History of Wedding Photography

Everyone loves having photos of their special day to look back on for years to come. Booking a professional photographer for your wedding day may come without a second thought. However, this never used to be the case. Today, we’re looking back at the history of photographic technology, and wedding photography.


The process of creating photographs used to be a physical pursuit. Instead of merely hitting a button, photographers used to spend hours developing the photographs they took. Long before the days of digital images, before even camera film, they used tin and copper.

Since the inception of photography back in the 19th century, newlywed couples wanted their blurry outlines preserved. However, beginnings of the 19th century offered a very limited scope when it came to photography. There were no paper photographs, no multiple photographs and no albums. Moreover, photographic equipment was big and bulky and couples were restricted to the studio.

Wedding photography was only for the wealthy. One of the first couples to pose for the camera was Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1854. In fact, this was fourteen years after their actual wedding day. After this, couples were inspired to pose before or after their wedding (often out of their wedding attire).

Kodak Technology

The technology of the time was big, bulky and often delicate. As a result, couples would need to visit to the photographer’s studios to get wedding day snaps. Even so, this did not take on until the late 19th century. In other words, most couples weren’t bothered about having images of the actual day or of their dresses and suits.

However, significant improvements came during the 1880s, as the need for heavy plates and chemicals dwindled. George Eastman (the founder of Eastman Kodak) patented roll film and later Kodak Black, the camera designed to use it. Instead of relying on heavy equipment to take pictures, photography became much more accessible.

Meanwhile, exposure times reduced and it became much easier to take photographs. Because of this, couples were able to get more than one photograph of their special day. Although film was prohibitively expense to some, most of the time couples could at least have photos with family members. They could try more poses and have images of the entire wedding party. As a result, the wedding album was born.

Lights, Colour, Action

Afgacolour, and later Kodachrome, introduced colour to the previously black-and-white market. However, early versions of colour photography were not successful, as the colour faded easily or ran into each other. Therefore, colour photography did not really emerge until after the Second World War, and took many more years to become the norm.

Thanks to the invention of the flashbulb, photographers could take a multitude of photographs with improved lighting in mobile situations. This meant that photographers started capturing snapshots of the day in a much more candid and documentary style – the approach that still persists today.


But that was not the only style to come into existence in this time. As portable cameras became readily available on the market, entrepreneurs started to see weddings as a way to make money. In the 1960s, people who may have taken photographs during the war, or people just picking photography up as a hobby, began to gatecrash weddings. They took photojournalistic images and sold them back to the couple. This completely transformed the market and transformed the way photographers capture weddings today (although their methods are different!).

This technique died out as couples started to book their wedding photographer in advance. Fast-forward to today and the popularity of wedding photography has steadily increased. More demand for professional photography means increased competition, together with the emergence of a divergent variety of styles of photography.

Modern Digital Photography

Today’s sophisticated equipment makes it very easy, with minor adjustments to the exposure and focus, to take a great image. In order for photographers to stick out, they had to do more than just produce stunning images. Great competition meant that different styles of wedding photography came into existence.

As such, brides and grooms now not only look at the quality of the finished images, but at the method of procuring the best shots. Here are some of the most popular styles of photography used today:


Firstly, this is the type of traditional photography that we mentioned at the start of this article. Although nowadays portraits don’t have to take place in a studio, they are still a popular form of wedding photography. These can be natural or posed, and tend to capture formulaic shots of the wedding party, families and planned events. Although this style is now used sparingly, with other methods thrown in, it could be a fun idea to get an individual portrait of all of your guests. In fact, this could work especially well if you’re childhood sweethearts, as you could arrange your album like a yearbook!

History of Wedding Photography

Most wedding days follow the same pattern: ceremony, breakfast, reception. In-between these big events are smaller ones, such as getting ready, cutting the cake, and the first dance. A documentary style wedding album would include images of every moment of your wedding day. Often, photographers who specialise in this style may bring an extra shooter so they catch every minute.

History of Wedding Photography

Also known as reportage, this approach records events as they happen. It is very similar to documentary style, except nothing is staged. Originating from the early times of portable photography, the bulk of the images will be candid and spontaneous. Importantly, this does not mean that someone will gatecrash your wedding and charge you per image! Instead, book them like you would any other photographer. This method tends to focus on reactions, emotion and atmosphere.

History of Wedding Photography

Although this style is mostly used for staged weddings, specifically to sell a magazine or product, more couples are choosing this style. Even if you are not promoting your baker, planner, or photographer, it can sometimes be nice to look back at the small details of your wedding day. Centrepieces, the cake, the florals and décor take centre stage. These magazine-like photos are more structured and less spontaneous. Ideally, this style is perfect if you love Instagram or are trying to advertise something.

History of Wedding Photography
Photographic Artist

Think sunbeams, shadows and artistic angles and you can understand the photographic artist style. Elements, people and the events are all shot beautifully and in a dramatic way. Though candid, the key is producing shots with an artistic beauty.

History of Wedding Photography

Modern wedding photography has truly come a long way since its humble beginnings. If this has inspired you to book your wedding photographer as soon as possible, take a look at some fantastic options in your local area!

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