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What next for vintage wedding photographers?

Hands up anybody in wedding-land who hasn’t heard about last week’s article on The Huffington Post about the end of the vintage wedding trend? Yeah, I knew there wouldn’t be any hands up. So – what does it mean for the wedding industry? Not much. Trends come and go. But there is one thing…

Does the end of vintage really matter?

It does mean something for a new wave of wedding photographers – and indeed other wedding suppliers – who’ve built a successful business on the back of a very specific trend. It could mean a great opportunity for growth, or it could mean panic. There are photographers who’ve developed a very niche style with cutesy Photoshop filters, quirky trademark shots and vintage styling. While that’s fine as just one option in a quality portfolio, it’s not so good if it’s all that distinguishes someone’s work from the crowd.

Looking to quality and style instead

I hear a lot about timeless photography. About having a skill and a talent rather than just a popular style. About enduring elegance in images and about wedding photographers giving clients something that will look as classy and special in ten and twenty years time as it does in 2011. And we’ve all heard criticism of photographers who’ve relied on vintage processing – remember Meg Surly’s letter to wedding bloggers over on Hindsight Bride?

“Let me tell you, those 1970s, flower-child, hippy-happy weddings are not helping you find your unique style for your blog. It’s also nauseating to scroll through all those bile-yellow filtered photographs of fields with the bride and groom all but obscured by fake, Photoshopped “sun-flares.”

We get it. It’s the trend. But let’s face it, it’s not a very attractive one. Perhaps it’s time to move on. Perhaps it’s time to consider accepting clear, clean photographs with accurate color.” (read more)

Hmmmm. I’ll admit to loving a bit of lens flare. And there’s no need to be nasty – but that blog post highlighted the over reliance on Photoshop effects by a small group of new wedding photographers. While many of us can react to the end of the vintage wedding trend with a shrug and a quiet “told you so”, there are some wedding photographers and suppliers for whom this means a drastic shift in their brand and core business.

An opportunity or a threat?

This is a big opportunity for individual businesses and for the wedding industry. We all need to move on and embrace change. I actually think it’s great that over the past few years so many new wedding photographers have had success with the whole vintage trend. We all start somewhere, and to come into the industry with such a strong sense of style and fashion can’t be a bad thing! But now it’s time for those photographers who are really passionate about their art to look to the future and create a brand built as much on quality as it is on fashion.

My research for this little blog feature takes me to wedding photography blog Ground Glass, which has a very deep and thoughtful blog post on the end of the vintage trend. I quote author Spencer Lum,

“Do we complain when the style we’ve chosen for ourselves goes out of fashion? At that point, we have a choice. We can either go on the defensive and drown in complacency as we stick to our guns. Or we can swim, further and faster, letting go of it all, until we find that place where it’s not the style that matters.” (read more)

Because quality is what will take the industry forwards

New businesses are springing up all the time in the wedding industry. A marketeer would say it’s a fragmented industry, with many, many small businesses competing. But if there are too many new photographers, some of whom will be inexperienced and untrained, then brides and grooms aren’t getting the quality of service they deserve.

What should we really be looking for from wedding photographers? Classy, beautifully composed images. Clever use of light. Intuitive shots which capture perfect moments, the light in a couple’s eyes, the happy tear, the natural romance. A great photographer will avoid cliches and forced poses, distracting shadows and dark or dingy images. An excellent wedding photographer will witness the story of your wedding day as it unfolds, complete with all the emotion and happiness your unique personalities bring to your day.

What does this mean for brides and grooms?

When you’re spending thousands of pounds on a single day in your life, you have every right to expect fantastic quality from your wedding suppliers. And when a new photographer can set up a business based on “oh that’s so coooool”, you’re not necessarily getting that quality.

But when the wedding industry shifts its focus back onto quality, as it now will, and photographers’ work has to be seen as “oh that’s so gooooood”, I think everyone will benefit.

So if you’re looking for a wedding photographer, take a deeper look at their work. A blog of recent weddings is a great place to start. Look for variety and style that goes deeper than retro or vintage. Look for simplicity – no clever tricks that could look dated a few years from now. Look for words in a photographer’s blog post that show enthusiasm, understanding and enjoyment of the wedding featured. Look for genuine positive feedback from other wedding photographers in a blog’s comments.

 

 

Claire Gould

Claire spends her days writing - either in beautiful calligraphy or online. She lives on the edge of the English Lake District only minutes away from the beach, where she loves to escape and unwind. Claire's calligraphy can be found at www.byMoonandTide.com. Claire launched the English Wedding Blog in November 2009 - it's been a top 10 UK wedding blog ever since, with a regional focus we hope you LOVE.

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35 COMMENTS
  • Katy Lunsford
    8 years ago

    Great article Claire 🙂

  • Andy Garfitt
    8 years ago

    Well said 🙂

    • Claire
      8 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Thanks Andy (I didn’t see your comment earlier – not ignoring you!)
      Claire x

  • Victoria
    8 years ago

    Well said Claire. I’m really excited about the move towards cleaner, more timeless wedding photography! And I think you’re right, it will expose the photographers who perhaps hid behind vintage photoshop actions and hopefully improve the overall quality of the wedding photography on offer.

    • Claire
      8 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Thanks Victoria – there’ll be an interesting couple of years ahead I think. But in a good way 🙂

  • Nikki Ward
    8 years ago

    Much of what you said makes so much sense Claire. No photographer or wedding supplier should be hiding a lack of talent behind a current trend or fad.
    I do however feel I need to say that there are so many suppliers out there for who ‘Vintage’ has always been a passion and a lifestyle choice and are often quite offended by people referring to it as a fad. Not all ‘vintage’ suppliers are hiding a lack of quality.
    I do agree though that those of us for who vintage is a passion do have to be very careful not to become too reliant on this one style as ‘trends’ within the wedding industry are constantly changing and we may find ourselves struggling to catch up with a moving market.
    I personally think everyone can stay true to themselves whilst adapting their business to the market as well.
    (Really hope this didn’t sound like a rant by the way 🙂 )

    • Nikki Ward
      8 years ago

      sorry for the massive image by the way … didn’t reaise it was going to come up like this .. any chance you could remove it! x

      • Claire
        8 years ago
        AUTHOR

        Oh – sorry Nikki. I don’t know how! I’ve done it myself with a thumbnail pic that came up huge! I’ve reset the plugin so it won’t happen with your next image, but this time… we’re all enjoying your happy faces in HD (or something) hee. xxx

    • Claire
      8 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Hi Nikki,
      A brilliant point and one I should have mentioned myself. Thank you for adding your views, which I agree with wholeheartedly.
      There’s a distinction which I didn’t think to make, between people for whom vintage is a fad and people for whom vintage is a lifestyle. I’d never dream of criticising either – but I appreciate there might be one or two people out there who’d say “here we go again, a blogger getting on the anti-vintage bandwagon!” Not the case here though.
      It’s an interesting discussion for stationers and other designers as well, and I was thinking about some of my friends in the industry while I wrote the post. There’ll be stationers whose businesses will either have to make a shift from mass market to niche; or who have to embrace a new trend they don’t feel the same way about…. that will also be a bit of a journey for some people.
      (I say this, sitting happily in my calligraphy niche earning pennies and loving it! Nothing wrong with being a small business.)
      You’ve got me thinking, thanks Nikki! xx

  • Jay Mountford
    8 years ago

    Absolutely BRILLIANT post. I’ll admit to never having been a huge fan of vintage – it’s all personal taste, right? But in staying away from styles I’m not keen on, it’s been WONDERFUL discovering my OWN style, learning my trade and understanding what I can really do, without “hiding” behind other trends/styles (I’m trying to choose my words carefully…).

    As it turns out? “Enthu­si­asm, under­stand­ing and enjoy­ment of the wed­ding” have been key words for me right from the start. And that’s been better than any other advice so far.

    • Claire
      8 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Hi Jay, and thank you for sharing your views here too. There’s definitely another discussion coming out from everyone’s comments here – wedding suppliers with their own style: should that be the lynchpin* of their work or not? For some I think it has to be, for others probably not… depending on how big / niche a wedding business aims to become. Oh I love this thought process (See Rebecca & Sarah’s comment below as I’m reading and replying to them all upside down.)
      *I don’t actually know what that means… focus?

  • Abby
    8 years ago

    A very well put and reasoned article – timeless quality, responsive but not hamstrung by trends and fashion,should be paramount in all fields of our industry . I also agree wholeheartedly with Nikki. For many of us vintage is not a trend, and it is most certainly not a smokescreen.

    • Claire
      8 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Thank you Abby. I love that you can explain what I was trying to say in my blog post in one crystal clear and concise sentence. Puts all my meandering waffle into perspective!

      I can relate to vintage being more than a trend – the same applies to punk, steampunk, rock n roll, and for me indie. Having a niche and loving it is a wonderful thing and should be treasured.

      … the question once again is, inside or outside of a wedding business?

      Claire xx

  • Philosophy Flowers
    8 years ago

    Great insight into the whole ‘Is Vintage Dead’ Claire. Obviously, the main focus of your article was from a photographers point of view but many of your comments are still relative in our field of work, Floristry. In fact we have actually composed our own reply to the original article on our site here http://philosophyflowers.co.uk/philosophyflowersnews/vintage-wedding-trend-dead/

    Although we do love what would be termed as ‘the vintage style’ we have always been mindful that like all trends it will eventually evolve into something else. (we are thinking more classic understated glamour).
    However, that’s not to say that it will go away completely or that a bride shouldn’t have their wedding in that theme. Far from it…if a bride wants the vintage theme it’s our job to make her flowers fit to exactly what her ‘take’ on ‘vintage’ is.
    The most important thing for a wedding vendor is that their own personal style doesn’t override what the bride and groom actually want. We have to use our experience and expertise to ensure that what we offer compliments and perfectly encapsulates our clients vision in the best way possible.

    Rebecca & Sarah @ Philosophy Flowers.

    • Claire
      8 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Another excellent comment Rebecca & Sarah. That’s a fascinating point about a wedding vendor’s own personal style vs the fashion and styles of the day. I’ll be tumbling that one around in my mind for a few weeks, might just turn it into a blog post.

      I imagine it’s easier for some suppliers to embrace a trend like vintage than it is for others. I suppose the important thing is that any really great wedding supplier, in any field, can ‘do’ timeless quality with ease and grace.

      Love you all for making me think (a bit harder) 🙂

      Claire xx

  • Spencer Lum
    8 years ago

    Thank you, Claire. I enjoyed your article. Well-balanced and thoughtful.

    • Claire
      8 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Thank you Spencer. High praise, and I’m flattered.

  • Jenny Mcavoy
    8 years ago

    Hooray. RIP rubbishy vintage ANYTHING. Fab article. It’s not vintage itself that makes my bum clench, (hmm I’m sure there’s a better way of putting it but cant think of one right now) it’s the poor quality in any field hiding behind a hideous fad to make up for lack of talent/and /or imagination. As soon as I see the heavy black and white and orange tinted pics, or wildflowers in milk bottles, I turn off-that is not vintage-look back at real vintage (which by the way has a specific definition) and you will see quality and craftmanship-whether that’s exquisitely lit and executed photography or gorgeously designed invitations and floral arrangements. Fab quality, truly vintage suppliers will survive, lets just hope this marks the end of the poor quality jump on the band wagonners (poor English there but you know what I mean) 🙂

    • Claire
      8 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Ah Jenny.

      1 There wasn’t a better way of putting it. I laughed out loud. Really loud.

      2 Thanks for your comment – I love your passion! It’s a great way of looking back to redefine vintage as well… you’ve made me think of dark rooms, having a limited number of images on a roll of film and having to get a perfect shot, with one chance to do it.

      A great comment, I don’t think I can say any more other than ‘yes’!

      Claire xx

  • linda Davey
    8 years ago

    If you look back at women of the vintage era, they knew how to be women! They made an effort and many had an immaculate, pristine and well groomed look so often associated with Elizabeth Taylor and grace Kelly elegance. It was a style! However, it would be super (it will be) to see this kind of shift towards the elegance of the period without having to shout ‘Vintage!’

    What was it Coco Chanel said?
    “I don’t like people talking about the Chanel fashion. Chanel – above all else, is a style. Fashion, you see, goes out of fashion. Style never.” Coco Chanel

    • Claire
      8 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Thank you Linda for the comment.
      It’s one thing I adore about every single wedding I see: brides look stunning every single time, regardless of era, style or fashion. The quality and style is always, always there with the bride.
      Seeing that high quality and timeless style reflected in every successful wedding photographer’s work is what I’m looking forward to.
      That’s a great quote from Coco Chanel. I’ll use that. 😉
      Claire xx

    • Jenny Mcavoy
      8 years ago

      I so agree with the classic elegance-that’s why we have introduced our Hollywood Vogue service. Just gorgeous flattering, glamorous photography, whether you like Liz Taylor, Rita Hayworth or Nicole Kidman, they all have a timeless quality that will never go out of style.

  • Nia Fiori
    8 years ago

    Haha Claire, I bloomin well love you! I know exactly what you’re saying…. that said I’ll keep my opinions till we next meet over tea & cake xxx

    • Claire
      8 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Nia, I love you back. 🙂
      Your opinions are always a fabulous listen, I can’t wait. Has Jo built that house yet?! 😉
      C xxx

      • Joanne - Vintage Twee
        8 years ago

        It’s built people!!! I sent you both an invitation to Twee Towers for Nia’s cake next week!!! (mwah ha ha) Jeez……
        Fab article by the way Claire…very true indeed. And Nia – I dont rate your chances of keeping your opinions to yourself for the next 5 minutes, let alone for a whole week!!!! 🙂
        xxx

      • Joanne - Vintage Twee
        8 years ago

        Oh I just replied and think I lost it all!! Grrr…
        Well the general jist of it was this:
        1) yes my house was built many moons ago you cheeky pair
        2) you should have received an invitation for cake and puppy cuddles
        3) Nia’s making the cake
        4) great article Claire!
        5) there’s no chance of Nia keeping her opinions to herself for more than 5 minutes, let alone for a whole week

        There, that about covers it!xxx

  • Hannah Webster
    8 years ago

    Well said (aimed not just at Claire but various people who have already commented too). Personally, I love a bit of vintage. Proper vintage, that is. And to me, proper vintage encompasses everything I expect from a contemporary photography business. Sophistication, glamour, attention to detail and the ability to find creative ways to make the best of what is available to you. 🙂

    • Claire
      8 years ago
      AUTHOR

      Thank you Hannah. I’ve enjoyed reading everyone’s thoughts too. Nikki (Knots and Kisses) mentioned on twitter that it’s lovely to have a nice chat about this. It really is. No arguing, just carefully considered perspectives on something that will affect us all, one way or another. A bit!
      I love your last sentence, “the ability to find creative ways to make the best of what is available to you.” That’s briliant.

      These are all being stored up in my little brain for a future post now 🙂

  • Chris Cowley
    8 years ago

    Great article Claire. I can’t wait to see how the wedding photography industry evolves and changes over the next few years, even if I’m perhaps late to the party.

    • Claire
      8 years ago
      AUTHOR

      I’m with you, Chris. And it’s great being in an industry that does evolve so much: with new challenges and styles appearing every couple of years – the wedding industry’s fascination with vintage has outlasted so many I’ve seen, and been bigger. I wonder if this is down to wedding blogs (Ruffled, SMP etc.) having such a big readership.

      I see the industry in two layers: there’s the top layer, the adherence to trends and exciting fashions; and the ground layer, the timeless quality that underpins our industry. Sometimes I forget it’s there, as a kind of spectator in wedding land! But it’s the most important of all.

      (did someone put something in my cornflakes?! Where did that come from…)

      Claire xx

  • Cat
    8 years ago

    Great post 🙂 really well written, one of the best I have seen so far on the topic 🙂

  • Claire
    8 years ago
    AUTHOR

    Thank you Cat, what a lovely thing to say. 🙂
    Have a gorgeous weekend!
    Claire xx

  • Fab article…there is such a lot of talk about ‘Vintage’ styles at the moment.
    As a photographer for the last 16+ years the most important factor I feel is that a photographer should listen to their couples and tailor the style to suit as long as the quality of the original files are the best that they can be . Almost everyone knows how to use eg. Photoshop/ filters in one form or another and I think for me personally they are over used, a beautiful image needs very little doing to it to bring it to life. I was trained on film whereby more important than anything was getting the correct colour/ density & avoiding getting stray light into the lens causing flare ( called having a good technique) but now everyone seems to love images that look like they have been dipped in talcom powder and have flare! Young people are of course heavily influenced by the media TV etc where the low density commercials are very in vogue right now.I wonder what the next fashion faux par will be? There is always one waiting around the corner 🙂

  • Its funny, reading this post made me think of Lesley Meredith Photography who time after time creates the MOST beautiful images. I am so sick and tired of feeling like I have to mess with the resolution on my screen because images look so washed out, over processed and a million and one amazing details are lost because of the ‘vintage’ style of photography. To me, images should look so good that you want to reach out and touch them with vibrant colours and definition. I see lots of beautiful photography on my travels around the web, and its those images I believe will be standing the test of time and those photographers who will embrace differing trends rather than dry up because they can no longer offer clients what they want and need from their wedding photography.

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