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Relaxed Wedding Photography (Trends + Tips)

Weddings aren’t always a formal, classy affair – sometimes couples are looking for more relaxed wedding photography.

Whether the wedding itself is informal or the couple just wants a more candid style of photography, it’s important to think about how it affects your wedding photography.

In this article, I’ll walk through wedding trends and why relaxed weddings are popular.

Then, I’ll help you see how that impacts your wedding photography and what skills you can develop to thrive at relaxed weddings.

After over a decade in the wedding industry, it’s easy to get burnt out on the over-the-top decorations and out-of-their-minds expectations.

But, like me, many brides are seeing that what they value about a wedding day should be reflected in their wedding planning priorities. And often, that leads to more relaxed weddings overall.

Let’s dig into this trend.

Understanding the Trend Toward Relaxed Wedding Photography

Before we can dive into the relaxed wedding photography trend and how it impacts how we shoot, it helps to look at how we got here.

By examining couples’ priorities and how they’ve shifted, we’ll be able to use that knowledge to serve our couples well both now and as future trends emerge.

After we walk through the wedding trends, you’ll see how popular wedding photography styles seem to mimic and complement the evolution.

If you think about the idea of a first look, it shows you how we might hold onto the important aspect of a tradition but create a new way of doing it.

Wedding first looks capitalize on the traditional emotional moment when the couple sees each other for the first time on their wedding day.

Separating that moment from the moment of walking down the aisle is a great example of changing a tradition to fit the individual priorities of a wedding day.

Now, the couple can see each other sooner on their wedding day so that they can have a moment alone or get portraits and family pictures done earlier.

The Trend Towards Personalized Weddings

Historically, weddings were formal affairs that were often held in religious institutions.

There were often strict customs and traditions to be followed, from dress codes to who performed the ceremony.

Like everything, weddings have evolved along with societal norms and cultural influences.

They’ve become more personalized and are often a reflection of the style and interests of a specific couple.

The Trend Towards Destination Weddings, Intimate Weddings, and Elopements

Destination weddings gained popularity with increased globalization and travel opportunities.

Now, instead of getting married in your hometown, you can travel somewhere exotic and have a memorable experience.

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Destination weddings often lead to smaller guest lists, which, for some couples, is part of the appeal.

Smaller guest lists often mean less stress, less obligation, and less costs.

Every couple has their reasons for eloping, but the simpler ceremonies that accompany intimate weddings and elopements tend to focus more on the meaning of a commitment than the spectacle of the event.

The Trend Toward DIY, Eco-Friendly, and Informal

And speaking of a spectacle, some couples want to celebrate with all their friends and family but they want it to be about their marriage and not a performance or a show.

While I’ve been to many highly entertaining and elaborately produced weddings, there are a lot more couples choosing to spend their wedding budgets differently.

Or maybe their wedding budgets are simply smaller as more couples take on the responsibility of wedding costs instead of relying on their parents and the strings attached.

The DIY (do-it-yourself) movement became huge, and couples made handmade decorations and personalized favors to both cut costs and add a personalized touch to their weddings.

However, online inspiration created overwhelming expectations even for DIY weddings, which likely inspired a movement toward simplicity.

Eco-friendly weddings grew in popularity as couples prioritized sustainability, eco-friendly decor, and locally sourced food.

From there, it’s not hard to see how wedding planning in some places has moved towards more relaxed and informal celebrations.

Couples want the authenticity of a laid-back atmosphere where everyone can be comfortable and enjoy the day without the pressure of formalities.

Relaxed Weddings and Photography

A bride and groom standing on top of a mountain at sunset.

As a wedding photographer for over a decade, I would say that more than a clear shift, I’ve seen an expansion of wedding styles.

Instead of weddings following certain rules, each couple makes their own rules.

Every bride can pick and choose from the buffet of traditions that make weddings special.

I still photograph classy weddings, formal weddings, and elaborate weddings.

But, yes, the majority of my couples are opting for more relaxed weddings with fewer restrictions.

Timelines and Events

One of the best things about a relaxed wedding is that the couple is focused on planning their timeline around the events that are important to them.

Bouquet tosses are less common, and cake cuttings are usually a quick photo op rather than a gather-around moment.

If a couple prioritizes good food, then everything might be planned around a fancy dinner.

Conversely, if a couple loves to dance you might see the schedule be perfected for the dance party at the wedding reception.

From a photography standpoint, couples often want great photos but don’t want the process to negatively impact their experience and time with their guests.

If you’re not already doing so, you must determine the right balance of getting the best photos while allowing your couples to have their best night.

This might mean you need to do family photos before the ceremony or try my preference of doing them right after the ceremony as efficiently as possible while you have everyone gathered in one place.



Improving your photojournalism skills is a good idea: you’ll start to hear more and more of your couples requesting candid photos.

They just want to have a great time with their bridesmaids and groomsmen and for you to capture that.

In some ways, this style is more challenging because it’s less predictable, and you can’t just rely on a shot list to get the right pictures.

However, in other ways, it’s less stressful because instead of running around trying not to miss important moments, you can be present and wait for the perfect moments to naturally unfold.

Photojournalism is about capturing real moments, authentic emotions, and genuine interactions.

As a storyteller, that’s exciting to me.

In the video above, I talk more about how to capture moments.

Creating Your Photography Style for Relaxed Weddings

Now, instead of the story being just about the prescriptive traditions of a wedding, the story you tell can be more personal, too.

In the same way that the evolution of weddings allows couples to personalize and prioritize their wedding to suit their vision, it gives photographers the freedom to develop their style as well.

Embracing Natural Light and Backdrops


One of the hard parts about photojournalism is that you can’t always control the lighting or the backdrop of the place where a moment is happening.

Therefore, it’s important to learn how to embrace natural light and make the best of any backdrop.

Try playing with your framing and composition to find the best angle on the scene that you’re dealing with.

Sometimes, you need to get low so that you can eliminate distractions from the background.

Often, you’ll need to move around so that you’re working with the best available light possible.

From there, you’ll want to learn how to add lighting to enhance your photos when necessary. (See more in our guide to wedding photography lighting techniques.)

The video above will help you learn to see light and shadows.

Immerse Yourself in the Moments

Once you’ve nailed your lighting and composition, it’s important to immerse yourself in the moments so that you’re ready to anticipate and capture them.

I don’t think about it as blending into the background like a fly on the wall but rather being present so that I’m not a distraction.

You don’t want to be creepy in the corner, but you don’t want to take away from the actual subjects of your story.

For me, I find it works best to gently build rapport so that everyone is comfortable with my presence without being annoyed or distracted by me.

You’ll want to find what works best for your personality and photography style. I know photographers that are much louder than me and others that are much quieter.

The goal here is to find the best way to be present to capture genuine emotions and interactions.

Adding Storytelling Elements in Your Photography

A bride and groom kiss in front of yosemite national park.

You’ve found interesting light and a composition that works with the background.

Then, you’ve waited for that intimate or hilarious moment.

If something is still missing from your photography, you might look at how you can add storytelling elements to your photos.

For example, is there some detail in the background that you want to include because it tells a deeper story?

Is there a focal length that might work better to make the viewer of the image feel closer?

Or, maybe you want to think about post-production and presentation.

It can be impactful to put together a slideshow or wedding album that tells a story of the day.

It might have hero shots and emotional moments sandwiched between other images that provide context for the story.

Collaborating with Couples for Authentic Results

A bride and groom standing in front of a fence with mountains in the background.

When it comes to relaxed wedding photography, one of the most important but surprisingly overlooked keys is to ensure that your couple feels relaxed around you.

In this section, I’ll share a few tips to help you build trust with your couples, which will help you create more natural-looking images.

Pre-Wedding Consult

A good first step is to get to know your couples.

We always have a pre-wedding consultation that covers three essential things: the timeline, family pictures, and the priorities of our couples.

It’s really helpful for me to know what their priorities and preferences are.

You can also get an idea of who is important to them and their vision for their photography.

From there, you can tell them to relax and be themselves and that you’ll let them know if you need them to do anything.

Sometimes, couples feel anxious if they think you need them to do something, so it helps to tell them what to expect.

Many couples want guidance, they’re nervous, and they don’t know what they’re doing.

You’re there to guide them, but you’ll want to learn how to do so without being intrusive and impacting the moments.

Consider an Engagement Session

One of the main reasons for an engagement shoot is to get to know the couple before their wedding day.

During engagement sessions, your couples get comfortable with you as a person and being in front of your camera.

Many couples aren’t used to having someone photographing their every move.

However, the more they trust you and that you’re going to show them in a good light (pun intended), the more they can relax and be themselves.

Consider Your Cues and Directions


Both at the engagement shoot and at the wedding, you’ll want to consider the types of cues and directions that you give to your couples.

Even during portraits, I like my couples to feel natural, relaxed, and candid.

I want them to look at a photo and remember feeling joy and having fun rather than commenting on that awkward pose their photographer forced them into.

It’s good to consider your posing style, and even if you like posing your clients, maybe you can give directions in a way that makes them feel natural and comfortable.

Final Words on Relaxed Weddings

In summary, relaxed weddings aren’t going away.

New styles and trends might emerge and expand what we as photographers can expect from the industry.

If anything, it seems like weddings are getting more personalized and tailored to each couple.

This is a great thing for photographers because it adds interest to our work.

Instead of doing the same thing weekend after weekend, year after year, we can focus on telling the unique story of each couple that we work with.

By developing your style to complement the desires and vision of your couples, you can only increase your opportunities for creativity and storytelling.

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