From staid to spontaneous: Wedding photos go newsy…as photographers offer candid black-and-white s

Once, an album of photographs featuring a few formal portraits, shots from the ceremony and a picture of the couple eating cake at the reception sufficed. Now couples demand sophisticated, journalistic-quality photos and video productions. It's not a question of choosing between photos or videos; both are considered essential to documenting the nuptials.

Although traditional formal photographs of the bride in all her finery will never go out of style, still photography is embracing new technology.

"We see a lot of things that are digitally enhanced," says Marquita Thomas, editor of WPPI Photography Monthly, the publication of Wedding and Portrait Photographers International.

Photographers are using computer programs such as PhotoShop to lend special effects to photos. These include a crackled porcelain finish to give a wedding portrait an antique appeal.

Thomas also sees lots of black-and-white wedding images crossing her desk. These are especially popular for candid photos, though couples sometimes want their formal shots to be black-and-white, too. The final album, however, is generally a mix of black-and-white and color prints.

The popularity of black-and-white shots highlights another major trend in wedding photography — photojournalistic candid shots. These lend a newsy feel to any nuptials by capturing the players in unguarded moments — the mother of the bride looking pensive as her daughter cuts the cake, for example.

This documentary approach is even more apparent in wedding videos. Roy Chapman, chairman of the Wedding & Event Videographers Association International, cites the "retrospective," in which the videographer produces the wedding as a series of flashbacks. The couple is interviewed after the event and wedding sequences are used to illustrate their recollection.

"This is a very creative development in our industry," says Chapman, adding that "video is capable of producing anything that's done on television."

Streamlined video equipment that uses existing light means the days of the intrusive videographer are long gone. It also makes it easier to give couples that PBS documentary look — or a charming "When Harry Met Sally" treatment. After all, your wedding may not make national headlines, but it's certainly the biggest news in your life.

Chapman notes that videos also are getting shorter in length — about 30 minutes of creatively edited, stylized and watchable highlights. "When your friends come over, they may not have two or three hours to watch the whole wedding," he adds.

But although the finished product is shorter, sophisticated editing skills can also make it more expensive. "It's much harder to produce an edited wedding than to set up a camera and let it roll," Chapman explains.

Like still photographers, videographers are using more black-and-white footage. "It's chic," Chapman says. Often, it's used for flashback segments and wedding guest interviews.

Many couples want their video to tell their personal love story, from the moment they first met all the way to the wedding day. To make the story come alive, videographers may incorporate video or 8 mm film from childhood through college graduation.

Having a good idea of the look you'd like for your wedding photos and video is just the first step. Next, you have to find professionals who can make your dream vision a reality. Good photographers and videographers are booked well in advance, so selecting them should be done as soon as you set a date and place — and possibly sooner.

When it comes to video, the bride and groom are the executive producers, Chapman says. It's up to them to secure permission for videotaping to take place. Some synagogues have restrictions on videotaping; thus, you may need to consider a different venue.

Word of mouth is an excellent way to find prospective photographers and videographers. You also can contact industry associations such as WPPI by visiting its web site at or calling (310) 451-0090. WEVA International can be reached at (800) 501-WEVA for local referrals.

It's a good idea to interview three or four professionals for both jobs, experts say. Be sure to take a close look at their work to make sure the style fits what you want. If you want lots of interviews with guests during the reception, you'll want a videographer who is comfortable approaching strangers; not all are.

When working with a large studio, make sure the professional whose work you admire is the one who will shoot your wedding. Be sure to specify it in the contract.

Also agree on when the photographer and videographer will start documenting the event. A videographer may film the rehearsal dinner to tape speeches and informal interviews, or a photographer may snap the bride as she gets ready.

At the very least, the photographer and/or videographer should visit the wedding and reception sites in advance. They should also meet with the couple to confer about everything from the bride's makeup to making sure Grandma makes it into the wedding album or video.