It’s no secret that competition in the wedding photography industry has gotten fierce. More and more photographers are entering what has become a very lucrative and growing market. On the flip side, there are also many couples who are willing to let their “photographer friends” shoot the big day.
So it goes without saying that building a competitive edge is key to finding success. To learn more about how the top wedding photography trends today, we talked to wedding photographers in our community who have been running successful businesses for years.
We love posed wedding photos. They're timeless, classic and a good way to ensure everyone in the bridal party gets photographed.
But we also adore candid pictures; those incredible moments between newlyweds, caught unawares, that remind you what weddings are all about: love.
"Photojournalists offer a vérité alternative to traditional shooters," writes Mickey Rapkin in the New York Weddings piece. Indeed, photojournalists have captured some of the most evocative wedding pictures we've ever seen. Take a look at one example by Ron Antonelli from New York's feature below:
Said the bride, Tamra Sanford: “My husband and I were stepping into a vintage Rolls-Royce on our way to the reception. Ron somehow kept me in focus while shooting through the car window, capturing the feel of the meatpacking district in the reflection. I smile every time I look at this photo because I remember how excited I was, anticipating a fun-filled night.”
We covered the bases, too – everything from shooting style to client budgets to advertising. Here’s what they had to say:
Nearly every photographer we talked to described their shooting style as some form of photojournalism: “fine-art photojournalism”, “photojournalistic style, balanced with family portraits and classic couple shots”, and “candid, documentary style photography with a touch of fashion and editorial” were just some of the ways they described their photography.
And while we still see a lot of it, photographers indicate that vintage-style is becoming just that – vintage. Couples want their big day documented just like any other newsworthy event, with a few setup shots of Aunt Mildred thrown in for good measure. “Ultimately, a wedding will always be a story of poignant moments, with a record that needs to be timeless,” says New York-based wedding photographer Brian Dorsey.
Hobbyists vs Pros:
The wedding photography market is an over-saturated one. More and more hobbyists turning full-time make it even more so. The competition is tough, but pros feel like this just pushes them to work harder and become the best of the best. Also, many pros aren’t necessarily seeking the type of client who’s just as happy having their DSLR-wielding friend take over.
“My advice is to work on finding your own particular niche,” says UK-based wedding photographer Lisa Devlin. “Too many photographers think that playing it safe is the way to go, but if you try to appeal to everyone, you will end up appealing to nobody in particular.”
In a similar vein, Chip Litherland of Eleven Weddings Photography says, “There are clients everywhere, it’s just a matter of finding the right ones.”
Bursts of color: Bright, natural colors are making an impact in wedding photography at the moment, within the wedding décor, clothing and accessories, or by using post-production techniques. Bold yellows or reds work well against a plain background of whites and greys, lit by natural sunlight.
Posed ‘candid’ composition: These carefully constructed shots look as though they were totally unplanned. They may well, in fact, be a mix of both! A good way to approach this technique is to set up a ‘scene’ with the subjects of the photograph positioned in a particular place or manner, and then allow them to relax, chat, hug or naturally interact while the photographer snaps away. The aim is to catch a candid moment that still looks stylized.
Negative space: A more artistic approach than traditional posed wedding shots, this technique deliberately frames the image so that negative space makes an impact on the composition. The aim here is to make use of the shapes that the empty space around the subject creates to produce an interesting and original picture.
Movie-star style: This offshoot of reportage photography emulates red carpet photography and the paparazzi, turning the happy couple into celebrities for the day. Groomsmen and bridesmaids will love getting in on the action, posing like movie stars and creating a fun and stylish wedding album full of creativity. With an editorial approach, this style can also tell a story through a progression of photographs, perhaps recreating a favorite film or music video.
Color drain/overexposure: Perfect for spring and summer weddings, this trend plays with exposure to give a faded and whimsical look. This technique is sometimes also achieved by shooting against a bright sky or background, or directly into the sun.
Depth of color: This wedding photography style is often used at sunset, making use of the deep colors produced by low light and a dramatic sky. This technique creates a sumptuous and romantic effect, and is often coupled with silhouettes or wide-shots.
Prints & products:
The trend of 2013 on this front is professional, high-quality photo albums. Even in a time when most photographers are providing the bride and groom with downloadable image galleries or DVDs, clients want a physical reminder of the big day – and for someone else to do the hard work of creating it.
“I started including one book with each of my packages and feel like I’ve received more inquires from clients excited about a book!” says Betsi Ewing, who was recently voted into The Knot’s Best of Weddings for 2012. “I also love giving them to clients…it’s something they can hold to and share with others in such a special way. Much better than staring at your computer screen.”
NYC-based wedding photographer Missy McLamb agrees: “While some clients prefer to make their own prints and books, many clients still value the artistry and design abilities of the photographer.”
Most of the photographers we talked to plan to raise their prices in 2013, even if in small increments. Professionals should work to continue developing their skills, and their prices need to reflect that. Despite the flagging economy, wedding photographers do not plan to lower their prices – they still strive to attract a certain type of clientele.
Fine-art wedding photographer Alexandra Tremaine says, “I’ve been very strict about keeping my rates and not lowering them so as not to attract the wrong client.”
One new trend we see is an increase in “a la carte” options, or add-on’s, that let the bride and groom customize their package. One wedding photographer sets aside $700 worth of prints and products, to be used however the client chooses. This gives clients the freedom to chose a much or as little as they want, while you still get the base amount.
The standard package for 2013 among these photographers is:
Common add-on’s are larger prints (11×14 in., for example), engagement shoot, photo booth, and “trash the dress” shoot. Interestingly, these photographers don’t usually offer canvas wrap prints – there just isn’t any interest from their clients.
Most photographers also believe that beautiful presentation is still important. Branded packages, chocolates, and hand-written thank-you notes are all examples of ways photographers are making their clients feel special. One photographer even suggests giving more prints than in the original agreement – it makes the bride and groom feel like you’ve gone above and beyond, and helps secure more referrals.
While word-of-mouth recommendations still rule the wedding photography industry, 2013 will likely see a continued increase in online advertising, particularly on wedding blogs. Betsi Ewing says that 80% of her business comes from advertising on The Knot. It seems that most photographers have stopped spending big bucks to exhibit at bridal shows, and print advertising has steadily declined in popularity.
“With online advertising, you can track and see the results – and it costs less,” says New England wedding photographer Matthew Cavanaugh. Here’s an idea for the new year: include a field in the contact form on your website that asks prospective clients where they found you (social media, blog, Google, referral, etc.) so you get a better idea of what’s working and what isn’t.
Social media marketing:
Facebook is the social media platform of choice among pros in 2013, followed by (relative) newcomer Pinterest and then Twitter. Wedding photographers love that they can “friend” their clients, then post a teaser gallery the next day and tag the bride and groom. It’s a surefire way to get them excited to see all the final images, and also get your work in front of their friends and family.
Pinterest has become more even more popular over the last year, as the audience is filled with potential brides. “I post a little of my own work, but it’s mostly from other people pinning my images,” says Lisa Devlin, who makes the work on her site “pinable”. “This is probably currently the best social media for wedding photographers – brides love it and they do all the work for you!”
But, by far the long-lasting cornerstone to every successful wedding photographer’s business is a blog. A personal blog is still the way to connect with your audience and get your work featured on bigger wedding blogs. It’s also the ideal platform for creating a narrative around your work, as well as giving people a sense for who you are and how you work. Connection is key to getting hired in the wedding industry.
At least for now, most wedding photographers aren’t interested in offering video themselves. Most prefer that their clients hire a videographer separately. That said, some are considering adding a video professional to their team as business grows or outsourcing it on a per client basis.
Wedding photographers want to stick to what they know best. As Matthew Cavanaugh says, “If I tried to do both, I wouldn’t do either very well.”
Wide apertures: This is a tried and tested wedding photography technique that isn’t exactly new, but is still very much a top contender within the most popular styles of 2013. A wide aperture means that only a small part of the photograph is in focus, so it’s perfect for zoning in on specific details or moments within a wedding. Think about the detailing of the wedding outfits, the decoration, or focusing in on the happy couple in a busy scene.
Photo booths: A very popular trend in the last few years, photo booths are either an automatic set-up, or a small portable studio manned by a photographer, or their assistant. Complete with backdrop, props, costumes and perhaps even chalkboards or signs for guests to write messages on, a photo booth is a fun and crazy opportunity for people to leave the married couple a series of silly shots to commemorate their special day. The bride and groom often get involved, too, moving away from stiff and posed traditional wedding photography and showing off the party side of a wedding.
Segmented pictures: So it’s unlucky for the groom to see the bride before the wedding, but you’d still like to get some photos of them together – how do you do it? Many wedding photographers are getting around this conundrum by segmenting their pictures. This could work by placing the couple either side of a divide, for example: a door, screen or around the corner of a wall, so that they are physically next to each other but are unable to see one another. Why not have the couple reading love letters they’ve written to each other, and document their reactions? Another option is to take individual shots of the couple in complementary poses and then frame them next to each other in post-production. A little bit quirky, but lots of fun.
Straight-on poses: Definitely one that we’ve all seen a lot of during 2012, this particular pose seems to be in every wedding album of the past year. The couple stand straight on to the camera, arms by their sides, usually with a plain expression on their faces. Very editorial and often used with an interesting background or view behind the couple, or additional elements to liven up the scene like props, decorations or balloons. This style is not for everyone, and if these sorts of pictures are not done thoughtfully, they can potentially come off a little impersonal. Sometimes these types of shots are used in a sequence of images, with more natural poses alongside them.
Toned black and whites: This means slightly tinting or toning a black and white image so that it projects a particular atmosphere or temperature. Sepia is a classic example which looks great with vintage wedding photography, but many photographers are experimenting with all sorts of different tones this year, looking for something unique and new.
Vintage: A big trend in both wedding style and wedding photography recently, vintage is all the rage in the bridal industry. From accessories to bridal wear, décor to post-production photography effects, vintage is firmly in style. 2013′s favored vintage era is set to coincide with the release of the movie The Great Gatsby, with 20s and 30s fashion playing a central part in the future of wedding style. Headpieces, tea-length wedding dresses, beads and pearls are on trend for bridal wear, and vintage accessories will surely feature in many wedding photos this year.
DIY: For couples on a budget, do-it-yourself wedding decoration is a practical and popular option. Many couples are opting for a home-crafted look even if they don’t need to cut costs, with shabby-chic remaining a trendy style this year for wedding décor, table decorations and accessories. For wedding photography, this means capturing all the little homemade details and items on film, and thinking outside the box when it comes to showing off the wedding decoration.
Photo Albums Are In, Again
Another rising trend for this year in wedding photography is the creation of photo albums. There was a time when these photos just came in with the DVD or CD video coverage of the wedding. However, when photographers started to also give out photo books, some clients started to request photo books from their photographers, too. This is because more and more clients would like to hold something from their big day to return to later in life. It also proves that customers still value the effort and artistry of the photographers. It’s rather reverse in real life that most couples would want a tangible evidence of their wedding instead of a digital copy. This makes more photographers provide photo album services to their clientele.
Prices May Rise, as well as Skills
Like any work, photographers also need to raise prices in order to keep up with the maintenance of their trade tools; their camera, for example. They are also continually undergoing improvement of their skills, which their price should also follow. Basically, the more experienced the photographer is, the more expensive they may probably get. However, this is answered with most photographers offering “a la carte” payment options. It means that they provide a base amount for their photography service, say $700, then introduce several other prices for which services they can afford and cater to.