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Photography Styles Explained!

For this blog we brought in some extra help! Big thanks in advance to our friends, and amazingly talented wedding photography pros, Andrew May and Amber Hatley! Andrew owns and operates Allegory and Elm Photography, Amber owns and operates Amber Hatley Photography, and Jenny & I own and operate JCM Photography! I had this idea to team up with them for the purpose of client education!

One of the things we often times see online (in facebook groups especially) are couples looking for a photographer of a particular style, especially when it comes to the look of the final image. This is great because in theory, right off the bat, they know what they are looking for. Or so you would think. What I’ve noticed (and many others for that matter) over the past year is many times someone’s description of the style they want doesn’t always line up with the example images they may post. Heck, I’ve even seen photographers of the opposite style being requested, soliciting their services for someone whose specifically looking for a style completely different than what the bride may be looking for in their post. This kind of misinformation can lead to more misinformation and miscommunications in the future and all it ends up causing is a headache for the couple who may end up hiring someone who stylistically is not a great fit for them.

It’s not that they meant to but often times when they start the search for a photographer for their engagement or wedding, it can be a little overwhelming deciphering through all of the styles, and who did what, etc. At the end of the day you’re just trying to find that certain someone whose style resonates with you so you're happy with your images and the experience. Knowing what that looks like and how to describe that can make the process much easier! For the purposes of not overwhelming you with a ton of information, we’ve decided to focus on the 3 major editing styles for photography you’re likely to find when you start your search. Light and Airy, Dark and moody, and Natural. While we do realize this is a very broad description and there will be many photographers that fall somewhere in between on the spectrum, these 3 style descriptions are broadly used and easily understood. By bringing in two other amazing pros with different styles than our own, we're able to give some visuals and have them describe their style to prospective brides and grooms so they know what it is when they see it, and they know how to describe what they are looking for. First up is Amber!


Light + Airy - Amber Hatley Photography, Amber Hatley

For me personally, I am drawn to light and airy photographs and that is how I have accomplished the same editing style. When I first started photography 10 years ago, I edited this way, and while a few things have changed as I learn and master my skills, I have always been attached to light and airy editing.

What attracts my eye the most in an image is the emotion or moment being captured. I strive to capture that first and secondly, bring that image to life through my editing. Editing this way makes me feel joyful and inspired. I would describe this style as true to life, bringing out the most of the colors with a pop of brightness. I like to keep the colors in an image true to what they were straight out of the camera with extra pop and saturation! This means boosting the exposure and creating some vibrance. Every image is different and a lot of this style is also created in where I choose to position my clients with the sunlight or backgrounds. My couples describe this style as natural, bright, colorful, and true to life. They like that it creates a joyful, genuine, and bright image - the same way they want their wedding day to feel!

(Check out some of Amber's beautiful work below to get a feel for a style that is light and airy!)


Dark + Moody - Allegory and Elm Photography, Andrew May

Photography, well art in general is all about telling stories. Most photographers try their hardest to get the story of a moment right within the camera when they snap the shutter button. But, this is only one part of the equation. Why do some photos look super colorful, bright and airy, natural, or dark and moody? This all comes down to taste, style, and what the artist wants to convey. Our style at Allegory & Elm is to strive for a timeless filmic look, with deep rich blacks, soft creamy highlights, and a more subdued color palette that isn’t overly vibrant or saturated. We include film grain in some of our images to provide texture and subtlety. There is a balance though, as sometimes sunsets and beautiful glacial waters require a little more punch. The truth is we are constantly finessing our style and refining our process. You will rarely find a completely satisfied artist.

Dark and moody does not mean that we have a brood of vampires and we are coming for your soul. However, the style does lend itself well to finding the soul within a moment, a frame, an image. The goal of dark and moody is to craft a story between highlight and shadow, lightness and darkness, and to truly invoke an emotion that draws the viewer in. We underexpose our images, which is a fancy way of saying that we allow a little less lighting than what is considered “a correct exposure.” This allows us to preserve the highlights and emphasize the shadows. By shooting this way in camera, it allows us the freedom and creativity in the editing process to craft images that evoke a feeling, a mood, and an experience.

Dark and moody does not mean that there will be no fun, laughter, and ability for you to be your most true authentic self. As a style, it is more interested in authenticity, vulnerability, and evoking emotion. Whether that’s with tears, laughter, or an intimate gaze, it is all welcome.

Just as humans evolve and change over time, so do our editing styles. In my first few years of photography and editing, I oversaturated everything. Eventually, I moved so far in the other direction that the color palette was made up of essentially three different tones of brown. In life and in art, I have found that nuance and balance is key.

Life and Art is about balance. But, it is also about pushing boundaries. It is our goal to push boundaries with our couples, our images, and our art form. Editing, and putting the finishing touches on an image is only one part of the puzzle. Photography and true art is all about the process, from start to finish. Whatever style you are into, lean into that and into what makes you unique and different.

(check out some of Andrew's amazing imagery below to get a feel for dark and moody!)


Natural - JCM Photography, Joe & Jenny

Lastly, we have Natural! This is where our style in particular falls (Joe and Jenny). With the majority of our work we try to maintain a true to the eye color tone so everything is just as you remembered on your big day and we haven't put too much emphasis on modifying the natural color tones. This editing style can sometimes be a little easier if the light is perfect, but when the light is challenging it can take a bit more effort to keep everything in check due to color casting. We find most of our couples tell us they are looking for an editing style/color profile that is natural, timeless and doesn’t look over edited. Often times with our style we’ll also utilize flash to help bring out a bit more color in an image and get rid of color casting on skin tones. This can be great for preserving highlights in the sky for things like sunsets! In truth, sometimes I feel like we have a little more flexibility with our style as keeping true to that vision of preserving the natural look of the moment, sometimes we can lean towards the lighter and brighter side if an image calls for it. We can also go a bit more moody when the lighting situation and color pallet lends itself well to that. Ultimately though, we usually find most of our images in that perfect middle ground where the shadows aren't too far one way or the other, nor are the highlights.

(Check out some of our work below for a natural and vibrant feel!)

We are grateful for Amber and Andrew's friendship over the past few years and we are so stoked that they decided they wanted to be apart of this collaborative effort! Like many in our industry, our mindset is one of community over competition. Having awesome, inspiring, and talented folks around us like Amber and Andrew creates a network of support as well as constant inspiration and being able to showcase their work alongside ours' is an honor. It probably seems crazy to some like, 'Why would you put someone else's work beside yours, wouldn't you lose business that way?!' At the end of the day, this blog isn't even about that. I feel like we all do amazing work, but at the same time, the styles we display, the stories we tell, and the people we connect with are all different. That uniqueness that each of our client's have is going to resonate differently with each of us and our art. Ultimately our goal in this collaborative effort is to help those individuals connect with the best someone to help tell their story! Knowing what each major style looks like, as well as 'how to describe' them when you start your search will help you achieve just that!

As always everyone, thank you so much for following along! For more information on how to contact Amber, Andrew, or ourselves, just click on the links below!

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