3 Types of Wedding Photographers, And Which One You Should Book.
Author: Todd McKernan / Lead Photographer - Forever Frame
So you're planning your wedding and you're trying to decide which photographer to book. But how do you know which one is right for you? Fear not my friends, I've got the answers! Just keep reading...
Why Are There 3 Types of Wedding Photographers?
If you scroll around the internet asking this question, you'll find posts that overcomplicate this issue. I've seen blogs that will list as many as 11 different styles of wedding photographers! That's nuts. The problem with all of these other blogs is that they tend to conflate a photographer's shooting style with their editing style - those are two VERY different things.
This blog will focus entirely on a photographer's shooting style. This will not only have the biggest impact on what kinds of photos you'll be receiving, but also will greatly impact how your wedding day will go.
(click here to read about the different editing styles and how to choose the right one for you)
Photographers rarely fit neatly into a categorized box... unless they're very limber. Think of these three styles as points on a spectrum, many photographers will sit somewhere in between.
Okay, Out With It, What Are The Three Styles?!
Alright, alright! Without further ado, here are the three types of wedding photographers you're going to choose from: (according to me)
1. Portrait / Editorial Photographer
This type of photographer is all about getting the perfect shot. They will typically go out of their way to bring props and extra lighting with big modifiers like soft-boxes to make sure your images look like they belong in a magazine. They're very hands-on, and a good one will know exactly how to pose you and your partner to get the perfect composition. The higher-end ones will typically have an assistant (not just a second shooter) to help them carry and set up the equipment, often doing things like holding reflectors for them.
Pros: Your pictures will be EPIC. You might feel like you're the star of your own high-end fashion shoot. The images will be sharp, clean, and perfectly lit. Strike a pose!
Cons: You might not enjoy your wedding as much. Constantly posing and setting up the perfect images can be... exhausting. And not just for your photographer. You may feel like you're working when you should be relaxing and having fun. Over-reliance on external flash & lighting can be distracting to you and your guests.
2. Candid / Photojournalistic / Documentary Photographer
This type of photographer is the proverbial "fly on the wall." A really good one will basically be a ninja, you'll never even know they were there! They're going to capture the events of the day exactly as they happen, with very minimal input. They allow each moment to unfold naturally, then capture it in the best way they can without intervening. This can make for some of the most memorable photographs you'll get in your entire life, because they're real. This has become the industry stand style of shooting weddings, and for good reason. These photographers will typically never use any kind of flash or light modifiers.
Pros: You'll be able to relax and enjoy your wedding much more. You won't feel like you have to try to be a model. Your images will be raw and full of emotion.
Cons: Your images often won't be as good as they could've been. You'll need to accept that some level of noise, grain, and imperfect framing will be part of some of your images. And while you might not want a photographer who takes command of every situation and movement you make, sometimes a little direction can make a huge difference in how a photo will turn out.
3. "Plandid" / Lifestyle Photographer
This style is sometimes referred to as "Plandid," because it's essentially candid style with a little extra work.
Think of this style as a mixture of photojournalistic and editorial. This is the Goldilocks Zone for wedding photography. Not too involved, not too removed - this one is just right. Although this is typically closer to candid than portrait style. They'll default to a candid style most of the time, but aren't afraid to quickly change something if they know it'll make for a way better photo, and they won't be too distracting while doing it. This might be as simple as telling you where to stand when getting ready to capture the best natural light from a window. They know when to be hidden and when to be seen. They'll be competent at directing bridal party, family, and couple photos, but equally skilled at capturing those once-in-a-lifetime moments that are gone in the blink of an eye. They usually won't bring a ton of lighting, maybe just a flash or two, but they won't use it unless absolutely necessary.
Pros: The best of both worlds for most couples. A really skilled lifestyle photographer can make your day easier and more fun. They'll be able to lead you to the best images without directing you too much. They're often problem solvers.
Cons: It might be difficult finding a photographer who's really mastered this balancing act. And as such, they often will be one of the more expensive options in your area. They'll probably be in higher demand too, and you might have a hard time getting availability.
Which One Is Right For Me?
I'm a bit biased and see myself firmly in the lifestyle camp. Although I'll often describe my style as candid and natural light because those are the terms most couples are familiar with. But just because that is what I believe is the best style of photography for a wedding doesn't mean you should have to agree with me. There are plenty of reasons to choose a photographer who is completely hands-off or will take the reins most of the day. Just make sure you choose a photographer who fits with what you're looking for - that's what really matters.
There are also a lot of other factors that should go into choosing a wedding photographer, like:
Experience Level How many weddings have they shot, and do you think they'll be competent to deliver great images regardless of shooting style? Do they even have a shooting style yet?
Editing Style Do you like the way their images look aesthetically? Maybe you want a desaturated look, or a vibrant look, or a film look. Do they offer the look you want?
Personality Do you want to hang out with this person? Because you're going to be spending the majority of your big day in close proximity to you. Are they the kind of person that will add to your stress or take away from it? This is why its always a good idea to do a Zoom meeting before you book.
But these are all topics for another blog... see you there soon ; )
Author: Todd McKernan / Lead Photographer - Forever Frame