I've never been one to hold my tongue when having an opinion about something (and I always have one of those), but I've been sort of watching this situation unfold for a while and I'm not going to pretend that it's awesome. I'm now in my 6th wedding season, and I've seen my fair share of trends within the industry. I started seeing "dark and moody/film inspired/matte" photos probably around 2013 and they are ALL THE RAGE right now. I see it everywhere. My Instagram feed looks like a bunch of orange zombies in wedding clothes.
Lots of photographers will NOT like what I have to say. Photographers are not my intended audience for this particular blog, so if you have time to get upset about what a small potatoes Oklahoma photographer has to say, then maybe you should put your time and energy into your own projects. This is my warning to people who have yet to hire a photographer. Ask yourself if you will still like the editing style in 10 years and if you'll be happy with your photos.
When I speak with prospective clients or if I refer people for dates I'm already booked, I ALWAYS point out differences in style. I tell them to pay attention to things like color tones and post processing. There are SO many amazing photographers that are killing colors, adding unnecessary grain, and decreasing sharpness and contrast. It's 2017. Camera technology is pretty darn amazing. I LOVE sharp and clean images, and I know the limits of my equipment to make sure that I'm exposing images correctly.
I've always stuck to more or less clean and classic edits, with a few tonal adjustments changing in my style over the past few years. I'm going to give you a few examples of some trends that I've seen since joining the industry. Some of these are laughably bad, just a warning. All photos are mine and I'll show you the differences in the edits.
PEE COLORED SKIES
In 2011/2012, pee colored skies were so trendy. I'm not sure what the motivation was for this look, perhaps trying to make images look filmy, but it was so bad. I had a friend call me in tears after getting back her wedding photos because they were so yellow.
DUTCH ANGLES + HEAVY VIGNETTES
Next we also had some dutch angles with heavy vignettes. This was really popular going way back, probably 2005 or so. I still see some photographers do this on occasion. That crooked photo makes it super artsy (it doesn't). Notice the really heavy dark edges and the oversmoothed skin.
VSCO/FLAT AND MATTE
Next up matte edits became really popular. This was achieved with adjusting the tone curve of the image so that the highlights and shadows are flattened and have very little contrast. Lots of Instagram filters did this to images as well. Many of these images were achieved using VSCO presets. They desaturated certain colors and added extra grain to the image. This was probably circa 2013/14. Some of these are still used today. To me, these images just look heavy and gritty.
Next up we have where we are today. There's a gigantic Facebook group called Looks Like Film and most people are using variations of LXC presets. They might start with the preset and then tweak it, or sometimes they just slap it on and call it good.
Basically, what's happening is these edits are heavily desaturating green tones, to the point they look grey. Some of them boost skin tones heavily and they look very orange. Most of them look dark/underexposed, and there's also tons of grain added so they look extra gritty. It is NOT my jam, clearly. I'm going to show you a few examples of what I'm talking about here.
To me, honestly, some of them aren't completely terrible, but it's not timeless at all. Why on earth would you want to kill the gorgeous greens? Also, skin should not look like that on a bright sunny day.
Notice here how the reds become dull and orange, the greens are gone, and the skin looks sallow.
This one? No. Just no. It's so desaturated it looks like selective color. I made someone mad in a Facebook group last week using this example when I said "nobody should pay money for this." Remember 15 years ago when it was cool to have part of the image in color and the rest black and white? It just looks tacky and dated now.
This one is the worst, IMO. I photographed a destination wedding in Costa Rica, and I cannot imagine shooting in such a beautiful place and then making all the foliage turn freaking brown. Ick! Notice how the photos is essentially greyscale except their orange skin and her weirdly desaturated bouquet. This is the most face punchable offense of them all.
Let's not forget black and white. I realize not everyone likes black and white, I personally edit about 10% of my images in B&W and I love how it can bring out the emotion when done right. I like them to be crisp and clear. The LXC black and whites have no black and no white. It's just grey and grey.
And there you have it. As with most trends, I do expect this to eventually go away. This one is particularly bad, because we have the capabilities to create images that showcase real colors and are crisp and sharp. I think this look works better in some locations than others, it's particularly popular in the PNW and Colorado areas, but people are doing it everywhere. If you are a bride or groom looking to hire a photographer, consider longevity of the editing style when making your decision.