The aim of this page is to explain documentary wedding photography as I see it. Hopefully, my style, how I work and why I like to promote myself as a documentary wedding photographer will be a little clearer on reading this.
When I was preparing to put this page together, I started to trawl through a folder I have on my desktop of favourite images. It’s quite a big folder as I’ve been photographing weddings for over fifteen years now. As I tagged the ones to help me illustrate the page, I managed to narrow it down to about a hundred (well, it’s a start)! What I did notice about the images in this folder was that they are mostly storytelling moments. Pictures that expressed joy, laughter, pride, excitement, embarrassment, sadness – a whole spectrum of emotions. The reason these images had been chosen in the first place from the individual weddings, is because they define my style. To me, these images sum up documentary wedding photography – it’s essentially documenting the day, as it happens, in real time with minimal interruption and fuss.
“We had a long look at all the photos you took (twice) last night. Thank you, we absolutely LOVE them! You’re so talented. You captured the day so beautifully, exactly how we wanted, all the candid photos are our favourites… Thanks for all your help.”
Grace & Matt
So, do the ‘traditional’ pictures that people associate with weddings not get shot then? “Where’s the shots of the bride and groom looking lovingly into each other’s eyes? Where’s the family group shot with everyone lined up in a row? Where’s the close up pictures of all the beautiful things I’ve spent a lot of money on to make my wedding look lovely?” (I hear you say). Well, they all get photographed too. I just don’t choose to put them in my galleries as they don’t illustrate what I consider to be documentary wedding photography. Detail shots, such as bouquets and dresses hanging up are fairly simple to photograph but I won’t be moving them to a more aesthetically pleasing position (it’s funny how the dress is usually hanging somewhere nicely when I arrive!). Same too with group shots. It’s not my job to dictate what family/bridal group shots need to be done. I’d say 95% off all the weddings I cover, have some group shots done. I’ll leave it up to the couple to let me know what they would like and I’ll find a suitable place to photograph them. But I’ll leave it up to the ushers to round them up; I certainly won’t be making large announcements about whom I’d like in the next picture. How many is too many group shots? That’s up to you, but remember, the more you have, the longer it will eat into your drinks reception time and in my experience, people move very, very slowly at weddings. Plus, the more time you spend on formal group shots, the less time I have to photograph your guests in the style you have chosen me for.
So the crux of it is, if it goes on during your wedding day, it will more than likely be photographed. Documentary wedding photography is about telling the story of your day in pictures. When you come back from your honeymoon, I want you to re-live the wedding day when you watch the slideshow. It’s about real people and real emotions. If you’re looking for lots of posed pictures like the ‘Reservoir Dogs’ pic of the boys all walking in a row or that holding hands and jumping in the air shot, then we might not be on the same wavelength. There are plenty of photographers out there that can help you with these pictures if that’s your bag. What I can give you is timeless, classic images that will have narrative, meaning and great storytelling qualities.
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