Understanding Photographic Style through Wedding Imagery
Over time, photographers develop their own personal style, through the way they choose to light their images, the form and composition of their work, the equipment that they use and the post-processing decisions that they make.
However, for each shoot, a photographer will make a decision about the style of the images needed. Working in a certain style needs to be intentional decision to represent your subject in a specific way. This may be because you feel it will maximise the impact of the imagery, or because that is how your client has asked you to present the photographs.
In this tutorial, I'll look at have five different styles: classical, modern, photojournalistic, quirky and glamorous. Each will be represented through wedding photography, which demonstrates stylistic diversity depending upon the photographer and the requests of the couple.
This is a relatively simple image, taken in a simple context. The photographer utilised a few key techniques, namely the poses held by the couple and the post-processing. This made the image assume a strong stylistic character reminiscent of a classic Victorian wedding portrait. The exchange of the groom’s hat for the bride’s flowers also adds a nice twist and gives the image a sense of humour to contrast the straight faces.
One of this image’s strongest stylistic elements is its structure. The poses held by the couple could at first appear quite stark and rigid, but contribute significantly to the Victorian styling of the image.
Unfortunately, the context doesn’t contribute much to the image, with the brick wall acting as a fairly bland backdrop, fortunately though some depth is added by the wall, hand rail and carpet pattern that lead in from the right hand side.
This image was taken in a relatively confined space using a single flashgun, utilised as a fill, and therefore the resulting image appears relatively flat, which is in keeping with classic style. However, the image could benefit from another angled light source, possibly from the left hand side, to bring out details and add slightly more depth to the shot.
The choice of lens for this image was dictated by the stairwell location, and therefore required a wide angle due to the proximity to the couple. However, given the choice, I would select a prime lens in order to achieve the natural vignette and softness that would best accompany the classic styling.
The most significant stylistic element that contributes to the classical feel of the image is the sepia filter that has been applied in post. The soft browns replicate the original victorian imagery and compliment the rigid pose and straight faces of the couple to complete the classic feel in a way that that processing in colour or black and white wouldn’t have done.
This wedding couple wanted a fresh and modern feel to their images, and chose an amazing rooftop garden location. Combined with a bright sunny day, this made for a selection of warm and vibrant images.
In this particular shot, the viewers attention is drawn to multiple aspects, in particular the sun, which certainly adds vibrancy to the image. Although for some, this would act as a distraction from the main event, the couples face and outfits.
The beautiful flower bouquet unites the couple, and gives them something to do with their hands! Even though some of the garden features might imply a classical feel, the image comes across as stylistically modern due to its technical elements.
The angled nature of this image adds significantly to its modern feel, as a more traditional image would certainly aim to form straight vertical and horizontal lines. The depth of the image is also crucial to the overall feel of the shot, with the veranda forming a backdrop that leads the eye into the image.
One thing that could be improved upon is that it would be nice to see the full length of the couple to capture their complete outfits and their stride.
One of the strongest elements of this image is the way it captures the sunlight breaking through the gap in the veranda roof. One of the elementary guidelines for photographers is not to shoot into the sun, but in this case, the natural light is the only light source and offers a warmth and brightness that gives the image its modern and fresh stylistic feel.
This image was taken as the couple walked towards the camera, made evident by the bride’s raised right foot. This will have required a zoom lens in order for the photographer to keep recomposing the image for each frame as they walked.
Taken using a short shutter speed in order to account for not overexposing the sunlight, this image required increased exposure in order to bring out the details in the faces and flowers, whilst maintaining the light rays at the top of the image. Overall warmth was added by adjusting the white balance temperature, which gives the image an effect similar to Instagram film filters, enhancing the modern feel.
When photographing weddings, there is often a pressure on the photographer to capture everything "correctly," in particular, the formal images, designed to portray everyone looking their best and happy together.
However, when I asked this groom and his two best men if I could get some shots of them before the ceremony, they weren’t at all interested in standing tall and straight for the camera. They were cracking jokes and enjoying the occasion together, as best friends should, so I decided to employ a photojournalistic mindset, looking to capture them in their natural mood, in high spirits and not taking it themselves too seriously!
The setup for this image appears relatively straight forward, a groom with his two best men either side of him, but the actual image here portrays far more than three men and a wall. The natural division into thirds is instantly appealing to the eye. The background itself does not command any attention, and therefore the eye is drawn to the faces.
His forward lean adds a needed depth to the image, and even if the result is that he is slightly out of focus, the combination of the expressions and the moment captured is surely worth letting that by!
This image was shot using just natural lighting, which is exactly the right approach for a photojournalistic styled image. In hindsight, it would have been nice to use some fill flash in order to bring out the eyes of the subjects, but the natural look works well for this type of shot.
Taken with a 28mm prime lens, which immediately lends itself to the stylings of photojournalistic imagery, this image required some fast glass in order to capture the moment. With each face bursting into laughter, only a quick prime with a wide aperture would have been able to freeze this joyous scene!
The obvious adjustment here is the conversion to black and white, which isn’t necessary for a photojournalistic image, but certainly in this case helps to cement the styling of the image. The contrasting tones of the suits do well in differentiating between the groom and the other two and their flat finish contrasts well with that of the rough wall behind.
There are some couples want their wedding photographs to just capture the day. They don’t have any particular requests or requirements. However, there are some couples that don’t want their wedding photos to look like anyone else's.
This means you get the chance to experiment, try something quirky and have some fun with the imagery. This young couple had a table full of penny sweets out in the garden for their guests to enjoy, but before the guests arrived to polish them all off, we took the chance to take some fun shots!
As a kid, you could only dream of having so many sweets sitting there in jars ready to be eaten, so here the couple's favourite treats are laid out before them on the table. The focus falls on the couple as the eye is drawn across the image from left to right, focusing first on the expressions on their faces before moving across to reveal why they look quite so excited!
Their poses group them together, but neither are hidden by the contents of the table or each other, creating an open feel that shows off the bride's beautiful dress and the groom's suit.
The couple were positioned to face the natural sunlight, coming in across the table towards their faces. I also had an assistant holding a reflector to the left to highlight the bride's face and bring out her bright blue eyes.
I selected a 50mm prime lens for this image, as I wanted to achieve a depth of field that drew attention to the couple by softly blurring the contents of the table to maximise the sharp focus on their expressions. It also allowed me to maximise the natural light to get a bright and warm image.
For an image such as this, based around bright colourful candy with excited expressions, I wanted to maximise the vibrance of the image by enhancing the colour saturation and bringing the brighter colours to life to give that quirky and fun feel.
I also reduced the exposure on the trees in the background to draw attention to the brighter areas in the foreground.
All brides want to look their best on their wedding day, and for many that has involved years of planning the dress, hair, makeup, flowers, shoes, the list goes on. It’s our job as the photographer to capture that natural beauty and as shown in this image, make the bride look as glamorous as possible.
This bride’s natural features lend well to the glamour feel of the image, particularly the embellished dress. Her elegant figure, the styling of her hair and make up all combining to make for a very strong image.
Purists would comment that this image isn’t straight, made evident by the vertical lines of the pillar, however I feel that this actually adds to the overall feel of the image. The bride is looking out to something ahead of her. With the veil lifting in the breeze behind her, it gives a sense of movement and direction to the photograph that the angled lines also contribute to. The pillar also acts as a clean backdrop to the most important element of the image, the bride herself, with the trees and buildings behind the railings offering a sense of depth.
The lighting here does exactly what it needs to. It highlights the bride's face and brings out the details such as the embroidery on her dress and her bouquet of flowers. She is facing towards the light, which gives a natural softness to the image in keeping with the delicate details that combine to give the image its style.
In order to flatten out the subject, the photographer has employed a telephoto lens at full zoom, and utilised a wide aperture in order to blur the background. The use of a zoom puts space between the photographer and the subject, allowing her to pose naturally without having a camera shoved into her face.
The conversion to black and white for me adds a great deal to the styling of the image, as there is no colour to distract the viewer. The eye is drawn to the elegant pose of the bride. This combined with the strong composition leads to a very glamorous image.
To finish, we have a selection of images of the kiss from five different weddings, each taken in one of the styles discussed in the article. The way in which each photographer has captured the kiss will be largely dependent upon the couple in their set location, and how they want to be portrayed.
I’d love to hear your thoughts. Which of the images do you feel works best and why? Which is your favourite? What could be improved upon? And how would you photograph a wedding day kiss? There are no right or wrong answers, so get commenting below!