From dresses to décor, style preferences vary from couple to couple. One of the most important stylistic decisions all couples have to make is choosing a wedding photographer. In fact, you should choose your wedding photography style even before you reach out to potential photographers. If you go the other route—book first, learn about the style later—you may end up with photos that don’t match your vision.
According to wedding photographer Jainé Kershner, this preliminary research will help you make the right photography investment. “You want to love your photographer’s style,” she says. “They worked really hard to figure out how they shoot and edit, so couples need to make sure their style is exactly what they want.”
Meet the Expert
Jainé Kershner is a wedding photographer based in New York City.
Today’s most popular wedding photo styles include fine art and even dark and moody images, but classic images remain constant as well. But what if you like, say, classic and dark and moody photos? Do you have to choose one or the other? Don’t worry, Kershner says, because many photographers offer a variety of styles throughout the day.
With so many options, it’s tricky to choose exactly what wedding photography style is best for you. But Kershner says there is one easy way to find out: analyze your social-media saves. “Look at Instagram or Pinterest and see which types of images you’re liking and saving the most,” Kershner says. “If you can see a pattern where everything is similar or in the same family, that’s great. Otherwise, you can create mood boards or start Pinterest boards to see what you like most. After a few weeks of going through and pinning, you’ll start to see a trend.”
From candids to classics, here’s everything you need to know about wedding photography styles to inform the decision about your photographer.
Classic and traditional photography is similar to what many couples’ parents have from their weddings. These straightforward photographs may not be highly creative—they’re typically shot at eye level and posed—but they stand the test of time. Most photographers incorporate at least some traditional photography into their mix, particularly for family portraits after the ceremony.
“These photos will persevere throughout the years and won’t go out of style,” Kershner says. “It’s very simplistic, and nothing crazy, but they still look good 50 to 60 years later.”
Candid and documentary-style photographs make for some of the most heartfelt and memorable images, which is why many photographers have adopted a photojournalistic style. These photographers treat the wedding day almost like a feature or news story. They let the moments unfold naturally, then snap away, recording the magic as it happens.
Kershner, who uses this style intermittently throughout the day, compares this to being a fly on the wall. “At the beginning of the day, I’m more classic and natural with light direction; I’m helping the couple because they’re nervous and I want them to feel comfortable,” she says. “As soon as the ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception hit, I’m just capturing things as they unfold.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, editorial images are much more posed, almost like a fashion magazine. This style is rarer in the wedding photography industry, but Kershner says many photographers have perfected this style. They’ve grown their businesses by specializing in it.
“In most cases, the couple goes into wedding planning knowing they want this,” she says. “They have a different expectation for their wedding photography. They want it to be like a photoshoot with a high-end, luxury feel.”
Dark and Moody
Not surprisingly, dark-and-moody photographs are just like they sound: dark, moody, and dramatic. In this style, the photographer is looking to photograph the couple with shadows or harsh lines that create unusual and creative patterns or lighting. “This style includes dark editing and dark shooting,” Kershner says. “Over the last few years, many couples have gravitated toward this. It’s what many magazines are showing.”
You probably wouldn’t want your entire wedding day captured through aerial photography, but drone photographs are a great add-on that more and more photographers now offer. Aerial photography works well for photo sessions, ceremony exits, and if it’s outside, a reception.
Make sure to ask your photographer if they offer drone photography before signing the contract. Some offer it for an upcharge because they have to hire a separate photographer. Others won’t offer it at all.
Fine-art photography is most commonly associated with film, Kershner says, but it’s become more of a hybrid these days—particularly as it grows in popularity. This style is known for being light, bright, and airy.
“It’s a softer, delicate, and cleaner look than straight digital,” she says. “Fine art goes with the bright and airy style, which is what’s typically achieved when shooting on film. Photographers either shoot film or are film inspired because they want to achieve that look.”
Black and White
Black-and-white wedding images are more about editing than photography style, although some photographers do use solely black-and-white cameras. Kershner says nearly all wedding photographers, like her, offer at least several images in black and white.
“As the photographer, I can tell some images will speak louder or softer in black and white, so it really comes down to feeling and emotion,” she says. “It’s at the photographer’s discretion. I know some photographers who offer one color and one black-and-white version of every image. I try to think more about what would deliver more emotion in black and white.”
Landscape photography is an established and popular photo style outside the wedding industry, but it’s become a popular add-on for photographers shooting weddings in highly scenic destinations, such as the mountains or the beach. In this case, the photographer works with the couple ahead of time to scout out the area. The landscape wedding photographer then captures an adventurous scene with the couple as part of the landscape image for scale and epic beauty.
“You don’t get a lot of photographs in this style because, in most cases, it’s only part of the day,” Kershner says. “But you’ll get amazing, sweeping views of the landscape, but know these sometimes require a trek to get there.”