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The Different Styles of Wedding Photographers Explained!

Because ‘Wedding Photographer’ is technically a category for a photography type, it is common for the couple to have no idea what the style of their wedding photographer is before they hire them, and it’s important for them and the Officiant to know in advance. There are three-ish different styles of wedding photographers, and although they use different terms to describe themselves, this is what I believe they are like and why it might matter to the couple before selecting them.


The Portrait Style Photographer is more traditional and likes to set up certain shots. They will provide directions on getting the look they are trying to achieve. They orchestrate the scenes and will ask their subjects to ‘pretend that you are surprised and just seeing the bride for the first time!’. Some of their photos are often very edited and dramatic, and can appear as stunning scenes right out of a romance novel.


Pros/Cons: They like to be in control of their environment, and they will position you in ways that may feel uncomfortable, but the results are very classic and stunning. They will take family group photos and ensure everyone is looking fabulous. As an Officiant, it’s good to know if you are working with a portrait photographer because some will actually stop the ceremony to get specific angles of the hands with the rings. They might have a lot of extra gear to get the right lighting, and can sometimes set up all of their photography equipment in front of the guests.


The Documentary Style Photographer is the opposite. They use their images to document the day's events and they do not like posing. In fact, some don’t even want you to look them in the eyes. For instance, when the couple is signing the marriage licence and we all look up at a Doc, you’ll see them noticeably cringe. They’ll take one photo and turn away. Instead, they prefer to move about like a friendly ghost.

The professional Docs I work with in Toronto are amazing and they get all of the best photos, but I had one guy who literally only took one photo of the ceremony and left the room. Docs are building a story of the day and this particular photographer only wanted the one photo (not even the kiss shot) and that was it.


Pros/Cons: They capture your wedding day like a beautiful story book of emotions, authentic expressions, and precious moments throughout the day. They are especially agile when working in non-traditional spaces that can often have a tight space for moving around for different angles. They are adored by couples who don't want to be fussed with or feel like they are the center of attention.

If, however, your mom wants family group photos while you are all dressed up, the Docs are not as inclined to take this request. As the Officiant, they are kindly unintrusive during the ceremony.


The Lifestyle Photographer is a bit of both. They are candid, but also do some set up and gentle posing. They will take family group shots, albeit with less direction than a Portrait photographer. They are not intrusive during the ceremony itself, and are even open to direction such as when I let them know that I will be out from my centred position for the last half of the ceremony, so they can stand where I started and capture the couple from my view and with all of their guests behind them.


Pros/Cons: They really are a sweet spot between the two styles because you will absolutely get the regular, beautiful wedding photos you’ve come to desire. However, if your vision is to have the overly dramatic style of the Portrait photographer and get a photo that is like a scene from a movie, or revisit your entire day with the romantic story-telling style of the Doc, then they may not be the right fit for you.


The Fourth and final style is the surprise photographer. This is usually the uncle with a new camera, or the ‘photographer’ your family has gifted you for your ceremony. These are rarely nothing short of a total disaster for quality. One showed up with a lens for sporting events and the clicking noises during the vows was palatable. As the Officiant, you’ll need to give them a lot of extra direction, even glaring at them during the declaration and motioning with your head to get into place for the first kiss shot.


Whichever style of Wedding Photographer you select, the key element to decipher is why they are in the business. Some photographers work weddings as a necessary evil to make money to further other endeavours, whereas others LOVE weddings and capturing beautiful moments. Definitely speak to your prospective photographer ahead of time because their joy for you will shine through the images they take!


In my upcoming book, 'Rock That Ceremony', I'm including this list of the different 'styles of wedding photographers. This blog is a test run of my thoughts to gather input from local photographers to get their perspectives before it gets published, and subject to change.


Artistic Documentary Photo Credit: Cara Chapman at Archeo in the Distillery District

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