And so our mission to demystify the world of wedding photography continues, and this week, with the help of the one and only Joanna Brown and her fantastic photographs we’re looking in detail at a style of photography that has seen a huge surge in popularity over the last few years: Vintage Wedding Photography.
The subject of Vintage Wedding Photography is an interesting and occasionally contentious one. A modern photo cannot, by the very definition of the word, be truly vintage, so what is it that really defines this essentially modern photography technique?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines the word vintage thus:
Denoting something from the past of high quality, especially something representing the best of its kind:
Although not truly “from the past” the vintage photography style effectively attempts to fulfil this definition; taking what the photographer considers to be the best looks, styles and techniques from the past and effectively trying to recreate them for a modern age, or at least taking their influence to create a new style altogether with a nostalgic nod to the past.
In researching this post it’s become quite clear that for a lot of people vintage is all about the processing of the picture after the event. In converting a digital image to make it look like film the processing is of course very important – digital images don’t naturally come out resembling the grainy, specifically colourized look of certain old films, but great vintage photography is more than just a type of editing, it’s a style of shooting in its own right.
As with every individual photographer of whatever style, shooting vintage is a reflection of the way that photographer sees the world. The vintage wedding photographers we’ve spoken to really do come across as loving things with a bit of history. It’s reflected in their branding, in the way they talk and often even in the way they decorate their homes. Modern vintage photography reflects the textures and colours of old film simply because those are the photographs that they find the most beautiful, the most rich and heartwarming. Wedding photography is about telling a story of love, and emotional attachment to a photograph goes well beyond merely the content of the image.
Have you ever looked through your parents wedding album and felt that real history to the photographs? The colours that show the age, the little imperfections that make the photograph somehow more special? For me that’s what vintage is all about. I grew up feeling that those photos were incredibly romantic. Future generations may feel that way about the images from our latest cutting edge cameras, but for now digital cameras are so crystal clear, so full of pixels and perfect lenses and better than true life high definition that they eliminate the imperfections that once were inherent in camera technology. Some would argue that’s a very good thing, but for others it takes away a lot of the character of the image, and it’s not just vintage photographers that often harp back fondly to the days of film.
Unsurprisingly perhaps, vintage photography tends to go best with a vintage themed or slightly unorthodox wedding and, as we talked about in another style post a couple of weeks ago, in this sense Vintage and Alternative photography are often closely related. Both tend to be most popular amongst Brides and Grooms looking for something a bit different, something perhaps a bit quirky; and a keen sense of fun and of nostalgia is certainly present in both styles.
As we have mentioned in each of our style posts, every wedding photographer’s aim is to make the couple happy and photographers often cross over styles to best accommodate the needs of the bride and groom. Vintage and alternative, though separate disciplines, are two that perhaps blend most naturally in this regard, with aspects of either specialty often being found in the other, though with subtle differences generally present. Both, for example, tend to naturally take in the details of the wedding: the decoration, the stylings, the objects that have been used. Where alternative photographers might be looking more for the quirkiness and personal attachment to the object however, vintage photographers might focus more on the history of the item and its historical significance.
Both vintage and alternative also tend to feature lots of portraits, but where an alternative photographer might look simply for an interesting pattern as a background to a portrait, a vintage photographer would be looking for a particular style – perhaps some crazy 60’s wallpaper or some cool 50’s style curtains to add an extra dimension of history to the shot.
Of course whilst vintage photographers are naturally drawn to vintage decor they are not limited by its absence. Vintage items do not define the style, they simply enhance it. The style itself reflects more on a sense of romanticism from a bygone era, an almost dreamlike quality in the use of soft textures, warm bright colours, muted black & white prints and deliberately grainy images.
As we previously mentioned, although the way the image is composed and the features vintage photographers look for is as key to the style as in any other form of photography, the film-like quality of the image is very important to this particular style. This is generally achieved in three ways – firstly in camera in both the settings and the way the image is exposed and balanced through the lens. Secondly post-processing techniques are often used in photoshop etc. to manipulate the image and give a nod (or sometimes even a carefully composed copy) to an original style of film, or occasionally to give the appearance of the image being aged over a long period of time. Thirdly some photographers stay true to their vintage routes and use genuine old cameras to capture their images. The amazing Joanna Brown who has kindly provided the gorgeous photographs for today’s post is as likely to be seen snapping away with her old beaten up Pentax, classic polaroid or beautiful 60’s Diana camera as any of the latest digital models, and although it’s amazing what can be achieved with photoshop, you can’t beat the real thing for authenticity!
Modern Vintage photography is such a warm and romantic view of the world and one that makes it perfectly suited to capturing the beauty of a wedding day. Wedding photography isn’t just about taking a picture of someone in a white dress and the fella beside them, it’s so much more than that.
“You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”
― Ansel Adams
Each of these images in this post are courtesy of the fantastic Joanna Brown. To see more of Joanna’s work and to see some more fantastic examples of the vintage photography style check out Joanna’s website: www.joannabrownphotography.com