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Wedding Photographers and What They Provide

Updated on October 5, 2018
VVanNess profile image

Victoria is a stay-at-home mom, author, educator, and blogger at Healthy at Home. She currently lives in Colorado with her family.

Wedding Photography
Wedding Photography | Source

This seems like such an obvious question. Everyone knows what a photographer is, right? He or she typically takes pictures of interesting stuff for a hobby or profession. So a wedding photographer obviously takes pictures of weddings. But what’s the difference between a regular photographer and a wedding photographer? Now that’s a great question!

A photographer can do a variety of different jobs. The can photograph for fun or even for money. They could work for a business or company in just about any industry, like fashion, the news, commercial, science, sales, marketing, advertising, industry, and sales. Some photographers even work freelance, which means that they work on their own, and choose from numerous topics to photograph. Some of these might be children, pregnancy, portraits, still life, cities, landscapes, weddings, stock photography, etc. And the fee schedules and photography prices range widely depending on industry and topic.

Wedding photographers sometimes focus specifically on weddings, although many more also dabble in a number of areas all at the same time. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a wedding photographer that doesn’t also work with at least babies, portraits, and graduations on the side. However, they all have a similar range of services and prices in common. But before we discuss those, there’s one more topic that will help to clarify wedding photographers a little more.

Most wedding photographers before deciding anything else about their businesses and the work they choose to do, adopt a preferred approach to photography. This is like having a basic core belief and/or goal before starting a business, going to school, or any other big decision you might make. All that this means is that they choose to photograph in a certain way, for a certain purpose. This will be really important when your bride is selecting a photographer for her wedding. Let’s look at some of these common photography approaches.


Previously in history, there were only two basic wedding photography approaches: Traditional and Photojournalistic. Even though these two styles are still considered the most popular and are used more often than any other, there are now a variety of approaches to wedding photography that are recognized today. Obviously the first is traditional wedding photography. This is normally what people think of when they hear the word photographer. If you’ve ever been to a photography studio, you are familiar with this one. There is lots of posing, a great deal of photographer interaction, and many uncomfortable moments when the photographer is tipping your head at a weird angel and you wonder how it’s going to look in the photos. These photographers normally maintain a great deal of control with this approach and are working off of a strict timeline (First I’m going to take this photo, and then we’ll move to this one). The end result is usually a stiff set of photos where everyone looks like their posed. Imagine that!

A photojournalistic or documentary wedding photography style is much more relaxed. Photographers using this style are usually trying to tell a story with their photos, and to capture the atmosphere and positive feelings of the wedding day. In order to do this, they typically take a very hands-off approach and attempt to maintain the out of the way, fly-on-the-wall kind of feeling. In fact, it’s usually hard to pick out these photographers from the crowd as they leave the bride and groom alone to enjoy their big day, without all of the posing and interruptions. One great benefit of these photos is that they are usually unique and unusual photos, taken of unguarded moments. This allows for coos of surprise as the bride and groom then get to see their wedding from a different perspective afterward, often getting to witness moments they wouldn’t have seen otherwise.

Wedding Photography
Wedding Photography | Source

A contemporary wedding photography style is a good medium between the traditional style and the photojournalistic. The contemporary style is definitely a more relaxed approach to photography, but this photographer is purposely seeking out specific photos. They may follow a list of all of the traditional photos brides ask for and expect, but try for a more spontaneous and fun collection of photos for the big day. They strive to capture emotion, memorable moments, and precious instants that will delight the bride and groom after the wedding. There is much less posing with this style than you would see with traditional wedding photography, but there will still be moments of quick poses as the photographer sees a great shot or a great background.

Another new style is the artistic wedding photography approach. This one is pretty self-explanatory. As the style indicates, these photographers are purposely looking to create a more artistic and creative picture of the big day. Depending on your specific photographer, there may be posing and direct photographer intervention, or there may not be. This is definitely something to ask ahead of time. With this approach you’ll see mixed colors, black and whites with pops of colors, and other great uses of Photo Shop as different textures, filters, masks, and other advanced post-production techniques are used to create a different look for the wedding photos. As each one of these photographers can be completely different, it’s important to check out a variety of different portfolios, and ask tons of questions to make sure that this is a style you really like.

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Finally, one last photography style is fashion wedding photography. Just like the name sounds, this style will include a focus on different lighting uses, interesting backgrounds, creative poses, and a use of props to create the ultimate in fashion photography. This is generally a mix between artistic and traditional styles, as there is a great deal of posing and photographer control, but with a unique perspective. To get an idea of what these pictures will typically turn out looking like, check out your latest wedding magazines and fashion pull-outs. Although these photographers will capture your first dance and cake cutting for you, their true passion lies in dramatic scenes, great backgrounds, and stunning photography.

Wedding photography techniques are constantly advancing, with professional photographers consistently enhancing ways to capture amazing pictures. The importance of properly lit, sharply detailed and meaningful photographs cannot be overemphasized. Now on to the most common services that wedding photographers provide their clients.

Albums, Prints, and Other Products

Photographs aren’t the only products you can expect from traditional wedding photographers. Along with their picture-taking talents, they will also provide a wide range of other products and services. A contemporary wedding photographer will usually provide some or all of the following:

  • Indoor photography at a church, temple, or other private venue during the ceremony and reception.
  • Outdoor photography (often at a park, beach, or scenic location on the day of the wedding and/or for engagement photos).
  • Both posed and candid (photojournalistic) shots of the wedding couple and their guests at the religious or civil ceremony, and the reception that follows.
  • Formal portraiture in the studio (for either the wedding and/or the engagement photos).
  • Digital services, such as digital prints or slides shows.
  • Albums (either traditional matted albums or the more contemporary flush mount type of album).
  • Parent and gift mini photo albums
  • A CD and copyright of all wedding photos taken
  • Photo booth services or a photo album and camera for a guest book/wedding favor
  • Picture touch-ups (retouching)
  • Extra Time (if their time is not already unlimited)
  • Professional prints of your wedding photographs
  • Free online gallery of wedding photos for guests to order
  • “First look”

The range of deliverables that a wedding photographer presents is varied. There is no standard as to what is included in a wedding coverage or package, so products vary regionally and from across photographers, as do the number of images provided.

Wedding Photography
Wedding Photography | Source

Most photographers provide a set of proofs (usually untouched, unedited images) for their clients. This way couples can choose the photos they want to have printed, want to have in their album(s), etc. instead of editing them all. Photographers may provide hard copy proofs in the form of thumbnail-sized pictures on multiple pages, an online proof gallery, or a combination of the above. Some photographers provide these for free to their clients as they are usually only black and white thumbnails, but some photographers offer them for a fee in other forms, like a book, a magazine, or a mini album of images.

The actual wedding album can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, binds, and styles. Obviously the leather-bound, expensive looking, flush mount album is going to come at a high price. Some of these albums may include

  • traditional matted albums (meaning that there are real pictures in a book slipped into photo squares),
  • digitally designed 'coffee table' albums (which are typically bigger and thinner, the size of a coffee table), contemporary flush mount albums (meaning that the pictures and pages are one in the same),
  • hardbound books,
  • scrapbook style albums (with pictures in a variety of directions and possibly with wording),
  • or a combination of any of the above.

Albums can be purchased along with the wedding photography package, or they can always be purchased after the wedding once the couple has saved up the money. Not all photographers provide albums. The more modern trend is for photographers to save themselves the effort, and possible membership fees with the company that makes the albums, and to allow clients to make their own albums from the high resolution CD or DVD they are given.

These photographers are even offering prints of the wedding photos available for guests, family, and even the couple to order prints after the wedding. They do this by creating an online gallery only available with a password for the bride and groom to hand out, sometimes for a fee, but usually for free. Anyone interested in a professionally printed, beautiful photograph or more of the wedding can order it directly from here.

Some photographers are even including a CD or DVD of high resolution photos of the wedding with the copyright to the couple, eliminating the need for the online gallery altogether. By handing over the copyright (sometimes for a hefty fee), clients are then able to take their photos to an alternate location and print them at will. However, handing over the copyright means that the photographer no longer has the option of using the photos for their company’s marketing and advertising needs. So many photographers are handing over limited or shared copyrights so they don’t have to give up this option. All of these options are being offered at numerous different prices, starting at free. However, the trend of handing over the copyright of photos to wedding couples, free of charge, is becoming more common and will most likely one day become the norm.

Currently, many photographers that offer these high resolution photos for free are also charging more for their services in order to make up the difference in their loss of marketing and advertising rights. But that doesn’t mean that anyone is getting a discount if photographers are charging for a disc of their photos and/or are limiting copyrights. The key is finding a good balance in the middle.

One of the most requested services of photographers is the "first look" where the bride and groom see each other before the ceremony for first reaction photos, rather than first seeing each other as the bride walks down the aisle. Another type of "first look" photo may be the photo shot of the father of the bride seeing the bride for the first time when she is just about to walk down the aisle with him. Many fear that this will ruin “the big moment,” but clients I’ve worked for say otherwise. They say this moment of intimacy actually heightens the moment.

Wedding photographers are offering more than ever to potential clients to win their business from others. As there are more photographers flooding the market than any other wedding vendor a bride will need, they need to do something special to stand out from the rest.

Check out our articles on What Wedding Photographers are Charging and Common Wedding Photography Terminology for more!

© 2013 Victoria Van Ness


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