Everyone has an opinion. Those opinions often divide and separate us into polar opposite positions. Conservative vs progressive. Those who dunk their Oreo whole vs those who twist it apart first.
Even wedding photography is divided into two camps, light and airy vs dark and moody/romantic. Both of these stylistic trends have been around for a long time, but it seems that more and more photographers are giving in to the pressure to choose a side.
Most photographers today shoot for their presets. They have a vision for how they want their photos to look and editing presets that help transform their photos to fit that vision.
Light and airy is often closer to reality, with bright natural skin tones. Typically it is also more pastel in tone so colors are not as saturated or vibrant. Skies and highlights are also typically bright and blown out.
Dark and moody/romantic moves in the other direction. Skies and backgrounds are darker and more dramatic. The tones are more earthy and saturated, usually very orange or warm. If done well, the skin tones can look very natural. The shadows are often dark and muddy without much detail.
The one thing they have in common, neither is based on reality. They both represent the photographer’s vision for your day. They can both produce gorgeous images, but those images are rarely actual representations of how your day looked.
‘Light and airy’ and ‘dark and moody’ both help to define a photographer’s shooting style, which is extremely important. I’ve spent years honing my photographic style and I still consider it a work in progress as do many artists, I imagine. A couple of years before I left my newspaper job, I interviewed for a campus photography position at a University. I sat down a big conference table with the supervisor for the position and a couple of graphic designers. I will never forget these words from one of the designers as she looked over my portfolio: “Your work doesn’t really have a style. They’re good moments, but they lack a personal style.”
After years of working and winning awards for a daily newspaper, a graphic designer has the nerve to tell me that I don’t have a style! My ego screamed out how dare she! I was crushed and vowed then that I would find my style. She was right. I had always worked so hard to be neutral in my documenting, so much so that I had kept myself completely out of my work.
That didn’t click with me until a couple pointed it out during a meeting to discuss their wedding. The bride mentioned how she loved the moments I captured in my wedding and photojournalism work. But asked “why don’t these photos have the same vibrance and life that your personal photos have.” She’d seen some of my landscape work photographing scenery around Savannah and Tybee Island. That was my “ah-ha!” moment. The personal photos were crisp and vibrant, which is how I saw and experienced the world around me.
To me, my photography style is about the light and the color. Life is not always bright and blown out or dark and saturated. Some days it may be, but most days reality lies somewhere in between.
Savannah is a beautiful and vibrant city. Just about everywhere I look, whether the sunlight shining through mossy trees in a downtown square, or the crispness of green hues in the marsh grass as I drive over a bridge in the morning, I see rich colors and that’s what I capture. So if you are used to seeing the ‘light and airy’ or ‘dark and moody’ tones and wonder why my images don’t fit in either category, it’s not because I don’t have a style. It’s because that’s just not how I see the world.
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