Calling the Shots: Wedding Photography Decoded

Top Table Photography get the perfect shot of the bride and groom.

Confused by wedding photography jargon? Left wondering what exactly an engagement shoot is? And are those dreamy photos on wedding blogs of couples walking hand-in-hand into the sunset really completely unposed?  Paul F Cockburn asks photographers the questions you need to know, decoding the wonderful, if not slightly bamboozling, world of wedding photography once and for all.


Informal Photos

“Informal or lifestyle wedding photography can easily be confused with photojournalism,” say George and Pamela Jarvie-Jones of Amilight Images. But while photojournalism is generally pretty candid, informal wedding photography isn’t always so off-the-cuff. “During an informal shoot the photographer will design a composition to look natural and relaxed, position people within the setting and then ask them to act naturally,” they add.

When photographer Tracy Gow shows prospective clients one of her pictures of a bride and groom walking down the road, she points out: “They didn’t just decide to go for a walk in the middle of their wedding “ it’s a natural-looking picture, but it’s incredibly set up!”

Formal Photos

Most people think of formal snaps as the ˜traditional’ wedding photographs. “Formal needn’t mean stuffy,” insists Russell Hogg of Aboyne Photographics. “It simply implies that a little more interaction has taken place between the photographer and their subjects. ˜Formal shots’ are the images we have planned to take “ the bride and groom, the ceremony, the cake cutting.” Even those of you who love natural photography will have some formal pics: “Posing for photographs is part of the day itself,” says photographer Andrew J L Ansell.

Kirsten Mitchell of Struve Photography recommends that you seriously think about which group photos you really want “ “which ones are going to go up on the wall” as she puts it. “It’s best not to have too many because it can get quite boring on the day.”

Story of Love make sure to capture the ideal informal shot.


No, isn’t like inviting Louis Theroux to your wedding! “It’s about capturing the story of your wedding, rather than just isolated contextless photos,” explains Daniel Rannoch of Fern Photography. His is an ideal option if you’re camera shy, or if you aren’t into the idea of posing for pics. “If you choose to do a more candid form of photography, people are more comfortable because I’m shooting from the sidelines, so I’m not shoving cameras into people’s faces in an intrusive way,” adds photographer Rhiannon Neale. “I’m trying to stay in the back and capture things as they happen. Everybody’s more comfortable that way.”


Raw vs jpeg

These are both digital file types. “Raw is just like your negative in the old days; what came out of the back of the camera,” says Daniel. “The jpeg is your print, of the finished artwork.” “The reason most photographers shoot raw is because it provides a bit more latitude,” adds Tracy Gow. “We can work on all the data individually; the colour channels, the tones, the lightness, the darkness. We have to provide images at the end of the day, and shooting raw images gives us the most flexibility.”  “The images will usually then be supplied to you as a final set of jpegs,” says Russell. “It’s a universally compatible format that combines the convenience of compact file sizes with adequate image quality for a wide range of purposes.”

Struve Photography ensure their couples feel relaxed in front of the camera.

Engagement/pre wedding shoot

This is a photoshoot for you and your other half before the wedding day, which captures you in a comfortable environment, just hanging out together. “It can take a few hours, but is well worth it,” says Rhiannon. “Anybody who is uncomfortable or worried about what wedding photography is going to be like “ this is your opportunity to get used to being in front of the camera, and to get used to your photographer.” Getting comfortable with your photographer will make the wedding day go much more smoothly. “It means that, on the wedding day, you don’t have to pussy-foot around each other when you’re on a short time frame, and have to work quickly and effectively,” explains Tracy.

It’s really important that the couple have a rapport and a trust in the photographer,” confirms photographer John Hendry. “We use the engagement shoots to prove to them that we can produce the goods, so they’re much more relaxed on the wedding day. Also, we’re teaching them how to pose so that they’re not being pushed, shoved and poked during their wedding day!”



Most of us have experience editing pictures thanks to the likes of Instagram, but for a professional it’s not as simple as whacking a filter over an image. Post-production is a vital and time-consuming aspect of wedding photography and is all part of the service you’re paying for. “For us, post-production is an important stage in ensuring our photographs have the look for which we are known – even though, to be successful, the digital manipulation should go unnoticed by the untrained eye,” say George and Pamela Jarvie-Jones. You’ll notice that some photographers’ images have a soft, vintage look while others enhance colours to create a sharp, vibrant aesthetic. There’s no right or wrong; it’s a matter of personal taste.

And it’s not just about enhancing light and colour. “I do what I call ‘invisible fixing’,” says Tracy. “If there’s a cigarette butt on the step, it gets cleaned off; if there’s a sticker on a railing, it gets removed; if there’s a fire exit sign I wasn’t able to shoot around, I clean it up. The photography you see at the wedding can, time-wise, be the thin end of a very thick wedge.” “There’s a certain amount of curation involved in post-production,” adds Daniel. “I see post-production not just as correcting colour tone and balance, but also ensuring what the couple get is a beautiful story of the wedding that’s been specially chosen by us to illustrate the day.”

The Gibsons’ use of light in this couple’s wedding photography is simply beautiful.

A note on copyright

Yes, your photographer will supply you with a beautiful album if you’ve opted for one (and, usually, the digital files too). And yes, these are your photographs. But remember that unless your contract states otherwise, your photographer will actually own the copyright to your wedding images, which means he or she can use them for promotional purposes. If there are certain pictures you’d rather weren’t published on their website – pics of you getting ready, for instance – you can always ask if they’d mind not using certain shots. “I will always do my best to be sensitive to a client’s needs,” agrees photographer Laura Tiliman. Equally, you should respect your photographer’s work. “Most photographers will state in their contract that their images shouldn’t be tampered with or edited in any way,” adds Laura. “It can be upsetting for a photographer to see pictures of theirs on social media that have been edited beyond recognition by the couple. Remember the work we give you is the work that we’re happy to be represented by.”


Finding your photographer

Start your search and find your perfect photographer to capture your big day with our Wedding Photographer Directory. See what other brides are saying about their photographer search and read recommendations on the SWD forum here.