What are the different styles of wedding photography?

Hiring a wedding photographer is a tough thing. I mean, you’re making a judgment call on who to hire based on someone’s past work and it’s not something you really get to appreciate and enjoy the day of the wedding. You hire this person to have kind of a prominent role at your wedding because apart from your friends and family, the photographer is the person you might interact with the most (unless you have a wedding planner there). And unlike any other vendor that day, the photos are the one and only permanent reminder of that very day. So, it’s important. That’s why it’s important to choose well who you will be working with that day. 

So, without further ado, let’s talk about how to choose your wedding photographer.

Now, let’s not be silly… I’m obviously the best choice out there… LOL ;) 

BUUUT, if you must shop around (which you should) before making your decision, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Settle on a Photography Style

Let’s preface this by saying that the terminology is a MESS because there’s no finalized nomenclature for most of these terms. Very often, they have 2 or 3 different names and sometimes even 2 different styles will have the same name. So, after having done my research, this is my interpretation of these terms…  


Classic modern portraiture: 


Classic Modern Portrait of wedding couple

Oxymoron much? Nope… when I mean classic, I mean what is generally being done most often nowadays: a posed session before with the groom’s men, the bride’s maids, the fam, the couple, etc. and then, a more off the cuff coverage the rest of the wedding. It’s a mix of “Your parents’ wedding” and modern wedding photography. It’s not what I do, but there’s nothing wrong with this approach. Actually, it allows the photographer to try many things and run the gamut of shots, making sure that the client will be happy. Like everything, choose well who you are working with. Very good “classic modern” wedding photographers will find space to be creative with their portraits, etc. The best part of classic modern photography is that you get the classic style of traditional photos (i.e. nothing too out there) without the intrusive posing of old school wedding photography.

The Benefits: These photos are the most likely to look like your parents photos, just updated. If you like classic, clean imagery, these photographers are going to be the ones to deliver it to you. Also, if you have spent a lot of effort on the details of your wedding, modern traditional photographers put an emphasis on capturing them and making those details part of your wedding’s visual story. Something else I think is a benefit is that it promises consistency. Consistency is very good if you are not the adventurous type… and there’s nothing wrong with that. You are going to get very consistently good photos. 

The Drawbacks:  but sometimes consistency can mean that your portraits will look very similar to other clients. This can be a big drawback, depending on what you’re looking for in your wedding photography.


Fine Art:

This style gives the photographer almost total artistic license to infuse their particular point of view and style into the photos. It specifically aims to capture portrait/people in situations, real-life events or milestones in an artistic manner. These shots are staged. The photos can be dramatic, gorgeous, funny, quirky, epic, etc. The primary goal is to tell stories about people's lives or to inspire them in different times. Because of that, it covers multidisciplinary types of photography together. 

Fine art wedding photography is one of those terms that, like photojournalism, gets thrown around a lot in the wedding industry. Much of the time, it’s a way for photographers to tell you that they want to make photos that push the boundaries. But be carful, fine art wedding photography can sometimes be more about the photographer than about the photograph itself. Just be mindful when you talk to them… A lot of us have huge egos. :P

The Benefits: Fine art wedding photography can be BEAUTIFUL. They can be a whole lot of fun, hip and cool if done well…  And chances are, if you choose a fine art wedding photographer, your photos will not look like anyone else’s. 

The Drawbacks: BUT, it can be both a crapshoot AND a crap shoot… get it? Since you are leaving the photographer with a full artistic license of what to do, you might be disappointed with the results. That’s true for everything, but I think it’s never as evident when with Fine Art Photography.




Silhouette of couple Getting Married at San Diego City Hall

Now, we’re getting to the good stuff in my opinion… That’s what I DO. This is the category that gets the most amount of naming because it’s still very new and it has not completely entered the mainstream. It’s also called Photojournalism for weddings, lifestyle photography, reportage or even it gets mixed with editorial photography, which in all fairness is almost the same thing. What is it though? Well, Instead of a series of posed photos, these are candid or spontaneous pictures (i.e.: not styled, not posed) of people, décor and the action. With a purely photojournalistic photographer, you'll very rarely see people staring at the camera—the photos capture the moments exactly as they happened, and together they tell a story.

In short wedding photojournalism evolved as a style fairly recently when photojournalists started coming into the wedding industry and were shooting from a completely different perspective than the traditional wedding photographers that preceded them (who focused more on perfectly lit posed portraits) and the result was a kind of wedding coverage that looked like it could have been shot on assignment for a newspaper. 

The Benefits: A photographer who approaches your wedding as a photojournalist will give you pure documentary coverage of your wedding. If you aren’t the kind of person who likes posing, this is your jam. Since the focus is on story telling, a wedding photojournalist will spend most of their time hanging back and capturing the action as it happens. What's most awesome about this style and why I love it so much is that narratives develop during the course of a wedding. When you just hang back and stop being in people's faces, people start acting like who they are. They start interacting with each other in earnest ways. I believe this is a way more honest and more beautiful way to cover a wedding. It tells the story of this incredibly important day in your life and I really don't think this should be understated. I cannot overstate how really important it is to me being able to tell that story. I feel very fortunate to cover weddings the way I do because I get to take a step back and realize that there is so much beauty in the everyday life we lead. 

I remember very little from my own wedding. We organized a family wedding with $5,000 and no photographer... It is one of my deepest regrets. I was young; I had not come to photography yet and I regret only having crappy photos of my wedding... sad face. I don't want that for you. 

The Drawbacks: It also means that the photographer will use only the available light most of the time. This is both a good and bad thing but can leave the client puzzled as to why the quality of the images changes (not decreases mind you) with the lighting conditions. While most wedding photojournalists will do portraits, a true photojournalist will place minimal emphasis on posed portraits, arranged details, or other staged elements of the wedding. So if you’re looking for extensive or creative portraits, someone who identifies as a pure photojournalist may not be the best fit.

The conclusion: 

Alright, this will have to be written in several posts. I didn’t think I had this much to say just about weddings styles. The good news is, once you have the style down, the rest is easy peasy lemon squeeze… As in, you will follow as series of steps pretty standard when dealing with wedding vendors. If all of this seems like a ton of information to digest, then keep it simple and look for two criteria: Do you like the photos and do they make you feel happy? Then it’s totally fine to ignore the first question and move onto the second: Do you like the photographer and do they make you feel happy? More important than lighting, composition, or any fancy technology, those are the power rules to live by.