Different photographers shoot in different styles. As an informed consumer, you need to be informed about those styles. Don’t just rely on what the photographer says, because he or she will, no doubt, tell you that his style is the coolest, trendiest, and best. Other styles are so five minutes ago . . .
Note that there are few purists among wedding photographers. I try to avoid pictures that are posed or staged, but after the ceremony, I still take formal portraits of the bride and groom, the bridal parties, the families, etc. Of course, I encourage the subjects to loosen up, maybe horse around a bit. You’ll find some sample on my Wedding Photography page here.)
The major styles are:
Classic: A photographer who shoots in the classic vein tends to produce formal pictures where the subjects have adopted a pose and the surroundings look like the set of a movie or play. Often the photographer acts as a director, telling people where to stand and arranging the backdrop.
Portraiture: Similar to the classic style, but expect to find an emphasis soft focus and blurred backgrounds.
Arty/Edgy: Photographs that show evidence of being photographs. They are often dramatic and may be taken from strange angles, have film-like grain, offbeat lighting, or unconventional framing.
Documentary/Journalistic: These photographers—and I count myself among them—look for unposed, unstaged moments and try to use these natural looking photos to tell a story. (If I catch a shot of the best man quickly clasping the groom’s shoulder in order to steady him, I’m even in heaven.) While the bride and groom should always make the final decision, documentary photographers generally like to shoot in black and white.
No style is superior to another, but you should decide on the style that suits you best and question the photographer closely about which one he or she prefers. Ask to see photos other than the ones highlighted on the photographer’s Web site and look to see which style is most apparent. You’re paying for these pictures; it’s your call.