Rhode Island Wedding Guide

Wedding Planning

Making Sense of Photographer Styles

Article written by James Hazelwood, James Hazelwood Photography
Rhode Island wedding photographers
Photo by Stacie Kirkwood Photography

Have you looked at your parents or grandparents wedding photos lately? What do you notice about the clothing, the hair styles? Anybody seen "That 70's Show"? Hard to believe guys actually wore those leisure suits!\

Just as hair styles and clothing fashions change, so do styles and approaches to Wedding Photography. Understanding these trends is an important factor in selecting a wedding photographer. You want to make sure your vision of your wedding matches that of your photographer. Every couple must find a match with their wedding photographer. That match includes two equally important factors.

First is personality. Do you feel comfortable with your photographer. This is an important but sometimes neglected factor. After all, you'll be spending more time with your photographer than any other single vendor on your wedding day. Does he/she make you feel comfortable? Do you just plain like this guy or gal?

Second is style. Every photographer has a style, and that style reflects their own vision, training and approach to wedding photography. There are three main styles that are dominant in today's wedding photography.

Traditional or Classic Wedding Portraiture - This is the classic wedding photography that still dominates the market today. Hanson Fong (www.hansonfong.com) & Clay Blackmore (www.clayblackmore.com) are most well known for this approach. This approach includes many posed photographs of the bride, groom, couple, bridal party and family. Typically, the photographer is very involved in arranging individual and group photographs. This approach may also continue in the reception when the photographer asks the couple to look into the camera during their first dance or cake cutting ceremony.

The benefits are many fine portrait-like photographs, some even suitable for framing and hanging. A second benefit is a good, classy photographer can be helpful in guiding you throughout the day.

The traditional approach has its limitations though. Sometimes those posed photographs can take a long time. It takes a while to set up groups or help brides position themselves for a portrait session. A second limitation may be an over-involved photographer who is stopping events in order to get photographs.

Photojournalistic Wedding Photography - This is the emerging trend in wedding photography. The phrase comes from famous wedding photographer Denis Reggie (www.denisreggie.com). This style has very few, if any, posed photographs. The photographer is more like a photojournalist covering an event for the Boston Globe. He is not guiding the action, but documenting the events. The photojournalist photographer is often more interested in capturing spontaneous and real emotions.

The benefits of this style are many natural pictures of people interacting and enjoying the wedding day. Some people call these "candids", because they seem like snap shots of people. These photographers also tend to use more Black & White film than the traditional approach. A second benefit of this style is more photographs. Typically, the wedding photojournalist will take two and sometimes three or more times the number of images as a traditional photographer. The benefit is more of a selection for the couple. The average wedding photographer takes 250 images at a wedding according to photographer David Ziser. Most photojournalists will take at least twice that number.

This leads to one of the limitations of this style, which is cost. Sometimes the wedding photojournalist will be more expensive, and one of the reasons is all that film that has to be purchased and processed. So if you like this style, you might need to pay more for it.

Wedding Portrait Journalism - This style has been the work of Joe Buissink (www.joebuissink.com), who has rapidly become one of the most sought after celebrity wedding photographers. Joe's work is very much in the direction of the photojournalist style. However, he has added a fine art dimension to the portrait style. Time is set aside for posed portraits of the bride and groom, but this is done quickly and naturally. San Francisco photographer Bambi Cantrell (www.cantrellportrait.com) has also developed this style quite well.

The benefits of this style are similar to the Photojournalist Wedding photography - many photos of people naturally enjoying the wedding. The images are often marked with real emotion. However, the results often include more portraits of the couple. These portraits have more of a fine art appeal to them, and sometimes a bit of a hip fashion magazine look. This is a great style for you if you want something fresh and creative. They will not be the typical wedding portraits.

The major limitation of this approach besides price, is people often get confused at this style. They think it's a blending of the best of traditional and the best of the photojournalistic style. They may be disappointed because what they really wanted were those nice posed portraits of the traditional style. Instead, they end up with something much more artistic, often in Black & White - and, well not something they feel they can give grandma for as a gift.

Without a doubt the traditional approach is still the dominate style in the wedding photography world. Having said that, the fastest growing trend is the photojournalistic approach. How do you decide which one you want for your wedding?

Newport wedding photographersThe best approach is to spend sometime looking at wedding photos. This does not mean you need to go around to every studio. In fact, I'd do some research before going to studios. You can begin by going to a local bookstore, and in the Photography section look over the wedding photography books. Bambi Cantrell's The Art of Wedding Photography is a good place to begin. Second, spend sometime on a computer with a fast internet connection and look at various photographers' web sites. If a photographer is showing his or her best work, and we assume they are, then look through the web site and see what style they have. Does it match yours?

No style is right or wrong - it's a matter of personal taste. I've had couples who loved my work, but hired someone else because they wanted a more traditional style. The key to finding the right wedding photographer is to find a style that you appreciate and value in a person you get along with. If you line up those two qualities, you'll be very happy.

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