Wedding photography has evolved alot over the last several years. In the past, the photographer made use of a medium-format film camera and showed up at the church to greet the bride as soon as she got right out of the bridal car, then simply capture a few photographs in church. This was accompanied by a few formal group shots outside, plus a final portrait of the bride and groom simply being driven off to the reception venue. Usually below a hundred of images were taken, and the newly weds provided proof prints to select their primary album photos from. The photographer was just at the wedding ceremony for a couple of hours and had limited contact with the wedding couple before or afterwards.
Lately, it may be a completely different story. Many wedding photographers still provide a huge classic style of coverage, taking record images of the items the wedding guests looked like and also offering a set of prints to document the event. However, this has mostly slipped out of favour as several brides don’t prefer pictures that look exactly like their parents’ photos.
The arrival of digital photography means there won’t be significant film costs, plus the camera sensors are incredibly sensitive to low light, all at the push of the ISO button. This has dramatically changed how wedding photographers get the job done, and the final results that brides be expecting.
One well-known style of wedding photography is reportage, the purest kind of photography where all the details are captured as naturally as possible. Real reportage photography implies no interaction by the photographer with the wedding couple or guests on the day, and reveals the day as it actually is. No rose-tinted glasses, just true documentary, there is no flash, and the photographs are usually converted to mono to prevent any potential problems caused by combined lighting, blur or noise.
The best reportage photographers are real artists and constantly seem to be in the right place at the right time. The worst type of merely blast away non-stop and capture nothing of any genuine artistic value.
The most well-liked sort of wedding photography these days is without a doubt ‘storybook’. The technique records every detail and moments of the whole event – from the bride’s shoes and veil to the wedding ceremony, speeches and dancing. You can often find some formal group shots, but mostly the guests are captured informally, interacting with each other, rather than looking at the camera. And this coverage usually involves some set-up shots of the bride and groom to capture the love, fun and tenderness they share, making it look as spontaneous as possible.
Many people confuse this with pure reportage photography, as these sort of pictures – done well – look candid and natural. But many are posed, often lit by flash or continuous light or perhaps reflectors. This type of photography takes skill and practice.
The key is finding your own style and sticking with it. This is often dictated by your kit, levels of skill and experience, and confidence. If you’re a pure reportage photographer, don’t be tempted to accept a job for a full-on storybook wedding, for example. It will stress you out and you won’t deliver what the couple want. Just because your DSLR camera can shoot video doesn’t mean you should say you can shoot a professional video as well as the stills, because the couple have asked if you can do it. Stick to your comfort zone.
Listen to what the bride and groom say they want, then translate it into what it really means. Virtually all couples ask for pictures they classify as ‘candid and natural’, perfect for the true reportage photographer. Then they’ll suddenly add a list of 20 formal shots, plus give you a load of tear sheets from magazines of models in bridal adverts lit and posed beautifully by fashion photographers. If you don’t have the skills to do what the couple want, don’t just say yes, then under-deliver.
You have to accept that not every photographer is right for every wedding, and learn to turn down weddings that you are uneasy about delivering to the standard and style the couple want. There are lots of people getting married, all looking for a photographer. You just have to find the right ones for you.