Wedding photography began in the mid 1800s in France, and became popular during the late 19th century. Although it didn’t take the elaborate form that it does today, wedding photography swiftly became an important part of recording the evolution of society.
In the late 1800s, most wedding photography was done after the actual wedding. The bride and groom would dress in their best clothes much later after the wedding, to record their status as man and wife. Mainly because of equipment limitations, wedding photography remained in a studio, but some more affluent families however, would have photographers come to their wedding to take posed photographs of the bride, groom, and their families.
As technology evolved, and photographic equipment became more mobile, more wedding photographs were taken at the wedding itself, instead of in a photographer’s studio. Photographers then began photographing both guests and wedding gifts, in addition to the bride and groom.
As the years passed, technology changed how photographs were produced and presented. Before photographic paper, photographers used glass plates, tin sheets, and copper sheets. In the beginning of the 20th century, the production of colour photographs became possible, but the process was too unreliable for professional photography. Colours shifted and faded after a short period of time, so photographers continued to work with black and white film.
While technology led to the invention of new materials used for producing photography film and better chemistry to process it, wedding photography techniques remained the same until the end of WWII.
The idea of capturing the event itself was born during the wedding boom after the Second World War. This surge created profitable opportunities for shooting weddings without a contract. Using their new portable roll film based cameras and compact flashbulb lighting, photographers would show up, shoot a wedding and then try to sell the photos to the bride and groom. Some of them were military trained photographers, but most were amateurs who took advantage of the portability of small, newly designed cameras. This proactive approach to wedding photography soon forced traditional studio photographers out of their studios and into the wedding ceremony itself.
Colour didn’t become popular in wedding photography until the 1960s when it became easier, cheaper and more reliable. Wedding photographers thrived during this time as they had cornered the market on quality camera equipment and inexpensive photographic development. The 1980s brought about the tradition of recording entire weddings on video, and a new breed of wedding photographers, known as videographers was born.
A dynamic change in the photo industry evolved changing the traditional wedding photography style into a new style called wedding photojournalism or documentary style: in other words, the style which captures the wedding as it unfolds. While requiring serious skills, talent and experience, this style was misinterpreted as a series of snapshots which any 35mm camera equipped amateur could take.
This opened a gate for weekend shooters who could get away with a series of candid shots and sell it under the guise of wedding photojournalism.
While both styles have advantages and drawbacks, neither of them is the primary style for most professional photographers today. Driven by the glamorous look of classic photos which still have their places on the covers of wedding magazines as well as technological advantages that allow modern photographers to document a wedding with less effort, clients began requiring a mixed or blended style of wedding photography.
With the invention of digital photography, new creative opportunities emerged. In the hands of a professional wedding photographer, digital cameras allow deeper coverage of the event with a virtually unlimited amount of photographs taken, and great design opportunities.