What’s in a Photographer’s style anyway?

This often causes me to have a little giggle to myself, until I’m reminded that it’s no laughing matter.  I’m thinking about photographers proudly proclaiming their one, narrowly defined style of photography…

“I’m like a fly on the wall, unobtrusively observing the day”


“Artistic and creative”

I could be wrong (because I’ve never tried limited myself to a single, narrow approach to taking photos), but this sounds about as sensible as proclaiming “I’m going to eat every meal with only a spoon”.  I suspect that after a few years you’d be one of the best around at cutting your thick rump steak or crispy apple with a spoon, but I think most will agree, a knife will still be far more effective for these foods.

Weddings are made up of a range of situations, each requiring a different level of interaction from your photographer.  For example, if when getting ready in the morning, you were slipping towards running late for the ceremony, would you prefer:

  • a fly on the wall who said nothing
  • a photojournalist who documented the moment by taking a photo of clock showing how late (and subsequently stressed) you were
  • an experienced professional who calmly (with a sprinkle of fun), helps move things along a little

Conversely, a fly on the wall is what’s required during the ceremony.  No one needs an obnoxious photographer to block everyone’s view the entire time, boss around the celebrant or priest, and generally try to run the show.  Sure, a gentle, calming word reminding the bridesmaids to walk slowly down the aisle is a big help in avoiding the accidental nervous sprint, but most of the ceremony should be with very minimal interaction.

Every moment of your wedding day requires its own carefully thought out balance of interaction from your photographer.  By all means, go ahead and eat breakfast cereal with a knife, but I’d like to capture your wedding with an awesome mix of just the right touch!

What makes up the signature Bliss style

Getting ready in the morning: photojournalistic style capturing the candid moments and details shots when everything is at its best (flowers, rings, dresses, shoes, suits).  A little bit of formal portraiture.  Helping everyone warm up to, and relax, around the camera is an often overlooked role.  It’s a real mix to start with.

Ceremony: 95% photojournalistic, or fly on the wall approach, with a hint of calming, gentle guidance just before things get underway.

Group photo: ok, this is where I put my performer’s cap on and really crank things up for a minute.  We’re looking to get 50, 100, maybe even 300 sleepy people who’ve all been cooped up for the ceremony, fully engaged and ‘in the moment’ for the group shot.  Maybe you’d really like your group photos to resemble that awkward, disinterest, stiff, horror they call high school year photos, then perhaps Bliss isn’t the studio for you.  For everyone else though, I’m confident you’ll soon appreciate having someone on board who can click the switch, and turn on that personality.

Family photos: this is time to draw on those formal portraiture skills, but lots of organising and directing people into place, while holding the attention of large groups of people, despite a dozen eager family members armed with camera phones vying for attention too.  This is no place for a wall flower.  In-experience, or lack of guidance, can turn a 15 minute family photo session, into a jaw aching hour or more of fake smiles.

Bridal party location shoot: another big mix of styles required here.  Having some fun with the bridal party helps put everyone at ease…. taking some silly photos, that kind of thing.  You can’t ‘make’ candid happen, but setting up the right conditions (eg taking the bridal party for a picnic or to the pub for a 15 min break), allows us to quietly step back like a fly on the wall, and wait for the candid moments to materialise.  At some point, we’re likely to create semi-candid moments…. a little bit of input from us, mixed with a little bit of stepping back and letting things happen.

Reception: mostly photojournalistic (cake photos, table details, etc) but still plenty of interacting with the wedding MC, DJ or band.  If time allows, mingle with the guests during pre-dinner drinks to get some nice snaps.  The action of the entrance, first dance and so on.

Summary: I’m probably going to upset some of my colleagues when I say this, and there are exceptions, but I’ve often felt “photojournalistic” or “fly on the wall” are wedding photographer speak for “I’m not confident at helping people look good in photos, and I wish I was taking landscape pics right now”.

When I first started out in Adelaide as a paid, professional wedding photographer well over a decade ago, I loved every moment, except for when I was called on to direct people into looking good (those handful of portraits in the morning, the family photos, and maybe giving the bride and groom some assistance to look natural during the location shoot).  I also charged half of what I was worth back then, but thankfully I’ve progressed a great deal, and no longer fear any part of the day!

Perhaps now the only thing I fear now, is booking a couple who aren’t an ideal fit for us, and vice versa.  Every couple investigates if a photographer is a good fit for them, but what happens if you’re not a good fit for the photographer?