3 Reasons Wedding Photography Style Is Overrated
Wedding Photography Style
By Jeffrey House Photography
Wedding photography style is not helping couples in their search for a wedding photographer.
I have yet to come across a single website, focused on wedding planning, that doesn't tell couples to ask photographers about their "photography style." But when you step back and think about this question for a moment, is it really that important?
Let's assume for a moment you really want a "classic" photographer to photograph your wedding. You research classically styled photographers, but they don't have any pictures to show you. Would you hire them? Of course not. A phrase or label doesn't provide you with any visual or valuable information.
Let's take a look at the flip side. You view the pictures from a photographer and fall in love with their work, but they don't define their work using any particular "style." Would you hire this photographer? Absolutely!
I would be willing to bet 0% of couples would hire a photographer solely based on their defined "photography style." I would also bet at least 95% would hire a photographer solely based on their portfolio.
Photography Style Is Very Important
I'm confused, didn't you just get done saying photography style isn't important? Photography style is very important, but too much emphasis is placed on definitions. Many resources are steering couples in the wrong direction. I know these sites have the best of intentions and are truly trying to help couples, but it's time to refocus your attention on the relevant details.
Before we address why photography styles are overrated, let's first take a look at the different styles and how they're defined.
Traditional / Classic
This is a timeless style that includes a lot of posed pictures. The photographer will often work from shot lists to ensure specific shots are captured.
Photojournalism / Documentary
A reality based approach in which their is no posing. Photojournalism photographers simply follow the action and take pictures. It has a deep story telling quality.
This is photojournalism redefined. While it's very similar to photojournalism the photographer provides some direction and styling.
Illustrative / Artistic / Dramatic
A blend of the traditional/classic style and photojournalism. There is an emphasis on composition, lighting, background, and subjects are placed in interesting environments. It includes candid moments and pictures with technical control of posed shots. They are unique and artistic moments only for that couple.
This style features posed pictures that emphasize one or more people.
A simple and striking approach that dramatizes the subject and of course their attire. It produces an artsy, glamorous look and feel. It's not a style commonly found in wedding photography.
Natural light photographers do not use flash systems in the making of their pictures. They simply use the available light found in the environment - usually daylight. This style tends to create images that are warm and "natural" looking, however, the photographer must be highly skilled in dealing with challenging shadow situations.
How Do Photographers Determine Their Style?
I think we've determined most couples shouldn't get hung up on hiring a photographer based solely on their style definition. Couples should choose a photographer based on visual elements. And don't hesitate to ask your photographer to see pictures that aren't part of their portfolio. Ask to see a blend of images from their weddings so you can get an even better feel for their true style. This will allow you to make a well informed decision without obsessing over styles.
It's important to keep in mind the majority of photographers will not fall under one particular photography style. Wedding photography is demanding and requires photographers to be highly-skilled in multiple styles depending on the situation, and the requirements of the wedding. For example, a wedding photojournalist doesn't believe in posing, they believe in capturing naturally unfolding moments without interference or manipulation. However, I've never photographed a wedding in which the couple didn't want formal posed pictures. It's essential you understand the essentials of posed photographs.
Is It Better To Incorporate Multiple Styles Or Focus On One?
A photographer's style is usually developed over time. As we grow creatively, compose our images, and use light are all factors in defining our style. It's our belief that photographers utilizing multiple styles produce more comprehensive and interesting pictures for their clients. Having only one style places limits on your creativity.
3 Reasons Why Defining "Wedding Photography Style" Is Overrated
We now understand that a photographer's style is important, but placing so much emphasis on the definition is not. But let's take it one step further - let's take a look at the downside of placing too much emphasis on how a photographer defines their style.
If we hadn't discussed and defined the different photography styles, how would you know what to expect from a photographer based on a description? Even with an understanding of photography styles, does it tell you anything about how the pictures will actually look? There are essentially unlimited ways in which to create a portrait. The use of lighting, backgrounds, composition, etc. are all part of making a picture. Five photographers, of all the same style, can take pictures of the exact same scene and every single image will be different. As photographers we all see and feel things differently. You may like some or all of the pictures created, but without seeing an actual image you really have no idea what a photographer's style truly represents.
2. Artistic Growth
As a professional photographer/artist you can never become complacent with your work. You should always be looking to learn, improve, and enhance your creative skills. Failure to take this approach will eventually make your work boring, predictable, and irrelevant. So, how does this impact your photography style? It essentially means your photography style is ever evolving. As you continue to grow as an artist and as a photographer you might still demonstrate a "classic" photography style, but your pictures may look vastly different.
3. There Is No Benefit
Photography styles are meant to help couples in choosing a photographer, but as we've learned, it's the visual elements that truly help us. Instead of asking a photographer to describe how they define their photography style, there is a much more beneficial and relevant question to ask. What is your "work style?" Ask a photographer to explain how they approach the wedding day and ask them whether they prefer to catch the moments from the shadows or if they prefer to be in the middle of the action snapping away. Now this question is very relevant!
Why Is Work Style So Relevant?
In our experience most couples tend to prefer photographers that work from the "shadows." In other words, they want photographers that aren't in your face all day. Most wedding guests tend to appreciate photographers who demonstrate an unobtrusive approach as well. As a matter of fact, one of the biggest complaints wedding guests express are poor or disrespectful wedding professionals (DJ, photographer, videographer). So understanding your photographers work style could save you a lot of frustration and heartache later on.
When we meet with couples we will run through a "typical" wedding day. We explain what we will do and how we will do it from the moment we arrive. This allows couples to have some peace of mind and reduces their stress level. We want to make sure we clearly communicate our approach and set the appropriate expectations so couples know exactly what to expect.
If your really prefer an unobtrusive photographer and hire "Mr. or Mrs. In Your Face," it's going to be a looonnnggggg day!!
Make It Relevant
While sites dedicated to weddings and wedding planning want to make your life easier, let's focus on some things that will make your planning more efficient and effective. Don't obsess over the words a photographer uses to define their style. View their portfolio and ask to see a blend of images from other weddings to learn understand their work. If you like their work, then move on to the next question - "what's your work style?" These are practical ways to ensure you choose a photographer that's a good fit for you and your wedding.
How many times have you heard or been told you have to find out how a photographer defines their wedding photography style? Do think how a photographer "defines" their style has any benefit?