documentary wedding photography

Wedding Photography Styles Explained

I wanted to write this post to help you out if you’re unsure of exactly what style of wedding photography you’re looking for. I once had someone ask me to help them with their choice of photographer. They then showed me two photographers who couldn’t have been more different in style. One was very classic with lots of black and white work while the other was modern and airy with a warm edit. I found it really hard to give advice because they seemed so different to me. But it occurred to me that if you’ve never hired a photographer before, as most couples haven’t, then how would you know what to look for. It can get quite complicated and photographers use all sorts of words like documentary or fine art to describe themselves. If you’re not sure what would suit you how will you know when you’ve found the right one? (If you already know what you want you may want to skip to the relevant section where I give some pointers on how to find your specific photographer.)

Important Note: Most photographers are a mix of styles. It’s rare to find one that only shoots in one specific style all day long but I’m hoping that by discussing the different styles available you’ll be in a better position to recognize what you really like and make sure that’s a strong component in a photographers portfolio.


documentary wedding photography

Documentary or photojournalism is when the photographer records events as they happen with little to no interference. Think street photography and Martin Parr. Different photographers will range on a scale as to how seriously they take this challenge. Some do not want to interfere at all and will be strict in their documentary approach. Others have a more relaxed view and will move things slightly or ask people to stand in some better light to make the photo more pleasing. I think documentary photographers range on a scale of how ‘raw’ their images are. Some couples will love the day recorded exactly how it is warts and all. Others would prefer a bit of an edit. Take a look at This is Reportage to see some award-winning documentary work.



abbeywood estate wedding photography

Wedding photographers take portraiture with varying degrees of seriousness. But I think at least some portraits are a must. Even if they are just for your parents. Photographers who work in a classical style tend to be very good at portraiture and will take it very seriously. You may find yourself posing more often but if you love that classic look then these are the guys for you. Think of that black and white image of a bride posed in the middle of a magnificent staircase. These photographers can be found winning awards at traditional photography associations like the BIPP or the Guild of Photographers.

Fine Art

fine art photography in Dorset

Fine art is almost more a style of the wedding than it is a style of photography. Think very light and airy, with lots of details, tulle, and flowers. It would be quite tricky to shoot a winter wedding at a church hall in a fine art style. Many fine art photographers shoot the day partially on film and this does increase the cost but film adds a really soft and dreamy look that works perfectly. Take a look at the Wedding Sparrow blog for some serious fine art inspiration.


dramatic wedding photography

Want your wedding photos to look like a movie poster then this is the style for you. Again it varies between photographers but often it will involve using lighting and effects to some degree to create images that wouldn’t otherwise be possible. The Fearless photography awards include some amazing dramatic work.


Photographers all see the world differently and some have a more artistic vision than others. This vision can range from images that look like paintings to completely quirky scenes.  Take a look at the Junebug Wedding Awards to see some real artistry.

Editing Style

A note on editing style. All these wedding photography styles can be edited in different ways. Even fine art photographers who all emulate a film style will have a different look to their images depending on what film look they prefer. Think of the photography styles listed above as the actual content of the photos while the editing will then give the overall look. Do you like bright colours or more muted tones? Do you prefer strong black and white or softer contrast? Your photographer should edit in a consistent style so make sure you love the look.

My Photography Style

I hope by now you can see how these styles can crossover and mingle together in varying ratios to make up the ‘style’ of any one particular photographer. For instance, all the images in this article were taken by me so I do actually incorporate all of these styles into my work. However, there are certain styles I am more drawn to.

  • My style is mostly documentary but I still like my images to be aesthetically pleasing. I work hard to look for the moments that tell a story.
  • I like a few classic portraits and I think these are important to include as long as they don’t take up too much time.
  • Some weddings lend themselves more to a fine art approach and if you love lots of detail shots I tend to shoot more in this way. I don’t shoot on film though and wouldn’t consider myself a fine art photographer.
  • An occasional dramatic shot after dark can really tie the events of the day together but mostly I shoot in natural light with a less dramatic feel.
  • I like to think that I’m artistic in my use of light and composition. Creative and artistic work is an ever-evolving challenge. For me, this is where I see growth in my photography skills.
  • My editing is predominantly colour and a warm film look. You won’t find many bright or harsh colours in my work but I try to keep them true to life.

In short, I work mainly in a documentary and artistic style, which is why I use the term natural. It’s natural, easy-going, pleasing, and not too harsh in any direction. If that sounds like you then get in touch to see if I’m free on your wedding date. If I’m already booked I can recommend a photographer who works in a similar style.


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