Here’s an overview of the main styles of wedding photography in 2021, plus a few extra pointers for choosing your wedding photographer in 2021-2022
Before you choose your wedding photographer or even think about your engagement photos, ask yourself this: What type of wedding photography style are you looking for? Do you want more spontaneous moments caught? Do you want everything to look posh and out of a fashion mag? Are you looking for a wedding photography style that is absolutely one-of-a-kind?
Wedding photo styles are crucial in how you remember your day—seriously! You have one chance on your wedding day, so splurge on photos that you’ll have forever. Seriously, when helping couples make budgets…remember that the music fades, but your photos are forever.
There are so many terms floating out there that no one can blame couples for not knowing what they want! Here, then, is an informative list of different styles of wedding photography. Keep in mind that this often has little to do with editing styles and color styles (true-to-life, dark and moody, bright and airy, etc.), but simply explains how the photographer will approach your day. I’ll talk about all that in an upcoming article.
It’s extremely important that you understand what type you want, and what type of wedding photography your photographer offers. Sounds obvious, right? But you could get along swimmingly—or it could be your good friend—and you could get images that are completely different from what was in your head.
So, here are what I consider to be the 4 styles of wedding photography, with an addition 3 that have emerged in recent years. I’ve included examples of different styles of wedding photography, which credits other photographers if I don’t offer it. Keep in mind that most photographers are a combination of several styles!
Photojournalistic Wedding Photography / Candid Wedding Photography / Documentary Wedding Photography: Wedding photojournalism comes from news, and in fact some wedding photojournalists started their photography careers in news. You don’t ask soldiers in combat to pose for you, or for a senator to interrupt her speech to pose for a photo, right? That’s where photojournalists catch amazing moments. Unscripted reactions, candid moments, and uninterrupted documentation of your day.
Wedding Photography Photojournalist Pros: It’s very real and genuine. Cons: Pure photojournalists may not want to capture more traditional moments like family photos or posed portraits, and some shots may be more blurry or black and white.
Traditional Wedding Photography / Classic Wedding Photography: This is the wedding photography your parents likely had. It’s typical, posed, planned-out photography that captures moments in a standard, expected way. Most photographers who used to have studios and storefronts were traditional wedding photographers, though that’s changed these days. From a standard wedding photographer, you’ll expect naturally-colored, true-to-life, dependable photos that look exactly as you’d picture.
Traditional Wedding Photography Pros: It’s timeless. Cons: It’s fairly boring if it’s the only style you get. *99% of photographers take traditional wedding photos for a good chunk of the day. You just want to be sure that your photographer does something other than JUST traditional wedding photography.
Editorial Wedding Photography / Fashion Wedding Photography: This style is great for indoor weddings, winter weddings, and environmental wedding photography in mansions, historical homes, libraries, etc. It usually involves more glamour, more lighting setup, and more poses to get that fashion look. It is pretty much the opposite of photojournalism, as it is much more about poses and lighting. It’s wedding photography for couples who want to make a statement–like Claire Morris in Paris.
Editorial Wedding Photography Pros: It can look quite glamorous and high-end. Cons: It’s very posed, and often takes a lot more gear (lighting, stands, etc.) that makes it less “organic.”
Fine Art Wedding Photography: This is detail-oriented wedding photography that focuses on the prettiest parts of weddings. Think detailed shots of mementos, cufflinks, flowers, invitations and programs, flowers, dress buttons, and more. This is one that does, more often than not, revolve around a different color and editing style called “bright and airy.” The colors tend to be more white, light pink, and pale green. Google image search “Fine art wedding photography” and you’ll see exactly what I mean! The image above is from SC-based Mallori Ma Photography. While I occasionally take detail photos or shots that are light (like below), this is definitely not my aesthetic.
Fine Art Wedding Photography Pros: Pretty, classy, soft, romantic. Cons: Much more posed, and not necessarily a match for partying, candid moments, or adventures.
Many photographers use a combination of these styles, and sometimes take it a few steps further, creating a new type of wedding photography. In recent years, some secondary styles have become popular, so here are a few of them:
Adventure Wedding Photography: This is a more recent style, and features a mix of hiking, wind in the hair, candid moments, and relaxed poses out in a gorgeous location. Think a national park elopement, an adventure session on a deserted beach, or a wedding on a mountaintop, complete with riding a ski lift to the top. It’s super fun, allows you to spend time getting epic photos, and, in the case of an elopement or engagement session, means less fun—it’s just you two in a beautiful location.
Adventure Wedding Photography Pros: Awesome for lovers of the outdoors, getting’ dirty, and romance in nature. Cons: More suited to intimate weddings and elopements, and not often as possible with traditional venue/banquet hall weddings.
Artistic Wedding Photography: Think of editorial wedding photography but with extra unique angles, really creative setups, and emotion depicted in artistic ways. This is artistic wedding photography, and a few people do it really well. Most of the time it uses lighting setups (Two Mann Studios is a great example for this), but occasionally the quirkiness is done using natural light. This isn’t photojournalism, and artistic photography is rarely done during, say, an adventure session or mountain elopement. Pros: Really cool, unique shots. Cons: Often staged, taking special set-ups, and more than one photographer.
Creative Wedding Photography: Creative wedding photographers can be a mix of many different styles (including artistic), and usually have a different way to see things. They don’t necessarily try to take set-up artistic photos, but use different perspectives, unique colors and small props, and ideas for both candid and posed shots. Creative wedding photographers love new places and spontaneous moments.
Creative Wedding Photography Pros: One-of-a-kind shots you won’t get from your typical photoshoot. Cons: Not necessarily a match for traditionalists, nor for people who want control over every Pinterest-y wedding shot.
Many photographers are a combination of styles. It’s important that your expectations as a couple, and what your photographer delivers, are a great match. You’ll be getting around 500+ photos from this one day in your life, and likely spending around $3500+ for this special day, so do you want the bulk of those shots to be candid moments of your family and friends? Portraits of the two of you? Details like your earrings, love letters, and florals? All photographers deliver a mix of these elements, but they’ll all catch them differently, and with different priorities.
My personal style—can you guess it?—is a mix of creative wedding photography, adventure wedding photography, and photojournalism. I love doing some really artistic shots and getting traditional photos as well (since your Grandma Eugene will yell at me if I don’t), but really enjoy getting both candid, documentary moments and one-of-a-kind adventure+outdoorsy shots as a creative wedding photographer. I am not a fine art photographer nor editorial photographer. Sure, I do these shots some time, but my focus is on moments, fun, creativity, and documenting your wedding.
Don’t know what type of wedding photography your favorite photographer actually offers? If it doesn’t say it on their website, ask them! If you’re having an indoor wedding, you definitely don’t want a natural light photographer who has very little experience with flash photography indoors. Conversely, if you’re looking for a photographer to capture your Yosemite elopement, you don’t want a fancy photographer who is used to relying on indoor wedding lighting.
While it isn’t necessary that your photographer has shot at your actual venue (good photographers are used to shooting in any environment, and can see new places with fresh eyes), it’s necessary that your photographer has experience in your type of venue. Whether your photographer is shooting on film (which I occasionally do!), taking you out for a hiking adventure, or capturing your wedding at Oheka Castle (a pretty amazing venue on Long Island where I’ve worked), making sure your ideas match is vital. And heck, make sure that on the day of your wedding, you’re not worrying about any of this. Hire a photographer you trust, because you’ll be spending intimate moments with them, handing over your rings to them, and trusting they’re everywhere while still staying in the background. Discuss this all beforehand—never be afraid to ask your photographer questions—so that you can 100% relax and enjoy your time on your actual wedding day.
So that’s it! The styles of wedding photography are photojournalistic, traditional, fine art, and traditional, with many alternative names and offshoot styles like adventure, creative, and artistic. Choose your photographer wisely so you can sit back and just enjoy your wedding or elopement day!
Kathryn Cooper Weddings | Wedding Photojournalist in New York & California | Creative Wedding Photography Worldwide |