You’re already on the lookout for the perfect wedding photographer for your big day. You’ve considered style, personality, location and investment as you’re scouring Google and Wedloft. Have you considered the editing style of the photographer? Many photographers believe that the editing process accounts for 50% of their artistic style and overall final impact of the image. In most cases, I find this to be true.
Like anything from language, fashion, interior decor and social norms, photography has undergone some serious trends. Shooting style especially has transformed from more formal portraiture to candid, photo-journalism style shots. Unlike that steady incline towards casual shooting, trends in editing seem to have jumped all over the place!
Let’s start from the beginning, back in the film days. We all have parents and grandparents with a fair-sized print over their mantle that looks like this:
Surprisingly, I couldn’t find an example of this edit on google but then I remembered this portrait of my 28 year old father hanging in my parent’s bedroom back in their house in the Okanagan, special thanks to my sister for sending me a copy.
This also reminds me of my reaction to my dad’s short-short photos from his high school gym class: What were they thinking? Granted, “The Floating Heads” were all the rage at one point!
I especially enjoy this one:
I’ll give points for stepping outside the box. Hopefully that’s his wife!
Let’s fast forward a couple decades to some trends that we can recognize, starting with “The Glow”
Almost every photographer out there is guilty of the glow. I remember loving this effect on bridal portraits only a few years ago! Some, more “old-school” wedding photographers will still apply this effect to their work, and by all means if you enjoy it, you can certainly find a photographer who will apply these treatments. The bottom line with this adventure is to learn to recognize the different editing trends, and distinguish which ones you like or don’t like so you can better match yourself with the right photographer.
Another one that was especially popular in the 80’s (and tends to still hang in there) is “The Selective Desat” in which only a portion of the image remains in color:
I’m not entirely hating, as sometimes this technique can be modernized if done correctly. There’s a fine line. Granted, if one of my brides requested this treatment, I would of course oblige but would accompany it with a full color photo so she has one copy that is timeless.
Originally developed to grab detail from the shadows and highlights, High Dynamic Range or “HDR” quickly became popular as an artistic filter:
When the multiple exposures are overly blended, the image can look more illustrated than photographic. I actually enjoy HDR in special cases, and often apply the technique to pull lace detail from too-bright wedding dresses or to highlight interesting clouds in a stormier sky.
Now we are in the 21st century: “Textures”
This is actually one of my own images. I shot this trash the dress in the fall of 2009 and I’m surprised how my opinion has changed in that short amount of time. It’s a love-hate relationship really, the Texture trend is closer to home and I have a hard time recognizing it as a passing fad. If the texture overlay is laid on too thick, it can lend itself as a distraction to the actual image. Though if done correctly it can be a very pleasing effect, and I find myself playing with textures here and there on my current images.
You’d think that Black and White would be as simple as black and white. Black and whites have always had a warmer or cooler tint option to them, but more recently a trend has emerged in this category: “The Toned Black and White”
On the left you can see this technique in action: There are no true blacks and no true whites. On the right is the traditional black and white. The toned image allows more detail to be pulled from the highlights and shadows and has quite a steely, modern look to it. Still, I reserve this treatment for certain imagery that can support it.
The funny thing about trends is that sometimes they completely contradict themselves in a span as little as 5 years.
There was a time that “The Lens Flare” was avoided at all costs. I find that the use of lens flare is signature in defining modern wedding photography. I hope it’s here to stay for a long time.
It creates a romantic, soft and faded glow that can really enhance the magic in the moment.
Photoshop has a filter that is able to render a false lens flare – this is almost never a good idea and I’ve seen it applied to images that were taken at night!
I tried to google an example of rendered lens flare in wedding photography, and luckily I was not able to find one.
Many other modern editing trends include variations of the lens flare, different techniques for fading and toning and cross processing. These are fun to play with and certainly help photographers establish a style that may speak to you. Now that you can recognize which trends you like, and which ones you don’t prefer, it will give you a better idea of what kind of photographer you will Jive with. You may request a certain editing technique from your photographer, though I would advise to accompany that copy with the original duplicate. At the end of the day, the classic Color or Black and White photo will always look timeless in your prints and albums.
On a side note, I have recently discovered a very humorous portrayal of both shooting and editing trends:
A client of mine recommended that I check this site out, another past wedding client actually gifted me the official Awkward Family Photos book! They have a hilarious wedding section full of past posing and editing trends that will have you laughing out loud for about 68 minutes. They also currently have an awkward wedding photo contest:
Be sure to vote for a finalist!