The Photocritic wedding photography styles guide


'Traditional' or 'Documentary' or 'Fine Art' or 'First Look' or too many terms? Here's our guide to wedding photography types.

 Gorgeous photo courtesy of Mike Rikard at  Narshada Photography

Gorgeous photo courtesy of Mike Rikard at Narshada Photography

You've recently become engaged to be married? Congratulations! Now begins months of planning and preparation, excitement and even anxiety. Once you've set the date and agreed upon a venue, the chances are you'll begin your hunt for a photographer to record the day. But what sort of photography do you want? We've put together a style guide for the different genres of wedding photography that you might come across on your search or give you a better idea of where to begin.

The one with the formal portraits

Also known as traditional wedding photography or classic wedding photography or formal wedding photography

When people of a certain age—and indeed people not of a certain age, but those who've only ever been exposed to their parents' or grandparents' wedding albums—think of wedding photography, this is what they usually envisage. These are the formally posed portraits of the bride and groom; and then the bride and groom flanked by her and his parents; and then the parents and the grandparents; next comes the parents and the siblings; followed by the parents, siblings, and grandparents; there'll probably be extended family shots, too; until finally you're all called into an enormous group shot six yards long that includes everyone present at the wedding.

 Yes, this is a modern take on a formal group shot, but you get the idea. (Photo courtesy of Mike Rickard at  Narshada Photography .)

Yes, this is a modern take on a formal group shot, but you get the idea. (Photo courtesy of Mike Rickard at Narshada Photography.)

They can take a very long time to shoot and the bride and groom are frequently keeling over from thirst and hunger by the end of them, but they're what's associated with wedding photography.

The one with all the candid shots

Also known as reportage, documentary wedding photography, or photojournalistic wedding photography

Rather than spend hours marshalling the bridal party and wedding guests into lines with more efficiency than a German factory foreman, documentary wedding photographers are much more like snipers. Unobtrusive, they blend in, shooting unnoticed and capturing the moments from a wedding day that might otherwise be forgotten or missed. It's a more informal and intimate approach to wedding photography, and one that plenty of people are coming to prefer.

 Make a wish (photo by haje)

Make a wish (photo by haje)

The one that looks as if the photos could be in a copy of Vogue

Also known as editorial, fashion, creative, or contemporary wedding photography

If you're looking for an incredibly stylish collection of photographs from your wedding day that most likely involves exciting poses, possibly features props, probably makes use of artificial lighting, and is definitely intended to make you resemble a glamorous super-model, not just a beautiful bride, you've just found it.

 'Til death do you part (photo by haje)

'Til death do you part (photo by haje)

The one that looks as if they should be hanging in a gallery, or are stills from a film

Also known as fine art or creative wedding photography

There's probably a certain degree of overlap between fine art and fashion wedding photography, but whereas fashion wedding photography can be more appropriately described as 'stylish', fine art wedding photography is 'beautiful'. And romantic. These are the kinds of photos that will see the bride and groom shine as stars in the deliriously gorgeous film of their love affair.

 touched (photo by haje)

touched (photo by haje)

The one that's just a bit different

Also known as alternative wedding photography

Alternative wedding photography could probably summarise any type of wedding photography that veers from the norm of formal portraiture, but if you're a little bit quirky, and you're wedding is set to be a bit unusual, you'll want a photographer who fits in with the theme. So you'll need an alternative wedding photographer. Between your individuality and the photographer's creativity, you should get the perfect set of pictures.

 i pronounce you… (Photo by haje)

i pronounce you… (Photo by haje)

The one when the bride and groom see each other first

Also known as first look photography

Some couples are choosing to forego the tradition of not seeing each other until the ceremony, instead meeting quietly before they say their vows. This is a distinctly less pressurised scenario and allows the photographer to properly capture the emotion of the moment when bride and groom first set eyes on each other. Whatever the perceived convention of the attraction of seeing your intended at the end of the aisle, first look is full-on romance.

 Photo thanks to mike rickard of  narshada photography

Photo thanks to mike rickard of narshada photography

The one when the dress gets trashed

Also known as, somewhat obviously trash the dress wedding photography

This isn't so much for the day of your wedding, unless you've lined up a second outfit for your reception, but for the next day or after the honeymoon. What else are you going to do with your gorgeous dress in this lifetime? It'll likely hang in a wardrobe and not see the light of day again. Instead, why not design an entire photo shoot around it, resulting in its ultimate destruction and the hands of you, your husband, and maybe mother nature? Sea, sand, soil, paint. Raw, creative, and passionate. Anything and everything is fair game.

At the end of the wedding day

Often you'll find that there's a certain degree of cross-over between all of these wedding photography styles. Documentary photographers frequently slide off with the bridal couple to shoot some romantic portraits of them. Alternative wedding photographers probably won't shy away from a formal photo or two if that's what will make your grandmother happy. And the aim of any wedding photographer is to capture you, on your day, looking blissfully happy, and to tell the story of your wedding. Whatever the name of the style is irrelevant. You need to find a photographer that suits you.

 Photo thanks to mike rickard of  narshada photography

Photo thanks to mike rickard of narshada photography


Many thanks to the very talented Mike Rickard of Narshada Photography, some of whose images you can see in this article, for his thoughts and guidance. You should take a look at his work!