Wedding Photography History

Wedding photography has come a long way from it’s early roots. If you’re dreading the time and trouble that those obligatory portraits take to set up and shoot, it might help to know that you’ve got it pretty easy compared to couples in the early days of wedding photography. So, humor the parents and grandparents who want a traditional portrait or two. These days it only takes a few minutes to give them that cherished memory.

When commercial photography got its start back in 1836, the latest, high tech innovation in the field was the invention of French artist and chemist Louis J.M. Daguerre, the daguerreotype. By exposing an image on a polished sheet of silver with the use of chemicals, this process decreased the time needed to make a print to a matter of a mere 60 to 90 seconds, rather than the eight hours or so the earliest photographs took to create. While 60 to 90 seconds may seem a long time to those of us used to modern technology, it was quite advancement in those days, and one that made photography much more accessible.

While the daguerreotype was certainly more efficient and convenient than earlier photographic technology, it was still quite limited as compared to today’s methods. Wedding pictures were typically done in a studio, as equipment was much too big, bulky and sensitive to be easily portable. Couples would have to trudge into the studio to have their portraits done before or after the wedding day to mark the occasion, rather than the on site photography that is common today.

Small, portable cameras appeared on the scene around the time of the second World War. With the development of the 35 mm camera and roll film, photography moved out of the studio and into the real world, giving photographers the ability to record events as they happened—including wedding ceremonies.

Traditional, posed portraits were still popular—after all, those new fangled candid shots just didn’t fit in on Aunt Ida’s portrait wall—but were done on-site during the wedding. But, candid shots that captured the emotion of the wedding celebration began to appear, first in magazines, as informal shots from celebrity weddings were published, and then spreading to the weddings of the general population.

Today, wedding photography typically includes a mix of both traditional portraits and capture-the-moment photo-journalistic shots. And, even those traditional portraits have come a long way from the stiff and formal look of the past. The days of standing like a statue without blinking for what seems like forever are long gone, so portraits are pretty painless these days. And, won’t Aunt Ida be pleased to have that one shot of the two of you looking directly into the camera right next to the one from Grandma’s wedding. And, who knows, in 50 years, you might just appreciate that portrait as much as she does.

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