The Evolution of Wedding Photography

If you’ve seen our Instagram lately, you’ve already seen a bit of what we’re going to talk about today. We've been talking about and showing photos of how trends have changed throughout the history of wedding photography with a focus on what we've noticed in our experiences within the past 6 years of wedding photography. Let's start from the beginning of the wedding photography evolution, though!

Though there were precursors and those who may have stumbled upon it prior, a French inventor Nicéphore Niépce was the first person credited as using a Camera Obscura to capture a photographic image in 1826. This camera required around  8 hours to capture each image! Even the next cameras that preceeded it creating Daguerre's metal images (Daguerreotypes) in 1837 and Talbot's calotypes (negatives) in 1835 still required hours of exposure to capture each image. 

Fast forward through Herschel's cyanotype & glass negative in 1839 and Archer's wet plate collodion in 1851 and we get to the 1860s. This is when more couples started posing for professional photos in their wedding clothes. Generally at this point in history the bride and groom would only pose for one photo in their wedding attire in a studio after the entire wedding was over. This was because photography equipment was huge and cumbersome and also because there were many lighting issues. The cameras of that day could not adjust to many low light situations and the cameras and equipment were too huge to carry around. 

Though mainly common in a studio, wedding photography began to relocate to the wedding venue. Every image was still posed, though, including anything that looked candid. By the 1880s the wedding photographer began to include the wedding party in the wedding photos and also began to photograph the wedding gifts which were laid out and staged for the images. Also during this time wedding albums became commonplace and replaced individual images. 

By the 1900s color photography came onto the market. Even though the technology was introduced, photographers found it unreliable, of lesser quality, and too expensive, so they still relied on black and white imagery. After World War 2 photographers began capturing the entire wedding "event." This was made possible by the film roll as well as lighting advances such as the compact flash bulb. Photographers would show up at the wedding, photograph it, and then hope to sell the photos afterward. This competition forced studio photographers to start shooting on location as well, though the photos still remained staged at this point.

In the 1970s wedding photography further evolved and candid photos started being captured at weddings. Instead of posing people, photographers began shooting with more of a "documentary style" capturing people reacting naturally. Some in this day-and-age have taken this further by trying to tell a story with the photos of each wedding (starting with preparation) so that the viewer can relive the day through the wedding photos. 

While film photography was once the norm with Hassleblads and other medium format cameras being the preferred wedding camera, Digital SLRs have taken over.. This helps us as photographers detect and fix lighting and other mistakes on the spot rather than completely ruining and missing a crucial photo. There are still some professionals offering wedding images on medium format film, as fans of film help to keep the many upsides of shooting analog alive and well. Jason has included film in a couple of his past weddings

Now-a-days brides and grooms have come to expect both non-posed photos along with posed photos as well as detail shots of the ring, centerpieces, venue, shoes, dress, etcetera. Wedding photography starts in the morning with the bride and groom getting dressed and ends often 10 hours later after the reception has finished! People now have venues outside of the traditional church venue including beaches, backyards, forests, the desert, a farm/ barn, country clubs, and event halls. The ceremonies are not always religious and if they are religious, often any and every religion has some type of ceremony and reception to be photographed. 

Other trends we've noticed beginning to take effect have included grooms and groomsmen being able to dress less formally. Men were once expected to wear standard black suits, but we've noticed that some come dressed in vests, grey slacks, or even just khakis and a button-up. Bridal articles have noticed and predicted that the bridesmaids are and will be wearing more flowy, long dress skirts coupled with separate tops that they can reuse well after the wedding. We've noticed that people have been leaning toward less sparkly and shiny decorations and instead moving toward more natural elements such as wood. Bouquets now include more colorful and bold arrangements as well as succulents and cabbage included with the flowers! More couples have opted out of buying (blood) diamonds and instead have chosen different stones in rings, no stones in their rings, or no rings at all! 

Since weddings can get very expensive, people have also been doing things to make the wedding better rather than larger. They have made their weddings smaller by inviting fewer guests and holding it at more intimate spaces. Instead of a large cake for dessert, some are opting for tiny desserts other than cake. Some have even thrown "brunch weddings" at which they have a "waffle bar" for guests to eat brunch at after the wedding since morning weddings are cheaper. In most of these cases the couple wants an intimate event that won't break the bank and they focus on getting things that they will truly enjoy such as quality food in smaller amounts and stellar photographers.


All-in-all, wedding photography as well as weddings have come a long way in their evolution. Photographers are now a huge part of the wedding day and women are no longer the legal property of the men they marry! Win-win in our minds ;)