Wedding photography jargon

Congratulations on your engagement, you must be excited! And you have a big task ahead of you. Organising your dream wedding day. There are a lot of things to think about and you are just finding out about all the different aspects of organising a wedding.

This page is to help you understand the jargon professional photographers use, so you know what it all means.

When should you book your wedding photographer?

The photographer is pretty much amongst the top three elements of your wedding bookings: Date, Venue, Photographer. Most couples book their photographers a year, sometimes even longer ahead. So to make sure you speak to a few photographers and decide on your favourite one early to avoid disappointment.

Different styles of wedding photography

There are most certainly different styles in wedding photography, and some photographers follow one style more than others, and many photographers have a mixture of styles. Here’s my interpretation of photography styles. Most couples these days are looking for reportage style photography and we are 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

Let’s start with what most people think they know as “old-fashioned” style wedding photography. Many years ago, the photographer would wait for the couple to come out of the church, then pose the families in groups, and shoot a few poses with the couple under a tree, or at the church door. Everything was setup. Everything was posed.

Reportage & documentary style

These two words are often used on photographers’ websites and really mean the same thing. The photographer documents the wedding – taking photographs both from a distance but they will also occasionally interfere when taking group photographs, or asking the bride and groom to look into the camera when taking photos during the cake cutting, for example.

Dramatic images

Epic photographs, with lots of drama can – with a lot of planning – be set up quickly either nearby, or you would have to travel away from your venue to create different photographs at cathedrals, ruins, or even old industrial estates (just examples). They can take a lot of 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.

Other styles

No doubt there are other styles out there, but I tried to categorise the big ones for you to give you a good idea what a lot of photographers offer.

Current wedding photography trends

  • 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.
  • 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.


Here's a little article that explains in much more detail what copyright means.

The copyright question comes up regularly. Copyright is owned by the producer of a piece of art, a photograph, a song and so on. If you work for a company, and you have to take photographs on their behalf, the copyright usually belongs to the company who employs the photographer.

Most wedding photographers run their own business, so the copyright belongs to them. However, if a photographer hands over a USB stick with images, that does NOT mean you now own the copyright.

The photographer normally details in their terms and conditions what you are allowed to do with the images. You may reproduce the photographs as paper prints, or in photo books, or for thank-you cards, but it is unlikely you get permission to publish the photographs, or sell them. So you have the right to make physical copies, and possibly to share them online, but not to market the work of your photographer.

Resolution / High Res / Low Res

Here it becomes a bit technical, but I keep it light, I promise. High Resolution photographs mean that the file size is very large (5MB or more for a JPG file), and you can produce large format prints or artwork from the files.

Low Resolution Photographs mean that the file size is small (100-200 KB for a JPG file), and they are not suitable for printing, but only for emailing or sharing online.

What does RAW format mean?

Most professional photographer who take digital photographs shoot in RAW file format. Different cameras produce different type of files, for example a Nikon file will be called something like DSC_1899.NEF, Canon DSC_1899.CR2, Sony DSC_1899.ARW, Panasonic DSC_1899.RW2.

What is the advantage of RAW files?

Digital compact cameras produce JPG files which are already processed within the camera to make them look brighter or more vibrant. If a JPG file is taken too dark, for example, any editing will reduce the quality of the photograph. In fact, any editing of JPG files will reduce the quality during the saving process. That’s why professional photographers shoot in RAW as the file can be opened, re-opened, re-saved etc. several times over without the quality being reduced. The file can also be reverted into the original state. We are often asked to change a photograph from Black and White back to Colour. By using RAW files, we can re-open the original image and process it to be a stunning colour photograph. Once a JPG is saved in black and white, it cannot be changed back to colour, unless the photographer keeps a copy of the original JPG images taken during the wedding.

Will I see all the photographs that were taken?

It is unlikely that your wedding photographer lets you see ALL photographs taken, and it is also unlikely that you see any RAW photographs. RAW images are the ingredients for great wedding photographs, but they have to be processed first.

The wedding photography taking place during the wedding is only one part of the wedding photography process. Once the photographer is back in the office, the photographs are downloaded and backed up.

Then the photographer will check the images and remove the ones that are technically not correct, or when someone walked in front of the camera, or if people were blinking, or had their eyes closed.

Once the photographs are selected, the photographs will be edited with photo editing software, such as Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom.

So if you asked your photographer to hand over all the RAW files taken during the wedding, you are unlikely to do anything with them as you need professional editing software to open them ((there are cheap software options available, but that defeats the point of hiring a pro in the first place)).

What is the wedding photography process, and can I see all the photos?

What does image editing mean?

I would say most professional photographers who shoot digitally edit their photographs. This is also called post-production. The images are opened either individually or in batches and then edited either one by one, or the same editing process is applied to several images (batch-edited).

I don’t batch-edit my photographs, I open all the files individually, and carefully edit every image before it becomes part of the wedding photographs which are shown to the couple.

Digital vs. film photography

There are some photographers who love taking photographs on film. They might use normal film cameras with the traditional negative size, or they use medium format cameras, such as Hasselblads.

A medium format camera film only has 12 images per roll of film, and every image roughly costs £1. So the photographer really has to think about pressing the shutter, as every click is costly, and they have to have a lot of film with them for a wedding.

The rolls of film are then sent away to a lab, sometimes abroad, as there are so few labs nowadays who develop film. There is a nostalgic element to film photography, and the photographers I have spoken to also believe that the quality is different to digital images.

Wedding photography packages

Most photographers will have a price list, or some sort of wedding package list which they either display on their website, or will send to you via email or letter.First of all, set your own budget.

You might be surprised about the different price classes available, ranging from very cheap – £300 – to £5000 and more for Edinburgh Photographers. If wedding photography is very important to you, make sure your chosen photographer is experienced, has professional insurance in place, they have a set of terms and conditions, they are confident in answering your questions and happy to meet with you.

Find out what is normally included in a wedding photograph package.

Compare with the same questions

It can be quite hard for couples to compare the packages, so if you have shortlisted a few photographers, ask the same questions. Once you have shortlisted 2-3 photographers, arrange a meeting and have a chat to find out if you get on with them personally and if you trust them to take your wedding photographs.

Find out the difference between an amateur and a pro photographer

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