Hey ya'll! Today we're decoding all those mysterious photography styles that you hear about - photojournalism, editorial, portraiture, you name it. To help us out, I've asked Jay Farrell, the owner of Nashville-based Jay Farrell Photography to give us a "photography decoder ring" and to help you think through which photography style is right your you and your big day.
Your wedding is the event of a lifetime. You've spent months (if not years) making sure every detail was absolutely perfect. After the last dance is over and you've made your grand exit, what remains of the day except your memories? The only thing left to hold on to is the photographs.
Most couples don’t set out looking for a specific style of wedding photographer, whether it's traditional or contemporary portraiture, photo-journalistic, fashionista, editorial etc. That's mainly because they don't know what those style "buzzwords" mean. They can tell you what they like when they see it, which is the first step of the selection process. The next step would be seeing how that style of photography fits their personalities and style of event. From my years of experience, I can tell you that trying to combine several styles doesn't always work well because it creates almost a "hodge podge" effect in your photos.
So what are the main photography styles that you see/read about so often, and which one will work best for your celebration?
Portraiture / Traditional
The traditional portraiture style allows for extra time to capture all those posed and group formal portraits. (This is often why it takes so long to get post-ceremony photos finished up...there's always just ONE MORE photo to take, right?) Good portraiture wedding photographers are excellent at fun poses and interacting with the different groups. There is a good bit of orchestration of subjects and objects throughout the event (go here, do this, smile at the camera). Most traditional photographers also take some candid shots, but that doesn't make them photojournalist style hybrid, as is often pitched. If you want lots of "posed' group shots, this is the style you'd want to choose.
Fashionista / Editorial
With an editorial approach all the key points of the event are covered, but there is more focus on fashion aspects like the mens' attire, bridal dress and accessories, jewelry, hair and makeup, etc. Editorial style photography looks as if it belongs in a high end bridal magazine spread if executed as planned. Blogs like Hey Wedding Lady or Artfully Wed are great examples of an editorial, style-conscious aesthetic. If you want a luxe look to your photos (almost like a styled shoot) this is the style you'd want to choose.
Photojouralism / Doumentary
Photojournalism is my specialty. The biggest emphasis of a documentary or photojournalistic style is on capturing human emotion, love, and energy in it’s most natural, organic form. A true documentary style wedding photographer does the vast majority of the wedding un-posed, and does not orchestrate or move things (or people). Don't worry though, we'll get all your gorgeous details and decor. Documentary photographers provide a non-intrusive, understated presence throughout your day. This style can fit any type of wedding, but does not necessarily fit every couple's needs.
Most documentary photographers understand that couples will want some posed groups and will accommodate your needs. However, I recommend doing "posed" shots in limited amounts so that the flow of the day isn't interrupted. We do our best work when we can capture the most interesting parts of the event organically. Asking a documentary photographer to capture 2 hours of posed groups and endless shot lists is likely to be met with some resistance.
What Style Will Work Best For You?
There should be some solid definition to a photographer’s style. Really look at their portfolio and see what the photographer excels at or features most. I’m personally not a fan of hybrid styles or mismatched storytelling approaches. My inspiration when photographing weddings is a cohesive story that meshes in the album. A native style isn't something that can be changed, it’s the photographer's artistic identity. To try to make one photographer like another won’t be fair (or realistic) to anyone involved. Hire who you love.
I'm a huge proponent of familiarizing yourself with the work of the photographers you are most interested in and whose work you are most passionate about. Consider their style and how it correlates with your vision and event, as well as personalities. (When talking to or meeting with photographers, please avoid those pre-fabricated lists you see online about what to ask wedding photographers. Let's be honest, how will you know if their equipment is the "right" equipment based on what they say?) Organic conversation is a much better qualifier than interrogation.
I generally get to know the couple and learn about their event before I speak a word about my services. That gives me an idea if they are familiar with my style and approach, and how we are best suited to proceed. I explain my process and storytelling methods, as well as accountability. I answer any questions they have, and then we both make sure it’s a creative match. Most of your "must ask" questions are answered this way organically. It's much more beneficial to ask questions that are pertinent to you and your wedding as opposed to a pre-fabricated list you found online.
When Styles Don't Mesh
Even though I am very thorough about my compatibility process it doesn't always go as planned. For instance, a potential client reached out to me because I'd photographed her sister's wedding a few years ago. My style hadn't changed in the interim so she had seen it in action prior to our meeting. After booking, we did their engagement session in my normal style (very organic, very few poses or props).
She threw a curve ball when they informed me she was unhappy with the feel of the photos and wanted to find a more traditional photographer. We parted ways peacefully - they lost their retainer, and I lost a booked date, which I hope never happens again. That's just the unfortunate part of dealing with styles that don't mesh. Better to walk away than to have photos you don't absolutely love.
So there you have it, ladies and gents - we've taken the mystery out of wedding photography styles. We hope you can use this information to choose the perfect style for your celebration. Look at lots of portfolios and don't make a decision until you're completely comfortable with their style, service offerings, and the investment details. Good luck and happy planning!