A bride and groom headshot smiling at the camera

5 Tips for Understanding Wedding Photography Jargon

When it comes to wedding photography you’ll be spoilt for choice. This is great news for you as it means you’ll be able to find the perfect fit for you on your special day. However, when researching potential wedding photographers you may come across some terms which are confusing. To make things easier I’ve shared some explanations below. You’ll be talking like a professional in no time, but remember it’s the person behind the camera and not just their images that can make or break your wedding photography experience. 

Two grooms hand in hand walking towards the camera

1. Natural looking photography is not the same as reportage

So many people compliment me on how natural my images look. It’s lovely thing to receive praise for and I always seek to capture genuine smiles and dynamics in my couples. However, natural looking images do not mean that the photographer has not taken time to set up the photograph in one or more ways; whether that’s lighting, posing, directing etc.

Pure reportage photography (also referred to as documentary or photojournalism) involves no intervention from the photographer whatsoever. This approaches simply documents events as they naturally occur. I do a lot of this photograph throughout the day but I do direct and stage certain shots when necessary; group photos and couple portraits in particular.

Many couples who do not like being photographed, tend to lean towards reportage photography for their day which is understandable as they feel awkward ‘performing’ in front of a camera. My only advice to you if you do not love how you look on camera, is to remember that with reportage photography, there will be no input to flatter curvier figures, hide double chins and emphasise your best bits. So, if you gurn when you laugh, or your posture is poor when you stand and chat with guests, this is what will be seen is all your photos. It is possible (and advisable) to incorporate some shots where the photographer can help you look your absolute best and direct you a little, in addition all those candid captures.

a bride and groom kissing under a tree at night

2. Natural light vs flash

When we talk about natural or ambient light, we are referring to any light in the shot that has not been added by the photographer or their team. Ambient light can include light that comes from lightbulbs, street lamps, and other artificial light sources.

If a photographer advertises themselves as a ‘natural light’ photographer, it means they do not use additional lighting in their work. There are some incredible natural light photographers but if your venue is quite dark or has tricky lighting, do check how they plan to work with this to ensure high quality images under these conditions.

There are many additional pieces of equipment photographers use to add light, but the most common one is known as a speedlight or flash. We often talk about whether the flash is on camera or off camera, and there will be many reasons a photographer will use their flash on their camera or on a stand away from their camera. Using a flash is a fantastic way of getting creative, and if you love those atmospheric night shots of couples, the chances are one or more flashes were used off camera to create these. 

Grooms with their foreheads touching at islington town hall

3. Depth of field vs motion blur

Nobody wants ‘blurry’ photos, but people often get confused between depth of field, and motion blur. Depth of field refers to how much of the image is sharp and in focus and photographers can change their settings to control this. Sometimes it is good to have everything in focus, and sometimes an image works better with less in focus.

So, if you are photographed in a beautiful garden and the flowers in front and the trees behind you are blurred, but you are sharp and in focus then this has been a deliberate use of depth of field to make you stand out and be the feature of the image. If you want a big group shot of all your guests, the photographer will change their camera settings so that pretty much everything is in sharp (as you wouldn’t want only one row of people in focus).

Motion blur is caused when a person or object moves so quickly that the camera captures some of this movement and so it appears blurred. This can be used for creative effect, and to draw the viewers eyes to the still and sharp subject in the photo. If only specific elements in the image are blurred (especially surroundings and non-subject matters) it is usually deliberate, whilst when everything in the image is blurred it’s often due to the photographer having the wrong camera settings dialled in for that scene. For example, a blurred London bus speeding past behind a sharp and in focus couple is deliberate, whilst a blurry shot of your wedding party jumping to catch the bouquet is probably photography error. As with everything in photography, these rules are made to be broken though.

A bride and groom partly obscured by grass smile at the camera

4. Backing Up

No we’re not referring to a risqué dance move when we talk about backing up. This term simply relates to making sure we have all eventualities covered. Professional wedding photographers should have back up (spare) equipment in case anything goes wrong with their main kit, which includes camera bodies, lenses, flash units, batteries, tripods etc. A wedding photographer also ‘backs up’ their images so that they are stored in more than one place. For example, I shoot to two memory cards at the same time in case one malfunctions. Following a wedding shoot, I then backup the images to a cloud storage facility and an external hard drive as well as to my Mac.

A bride looks around off camera with her reflection in the mirror behind her

5. Editing, filters and ‘photoshopping’

All professional photographers edit their images following a shoot. How much editing is done varies greatly from one photographer to the next. Always check what’s included in editing – sometimes it’s simply colour correction and enhancing what’s been shot, other times it’s removing blemishes and objects in the background.

Whilst not every photographer uses Photoshop to edit their images, the term ‘photoshopping’ has become synonymous with heavy editing and manipulating. You will how your own opinions on how much you want to be photoshopped in your wedding images.

You have probably used a filter on your phone and / or when uploading to social media. It’s a way of creating a certain look or feel with the click of a button. Many photographers use filters to give their images a consistent and distinctive look.  Like many things in the wedding industry, some filters become particularly fashionable for a period before losing their appeal. Do think hard about hiring a photographer who utilises very distinctive filters as you want to make sure you still like the look of the images in a few years’ time when that style is less in vogue.

I hope that helps you understand some of the terms bounced around by us photographers. If you have a question about wedding photography and the jargon around it, let me know in the comments and I’ll be happy to respond.




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