The Bridal Tide – trends in wedding photography style

Are clients' tastes shifting as brides seek to have the most unique images? Wedding photographer Michael A. Sewell explores the trend.

Picture: Michael Sewell

First of all, this is a personal observation, and as such, I’m basically asking the question : “Does anyone else relate to this?”

What, you might ask, is “this”?

I have found over the years, my enquiries for wedding photography has brought with it specific tastes with regard to style. The brides particularly want something “different”. I’m talking about stormy skies, rain, snow etc. etc. This is further compounded during the initial meeting, where we will discuss their expectations, and the word “different” tends to be used repeatedly. When I’ve asked is there anything they don’t particularly want, the stock answer tends to be “I don’t want it like my friend’s album.”

Picture: Michael Sewell

Now, I sometimes know who shot their friends album, and occasionally I’ve seen the images on their own social media timeline, and to be perfectly honest, they’re good images. But it’s not the standard of photography they actually mean, it’s the style. They often refer to “standard smiling bride and groom in the sun” as being the very epitome of everything they want to avoid. What they are after seems to be something unique to them and their venue.

Picture: Michael Sewell

Occasionally, they build a Pinterest board with beautiful images of brides and grooms lit dramatically in unusual surroundings. Some of my images tend to be present, but sometimes they have very specific ideas of their own and have images on their board that reflect this.

I had a bride two years ago getting married on the last weekend of March, and almost every email conversation would include a reference to the fact she wanted a bridal portrait in the snow. You can imagine how she felt when we didn’t have so much as a cloud in the sky on the day of her wedding, but she was upbeat and mentioned a good few times how she hoped it would snow before we left. Would you believe it did snow as the evening guests arrived, and she got her wish.

Picture: Michael Sewell

This shift in bridal photographic tastes seems to have been insidious, gathering pace over time. Now it seems every single enquiry includes questions as to whether we can recreate a particular image seen on the blog, or can we photograph something like “this”.

I realise this may come about due to the power of social media, and the fact photographers publish images to quite a wide audience, but is the publishing of images on social media now defining the type of client we are hearing from?

Do other photographers get asked for images that are relevant to their style, or are you being asked for imagery in a style that’s doesn’t come naturally to you. Are brides and grooms becoming more savvy as to what we are capable of, or are they simply choosing a style because they like it?

Picture: Michael Sewell

In the commercial sector, we still get enquiries across the board. From “I want it on a white background”, right through to complex lighting situations out on location because the client wants something that will grab the attention of the casual web surfer and searcher. But that seems to have stayed fairly consistent. Even back in the film days, there were clients who wanted the basics, and those who would quite happily invest in eye catching imagery that would take time to craft.

Picture: Michael Sewell

Bridal portraiture on the other hand, has definitely shifted. At least in my personal experience. The lit images during the bridal portrait session part of the wedding day tends to be the first topic talked about. How many images, how long does it take, can we put forward ideas etc etc. After that it’s the usual thing such as price, how many photographers, what time do you arrive and when do you leave. I’ve not had anyone yet who hasn’t wanted the bridal portrait session, and because of the images on my website, I have always assumed I’m attracting brides and grooms with particular tastes. Recently, I had a bride referred to me by another photographer, because he couldn’t cater for her requests regarding lit portraits, and this is what prompted me to ask the question: are bridal tastes in photography changing?

Michael A. Sewell has 30 years of experience in commercial, corporate and wedding photography, based in Lancashire in north-west England.

Michael Sewell
Based in the UK, Michael has 35 years experience in commercial and corporate photography, covering sports, weddings and events in between.