Choosing Your Wedding Photographer – Wedding Photography Styles Explained

You’ve chosen your date, booked your venue and started shopping for dresses. Now you’re looking for a wedding photographer. There are a lot of styles of wedding photography out there, and while people in the industry might know these styles inside out they be confusing for couples. Remember as well that not only are you picking a style of photography, but different types of wedding photography can make different demands on your time on your wedding day.

Picking the style of photography you want at your wedding boils down to three things. What style of images you want, how long you want to spend with a photographer on your wedding day, and most importantly of all your own personality and comfort in front of the camera.

There are plenty of different photography buzzwords out there. Vintage, editorial, artistic or contemporary are just a few. Perhaps more confusingly they are used by different photographers in different ways. Ultimately it is up to couples to ask plenty of questions and do plenty of research before picking a photographer, and to rely on seeing full set of photos from completed weddings Do not rely on the best five or six shots from several weddings to make a choice.

Wedding photography styles are a compromise between producing fantastic work and keeping to a timetable. A photographer might produce brilliant photos, but if he takes too long to produce them you probably won’t enjoy the experience.

Traditional (or Posed) Wedding Photography

A lot of people think of traditional wedding photography as endless stuffy group photos where everyone looks stiff as a board. Worse still, the different collections of people seem to go on forever. I think there is a fashion to be down on traditional wedding photography, but the actual working framework is still the same for most wedding photographers. The photographs may be more stylish but the actual experience on the day for the bride and groom is very similar.

There is always a trade off between the type of work a photographer does and the time it takes to shoot it. More formal posed photographs will take longer to set up and achieve. Any photographer who produces artistic posed work will need a certain amount of time to produce his best work. It is important that you find out how much time he will need, and work out how it will fit into your day. There are photographers who spend a couple of hours on formal shots. Make sure you are happy with giving over that amount of time on your wedding day. If you are not that comfortable in front of the camera you may find this type of photography more difficult. A good photographer should be able to help you and put you at your ease but for many individuals it can still seem a bit daunting.

Reportage Wedding Photography (Wedding Photojournalism)

If traditional is all about posed photographs, then reportage wedding photography is the opposite. It relies on capturing moments as they happen, and is more like a fly on the wall documentary. This form of wedding photography means that the photographer spends most of his time in the background, and so has become increasingly popular with couples. Weddings are also increasingly less formal than they used to be. Documentary wedding photography demands a different skill set from traditional wedding photography so you have to make sure that your photographer has the correct photographic background and can show you full weddings to back this up. Wedding photojournalism is more about a complete set of pictures from the whole day than a set of a dozen highlights. There are photographers out there who will jump on the latest bandwagon to gain business, but still use the same old style they always have. Wedding photojournalism is all about anticipation and being in the right place at the right time. It is not about closely directing people, so it puts many traditional wedding photographers outside of their skill set. There are some less ethical photographers who will use the latest buzzwords to improve their search engine presence, but still shoot the same tired old pictures.

If you are reticent about having your photo taken, wedding photojournalism is probably your best choice. The photography happens without you really realizing and you’ll look your natural best.

Although these two approaches might appear polar opposites, in reality most wedding photographers will offer a blend of these two styles. There are not many wedding photojournalists who don’t shoot at least some formal photographs and traditional wedding photographers will shoot informal pictures as well. Find out what proportion of each a photographer likes to shoot, and better still ask them what they like to shoot the most – chances are this is what they are best at.

Vintage Wedding Photography

Vintage wedding photography is a style that has been coming into vogue recently, but in lots of ways its a hard one one to quantify. Vintage can mean anything from using old film cameras during some of the wedding to just a different approach to post production to produce ‘vintage’ looking digital files. There are some great photographers out there, but bear in mind that if you are receiving files that are heavily edited in a certain style, you run the risk of your photos looking rather dated a few years later. If I was hiring a vintage style photographer, I personally would want at least some of the wedding shot on film, I’m not a huge fan of faking things. As always ask questions, see examples and make an informed decision.

Editorial Wedding Photography

This wedding genre is inspired by the fashion editorials of glossy magazines, at it’s best it can produce fantastic high-end images. To produce this successfully on a wedding day the photographer needs to be highly organised, and would probably need an assistant to help set up some of the shots in advance, although that would depend on his or her style. Do your research to make sure that the time requirements for this type of shoot fit in with your plans. If you really like this type of photography but don’t want to devote too much time to it on your wedding day, consider booking a separate photo session after the wedding. Often describes as a trash or cherish the dress shoot, a separate photo session might be the best way to get the wedding day you want and the photographs you’ll love without losing a huge chunk of your wedding day. It also means that you and your photographer can pick the ideal time of day for the right light and you have scope for rescheduling if it’s pouring with rain. In many countries, particularly the US, high end wedding photography is evolving towards three shoots: the engagement shoot, the wedding day, and an editorial session. Don’t necessarily think that it all has to be done in one day.

Artistic or Fine Art Wedding Photography

Essentially an evolution of traditional wedding photography, this type of photography offers a contemporary take on the traditional set of posed photographs, although these are both terms that have been somewhat over used by the photographic community, so again do your research. At its best this genre can produce moving romantic images, but some photographers can over use the same poses, so it can feel a bit impersonal. Ask to see lots of shoots and don’t be afraid to input your own ideas at your pre-wedding meeting.


There are lot of styles of photographer out there, but the main thing is to look beyond the catchy buzzwords and look long and hard at portfolios. Ultimately it is the competence of the photographer you are hiring that really matters. Experience, personal service and professionalism are what ensure a consistent standard of photography from wedding to wedding, and the consistency and ability to deal with the different shooting conditions that present themselves throughout a wedding day. Their portfolio should show a good balance of shots from bridal preparations to the first dance. Ask questions about how much time they will need to complete those all important formal and couples shots, and work out how much time you are happy to give. Even with more observational styles, planning and communication before the wedding is vital to get the best results and to get them efficiently. Keep to the guidelines and you are sure to have a memorable wedding day with photos to match.