Updated: Feb 18
It’s been some time since I wrote a post. As I work harder on this photo/video business, more and more things have been stealing my attention away from the blog. But, lately, I’ve been putting a lot more thought into one big aspect of photography; well, wedding photography to be exact and I wanted to write about it. And this is the visual style of wedding photography.
As I work on marketing ourselves in a growing industry, I’ve realized that future brides and grooms tend to look for a specific style for their wedding photos. There are numerous wedding photographers out there with vastly different styles from bright and airy pictures, to dark and desaturated snapshots. Below, I want to spend some time discussing some popular wedding photography styles and speak a little towards the style that I try and evoke in my shots.
There are many different types of wedding photography like:
Traditional Wedding Photography
Aerial Wedding Photography
Natural Wedding Photography
Photojournalistic Wedding Photography
Fashion Wedding Photography
Fine Art Wedding Photography
Instead of diving into all the caveats of each of those wedding photography styles, I wanted to dig a little deeper into the visual styles of wedding photography. The styles I want to explore are:
Bright and Airy
Dark and Moody
Black and White
(all the photos shown below are my own as I experiment with different styles)
Bright and Airy
The first visual style I want to talk about is the bright and airy look. This style has been popular for a few years and it considered to be soft and romantic. Highlights tend to be extra bright and colors have an opportunity to really pop. Below is an example of a photo that helps show off this look. The colors pop and the photo is shifted more towards the brighter side, while the shadows are minimized. Photos with this style look more dreamlike and some people say that brighter photos tend to carry a more positive and uplifting mood. While I don’t typically shoot for the bright and airy style, I have started to grow an appreciate for the look. I don’t think it will ever be my full-time style, but I have started enjoying aiming for that style when shooting beach sessions like the picture below.
Dark and Moody
Currently a popular visual trend in photography, the dark and moody style lends high contrast with warmer tones. Lighting in these shots tends to be more natural, with photos being shot during golden hour and using direct sunlight. Photos typically look a little more desaturated and contrast is pushed between the light and shadows to create a more dramatic style. I've been playing with this style a little more lately as I've noticed more wedding photographers drifting towards this trend. In some ways I see it as a cinematic approach with duller colors and more of an emphasis on drama. Warmer tones tend to create a more intimate and energetic vibe. Warmer tones are great for family and wedding photos as they are the perfect snapshot of happy times. Nobody wants a cold, dark photo of happy times with family and loved ones.
The next type of visual style is dramatic. Dramatic styling is achieved with more intense lighting. This could be natural light using the sun, or it could be using artificial light with flashes or continuous light. Popular photos that use dramatic lighting can be photos that have backlighting (where the background is brighter than the foreground, causing a silhouette effect). Below is an example of that type of shot. Dramatic styling isn’t constrained to a specific type of white balance or lighting style. It is more defined by the intensity of how the subject is portrayed.
Black and White
Another popular photography style is black and white. With the absence of color, the viewer is guided to focus on lighting. Black and white photography is considered to be a timeless style, as it doesn’t really lose relevance or popularity over time. For wedding photography, the black and white style drifts more towards a softer approach and hones in on an intimate feel. When shooting digital, some photographers like to add a little bit of film grain to give photos an older look.
Our Visual Style
So I’ve listed some wedding photography styles above. Many photographers adapt to one style and position their photography in that way. Some photographers or bigger businesses attempt to adopt all different styles to better suit their clients.
We’ve been spending a lot of time these last few months re-evaluating our own style and seeing how or if we fall into line with the styles I mentioned above. For years, we’ve been calling our style “cinematic”.
So what do we mean by “cinematic”?
I’ve grown up over the past 3 decades with an appreciation for cinema. I’ve always been fascinated with creating a scene with lighting and a little bit of magic to tell a story. Through depth of field, subject placement, and unique lighting placement, telling a story through visual media has always been thrilling to me. I spend half my time shooting photos, and the other half shooting videos. The two mediums are very different but share a lot of similarities, like framing and lighting. Whether it’s accidental or subconsciously on purpose, I enjoy taking photos that look like they’re a still image from a film.
I typically don’t adapt 100% to any of the visual styles I mentioned above. Depending on the scene I’m trying to create or the environment in which I’m shooting, I typically change my style based on what I feel will create the strongest connection with the viewer.
I also feel like I’m never satisfied with shooting one way. This could be why I shoot photos and videos, weddings and short films, and family photos and food photography. I’m always looking for a new perspective. As I work on marketing myself, I see that this could potentially hurt me because I don’t look like I specialize in anything in particular.
It’s been a while since I’ve rambled off some thoughts on this blog so, if you’re still here, thanks for reading and I hope this article helped shed a little more light not only on photography styles, but my thought process as well!