When looking for a photographer it is important to think about what style of photography will suit you and your guests as well as the images you are hoping to get out of it. You will come across a range of terms describing photographers’ work and it is important to understand what they mean if you are to find the photographer that best suits your wedding. This is not an exhaustive list and there is often cross over between two or even all three styles:
Traditional – although few photographers will describe themselves as traditional, they are easy to spot. Traditionally photographers took posed shots of individuals and groups with perhaps the odd detail shot, but little else. This was mainly due to the constraints of the equipment but advances in technology mean that photographers can now work in more creative ways. If you are on a tight budget you will probably find that most of the photographers you are looking at fall into this category. They are ideal for record shots of the day, which parents and grandparents like to see, but the results are likely to be formulaic and show little creativity. Photographers working in this style can take over the proceedings as they try to get the images that you want, so you need to choose carefully to make sure they can work with you and your guests rather than dominating.
Contemporary or fashion style – these are the images you will see in wedding magazines and in advertising for many venues. They are beautiful images that have the real wow element. They create a real feel-good factor, but don’t be fooled by what you see – many of the images on venue websites and in magazines are of models that are comfortable in front of a camera. I even saw one venue that had the same bride with more than one groom! If you are the sort of person who loves having their picture taken and thinks the idea of spending an hour with your photographer making beautiful images is wonderful then this style is for you. If the idea of posing fills you with horror or you would much sooner spend every available minute with your guests than the photographer then steer well clear.
Reportage or documentary style – I prefer the term observational photography, as that is exactly what this style entails, observing events as they unfold and capturing them, often without the subjects even being aware they have been caught on camera. This style produces a story of the day and captures the mood and emotions with little effort on the part of the bride and groom or the guests. The photographer may stand off a little and capture some pictures with a large lens or they may unobtrusively move amongst your guests capturing shots as they go, or probably a combination of the two. If you expect your wedding pictures to be largely of people looking at the camera, then this style may not be for you, however if you prefer to get on with the business of enjoying yourselves and let the photographs just happen then this is the one to go for.
Many photographers who fall into the two latter categories will use a combination of styles in order to achieve the results you want. Group shots are generally expected, although creative use of your guests’ posing of friends can reap great results with minimal intrusion. When you are looking at photographers’ work look beyond the first few images on their website. It is natural for anyone to put their best work in the most prominent position, but when you look beyond the first few pictures you may find they do not live up to the initial impressions. If you don’t see enough on the photographers’ website ask to see more examples of their work.
Before you even pick up the phone think about how you want to spend the time on your wedding day – are you happy to spend an hour with the photographer while the guests enjoy their drinks? Do you just want to capture the key shots and that is enough? Or would you prefer a fly on the wall style that does not get in the way of your day? If you understand what you want and how much time you are prepared to give to photography on the day that will be really helpful to you when you are meeting with photographers.