Wedding Photography Terminology for Brides

When searching for the right wedding photographer, you’ll need to know some basic wedding photography terminology. First you’ll need to consider the style of photography you want. Two of the most popular are traditional and photojournalism. Traditional is the more classic, posed style where photojournalism is capturing the moments and documenting the day as it unfolds. If you are undecided on one or the other, some photographers provide a mix of both.

Once you’ve chosen the style you are looking for, you’ll also want to have an understanding of some other basic terms to help you with your search.

Digital Imaging

Digital imaging is one of the most exciting innovations in wedding photography. The image is viewable right on the camera so the photographer can immediately know if the image is good or if he needs to shoot again, he doesn’t have to wait until the film is processed to find out.

Once the photographer has the images on his computer, he can work more magic. A common problem of a bride wanting to be photographed with her groom before the ceremony, but she doesn’t want him to actually see her in her gown yet, is solved with digital imaging. The photographer takes two separate shots of the bride and groom each alone, then using the digital images, insert the groom into the image of the bride. The problem is solved, you have an image of the bride and groom together and the groom didn’t have to see the bride in her gown before the ceremony. Images can also be preserved on CD-ROM instead of negatives.

35mm and Medium Format

The 35mm camera produces a negative about 3/4 inches by 1/2 inch and a 3X5 or 4X6 proof. The downside of 35mm is that a photo can look grainy if reprinted at a range larger than 10X10. But some photographers disagree and say this is inaccurate, that a 35mm can be enlarged to 20X24 without losing any of its sharpness. Many photographers like 35mm because they feel it is easier and faster to use.
The medium-format camera produces a high quality, larger negative. Retouching and airbrushing can be done more easily than with a 35mm negative, so the bride wanting her crow’s-feet erased will be much happier with the larger negatives results.
All portraiture done in a studio is usually with a medium-format camera. The 35mm camera is favored by photojournalists or candid photographers because it has a quicker shutter action, creates better shadow, color contrast, and depth, and is easier to use in more casual situations.


A negative is the film that has been processed. If its 35mm, it will be rectangular, and if its medium format it will be 2 1/4 inches square.

Camera Originals / Proofs

The proofs are the images you receive. The are mass produced automatically from the roll of film onto color or black and white paper. The are not sprayed for protection against fingerprints, light, or dust, but they still have a long shelf life. Usually the photographer will have two or more proofs of each group pose or special moment, such as cake cutting, the bridal party, both sets of parents, etc.

Print / Image

The print or image is the finished product that is yours to frame or put into an album. They have been retouched and airbrush if you had requested it. Sizes of prints or images usually come in 5X5, 5X7, 8X10, 10X10, 11X17, 16X20, 20X24 and 30X40.


Panoramic refers to the use of a wide angled or panoramic lens to capture a large group portrait or background. This type of shot is often used for the center pages of an album to create one beautifully large photo.


Cropping means that something is cut out of the photo or on particular part of the photo is enlarged.

Soft Focus vs. Out of Focus

If you know what to look for, you can notice the difference between a photo that is purposely shot with soft focus or if it was just plain out of focus. If the photo is in focus, you’ll be able to see the “catch light” in peoples eyes.(catch light is the reflection of the flash off the cornea of the eyeball) Even if other parts of the photo look fuzzy, the eyes themselves should be sharp and clear-cut.

Airbrushing and Retouching

Airbrushing and retouching is something that’s done on a negative or print to adjust how the image looks. For example, erasing crow’s-feet, eliminating a double chin, or retouching glares or reflections on eye glasses. Airbrushing or retouching on a negative does not have to be repeated for additional prints, but on a print it does.

Black and White

Black and white film preceded color prints, and for a while film producers and labs simply created a color film that could produce a black and white print. The quality was not as good. But Kodak came up with an affordable black and white film paper of high quality so photographers could take both color and black and white by easily changing camera backs.


Sepia is a term describing a photo with an antique quality to it, using a brown tone print.

Natural Color

A Natural color film produces more of a neutral contrast. This gives the photo a look closer to natural sunlight and shade without the use of artificial light.

Vivid Color

The color stands out in the photo because of very well defined tonality in the colors of a print.

Engagement Portrait/Picture

The engagement photo is of the couple either in studio or outdoors. It’s usually taken for placing an announcement in the newspaper. Some couples also have the engagement portrait matted with a broad mat and framed without glass to have guests sign during the reception.

Bridal Portrait / Picture

The bridal portrait is most often taken in studio, but can also be taken outdoors at a favorite site. Usually the bridal portrait is shot six to eight weeks before the wedding to make certain there is enough time for development of proofs, selection of a favorite photo, and then the final production of the portrait.

Wedding Portrait

The Wedding Portrait process is the same as the Bridal Portrait, except that the groom is also in the picture. This can be done before or after the wedding. You can decide if you want the groom to see you in your gown before the wedding or you can dress up again after the honeymoon. Or you can simply have it taken at the wedding, just make sure you leave enough time for it!


These are posed pictures taken either before or after the ceremony. They’re usually of the two of you with your parents, with the bridal party, etc.

A La Carte vs. Packages

Prices will vary from photographer to photographer. Keep in mind that you are not just hiring someone to take pictures, you’re paying for the creativity and expertise of the photographer.

Photographers may set up a package, or they may charge a shooting or sitting fee, then charge additionally per print(depending on size ordered). Sometimes you can get a discount for prints of the same size from the same negative.

Portfolio / Albums

Your album is made up of the final prints you chose and put together to tell the story of your wedding day. The album may be made of archival paper and have a leather or faux-leather covering, and the prints might have a mat around them or be flush to the edge. A complete album usually takes about forty inserts, with photos on both sides. Albums are usually monogrammed with the name of the bride and groom and the date of the wedding with a photo on the cover.

About the Author:

Debora Carpenito, WeddingPhotoUSA

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