Is Vintage Photography the Dance Music of the Wedding Industry?

Lisa Devlin

January 22, 2013

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There are obvious fashions in weddings just like with clothing, interiors, food and just about everything we consume. However if you want to maintain any kind of longevity in the industry is it wrong to appear to be too much of a particular trend?

I actually get asked about this quite a lot as I guess it could be perceived that I am part of the fashion for vintage toning on wedding images. Ironically, this toning is something that I started doing when I switched from shooting weddings on film to digital a couple of years ago. I have always tweaked the colour on my images, whether it was toning black & white prints or cross processing print film in the chemicals for slide film and vice versa. I like to find out how things work and then mess with them. In the 90s I worked for the experimental Blah Blah Blah magazine and the art director, Chris Ashworth, used to always prefer the images that would normally get binned. He liked to to push the boundaries of everything. At the time, I was simultaneously working for a number of teenage pop magazines so it was utterly liberating to be able to do something creative and definitely my favourite magazine to work for.

So I guess it was inevitable that when I finally embraced digital technology for shooting weddings, I would start to seek ways of messing with the colours again. I have always been passionate about old photographs and all they represent in our social history, so if Photoshop was going to give me the ability to experiment, then I was going to! I looked for ways to recreate those faded tones that old colour images have. At the same time the kinds of wedding dresses and decor items that were gaining popularity we’re also very vintage, and so suddenly it was a ‘thing’.

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Of course I wasn’t the only photographer in the world reaching the same place with Photoshop, and if the weddings had a vintage twist then the images of those weddings were naturally going to follow suit. And, in my opinion, that is what makes this ‘trend’ different to a lot of others in wedding photography of the past that now just look naff. Spot colour, dutch tilt, white vignettes etc are all photography techniques that were imposed on wedding photography by photographers not the industry as a whole.

I have been involved in this industry for long enough to know that someone’s wedding photographs are going to be around way longer than any trend. I have always kept things simple with a view to the longevity required with what I create, and I steer away from anything too ‘now’. The vintage look has coincided with the most creative time in wedding photography EVER and it’s already morphing in several different directions. There is a huge nostalgia for photographs printed from film, hence the unprecedented success of VSCO and the fact that many wedding photographers are now opting to shoot film rather than digital. The VSCO processing system is used by some of the world’s most respected wedding photographers including Jonas Peterson, Samm Blake and Sean Flanigan but it is cheap and very accessible for anyone. This is also why superstar photographers like Elizabeth Messina and Jose Villa are shooting with analogue cameras. They are known for a muted filmic look and they are commanding some of the highest fees globally at a time when many photographers are struggling. In the UK, we have amazing photographers such as Emma Case, Lisa Jane and Joanna Brown who are constantly pushing the boundaries of wedding photography and blending digital with analogue. I am amongst a small group of photographers the world over who also offer their processing techniques via Photoshop actions which other photographers can purchase. And they do, every day.

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When I worked as a music photographer, there was a lot of industry comments on how dance music would be a flash in the pan. There was much talk about how electronic music and sampling was not real music and it was ruining the industry. They said the same thing about guitar based music in the 1950s. But you know what, both are still around and dance music in particular has branched out into dozens of exciting, creative directions. It’s diversified so much that it can’t be defined as just one genre anymore, and to me, wedding photography is on the same track (pardon the pun).

Digital photography and computers have given us the tools to fully embrace a creative approach, just like synthesizers and computers did for musicians from the 1980s and continues to in the current day. Of course the ‘vintage look’ can be done quite badly by the ham-fisted or those merely jumping on the latest bandwagon. I’ve seen some dreadful overly-processed work where it is just too strong, unflattering or simply not relevant to the images it has been applied to. Its a bit like Stock, Aitken and Waterman doing dance music! All the Photoshop actions that I use work well at lower opacities so you can keep the effect subtle and flattering if you prefer. We also encourage photographers to experiment with the actions via our facebook page and blog.

I also have always given my clients a disc of straight colour images as these will always be the best starting point for whatever they want to do with their images. ‘Vintage’ for lack of a better word (there seems to be no other term for it!) has it’s fair share of critics, just like dance music did back in the day. However it is my experience that the people with time to sit around dissing what everyone else is up to, are the ones that fear to progress themselves.

Certainly finding a classic style and sticking with it can be a successful formula, and you will always find clients who love timeless. However, there are plenty of creative folk getting married who want their taste reflected in their wedding imagery. I’m excited for the future of wedding photography and plan to keep messing with my images. I have been recently digging out old cokin filters that I haven’t touched since the early 90s and will also be getting together with Amy to create our next set of actions. If there is room in the music industry for both Eric Clapton and Moby, then there is certainly room in wedding photography for both classic and vintage. However, would it surprise you to learn that Eric Clapton once released a techno album!?!?

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About the Author

Lisa Devlin is a wedding photographer from Brighton and a regular contributor to The Green Room. She hosts the 3-day long Photography Farm on a regular basis. The next Farm will be taking place from the 19th-21st March (with guest speaker & stylist yours truly!)

Lisa has also just launched a 5-day non-residential ‘Farm Week‘ which will take place this month from 23rd – 27th. It has an awesome timetable of talks and master-classes from some of the industry’s finest including Kirsty MitchellBrooke Davis and the girls from The Blogcademy! Prices per talk start from just £50. Registration is now open at For enquiries or bookings email Lisa on or call 01273231047.