The History of Wedding Photography

Wedding photography is a long-standing tradition that has evolved significantly over the years. While the practice of capturing images of a couple's big day dates back to the earliest days of photography itself, the modern concept of wedding photography as we know it today is a relatively recent development.

In the early days of photography, the process of capturing an image was a laborious and time-consuming affair. Photographers would use large, bulky cameras to take long exposures of their subjects, which required them to remain still for extended periods of time. This made it nearly impossible to capture candid or spontaneous moments, and as a result, early wedding photographs were often formal, posed portraits. If you look at wedding photos of your grandparents or great-grandparents, maybe you've seen a few wedding photos like this.

The First Wedding Photos

One of the first known examples of a wedding photograph dates back to the 1840s, when a daguerreotype (an early type of photograph) was taken of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert on their wedding day. This image, which shows the couple seated and looking directly at the camera, is a far cry from the candid, spontaneous wedding photos that we are used to seeing today.

Evolution of Wedding Photo Styles

As photography technology began to improve and cameras became smaller and more portable, photographers were able to take more candid shots of their subjects. This allowed them to capture genuine, unscripted moments at weddings, and as a result, the artistic styles began to evolve.

In the early 20th century, wedding photography was still a relatively formal affair. Photographers would often take staged, posed photographs of the happy couple, their families, and their guests, but these images were often stiff and posed. It wasn't until the 1950s and 1960s that wedding photography began to take on a more candid and natural style.

The rise of reportage, or documentary-style, wedding photography in the 1950s and 1960s was a major turning point in the history of wedding photography. This style of photography, which was popularized by photographers such as Henri Cartier-Bresson and Robert Frank, focused on capturing candid, unscripted moments at weddings. This allowed photographers to capture the genuine emotions and moments of joy that are so often present at a wedding, and it gave couples the opportunity to have a more natural and informal record of their big day.

Digital Changes Everything

The advent of digital photography in the late 20th century also had a major impact on the way wedding photography was approached. With the ability to take an unlimited number of photos and instantly review them, photographers were able to experiment more and take a more candid, photojournalistic approach to wedding photography. Digital cameras with increased sensitivity also made it possible to easily shoot a wedding in low light. This, combined with the popularity of social media and the rise of destination weddings, has led to a boom in wedding photography in recent years.

Today, wedding photography has come a long way from its early, formal origins. With the ability to capture candid, spontaneous moments and the widespread availability of digital photography, couples now have the opportunity to have a beautiful and genuine record of their big day. While the tradition of wedding photography may have evolved over the years, its purpose remains the same: to capture a memory to last a lifetime.

Fun Photo Fact

We started taking wedding photographs almost as soon as we had developed cameras. The first photograph taken with a camera, was taken by Joseph Nicéphore Niépce in 1826 or 1827. The photograph, called "View from the Window at Le Gras," is of a landscape outside Niépce's window in Burgundy, France. The photograph was taken using a camera obscura and a process called heliography, in which an image is captured on a light-sensitive metal plate. It is a black and white image and took around eight hours to expose. Looking at the photograph today, it's really hard to tell what you are looking at.

Just a few short years later, the quality of images was much improved. The first photograph of a person was believed to have been taken in 1838 ("Boulevard du Temple" by Louis Daguerre). Not long after, we had the world's first wedding photos. On a daguerreotype... named after Mr. Daguerre himeself!

View from the Window at Le Gras

It's not much of a view, but it was the very first photograph.

Boulevard du Temple

A decade letter, image quality has greatly improved. If you look at the bend in the street, you can see people standing there!