their images and that selection process is as important in the quality of the end result as how the picture was taken in the first place.
The way a picture is processed, whether it be on the computer or in the film lab is equally a personal stamp by the photographer. One photographer might want their colours bold and brash where another will look to reduce certain colours and give a more subtle faded look. It’s all about flair and personal preference.
With the best photographers their style flows right through from the way they take a picture through to the way they present the final images. Some photographers will only use one particular type of album for example because they feel it reflects their style. If it’s not a style of presentation that you like then that’s going to affect how much you like your final images, but if you really connect with your photographer then chances are you’re going to like they way they present their end product.
I guess what we’re saying is that whilst finding the right basic style of photography for you is key, it’s only the first step on the ladder. When it comes to finding the right individual photographer the lines will be blurred and the styles will be crossed. The difference between beauty and indifference is only interpretation, and at the end of the day only the pictures can do the talking.
“There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are.
– Ernst Haas”