DOCUMENTARY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY
Documentary or reportage or wedding photojournalism. It’s my approach. It’s the only way I photograph a wedding day. It is uncontrived, observational, natural, honest. This is the approach, rather than the tired, traditional A-B-C of wedding photography, that still lurks in the public imagination when they think of wedding photography.
Reflecting the day, not imposing upon it, with countless setup images or traditional moments that some think you ‘need’ for wedding photography. Free from these.
Recording a narrative that captures the atmosphere of the day.
AN EYE WITNESS TO THE DAY
Documentary wedding photography is about capturing memories. That look, that smile, those tears, that brief moment captured. Real memories, real emotions. It’s not posing in front of the wedding car, holding a pen above a blank registry book trying to smile or standing in line for hours on end.
It’s an approach that gets the best results from the right clients.
So “What makes a dream client?” and “How do you like to work on the day?”. Two questions from a couple enquiring about my work. Good questions. Better than the phone call I got once that just said “How much?” 😉 They wanted to find out not only if I was the right wedding photographer for them, but if they were the right kind of client for me? We discussed this in a following phone call. They booked. Their wedding was a belter!
Why? Because of the way they approached their wedding day. They did it their way and they enjoyed it! They let me just capture it, without needless restrictions. The resulting images reflected that, as the true atmosphere of the day was preserved in the images.
ALL THE TRADITIONAL WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY BITS TOO?
The ‘traditional’ bits. The bits people seem to think you need, but aren’t sure why, when you ask why? Can you have this too?
To be perfectly honest? No, not really – if you want the best from your documentary wedding photos!
Standing in front of the car/church…Posing on the back seat of the car, grinning at the camera…Group shot after group shot after group shot….Cutting the cake for the camera…Posing with a pen and a blank book…Group shot after group shot after group shot…Posing up during the reception, glass in hand, Hello magazine style…Group shot after group shot after group shot…etc. You know sort of thing?
You miss the opportunity for images of real moments. You miss actually experiencing the day and letting the photography quietly capture this.
Group shots….this is where ‘family pressure’ can come into play. They ‘expect’ these shots. But it is the couple who has to stand there the whole time – as time ticks by – missing out on celebrating with their friends. Most of the couples who book me want no formal group shots at all or no more than three or four – done quickly and informally – no elaborate ‘Vanity Fair’ style arrangements with chairs, etc.
The photography is meant to reflect, not impose upon the day.
So here’s some things I just don’t do! Setup shots like…
Portraits of the bride in the back garden. Posing up the bride outside the church. The posed up signing picture. Stopping a couple as they come down the aisle. Shouting at everyone to arrange the confetti/groups shots outside. Posing with the wedding car. Posing with the cake. Drinks in hand posed up shots of wedding guests in the reception. Pictures of all the guests posing for the camera at each table…(?)
Why? Because it’s about capturing these moments naturally!!
Walking up to the church, walking down the aisle, dodging the confetti, reaching the wedding car, guests chatting during the reception…..
The only time I intercede and ‘pose’ anything, is the couple portraits.
DOCUMENTARY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY, THE COUPLE PORTRAITS
Now some documentary wedding photographers don’t do portraits. I don’t go along with this. But neither do I take a couple off for an hour. Ten minutes perhaps, maybe a second ten minute session if there is great evening light. Not the traditional upright, the dress carefully spread out across the grass…zzzzz. But images that show the couple’s relationship. In the right light and then shoot around it. With just a smidgen of direction. Some couples need more than others. Some just need to be told to stare into each other’s eyes…they burst out laughing…there’s the picture! For others it’s a quiet moment, during the wedding reception, to look at each other and realise, they have done it! Captured by a camera.
HOW I WORK?
I work alone. I’m not invisible, but neither am I centre stage. I also don’t pretend to be a wedding guest. The whole point of being ‘unobtrusive’ relies upon how you work. A major part of this is, it’s just me.
No second shooter. I am telling the story of the wedding day through my eyes – that’s what captures the images you see on this website. Do I get everything and everyone? No.
Does that matter? No.
I am creating a photo essay to evoke memories, as an eyewitness – through my eyes, capturing a narrative that reveals the atmosphere of the day. I am working for years hence. For when the power of good photography shows it’s value.
Similarly, any ‘unobtrusiveness’ is dispelled when there is a videographer (or two) present there too. It restricts my movements, angles and can seriously inhibit how I shoot. The documentary approach needs the freedom to move – restricted by some ceremonies as it is. The freedom so they are not in my shots and I am not having to worry about being in theirs. Few get the documentary approach. (There are a couple….they work like photographers..ask if you’d like a name?)
But from experience I know I can get the best results, from weddings, where it is just me.
A couple of cameras, a few prime lenses and my eyes. This is documentary wedding photography. This is how I shoot….
It’s not for everyone – those that want long lists of group shots and to pose in front of the wedding car….but it is for those people who just want to enjoy their day and then look back at images that captured that enjoyment, often without them knowing.
Natural wedding photography
This is the goal, the approach, the result – natural.
Not constantly posed, set up or contrived.
Not stuffy and traditional.
Evocative images that result from being an honest eyewitness to the day.