Most contemporary photographers present the 'modern' reportage style as a stark contrast to the 'traditional' style that dominated until the 1980s. In one sense, this is an accurate view, as any young couple looking at their parents wedding photographs will soon discover. However, in our photography the 'traditional' has been added to, rather than being totally displaced.
Above and top : typical reportage images.
Above and below: same location, same relaxed composition
Above: Two more traditional images - but these can be fun too.
Traditionally, wedding photography was a series of 'photographs of record' - important 'moments' (signing the register/cutting the cake) and key characters/groups (usually formally posed) together with equally 'staged' photos of the bride and groom. A typical wedding collection consisted of a small number of images - commonly about 30 to 50 - presented in an album. This format has not disappeared (because we still take these photos of record) but it has become just one aspect of a much broader range of wedding photography. The really key point is that this aspect of the wedding photography should be done quickly and efficiently - we rarely need more than 15-20 minutes to organise and take group photos.
Above: The bride as photographer
Above: a typical reportage shot
Wedding photographers in the 1960s and many through to the 1990s (and some even today) used medium format cameras (with large negatives for high quality prints) which produced just 12-15 prints on a film and were not designed for fast-moving situations or low light contexts. In the early 1980s auto-focus 35mm cameras, developments in film and lens technology and the falling costs of film development and printing with the emergence of more competition and 'chains' like Jessops - all enabled photographers to be much more flexible in the type of shots they took and in the quantity of shots they took. Manufacturers of wedding albums also became much more creative in the design of their products, going beyond the basic layout of identical oblong pages.
We start our story of the day with the bride preparing. Above and below, two very different moods.
Above: a rather traditional image - but still one we always do - the groom and best man.
Images off the wedding ceremony have become possible with digital technology and a relaxed attitude among the clergy and registrars.
Monochrome images are still high on the list of brides and grooms
If there is a difference in style between contemporary wedding photographers, it is between those who try to produce a 'fashion-shoot' look and the reportage style. We are firmly in the second group, but we like to think that many of our images would not look out of place in the advertisement features of the Wedding magazines.
Popular taste for more informal images, changes in printing technology enabling magazines and newspapers to publish more 'candid' images and a greater variety of work undertaken by photographers (many photographers - like us - are not exclusively wedding or portrait photographers, and the 'High Street' photographer making a living from a portrait studio and wedding business is a declining 'breed') - have all been part of the trend towards reportage photography in the wedding 'industry'. Another important factor was changes in the legal framework in the 1990s that allow the widespread use of picturesque venues for wedding ceremonies.
Above: The portrait images of the bride and groom have key importance - a touch of humour is an added dimension!
The biggest impact of all has been digital technology and this has been very recent - we are in our eigth year of being fully digital after a previous year of experimentation. The film/digital debate is a dead one - all newspaper photographers, sports photographers and photo-journalists use digital cameras and the high-end cameras we use are as good - and for many reasons better than - medium format film cameras of the past.
Above: Images of the intimate moments of the ceremony are now possible in a way they were not even 10 years ago
Not only is the image quality very high but the control that software (like Photoshop) gives the photographer in the editing stage means that the quality of the end-product is excellent. Developments in sensor and memory technology, massive drops in 'real' costs of digital cameras and accessories (like recordable CDs and DVD), the widespread use of broadband internet and website design, the introduction of a wide range of software to (for example) create DVD slideshows playable on TV or computers - have all revolutionised professional photography.
Above: Two illustrations of a traditional moment - the bride and groom emerge as man and wife
All this means that the main body of a contemporary wedding collection is of informal, natural, fly-on-the-wall images. Of course, some of these images require a bit of contrivance and 'setting-up' to appear natural but many are simply 'capturing' the unfolding events. The end result is a full story of the day - not just a record of key 'incidents'.
So, while our clients do have some choices to make - and we like couples to have their own sense of how their images will 'fit' their overall vision for their wedding - the general structure of contemporary 'coverage' is pretty well established and the range of style choices to be made is relatively narrow and is generally more a matter of balance between the traditional and modern rather than one or the other.
A winter wedding at Stoodleigh Court
Above: an important images of record - the groom and his new family
Above and below: the mood changes as the day progresses - an evening image when there is a relaxed mood.
Images of those little details that make each wedding unique are a really important part of our wedding photography. Below are examples of wedding venue details, wedding dresses, room panoramas, flowers, cars etc
See Also Part One: The Sequence of Image Making