11 Reasons to Hire a Fine Art Wedding Photographer - Sweetlife Photography » Portland Wedding Photographers

11 Reasons to Hire a Fine Art Wedding Photographer

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Ahhh “fine art wedding photography”—
a term that sips like a fine wine.
But what is it exactly, how is it different,
and is it right for your day?
Let’s find out!

bride on her wedding morning wearing veil and holding bouquet

Today we’re answering all your questions about fine art wedding photography—even the ones you didn’t know you should be asking!

You’re on the wedding photographer hunt. You’re browsing social media, tapping hashtags, figuring out who shot your friends’ weddings (and deciding whether you liked the photos—gulp). You’re reading guides and blogs and trying to sort through the myriad of photography styles to decide what you like. The search can be overwhelming!

Well we’re here to help and in today’s post, we want to speak sweet-wedding-photography-whispers specifically to you, our Bride or Groom, who dreams of photos that accomplish far more than simply “documenting” your day. You want your photos to be an artistic expression, each one created with intention and savored just the same, like a work of art. You see your wedding day as a wholistic story to tell, from the scenery to the season, to the moments and the faces, to the relationships, the details, the anticipations and the in-betweens. You want your photos to evoke the artistry that is Your True Love Story.

“Fine art wedding photographers approach the day with intention. Our goal is to bring the wedding story to life in a cohesive set of images, not disconnected snapshots…”

You also value wedding photos that are timeless and classic, not trendy; that are bright and joyful, not dark and moody; and that are romantic, soft, and sweet, not edgy.

If that describes you, then we want to share with you our wholehearted, deep conviction that the best kind of wedding photography for you just may be—you guessed it—fine art wedding photography.

(And if you’re already there and need no more convincing, we’d love for you to contact us about your wedding of course!)

fine art wedding photos at the sentinel hotel in Portland Oregon

What is fine art wedding photography?

At the most basic level, it’s a photographer’s approach and mindset more than it is specific camera techniques or editing styles (although those are part of it too…more on that later).

Fine art wedding photographers approach the day with intention. Our goal is to bring the wedding story to life in a cohesive set of images, not disconnected snapshots, and that, friends, is far more difficult to do than you might imagine. It means making hundreds of lightning fast but artful choices throughout the day on behalf of your photos—choices that often guide what to leave out of the frame vs. what to leave in. It means having crystal-clarity about the wedding style you’ve tried to create, your color palette, the wedding vibe you’re after, the closeness of your friends and families, your personalities and your relationship as soon-to-be newlyweds.

We take all of that data (and so much more!), form a vision for your photos, and translate your day into a work of photographic art. Every detail, every moment, every image shot with intention to tell your wedding story. Every photo is meant to be worthy of an art gallery on its own, but intricately connected to the rest as a whole.

“This is not ‘event coverage’, friends. This is art.”

Fine art wedding photographers shoot with precision. Nothing is sloppy. Every element is thoughtfully arranged, we straighten it if it’s crooked, we crop it out if it doesn’t fit the story or the color palette. The goal of our photos is to elevate and refine what we’re given to work with, so the result becomes something better and more beautiful than you ever could have imagined.

Your response to your images should be, “Wow! I can’t believe that’s us and our day!”, rather than, “Yep, looks just like I remember it.” Do you see the difference? After more than a decade of shooting weddings, we know that will resonate with you—Our Bride. Our Groom.

Fine art wedding photography is, in our opinion, an unwavering, unrelenting commitment to producing the most intentional, most refined, most consistent images possible from your day. This is a wildly different mindset than you’ll find throughout the majority of the wedding photography world.

This is not “event coverage”, friends. This is art.

wedding photos at ponzi vineyards by sweetlife photography in oregon wine country

Reasons To Hire A Fine Art Wedding Photographer

#1 – Vision

Fine art wedding photographers have a proactive vision for your photos. Think of an expert painter. As they approach the canvas, they have at least a rough idea of where the painting is headed before the first stroke is ever applied. Getting from blank canvas to that final work of art is a process of having and executing a vision.

That’s what a fine art wedding photographer does. We can already see the kinds of images we want to create for you in our minds before we even arrive. The vision is always slightly different for each wedding and is shaped by the unique elements of your day: the season, venue, color palette, style and vibe, and your personalities (to name a few). This vision becomes the filter that every decision we make is run through—colors to incorporate, backgrounds to use, angles to shoot, etc. Every image, even the fleeting, unscripted moments, are run through the filter of this vision we have for your photos, which ensures that each one is presented beautifully, cohesively, and uniquely for your day.

This is special and very different than what’s most common in the wedding photography world. More often than not, photographers are highly reactive in the moment. They shoot what’s presented to them (and many do a very fine job of course), but there isn’t this same level of vision and artistry. Fine art wedding photographers take it to a whole different level—one that elevates your photos from simple “coverage” to intentionally crafted art.

“…fine art wedding photography typically refers to images that feel refined, sophisticated, elegant, timeless, and romantic.”

#2 – Aesthetic

In today’s wedding world, fine art wedding photography typically refers to images that feel refined, sophisticated, elegant, timeless, and romantic. We fine art photographers move heaven and earth on a wedding day to produce photos consistent with this style.

The common traits of fine art wedding photography today are:

  • Ideally shot on real rolls of film, the classic kind developed in a darkroom
  • Brighter exposures, often referred to as “light and airy”
  • Soft, pastel coloring and a preference for neutrals
  • Timeless, true-to-color edits
  • Use of natural vs. artificial light
  • Romantic posing and moments
  • Shallow depth of field (the subject is in focus and the background nicely out of focus)
  • Subjects pulled off the background whenever possible to create great depth and softness
  • A love of the finer things: fashion, florals, minimalism, tasteful decor

It’s worth mentioning that your choice of venue has a huge impact on being able to achieve fine art wedding images so if you’re still in the market, we have some tips for what to look for in the perfect fine art venue! Bonus: if you’re planning in the Portland area (our home market, but we travel all over), you’ll notice that link includes our list of our local faves—all with what we consider to be fine art qualities. Mmmm so lovely!

For more venue ideas in the US and throughout the world, our friends at Wedding Sparrow have published an amazing list of fine art wedding venues! Say your vows against a backdrop like one of these and we’ll make some serious fine art wedding magic together!

#3 – Elevated Imagery

Fine art wedding photographers produce elevated imagery that enhances your wedding day. Every wedding has the potential for incredible photos, but it hinges entirely on the photographer’s decisions and eye for detail. Our goal is to present your day in the best way possible and consistent with a fine art aesthetic—bright, decluttered, clean, elegant, and refined.

The secret of polished, effortless-looking imagery is that a great deal of effort goes into making them that way.”

The secret of polished, effortless-looking imagery is that a great deal of effort goes into making them that way. We don’t shoot things as they’re presented to us. We make them better! We rearrange, we fix, we adjust, we straighten. We’ve taken decor off the walls when it didn’t match the wedding. We’ve pulled weeds with our bare hands that were ugly in the frame. We’ve hauled heavy furniture into better light, and we’ll be sure to help you swipe those wispy hairs. We do whatever we must to polish the shot before that shutter is released.

Trust us when we say this: no other type of photographer is as committed to this idea of “better than presented” than fine art wedding photographers. We routinely exert every ounce of strength, energy, creativity, and effort we have to make your photos flawless.

a bride at sunset during her maysara winery wedding

#4 – Consistent Outcome

Fine art wedding photographers are incredibly consistent and predictable in the work they produce.

Did you know many photographers say they would never want to shoot weddings? We don’t get it either, but it’s true! Actually, here’s why: weddings are incredibly challenging from a photography standpoint. We find ourselves shooting in all different types of venues, all different lighting conditions, good weather, bad weather, indoors, outdoors, bright beaches, dark ballrooms, and everything in between. There’s also a tight timeline to keep. There are kids running from the camera and the occasional unruly groomsman. And don’t forget about the family dynamics! “Come on Uncle Bob [friendly elbow nudge], B&G want you smiling in the family photo.” When you think about it, weddings present some of the most uncontrolled, inconsistent shooting conditions for a photographer imaginable!

All considered, the ability to produce a consistent and beautiful fine art aesthetic. Every. Single. Time! Is the result of having extremely well-defined techniques and preferences, including the way we use lighting, colors we’ll incorporate or decide to crop out, the types of backgrounds we use and the ones we avoid, our specific camera settings, etc. These methods lead us to our preferred aesthetic of light and bright images with a generally neutral color palette, and a soft, airy, and romantic feel.

“Most fine art wedding photographers, like us, specialize in shooting real film—the kind that’s developed in a darkroom!”

For most of us fine art wedding photographers, the process of refining our approach has taken years, and now we’re able to apply that approach and those techniques consistently, every wedding, every time, despite the myriad of challenges we face. This goes back to having a vision for your photos vs. reacting to your day. That vision, that well-defined aesthetic, and those specialized techniques guide the outcome whether the shooting conditions are easy or difficult. Bottom line, what you see in our portfolio is exactly what you’ll get in working with us, no matter what.

#5 – Film Photography

This is a big one, friends! Most fine art wedding photographers, like us, specialize in shooting real film—again, the kind that’s developed in a darkroom! On average, we shoot 30-40 rolls of medium format film at each wedding. Film has a very distinct, softer, and much more artistic look and feel than digital images do. Our couples often tell us they were drawn to our work because they saw and felt something different in it, and that difference largely is film!

This matters for a lot of reasons, much of which is a blog post for another day! But most importantly…

A) Film is highly technical and requires an advanced skillset. We once thought we knew a lot about photography…until we started shooting film. It’s a whole different animal! Modern digital cameras have the ability to mask a lack of actual photography knowledge, but film does not. Shooting film for many years now has dramatically increased our grasp of creating beautiful images. We’ve learned to see and understand light and color in all of their intricate nuances. We’ve become more attuned to the moments happening in front of us, each press of our shutter so much more intentional and precise than they were back in our all-digital days. Film absolutely requires a higher level of photography expertise, which means the photos we can create with film on a wedding day are of a higher caliber too.

B) The qualities of film are naturally beautiful. As a physical medium, film inherently has a breathtaking look. The soft yet rich colors. The subtle way film preserves movement. The way it renders light and produces “creamy” skin tones. While digital images need quite a lot of work and editing to become something beautiful (and still leave something to be wanted), film just naturally has these qualities baked in. There’s a purity, an artistry, and a romance about film that we and our clients just love!

fine art wedding and invitation photos in Roseburg Oregon

#6 – Styled Details

Hello! Did somebody order an invitation flat lay? Oh right, it was us! Fine art wedding photographers are known for going to great lengths to make your wedding details something beautiful, storytelling, artistic, and special. Your dress and veil, your shoes, your bouquet, your invitation suite, rings, vow books, perfume bottle, bridal jewelry. In wedding photography, these details are often overlooked at worst or rushed at best, but to a fine art photographer, they are gold! For us, they are key parts of the story we were trusted to tell. They are some of the best ways to tie in a sense of anticipation for the day ahead, as well as the wedding style and color palette. We always ensure time is scheduled for these details.

“Hello! Did somebody order an invitation flat lay? Oh right, it was us!”

In fact, most fine art wedding photographers bring a “styling kit” to each wedding! Speaking personally for us, this starts with multiple large styling boards in various colors to match any wedding palette. Our boards allow us to produce flat lays consistent with our signature aesthetic regardless of the setting we find ourselves in. The reality is, many venues do not provide a beautiful, flat surface that would match every wedding…so we bring one ourselves! Much better than using the concrete outside! Also in our kit are luxurious silk ribbon on wooden spools, ring dishes, and acrylic riser blocks to place under paper goods, giving our flat lays dimension and interest.

#7 – Depth of Experience

Fine art wedding photographers are usually very highly experienced. The ones who deliver a consistently beautiful result every time, especially those who have mastered film, have practiced for years! Imagine the journey required to become an expert in any of the arts—drawing, painting, ceramics, music, dance, even theater! Like any form of art, the ability to produce a flawless, complete, and consistent body of images from every wedding time-and-time-again is the result of countless hours of practice.

Experience in wedding photography, we’ve found, is often undervalued, but your wedding memories are irreplaceable! Fine art wedding photographers, given the nature of shooting film and the eye for detail needed to do it consistently well, tend to have an advanced and trustworthy level of experience. There is truly nothing you could throw at us on a wedding day we couldn’t handle! You name it, we’ve seen it, and our experience means we can handle it.

“Fine art wedding photographers take it to a whole different level—one that elevates your photos from simple ‘coverage’ to intentionally crafted art.”

#8 – Planning Assistance

Fine art wedding photographers can offer a great deal of assistance in the planning process. Most importantly, we understand that in order to deliver our signature style consistently every time, it requires getting involved early in the timeline planning while we can still have a positive influence on the schedule. We know exactly how much time is needed for each element of a wedding day, so we come alongside early to ensure your photos are set up for success. Nothing is left to chance, and most couples let out a sigh of relief when they see their day begin to take shape through the eyes of their photographer!

Many photographers wait on the wedding planner or the couple to send over the timeline, often until just days before the wedding, and require very little input. Oh Mylanta, we could never! If we relied on others to tell us where to be and when, or how much time we get for all the various photos we need to create, our work would be wildly inconsistent and unpredictable for our couples. No, no. (*shakes head and finger*) This will not do. The commitment to delivering consistent, fine art wedding images with nothing missing starts months before the wedding in the timeline planning phase.

We’ve heard from many-a-planner that we offer more timeline help and more insight into photography needs than any other photographer they’ve worked with! It makes a huge difference in how the photos turn out.

bride and groom having first dance at wedding in northern california

#9 – Specialists

Fine art wedding photographers are highly specialized in their work.

Think of it this way (because who doesn’t love a good analogy): choosing a fine art wedding photographer would be very similar to choosing an interior designer like Joanna Gaines or Studio McGee. You wouldn’t hire one of them simply because you need a designer, any designer. You would hire them—you would seek them out—because you want their specific, specialized style! It’s the same with photographers. You’re not just trying to check the “hired a photographer” box for your wedding. You’re looking for one who specializes in the look you love!

Fine art wedding photography, by its very nature, is a finely-tuned specialization. Even within the fine art photographer community, we each have honed and defined a very specific style. Whether you can see it at first or not, there are intricacies in our work that are impossible to duplicate by any other photographer—the kinds of moments we capture, our unique ability to put our couples at ease in front of the camera, the angles and kind of light we love, the colors we achieve, and how we like to edit (to name a few). So when you find a photographer you love, book ’em! Nobody else can or would do it exactly the same way.

In the end, the result is a commissioned work of art as unique as your love story.”

#10 – Unposed Portraits

99.9% of our clients are not professional models and we don’t expect you to act like it! We carry the full weight of making you look your best (and if we do say so ourselves, we think we’ve perfected making very normal couples look like dang good models).

You see, as artists we have studied the human form and have learned how it translates into photos for over a decade. Perhaps better said in the context of weddings, we’ve studied how two human forms together and in love translate into photos!

The result of our study is a deep and artful understanding of how to capture very natural portraits that don’t look like stiff “poses”. We know how to quickly find flattering angles for all shapes and sizes, and we understand how two bodies fit together in a photograph. We give just the right amount of guidance—enough to make you love how you look, but at the same time leaving room for authentic, candid emotion. We find that our clients absolutely want to look like themselves in their photos, but they love having expert help in making sure they look their best!

sunset portraits of a bride and groom walking down steps in geyserville california

#11 – Artist’s Approach

Bringing it back full circle here, dear Bride or Groom: fine art wedding photography, first and foremost, is an artist’s mindset. It has to do with how we view ourselves and the role you’ve entrusted to us for your day. We are not simply a “vendor” there to do a job. Your wedding is not just one of our “gigs”. Your day, to us, starts as a blank canvas and as we enter into it, we begin painting the story as only we could, stroke by stroke, color by color, decision by decision. In the end, the result is a commissioned work of art as unique as your love story. And there’s not a single part of us willing to disappoint you.

Well there you have it…

…our case for hiring a fine art wedding photographer (like…ahem…us!) for your day. Signed. Sealed. Delivered.

If reading this has felt like a breath of sweet, sweet oxygen therapy for you, then we should definitely talk about the possibility of photographing your wedding, so get in touch!


Additional Info

We’re Jake & Anna Tenney, husband and wife fine art film wedding photographers based in Portland, OR. We shoot all along the west coast including Oregon, California, and Washington, and we travel across the U.S. and internationally.

You’ll find lots more about us on our website!

For further inspiration and examples of fine art wedding photography, we recommend browsing some of our favorite wedding blogs that tend to prefer this style of work, including Style Me Pretty, Wedding Sparrow, Magnolia Rouge, Martha Stewart Weddings, Carats & Cake, and Belle Lumiere.

fine art wedding photos of a bride and groom and bridal party

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