WHAT IS DOCUMENTARY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY?
What is documentary wedding photography? A good question. Basically it’s a style of taking photos of your wedding day candidly, naturally and without direction. Documentary wedding photographers tell your story of your day, in a genuine unobtrusive way, capturing the moment as it happens, like a story teller, without the narrator. It side steps away from the traditional format of wedding photography, the all posed, grip and grin pictures, that seemed to have been dominating the market, and the norm for many many years.
Reportage and wedding photojournalism are both names that describe shooting your day in the same way. Am I a documentary wedding photographer? Yes I am! Am I 100% committed to covering your wedding in this style? No I’m not and I’ll tell you why.
I personally market my wedding business as a documentary wedding photographer, my background in photography has always been taking photographs of people in their environment, since a young child I was photographing my mates playing cricket and football, a shy 12 year old boy hiding his camera under his jacket as I walked down the road to take pictures, too embarrassed if anyone outside of my circle of friends saw me holding a camera. So I loved photographing people, and studied it in school, college and university, then I landed a job as a press photographer on a newspaper for twelve years, documenting events and real life, capturing true emotions of stories unfolding, being a story teller = SOLD!
So documentary wedding photography found me, before I found it. I had no choice in the matter when starting up my business in 2011, I was going to shoot weddings in this style, as this is what my strong points are, my beliefs and passion, in wedding photojournalism.
And so, with all this said, I do not shoot documentary wedding photography for 100% of the day, why? Because I feel it unfair to do so. My strengths I believe are seeing photographs that not many others see on your wedding day, and if I see a nice bit of light skulking through a window, I shall prompt you to go and “take a walk” by the bit of nice light skulking by the window, IT’S MY JOB TO MAKE YOU LOOK FAB!! So I’m not going to keep any ideas or opportunities to myself as I’m a ( doing the two finger inverted commas thing as I type ) “documentary wedding photographer”. A large group picture of all your guests needs direction, the confetti picture needs organisation, any group pictures need sorting out, if you want a nice picture of you set up signing the register then slap my bum and call me Sandy, I’ll do it! I’m not that precious to think my style is to sit in the corner of the room under a cloak being all unobtrusive, but on the same hand none of these moments mentioned above need to be done either, if you want something to happen ( within reason ) then I’ll do it for clients, after all, it’s their day, not mine, and I’m getting paid to provide a service.
Ok, so breaking it down it’s a bit like this,
Documentary wedding photography 88%
Slight direction and prompting 12%… …
…Cake cutting, group pictures, confetti photograph, signing of the register, picture of Aunt Eve and Uncle Sid posed looking at the camera with yourself who you haven’t seen for 23 years, and most importantly, the 15 minutes away from the crowd of guests at sunset to get some epic pictures of you both, PRICELESS! I shall prompt you to go and sit there, walk over there, in keeping within my natural documentary style of wedding photography, and it works. My job is to capture the true essence of your special day, creating epic images of you both, and if this means stepping off the documentary pedal for a short while, then so be it.
I have recently joined a Facebook wedding documentary photography group, where this very subject keeps coming up, there are over 1500 highly skilled and talented members within this group, and nobody really knows (including myself) what it is and what it isn’t by the sound of things, so for the couples out there it must be a huge minefield.
The shooting style of documentary wedding photography seems to be in at the moment, and “bang” on trend, which is cool! But with this comes a whole load of wedding photographers coining this style, and not really stepping up to the plate with their images marketed on their websites, this is just my opinion, and probably means nothing, but like I have said, I don’t believe I am purely documentary, but I genuinely try to be the best I can in this field, and offer this predominantly within my service, I may get a person attending the wedding looking straight into the camera, does this mean it’s not natural? It’s all about the moment, the timing and emotion of the day, absorbing the whole experience.
When all is said and done, if you love a certain photographers work, their style, you like the person after a Skype chat, phone call, email or face to face chat, then go for it! That’s all that should matter, it it feels right it potentially is right, who knows what the in thing will be in ten years from now, and hopefully I shall still be documenting couples wedding days, but what I do know for certain is whatever the fashionable thing to shoot or have at weddings in the future, my style will always be the same, documentary photojournalism, as it’s what feels right to me.
So I have put a few images together below, hopefully showing how I perceive documentary wedding photography, and how I personally go about it. I try and find moments between moments, the true story, every part of the day has true emotion and feeling, even the group shots, the couple portraits away from the wedding, yes I prompt them to come with me for some pictures, to walk across there, but still finding and keeping in the flow of the rest of the wedding images, and shooting in the same energy, there is something in everything in documentary photography, the true stuff, I try not to think about it all that much, what it’s called and what I should or shouldn’t be photographing, and just go shoot and see it as it is.