Lifestyle Magazine

What Next for Vintage Wedding Photographers?

By Claire

It does mean some­thing for a new wave of wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phers — and indeed other wed­ding sup­pli­ers — who’ve built a suc­cess­ful busi­ness on the back of a very spe­cific trend. It could mean a great oppor­tu­nity for growth, or it could mean panic. There are pho­tog­ra­phers who’ve devel­oped a very niche style with cutesy Pho­to­shop fil­ters, quirky trade­mark shots and vin­tage styling. While that’s fine as just one option in a qual­ity port­fo­lio, it’s not so good if it’s all that dis­tin­guishes someone’s work from the crowd.

Look­ing to qual­ity and style instead

I hear a lot about time­less pho­tog­ra­phy. About hav­ing a skill and a tal­ent rather than just a pop­u­lar style. About endur­ing ele­gance in images and about wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phers giv­ing clients some­thing that will look as classy and spe­cial in ten and twenty years time as it does in 2011. And we’ve all heard crit­i­cism of pho­tog­ra­phers who’ve relied on vin­tage pro­cess­ing — remem­ber Meg Surly’s let­ter to wed­ding blog­gers over on Hind­sight Bride?

“Let me tell you, those 1970s, flower-child, hippy-happy wed­dings are not help­ing you find your unique style for your blog. It’s also nau­se­at­ing to scroll through all those bile-yellow fil­tered pho­tographs of fields with the bride and groom all but obscured by fake, Pho­to­shopped “sun-flares.”

We get it. It’s the trend. But let’s face it, it’s not a very attrac­tive one. Per­haps it’s time to move on. Per­haps it’s time to con­sider accept­ing clear, clean pho­tographs with accu­rate color.” (read more)

Hmmmm. I’ll admit to lov­ing a bit of lens flare. And there’s no need to be nasty — but that blog post high­lighted the over reliance on Pho­to­shop effects by a small group of new wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phers. While many of us can react to the end of the vin­tage wed­ding trend with a shrug and a quiet “told you so”, there are some wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phers and sup­pli­ers for whom this means a dras­tic shift in their brand and core business.

An oppor­tu­nity or a threat?

This is a big oppor­tu­nity for indi­vid­ual busi­nesses and for the wed­ding indus­try. We all need to move on and embrace change. I actu­ally think it’s great that over the past few years so many new wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phers have had suc­cess with the whole vin­tage trend. We all start some­where, and to come into the indus­try with such a strong sense of style and fash­ion can’t be a bad thing! But now it’s time for those pho­tog­ra­phers who are really pas­sion­ate about their art to look to the future and cre­ate a brand built as much on qual­ity as it is on fashion.

My research for this lit­tle blog fea­ture takes me to wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phy blog Ground Glass, which has a very deep and thought­ful blog post on the end of the vin­tage trend. I quote author Spencer Lum,

“Do we com­plain when the style we’ve cho­sen for our­selves goes out of fash­ion? At that point, we have a choice. We can either go on the defen­sive and drown in com­pla­cency as we stick to our guns. Or we can swim, fur­ther and faster, let­ting go of it all, until we find that place where it’s not the style that mat­ters.” (read more)

Because qual­ity is what will take the indus­try forwards

New busi­nesses are spring­ing up all the time in the wed­ding indus­try. A mar­ke­teer would say it’s a frag­mented indus­try, with many, many small busi­nesses com­pet­ing. But if there are too many new pho­tog­ra­phers, some of whom will be inex­pe­ri­enced and untrained, then brides and grooms aren’t get­ting the qual­ity of ser­vice they deserve.

What should we really be look­ing for from wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phers? Classy, beau­ti­fully com­posed images. Clever use of light. Intu­itive shots which cap­ture per­fect moments, the light in a couple’s eyes, the happy tear, the nat­ural romance. A great pho­tog­ra­pher will avoid cliches and forced poses, dis­tract­ing shad­ows and dark or dingy images. An excel­lent wed­ding pho­tog­ra­pher will wit­ness the story of your wed­ding day as it unfolds, com­plete with all the emo­tion and hap­pi­ness your unique per­son­al­i­ties bring to your day.

What does this mean for brides and grooms?

When you’re spend­ing thou­sands of pounds on a sin­gle day in your life, you have every right to expect fan­tas­tic qual­ity from your wed­ding sup­pli­ers. And when a new pho­tog­ra­pher can set up a busi­ness based on “oh that’s so coooool”, you’re not nec­es­sar­ily get­ting that quality.

But when the wed­ding indus­try shifts its focus back onto qual­ity, as it now will, and pho­tog­ra­phers’ work has to be seen as “oh that’s so gooooood”, I think every­one will benefit.

So if you’re look­ing for a wed­ding pho­tog­ra­pher, take a deeper look at their work. A blog of recent wed­dings is a great place to start. Look for vari­ety and style that goes deeper than retro or vin­tage. Look for sim­plic­ity — no clever tricks that could look dated a few years from now. Look for words in a photographer’s blog post that show enthu­si­asm, under­stand­ing and enjoy­ment of the wed­ding fea­tured. Look for gen­uine pos­i­tive feed­back from other wed­ding pho­tog­ra­phers in a blog’s comments.

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