What you should know about different wedding photography styles

October 2017

Choosing a photographer is a difficult task. There are so many photographers out there, and some have clearly different styles than others. Some photographers offer traditional wedding photography, but talk about modern, some people say they are a reportage style photographer, but clearly most of their photos are posed. So this little article will help you differentiate the different styles.

Many photographers combine different styles in their portfolio which is absolutely fine. There are not many photographers out there that are 100% reportage style wedding photographer, or traditional photographers.

Most couples these days are looking for reportage style photography and I am often asked if we do the shots while no-one is looking as they are perceived to be the better, more natural photographs. Ok… so here goes…


Traditional Wedding photography

Many people don't want the “old-fashioned” style wedding photography. Years ago, the photographer would wait for the couple to come out of the church or registry office, then pose the families in groups, and take a few poses with the newly wedded couple under a tree, or at the church door. Everything was setup. Everything was posed.

However, nowadays everybody has access to so many photographs online, through Pinterest, Instagram and Facebook and we can see all stunning photographs, of couples on the beach, or on a cliff top in the sunrise. They all look really relaxed, but - the photographer will have posed them and made them feel comfortable in front of the camera. So does that make them traditional, or contemporary?

Family photograph, different wedding photography styles
Family photograph

The images above and below are very obviously posed. But they are both elegant photographs, well exposed, and really convey a classic Scottish wedding.

Newly-weds photo, different wedding photography styles
Newly-weds photo
Reportage & Documentary Wedding Photography Style

Many photographers use these words on their websites and they both really mean the same thing. The photographer documents the wedding. This means they take photographs both from a distance but they will also occasionally interfere when taking a few group photographs. They will ask the bride and groom to look into the camera when taking the romantic photos, or look away, or at each other.

The lines are really blurred here, as some some photographs of the couple - as they walk away to the beach (see below) - clearly are "unposed" but I - the photographer - have told them to walk away, look at each other and chat with each other. So does that make them traditional? Contemporary? Reportage?

Reportage and documentary wedding photography styles, different wedding photography styles,
Reportage and documentary photography styles

Epic photographs that show a lot of drama in most cases need a little bit of planning beforehand. In some cases, they require you to travel away from your venue to create different photographs at cathedrals, ruins, or even old industrial estates (just examples). They can take up a lot more time, but if you don’t want all your photographs to be in this style, your photographer can incorporate them into the time they spend with you.

The photograph below I took for a couple who celebrated their wedding in Tuscany. We spent almost a full day before the wedding to learn about the landscape and nearby locations where we could take the couple to take photographs like this. It required a lot of planning, calculating where the sun would be, when sunset would be and so on. And all this within a very short time, so they were back at their reception in no time.

Dramatic images, different wedding photography styles
Dramatic images
Dramatic images, different wedding photography styles
Dramatic images
Other photography styles

Wedding photography is a creative industry and there are always new styles in fashion. I tried to introduce you to the main ones for you to get a good idea what a lot of photographers offer.

Every year new trends emerge and some photographers change their whole portfolio to show the trend. Below, I am listing a few current trends for you, so you can recognise them when you come across them.

Trendy things are great, and I must say I love a few of them too. However, trendy is not necessary great for wedding photographs that stand the test of time. It's a decision you - the couple - need to make if you want photographs that are classic and elegant, or trendy and edgy that might make you cringe in a few years time...

  • Editing photographs in an aged style, where the photographs looks faded, and a certain colour tint is added to the photograph. Some photographers might even add a scratchy layer, imitating old films.
  • Squint photographs – where the horizon is totally off, and the photographs are squint, building walls are not straight and they might lean out of the picture.
  • Desaturated photographs – this is where the colours that are in the original image are toned down. So a proper red colour turns to a dull version of the same red.
  • High Key Photographs – the photographs are very bright, skin tones are almost white.
  • Dark photographs – photographs that were perfectly exposed are darkened down.
  • Sepia photographs – Sepia toning stems from the chemical film processing where a special treatment was to give black and white images a warmer tone. This can be easily achieved in image editing software these days.
Nostalgic look in black and white, different wedding photography styles
Nostalgic look in black and white
Desaturated photograph, different wedding photography styles
Desaturated photograph
Desaturated photograph, different wedding photography styles
Desaturated photograph

Who is Nadin Dunnigan - Family & Secret Proposal Photographer in Edinburgh

Hey, I am Nadin! (same as "Nadine" - just without the "e"). I am a photographer in Edinburgh, Scotland, specialising in secret engagement proposals in Edinburgh, Scotland and further afield. After 17 years of photographing weddings in Scotland and internationally, my business has changed during the pandemic.

Proposals are so much fun to be part of. I get so excited every single time I see the couple walking to their favourite spot and the most romantic question is imminent!

My blog posts about weddings in Scotland are based on experience and aim to help you plan your dream wedding.

Nadin Dunnigan Photographer