What is Wedding Photography?


Capturing Your Wedding Celebration in Photographs

Nothing is more exciting than looking at great photographs of your wedding. Well, except maybe for the wedding itself!

Wedding Photography

Those two words mean different things for different people:

  1. For most people, hearing those two words will bring back memories of their wedding day. Perhaps they would picture their fireplace mantle where a framed photo of them posing together on the altar sits. Somewhere in their attic would be another box filled with various photographic prints. Forgotten? Almost. Gathering dust? Certainly.
  2. For others, wedding photography may elicit groans of disappointment, followed by expressions of varying degrees of disdain or disappointment on the quality of the photos they received.
  3. And finally, for others still, smiles would light up their faces, “Oh, we had so-and-so and s/he was absolutely wonderful!” and they would then ask if you’d like to see their online gallery or their one-of-a-kind custom-made wedding album.

It all depends on how your wedding was photographed, AND how the experienced added to (or subtracted) from your special day. My hope is that with the information and tips you (will) find on this site, that your experience with wedding photography will be as close to scenario #3 as possible.

The Modern Day Wedding Photographer

We actually live in exciting times, in terms of wedding photography.

Gone are the days where the professional wedding photographer shot maybe 10-15 rolls of film, and subsequently offered you perhaps 80-100 proof prints, and is the only avenue for prints since he or she owned the physical negatives. Today, the modern bride can expect images in the mid to high hundreds, while some photographers even offer 1500-2000! And with Dave Wong Photography, all our packages include digital negatives with a personal license to make prints for personal and family use. (We also offer an online gallery to make it easy for friends and family who live afar to conveniently order prints.)

With the majority of photographers now shooting digital, the premium product offered after the shoot is the custom wedding album. With this, the “insert style” album has also gone scarce, replaced by elegantly (or sometimes not so elegantly) designed “magazine style” wedding albums.

Types of Wedding Photography

Today’s couples can expect a variety of offerings in terms of photography sessions. A number of these may be completely new concepts for the couple meeting with a wedding photographer for the first time.

Engagement Session

The engagement portrait session occurs before the wedding and, depending on the photographer, ranges from 1.5 – 3 hours, to even half a day or all day. The session depends on the couple and on the photographer and serves several functions:

  • Getting use to each other. Having a portrait session before the wedding lets both the clients and photographer get used to each other.
  • Clients will be introduced to the photographer’s working style, learn how to follow posing-type directions, and get acclimated to having a big camera lens pointed at them.
  • For the photographer, he or she gets to see how the couple looks, how they follow direction, and learn what helps them to relax.

Wedding Ceremony and Reception

The wedding ceremony and reception are where you can expect the professional wedding photographer to shoot mostly candid, unposed shots. And the main priority here is to remain — and here’s a heavily used word that’s not part of your everyday vocabulary — unobtrusive.

Basically, this just means to stay out of the way, not be the center of attention, and observe and capture what’s happening.


A good number of photographers cringe at the notion of taking “formals” — group shots of family members, posed and smiling for the camera, either on the steps of the altar or some other picturesque location. However, we’ve found that our clients do expect a certain number of these shots, and it really depends on the couple themselves.

If you’re thinking of eschewing with formals, then consider this:

Of all the “important” photos you possess — those that are framed and sitting on your shelves, hanging in your cubicles, hiding in your wallets — which photos are they?

You got it — it’s the photo of you and your best friend in your Las Vegas trip, or your three brothers and dad on their fishing trip, or you and your boyfriend standing in front of the Eiffel Tower. These are, more or less, posed shots. These are formals.

And so while getting great candid moments make for great artsy images — and we love doing that — we also think that formals are just as important.

The trick is to find the right balance.

After Session

The After Session, sometimes known as “Trash the Dress” or “Bridal Session” is all about the two of you, the newlyweds.

Perhaps your wedding day schedule is very tight. And your priority is to go directly from Ceremony to Reception with as short a break as possible so that you can spend as much time as possible with your friends and family. That’s where an after session would make a lot of sense.

Here, it’s mostly likely the Monday after the big weekend.

The pressure’s off, but the two of you are still aglow from the grand affair. It’s a great time to spend together (almost) alone, and get some great images to boot.

Like the engagement session, the after session can last anywhere from 1.5 – 2 hours, to more, maybe 4-5, depending on what the two of you want.

Some couples hold the city in great affinity and want as much “San Francisco” they can get. That means we’d need more time to drive around to the various famous landmarks to get those souvenir shots: Golden Gate Bridge, Palace of Fine Arts, Legion of Honor, or some of the more uniquely San Franciscan OR personal locales like a favorite cafe, location of your first date together, or the spot of the marriage proposal.

Destination Wedding

Speaking of marriage proposals, sometimes that particularly deed is performed in a faraway location: on vacation. And in those cases, the couple may wish to have their wedding there, too.

This is called a Destination Wedding, and places like Lake Tahoe or Monterey make good choices locally: you get away without getting away. Other clients may prefer to leave the mainland, opting for awesome locations like a Hawaiian or Mexican resort. The world is their oyster.

For these weddings, a destination wedding photographer will more than likely cover both the day before and after the wedding. Thus, the rehearsal dinner is photographed, the ceremony and reception and any formals and bridal portraits, and then the day after may be an after session.

This is truly the complete package, and should result in a grand photographic tale of your time in paradise.

Boudoir Photography

Boudoir photography is romantic, sensual, “come hither” imagery done by the bride or fiancee to be given as a gift to her groom or groom-to-be at a later time. The bride might present her book to the groom on the first night of their honeymoon, etc.

This may sound like a recent photographic phenomenon, but artistic nudes have existed in paintings, statues and other artwork for a long, long time, and in many, many cultures.

Styles of Wedding Photography

While we’ve just gone over the types of wedding photography you will find when you’re meeting with various¬† wedding photographers in the San Francisco Bay Area, we’ll explore the many different styles of photography, which apply differently to the various types of photography.

Classic – We’ll use this term to describe imagery that hearkens back to the early days (or decades) of photography, when creating an image through exposing a light-sensitive chemically-coated glass plate necessitated human subjects to stay very still for minutes, lest they showed up as “ghosts” in the developed prints. In addition, the limitations of the early photographic technology most often meant the “posed” shots were taken in studios before or after the wedding. The practice of shooting at the actual wedding didn’t come into play until the invention of smaller cameras and the flash bulb. Today, we call the classic posed shots “formals”. For any photographer who only does formals, we call them “classic” or “traditional” portrait photographers.

Photojournalistic – The idea of “Photojournalistic” wedding photography is derived from photojournalism, which is the practice capturing the gist of a news story by photographers not long after the invention of photography. We see in museums and books old photographs of the Civil War, for instance. However, the camera and newspaper printing technologies limited the growth of photojournalism until the 1930s and onward, when the smaller 35mm film (instead of plates) cameras came into being. The smaller cameras allowed reporters to get “into the action”, and the resulting photographs are what we can still find (and admire and be inspired by) in old issues of Life magazine and such. For weddings, the idea of getting “into the action” and photographing as events as they occur without posing or direction is credited to photographer Denis Reggie.

Artistic/Editorial/Illustrative – This final category is basically a mix of Classic and Photojournalistic. Indeed, a happy blend of the two practices not only captures the important events as well as the important people, it also gives us the “directed shots” which are captured in various artistic styles. These photos can be artistic, cool, editorial or illustrative, with the idea that the images are about the two of you at a very special time of your lives. Why not have images that tell the story of your day, as well as images to ooh and ah over. Let’s have your wedding cake and eat it, too.

The Dave Wong Photography Wedding

At Dave Wong Photography, we advocate the artistic/editorial/illustrative style. When you meet with us, one of our goals is to determine just what mix of shots you want. We show you a lot of images —¬† different kinds of images — to see what’s the most important to you. And together, we figure out how much time and effort is needed to attain those shots.

If you haven’t already, take a look at our featured weddings: