The most popular wedding photography editing trends and styles in 2021 range from the typical “dark and moody” aesthetic to “light and airy” and everything in between, skipping over (thankfully) yellow skies and heavy vignettes. You already know the bad photography trends (and I’ll be doing a post later of them in case you don’t.) Thank goodness we’ve grown out of the worst of the worst.
We’re in the middle of a very broad spectrum of editing in 2021, with a wide range of styles making their circuits. None of the following styles are “bad.” Some of them might be dated in ten years, but when a talented photographer exemplifies any of these styles, magic happens.
On the subject of dating, it is important to note, as a bride/expecting mom/newly engaged lady, that highly stylized aesthetics can date your photos. This means that in the year 2051, everyone will be able to look at your photos and say “Oh, did you get married in 2021?” Which isn’t a bad thing. Unless you’ve gone for heavy vignetting. (That’s always a bad thing.)
Without further ado, I present to you the biggest wedding photography editing trends and styles of 2021.
Shrriiek. If you’re looking at a photographer with this style, run. This is the only style I cannot, in good faith, backup, as this is a RAW file with no edits applied. This photographer is someone who harasses others in photography groups, yells loudly (in text) “I am so good at photography that I don’t even have to edit my photos. They’re perfect SOOC (straight-out-of-camera.)”
Here’s the deal. A photographer will always have to edit their photos, even lightly. A RAW file is a digital negative, typified by ugly greens, flat skin tones, and heavy blacks. It is not a finished image and this photographer does not know how to edit.
This style is so modern. Does that mean there’s an expiration date on it? Hopefully not. But it’s characterized by strong blacks and flat white and possesses a very minimalist “I decorate in only black and white” feel.
It has the power to feel clean, edgy, and compelling when done right. It has the power to suck your blood and sparkle in sunlight when done wrong.
Dina Chmut is master of this archetype and in her work all of the clean, classy, and elevated possibilities of this style come through.
I won’t lie to you: I always thought I’d end up emulating this style as a photographer. Now, into my career, I am perhaps the furthest thing from it, but I still have a great love and respect for the striking, dramatic tones present in this image. Benjamin Edwards was the first photographer that really drew me into the world of wedding photography, and he exemplifies this style perfectly. While I can’t call this style true-to-life-color, I personally hope this trend never leaves us. I unapologetically love it.
This style is typically accompanied by a complete lack of green. Greens are hard. I, to this day, struggle with greens. They can take over a whole picture; they can reflect onto skin and be incredibly hard to work with; they can be neon and drown a photo.
To me, this style is the style that says “well, I’ll never have to worry about green ever again.” Or maybe it’s the style that says “my clients will never have to tan for their upcoming session ever again.” Or maybe it’s both. Or maybe they’re two different styles that just have the habit of running over one another.
Photographers out there doing this style: I see you. I’m only poking good-natured fun. I love your work.
Velvet Owl Photography is the best I have seen at this style. I tried to emulate her style for a long time, and, dear reader, it was hard. She is an incredibly talented photographer who happens to desaturate greens. (This goes to show that almost any style can work depending on the photographer.)
This is a big style especially in the Pacific Northwest and Portland, Oregon areas. It includes but is not limited to: heavy grain; raised blacks; flattened whites; and often includes the teal/orange trend (teal highlights and orange shadows.) It’s popular in trends like “Looks Like Film” and a wide range of presets.
The thing is, while this does look like film, it looks like improperly exposed film and/or expired film.
Those green tones so reminiscent of film photos are actually a result of the chemicals turning with age, which happens to any roll of film after a number of years. And the grain associated with this aesthetic is a result of incorrect exposure.
This is an example of improperly exposed film:
The blacks are actually a muddy gray and the grain structure is more prominent. This is a result of the film lab trying to overcompensate for the fact that the image came in nearly black.
This is properly exposed film:
Most of the time, this is what a film photographer is actually trying to achieve: glowing skin tones, radiant colors, and zero muddiness (and it’s actually a bonus if the grain structure is reduced.) Ironically, if you want a photographer to achieve the look of underexposed film, you probably need to hire a digital photographer specializing in that aesthetic.
Still, I understand why it’s a desired style. It’s a hallmark back to the halcyon days of our youth. The worn, vintage aesthetic that makes us feel like our memories captured are just that: memories.
This style is pretty much the domain of Casi Yost, who also shoots film now and again as a companion to her body of work. Her portfolio is an absolutely elegant and elevated homage to this aesthetic.
This trend is really popular for wedding photography across the globe. It’s hallmarked by very luminscent greens (because, again, greens are hard), cool whites, and a fine, crisp pop. Skin tones are generally absolutely luminous and this style gets into the realm of “timeless photography” or photography that really holds its value through the test of time.
If done wrong, it absolutely has the propensity to appear washed out. But if done right, it is the archetypal “light and airy” style.
Julie Paisley slays at this style with her sweet, feminine, pale and lacey aesthetic.
Another warmer rendition of light and airy is the style that leans away from shadows and blacks hard. It’s always golden hour with this style (and typically is when the photos are taken.) The luminosity on every slider in lightroom is all the way to the right.
When done right, it feels like a warm summer evening as you trawl through the pages of your album. When done wrong, there’s something ineffable from your images and they’re either drab and lifeless – or, as always is the possibility when leaning light and airy – blown out.
Light Livin Photography does it right. She might even be the original purveyor of this whole look.
You won’t catch me hating on pink. I’m not going to even wait until the end of this paragraph to say it: Audrey Paris is the queen of magenta photography and she slays it beyond what we even thought possible. She’s even known in some circles as the Magenta Magician. (That’s a lie.)
This is a style purely for those of us who grew up reading romance, fighting for the sequins, bedazzling everything, and, essentially, has always been comfortably one with her own femininity. When done right, this style has an editorial slant that can capture a wedding in a way that tantalizes the vision.
When done wrong, it just looks pink.
It’s colorful, it’s contrasty, it’s digital, and it hits hard. This style is beyond contempt. It’s the cleanest, purest form of wedding photography and it’s a focus on the technical aspects. The colors are true. The lens is crisper than a Kit-Kat. The camera costs more than my car. And it was made for off-camera flash.
This is the style of the photographer who actually understands every spec of his or her camera. It’s the style that says “I know how to take a picture. I can even use professional lights. And I calibrated my monitor.”
Adam Opris is the quintessential technical photographer. OFC, studio setup, equipment, and photoshop is his bread and butter. I have never even tried to emulate his photography. It just seems like too much work. (But, man, is he good.)
Film and film emulation could, realistically, fall under “dark and moody” or “light and airy” depending on the circumstances, so it’s under “true-to-color.” After exploring all of the other styles out in the world, I fell in love with this particular style. I love the soft transition between colors. I love the way the colors are allowed to be their truest self, without “conforming” to an aesthetic. I love the way skin renders in this style, all creamy and buttery tones. I love the way she looks so real she might walk off the screen.
But ultimately, it doesn’t matter what style I like when you’re searching for your photographer. Which speaks to you? Leave your answer in the comments below, I’d love to hear!