What is a Documentary Wedding Photographer?
They look at my wedding photography on this website and they can see that my work is different to “the traditional wedding photographer”, but I sometimes have to explain my thought processes and methods for obtaining the images that I do get for my clients. When I say “me”, I really mean “we”. There are other wedding photojournalists out there of course, and the pure ones, like me, will probably all relay very similar stories and paradigms.
This genre of photography has several different names; wedding photojournalism, documentary wedding photography and reportage wedding photography. I don’t believe there is any difference between the three names, apart from, perhaps, what the bridal magazines see as the fashionable way to describe natural, story telling wedding photography.
A documentary wedding photographer is story teller, through pictures. It’s very straight forward, but not particularly an easy art to do well. You will see a lot of wedding photographers out there that declare themselves “documentary wedding photographers”, but their website is full of directed and posed images, with the odd candid photograph thrown in for good measure (that is not wedding photojournalism).
For me, an image absolutely has to have context and tell a story to the viewer. The following image was shot at a very recent wedding. Its far from traditional. A traditional wedding photograph of the bride and groom leaving the church in the car would perhaps be a posed image from inside the car, the bride and groom grinning out the back window with champagne in their hands or even a close up of the “just married” slogan on the back. The image, to me, represents everything that documentary wedding photography should.
The image here, for me, sums up the entire essence of this wedding in one capture. You can see the bride and groom in the car, they are touching hands and clearly very happy. However, what made this image for me was the multitude of reflections in the shot. There is the lady, of course, waving, the best man can be seen reflected in the back window, as can one of the bridesmaids and her partner. The the right of the image is another guest. I waited for this image to come together – it wasn’t a snap shot. Of course, I had to get in the right position, and to a certain extent, hope everything came together – which it did. The sun reflected on the glass, the lady came along (at first she stood there, and only right at the end did she wave), and the bridesmaid came into view too.
My philosophy of shooting wedding photography is very simple; follow my instincts & follow my heart – document the wedding.
Documentary Wedding Photography is all about capturing the moment and following the passion of the day. I go after moments that appeal to me from the inside and I strive to capture the emotions and energy of the day through the still image.
I am at my most creative when left to roam around the wedding capturing those perfect shots of you and your guests. The moments you may never even have noticed happening during the wedding day itself. Weddings that have reams of formal and group shots will disable my ability to capture those images. I appreciate that most weddings need some form of formal photography, but I strongly encourage my clients to not have more than five group shots. Any more, and it breaks the cohesion of the day and the opportunity for me to fully explore and photograph the wedding.
I strive to capture the beauty of the whole day and that includes your guests. They are very important people in your life and, once the magic of the wedding is over, it will be the photographs of the day that you will turn to time and time again to relive those moments.
Wedding Photojournalism and children equal a match made in heaven: Children are a favourite subject of mine at weddings. Their expressions and emotions are uninhibited and they always have an innocence and carefree attitude that often make for great photographs. This next photograph was taken towards the end of last year at Cripps Barn here in the Cotswolds.
This image was captured just before the first dance. The little girl, who happened to be one of the bridesmaids, was playing around on the dance floor when the DJ turned on his green laser lights. Normally these little green dots that shoot around the room cause havoc for us photographers, but as I sat and waited, she immediately started “flying” in the lights. It was a wonderful moment, and with a young daughter of my own I was lost a bit in the moment myself. I managed to shoot a couple of frames of here dancing away and this was the result. I know that the family adore this picture, and hopefully it will remind the little girl as she grows into adulthood of those little fun moments in life all have occasionally. Wedding Photojournalism is not all about glum looking people in black and white photographs. Real wedding photojournalism should me you smile. Lots!
As a documentary wedding photographer I aim to make your wedding photos vibrant and a memory for generations to come. Each and every wedding photograph goes through a precise and technical post processing re-touching exercise. I personally edit every one of the selected shots so that you are presented with only the very best photographs of your special day. This is all part of my service.
I shoot with digital equipment, but my love of film images has led me to develop a post-production style that allows my photography to resemble that of the timeless film photos. My photographs are purposefully edited to look like film images. I use natural light and you will often seen some grain in my images. Grain is good. Grain means the camera and the photographer are doing the work – no flash required!
Many people come to me because they appreciate the time and effort I put into the production of my finished images. They often have an appreciation of film style imagery, and not the clinical, over processed digital images that you often see these days.
Wherever possible, I shoot with short lenses. This often means I have to really get in amongst the action. Getting in the action is what a wedding photojournalists should be doing – all the time. To my mind, wedding photojournalism dictates this mantra. Using long lenses and popping images out from behind a tree, whilst unobtrusive, will not yield strong story telling images. The following image is taken from a recent wedding in Cambridge. The technical photographers will say that, technically, this isn’t a perfect photograph. I’m pleased it’s not a perfect photograph – if I’d posed or staged or directed this in any way the moment would be lost. The moment, as it happens, is the best man relaying a story that had the groom and the rest of the guests reeling with laughter. This photograph was very difficult to get. The speeches were taking place in a small library and the guests were behind and around me.
The light behind the bride was streaming in, so I had to compensate for that constantly changing light with the camera. Some people would have moved to the side to take the image, but I really wanted the best man in the shot too. I was on my knees getting this image as I did not want to stand and obstruct the view of the guests behind me. Whilst I was still right in the action, I continued to be as unobtrusive as possible – true wedding photojournalism.
You won’t see any funny lopsided tilted images, or spot coloured images or fake blurred images from me – and hopefully you won’t from any true wedding photojournalists. Just pure & true photos from real moments in your wedding day.
I try to shoot with wide open apertures as much as possible for the shallow depth of field, which draws the viewer’s attention to the emotion in the subject of the photograph.
Do wedding photojournalists take photos of dresses? Do they photograph the details of your day. Yes, of course. Wedding photojournalism is about telling the whole story of your wedding and the details are part of the story of your day. As a photojournalist I will not move, or direct you or your guests in any way. I certainly won’t take your dress and hang it outside on a tree to photograph. Your dress will of course be photographed, and where possible, I will photograph it artistically without any intervention from me. This next image is a dress that was hanging on the door in the bridal suite. The top of the dress had been covered, and the bottom was hidden behind the bed. It is not my role on your wedding day to move the dress into a better position, instead, I will try to photograph it in the best possible way – with no intrusion.
This next image is another detail and dress shot. This time of the shoes and the dress. Again, no intervention what-so-ever from me as the photographer. The top of the dress was again hidden so I went to ground, and got the following shot.
I never use flash photography during the ceremony, as this can detract from the moment. In fact, I don’t use flash at all during the day and will only use it as a last resort during the first dance when the lighting can be too difficult.
I prefer shooting with all natural light as it preserves the natural dimensions of a moment in an image. I tend to use short prime lenses wherever possible which allows me to keep my approach photo-journalistic, and this relies on “stealth” during the service and at the reception. Often, the guests won’t even know I’ve taken a shot of them. The shorter lenses are great for capturing those unexpected moments when there is action going on all around me.
My aim with my wedding photojournalism is to create wedding imagery that not only tell the story of your day, but are also a tangible reminder of the emotions, feelings and details of your very special wedding day. My approach and style, is totally unobtrusive meaning I will not dictate or prompt or manipulate anything throughout your very special wedding day.
So, hopefully that has explained what, in my eyes, a documentary wedding photographer is. I’ll leave you with a few more documentary wedding photographs….. and please feel free to leave comments below on this page.
True documentary wedding photographers will not have you throwing your top hats in the air, walking “reservoir dogs” style towards the camera, running and linking hands, or tilting your photos so you get sea sick when looking at them.
Wedding Photojournalism is about the story. It’s about the people. It’s about the love between the couple but most of all, wedding photojournalism is about the moment. The decisive moment in fact, as the master Cartier Bresson explained.