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  • Manon Douard

Fine Art, Moody, Realism : 3 retouching styles in wedding photography

Hi there,

This is one of the most important question you'll ask yourself when looking for a wedding photographer: what style of photography do I want for my wedding?

That includes the taking-the-picture part but also the editing.

In today's article we'll discuss 3 different retouching styles in wedding photography: Moody, Fine Art and Realism.

Moody style

Let's start with the only one I do not do.

Consistency is definitely my strong suit.

The "Moody" style plays on the contrasts and the colors of an image. The aim is to use light to create a contrasting, twilight effect. The shades used are often golden, beiges and desaturated greens. Unlike other retouching styles, Moody also plays on low-key highlights: whites appear cream-colored, also reminiscent of these beige and ochre hues. Blacks, on the other hand, are deep. These color choices give the photographs a retro feel. It also creates a particular atmosphere of twilight and drama. In my opinion, this is one of the retouching styles that most modifies the colors of the initial image.

photo d'un couple de mariés en train de s'embrasser au coucher du soleil

Who it's for: Moody retouching gives photographs a 'past', old-fashioned look. This effect can be reinforced by the textures and materials: old wood on a table, lace on a dress, linen or foliage to enhance the bohemian, retro feel. In terms of atmosphere, beige/brown tones and that old-fashioned feel can lend a touch of melancholy to the images. If you're looking for a romantic ambiance with a slightly old-fashioned charm, Moody is for you!

Why you need to be careful: it's a strong aesthetic bias, so the theme of your wedding and the mood you're imagining need to match the retro spirit of Moody for optimum results. The twilight aspect creates a staged, less spontaneous look than other types of retouching. For me, the main downside is that being a strong aesthetic style, Moody is more likely to fall victim to fashion trends than a more discreet retouching style. It's up to you to make sure that you'll still love this atmosphere 30 years from now.

Fine Art Style

The "Fine Art" style also plays with light to create a very luminous ambience. The tones of the photo are usually pastel for a very soft rendering: light beige, powder pink, water green or pastel blue. Where Moody can bring out stronger colors, Fine Art compositions soften the colors of the environment. In terms of contrast, Fine Art images usually have no dark areas. Where Moody plays with textural effects, Fine Art tends to "smooth out" photos: slight grain on the image that evens out details, sharply softened contrasts, uniform white light and even hues.

un couple de mariés remonte l'allée de leur cérémonie laïque en riant pendant que leurs proches leur jettent des pétales de fleurs

Who's it for: everyone, because although Fine Art is often associated with white or pastel weddings, there's no obligation in terms of wedding theme and mood. As it tends to blur contrasts, Fine Art may be better suited to a white or pastel wedding. Though if you're willing to go with a very bohemian and country-style vibe, it may not be the best style for you !

portrait d'une mariée qui tient un bouquet de fleurs blanches

Une mariée de dos descend un grand escalier en colimaçon à l'Abbaye des Prémontrés

Why you need to be careful: if you want to play with textural effects (wood, old stone), this style of development may be too "smooth". Fine Art rendering is also often associated with wide-open spaces and a château atmosphere. You may not be looking for this traditional and grandiose look for your wedding pictures. Fine Art also relies heavily on white light. A lot of it. If you're planning an all-inside wedding in winter, you may not get the ethereal feel Fine Art could give to a summer wedding.

A little comparison between Moody and Fine Art:

Here's one of my photos that I retouched in both styles :

And here are the two palettes representing the colors from each photo:

exemple d'un dégradé de couleurs Fine Art
Palettes réalisées sur le site Colordot
exemple d'un dégradé de couleurs Moody

The original photo was taken at the end of the day, around 6.00 p.m., in August. You'll notice that the photo on the left gives the impression of typical Moody end-of-day light (in fact, the corresponding palette has mainly beige and ochre hues), whereas the one on the right has a whiter, smoother light. Contrast is also greater on the left.

Realist style (what I'm used to call Naturalism in French and have no idea how to translate in English - you're welcome)

The question of the naturalist movement is a vast one, and I'm seriously considering writing an article about it. In this one, I'll try to be synthetic (my main quality). In photo retouching, naturalism/realism consists in bringing the retouched image closer to what the human eye would see. Colors are almost not modified if they even are, and the dynamic range of the image is worked to restore or even accentuate the original contrasts. To me, this is the approach that explores chiaroscuro the most, since if we decide not to play with colors, the main lever of action on the image becomes light and contrast.

Accentuating chiaroscuro can give an image a dramatic edge that I don't think you'll find in Fine Art, for example. It's a retouching style that makes images look like paintings, and I live for it !

photo en clair obscur d'une robe de mariée suspendue à une fenêtre à l'Abbaye des Prémontrés

My brother: "Well, it looks like the cover of 'War and Peace'. Natasha flees Moscow, leaving her wedding dress hanging in the window, before dying crossing the Volga in her bare feet." Granted, it's a tad intense as a composition, especially for a wedding, but I love it. And in this case, Marine didn't die barefoot in the snow at all. This photo was taken in August, Marine came back to pick up her dress, she got married, was very happy, and nobody died.

Photo en clair-obscur montrant le détail d'un voile cousu de perles qui tombe sur l'épaule de la mariée

Naturalism (or Realism, I didn't choose yet) is an approach I'm increasingly favoring for indoor photos, especially those of the getting ready's.

Plan serré d'un bouquet de fleurs tenu par une mariée assise sur un fauteil

A naturalistic approach doesn't necessarily imply ultra-accentuated contrasts, but chiaroscuro is present, as you can see here.

Who it's for: Because naturalism relies heavily on contrasts and light effects, it's easier to create it indoors, where the light is harder and less diffuse than outside, since the light sources are smaller (light through a window is less diffuse than sunlight through clouds). It's a style that allows you to create artistic shots of both the environment and the bride and groom. As a bride/groom-to-be, you'll love it if you're looking for more dramatic shots, if you want to highlight the setting in which you're getting married, or if you want more sophisticated compositions for your photo reportage.

Why you need to be careful: For the exact same reason than with Fine Art : this style works indoors, not always outdoors (which is why I use one outside and the other inside). This style also relies on the environment - that's where the word 'Naturalism' comes from - and on the interplay of light and shadow. If you're planning an almost exclusively outdoor wedding, and don't like high-contrast images or close-ups (tight portraits and details), this approach may not be for you.

Wedding photographers generally use a variety of approaches

You can think of the approaches presented here as the points of an isosceles triangle (hated mathematics, never thought I would ever write this word on this blog, I'm definitely becoming a mature person). Most photographers oscillate between these different styles, even if we're all more influenced by one or the other. The environment of each wedding also determines the style we'll use, as indoor and outdoor weddings won't bring the same vibe and allow the same compositions.

In order to make sure that a photographer's approach is right for you, I'd advise you to ask to see complete wedding galleries to get an idea of how his or her work looks over a whole day. I always try to send galleries that are relevant to the bride and groom's project (it makes no sense to send them a gallery of an entirely outdoor wedding if they're getting married in a hotel in the middle of winter). It's important to have a point of comparison when making your decision so you don't have second thoughts or extra stress on your wedding day.

I hope I've helped you in your search for a wedding photographer if you're in the delicious (and stressful) phase of wedding preparations!

You can have a look at several wedding galleries on my website, and you can also contact me if you wish to ask questions, tell me about your wedding project or hear my very French accent.

See you later,


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