Have you been to a wedding recently? It is undoubtedly quite a spectacle. From the colour theme to the kinds of flowers and even invitation designs, everything is carefully planned. One thing that everyone can agree with is that this level of production needs to be captured in photos and videos.
Yes, wedding photography is big business these days with couples mostly hiring who can get perfect shots of the big day. It may be easy to think that wedding photography is a modern invention as it seems it takes genuinely modern, cutting-edge tech to get the best shots, but that is an incorrect assumption.
Wedding photography has been around for years and goes as far back when people had photography technology and were getting married. After all, everyone wants memories of their big day, and what better way than by taking photos?
The earliest days of wedding photography
To delve into the history of wedding photography is to take a step back and look at the technology available at the time. Before the invention of the earliest cameras, there were no photos, and people resorted to paintings that were admittedly beautiful in their own right. They just took a great deal of time, and a lot depended on the artist’s skill.
When the earliest photography equipment was invented around the 1840s, taking photos was a long and arduous process in itself, though not as cumbersome as paintings. During the early days of photography, it had minimal commercial appeal and wasn’t really a commercial-use thing, although the desire to capture photos during weddings was already there.
There were many limitations back then, and wedding photography was mostly confined to a studio since equipment then wasn’t exactly mobile. Conditions had to be controlled to get the photos just right. There were no multiple shots and wedding albums; there were indeed no paper photos either. What couples got back then were tiny daguerreotype portraits on a thin copper sheet. That was what couples got for their wedding day, and you know what, that was enough.
20th-century technology and colour photos
Aside from copper sheets, early photographers also made use of glass and tin for their photos, but that was because they didn’t have a photographic paper just yet. In the dawn of the 20th century, not only did they have photographic paper but also the ability to develop coloured photos. However, the process of developing coloured images wasn’t too reliable, so most photographers chose to print them in black and white up until the 1950s when the tech for coloured photos flourished.
People did take photos of their wedding days, sure. But it wasn’t until the end of WWII that the idea of capturing the event became a for-profit endeavour. Back then, there were no wedding photography studios and specially trained teams, but what they mostly had were military-trained cameramen and amateurs eager to make some money and make use of their new portable camera equipment. Some of them were real mavericks, too, and would usually just shoot photos in the hopes of selling them to the couple.
These maverick amateurs didn’t take the best photos, but they created enough competition that studio photographers started feeling the pinch. These professionals knew they had to bring the studio to the location if they were to keep their edge and make money. So, to compete, the professionals recreated a studio atmosphere on the site that included bringing heavy equipment and studio lights.
From studio to documentary
The studio-style of taking wedding photos was the style of choice for centuries and was the style of choice up until the 1970s. At that time, there was a shift in the photo industry, and couples were treated to a more documentary style of wedding photography where the event was documented as it unfolded, which resulted in more candid shots. This type of photography did require some serious set of skills. Still, an inevitable miscommunication happened along the way, and the artform shifted to just a series of photos that didn’t require any real talent.
So, once again, amateurs were inspired to pick up their cameras and shoot documentary-style photos and call it wedding photograph. Anyone can pick up a camera and take a series of pictures but it requires skill to create a documentary.
A modern take on two classics
These days, most couples tend to gravitate towards a combination of old-style glamour shots in studios or outdoor settings and a documentary-style series of photos. This combination is most noticeable when observing wedding albums that showcase photos that show images of the bride getting ready, the groom preparing, to the actual wedding, and even the guests. Then you also have the studio-style shots usually taken before and after the weddings that are outside the wedding timeline but taken purely to showcase the couple.
Wedding photography equipment has also come a long way from old, cumbersome cameras and equipment to more portable high-powered cameras and digital lights. One recent trend that has added to the wedding photography magic is the use of drones to take videos and still photos. There has even been a more recent trend of couples asking guests to use personal cameras only in certain instances so as not to disturb the event with wayward flashes. It is fascinating to see how the business has evolved with the times and how available technology has affected preferences in the styles of photos people want for their big day.
As technology evolves and society evolves along with it, there is no doubt that couples will also want wedding photography that captured not just their special moment but also captures the times. Most wedding photography studios will no doubt be just as eager to capture and document weddings in these new styles.
Photo credits: Kav Dadfar – All rights reserved. No usage without permission. Dreamstime.