The Art of Wedding Photography

This is it! Your wedding day is approaching and you need to find the best photographer available who can capture this special occasion with photographs that are not just photographs – they are art! When most people think of wedding photography, they don't necessarily think of fine art or artistic photography.

Why is that? And why is the bride not getting the finished product she endlessly visualized in her head while searching out the “right” photographer? Well, in order to really answer these questions, we need to take a look at the photos and ideas our modern day bride-to-be is looking at and how she found them.

The look of the bride is probably the most important part of capturing the best photographs for a wedding, but artistic photography of the entire event, to include others in the wedding ceremony and the ceremony itself is vital.

Brides-to-be search through bridal magazines in the grocery store line, seeking out wedding photographer blogs, and Google, Google, Google!!! Let's not forget the endless addiction to Pinterest! What do these four sources have in common? They are bringing you the best of the best. These sources weed out the good from the great. Wedding magazines are showing you the most amazing images of the most beautiful brides in the most perfect locations. The wedding blog sites and Google images that the bride-to-be sees are posted by high-paid photographers who have a lot of money to drop on front-page Google advertising. Yes, Pinterest too! Brides to be are searching through thousands of images and pinning only the ones that more their mind heart and soul.

By the way, Google ain't cheap!

In each case, the common denominator is “cost & quality.” So does that mean beautiful artistic weddings = big money? Well, it doesn't always mean you need to drop your savings account on your photographer, but it definitely does mean you can’t hire your cousin or student photographer and expect the same results. If a wedding photographer is charging you $500 for his services, don't expect a $3,000 final product. I hate to use that time old, worn out saying, but, “you get what you pay for.”

So we know price has a definite affect on whether or not the bride-to-be will receive the dream wedding photography she is hoping for. But wait, there's more! It’s not price alone. It’s very possible to pay big money for a wedding photographer and still not get what you discussed at the Starbucks “consultation” that went so well.

Let’s go back and take another look at those wedding magazines.

The bride-to-be spends hours daydreaming, page by page, through those 3-pound wedding magazines, deciding which bride she is going to mimic; which hair style she is going to rip out, take to the salon, and make her own; and where she is going to find a makeup artist that can make her up like the bride on page 98? How is she going to find a dress close to the look of the $12,000 dress in the photo in the $1,200 price range.

Hhhhmmmm.....get the picture yet? (no pun intended)

All these things matter and are very important for that final look, but the bride-to-be is missing one key factor.

*The magazine photographer and the 19-year-old girl modeling as the magazine bride.

Yes, modeling “as” the bride. Those are not brides in the magazines, most of the time they are models. The photographer is not a wedding photographer, he/she is a usually a fashion photographer...and yes, there is a big difference.

So what now?

Do you just accept the fact that you’re not a professional model, go find the best wedding photographer you can, and hope for the best?

Of course not. As the bride-to-be, you just need to do your research and find the “right” photographer.

I actually didn't start out in “wedding photography”. I went to school for cinematography and then eventually fell in love with photography. I shot fashion/modeling photography for years, before and while I was a wedding photographer.

Part of doing your homework is finding out the photographer’s background. What are their photographic roots, and are they still working creatively in other realms?

It’s very important for me and my team to constantly step out of the cookie cutter wedding photography world and pursue fine art and artistic image styles so that we are able to bring those over to the weddings we shoot.

Like any well developed fashion photographer, I have the ability to direct a model. I am also able to pose my bride-to-be like the perfect little model in those matte finish magazines.

Most models are taught to pose on their own and take direction from the photographer. I shoot my weddings in much the same way. I stay away from stiff wedding-like poses. I have also directed many zero experience models, so directing a bride-to-be, with no modeling experience, is not a problem. I also strive to get natural, relaxed poses from the bride and groom following the ceremony, those in the wedding, and the entire wedding event.

The last thing we need to touch on is the darkroom.

Twenty-five years ago, we didn't even know what digital cameras were. Everything was film and darkrooms. The photographer carried around about 15-20 rolls of film and spent days in the dark room developing his/her work, or sending it out to an expensive processing lab to do. The photographer had to really know his/her stuff or waste hundreds of dollars on film trying to get the perfect shot, or spend many hours in the darkroom trying to fix it.

Now days we have digital cameras, and Photoshop has become our darkroom. I have and still shoot film on my own time. I have taken these principles and applied them to wedding photography. I have developed my photographic skills in order to get the perfect shots without taking hundreds of very time consuming shots. I also educated myself in the “digital darkroom”, which is now known as Adobe Lightroom and Adobe Photoshop. I never - let me say this again - I NEVER let a photo leave my hard drive without being edited. That way I can give my bride and groom 300-400 amazing fully edited photos they will love and be able to share - not 1500 photos with multiples of the same pose or Uncle Henry with his eyes closed or the ring-bearer digging into his ear. It’s true, less is more. Quality is always better than quantity. Be hesitant to hire a photographer that offers you thousands of photos. Really, who is ever going to look through 2000 images?

I realize very few wedding photographers do this and I'm sure a few of them may get upset at me for giving the bride and groom this revealing information, but it’s important for the final product.

So, what comprises artistic wedding photography?

Posing and shooting the bride-to-be as a model.

  1. Capturing the best artistic shots of those in the wedding, those attending the wedding, and the events that follow.

  2. Hiring well-rounded, artistic, multifaceted, and hopefully fashion driven photographers who just happen to be wedding photographers as well.

  3. Paying the equivalent of what you are expecting.

Most important, have fun with the search! Use your gut and this bit of info, and you will know when you have found the “right” photographer.

Happy searching!

Kent Harland

Christopher Kent Photography