What is Documentary Wedding Photography?

 

Documentary wedding photography, or photojournalistic wedding photography are phrases that have become really popular in the last few years within the wedding industry as there has become a desire to move away from a more traditional approach to wedding photography.  I'm sure you've seen your parents wedding album which included maybe 10-20 stiff and formally posed photographs?  

This is a really exciting move for us as wedding photographers as it draws from a great tradition of photography which include photography greats across a range of genres such as Don McCullin's war photography, street photography from Henri Cartier-Bresson or the characterful observation work of Martin Parr.  

Wikipedia explains Documentary Photography as:

Documentary photography usually refers to a popular form of photography used to chronicle events or environments both significant and relevant to history and historical events as well as everyday life.

A wedding provides a wealth of material for the documentary photographer.  A full day of very genuine reactions and emotions across a complex series of relationships with subjects ranging from babies to the very elderly.   How this translates practically:

Light, composition and moments

I am constantly shooting with these elements in mind and this requires rigorous observation, being in the right place at the right time and anticipating key moments and reactions.  Having shot over 200 weddings I have a good understanding of where I need to have my camera pointed and when.  I am also looking keenly for good light - pockets of light that draw attention to details within the frame, the play of contrast, interesting compositions of symmetry or negative space to create interesting images.

Storytelling

Rather than shooting details and tight portrait photographs which need to be shown as a series in order to tell the complete story, I aim to fill a frame with as much activity and context as possible - bringing to life a scene whilst focussing the viewers attention on specific moments happening within the frame.  A good documentary photograph should have layers of meaning and action that allows the viewers eye to move around a scene full of unexpected and telling detail.

People Skills

By blending into the background and being discrete in the way I work (small cameras, silent mode, limited use of flash) I aim to create as little disruption to the flow of your day as possible.   I want to capture truly honest reactions and emotions from you and your guests and so want them to be relaxed around the camera and for the camera not be intrusive into the atmosphere of the day.

Here are some of my examples of my documentary photographs which I feel really capture the energy, emotion and honesty of the day - unposed and natural and full of smiles:

 

 
 Contemporary St Tropez Wedding Photography
 Contemporary St Tropez Wedding Photography
wedding photography lismore castle
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wedding photography lismore castle
wedding photography lismore castle
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wedding photography lismore castle
wedding photography lismore castle

 

Black and white or Colour?

 

Documentary photography is most frequently seen to be black and white, however, I am a big fan of colour where appropriate.  If your wedding is on a sunny, Summer day with a riot of flowers and colourful outfits then I want to capture that and the mood that it sets.  I tend to use black and white more for wintery weddings where it captures a different atmosphere, such as the more serious elements of the day in the church for example.  Or for more emotionally intense moments during the day when their might be tears over an absent loved one.   

 
 France chateau wedding photography

 

What about detail shots?

 

I recognise the amount of time you have put into choosing every detail of your wedding, from the big things such as your dress through to the individual name settings - and I want you to remember these when you look back through your images.  But I will always try and photograph them in a more creative, artistic way that places them in context of the day - or the reactions that they provoke.

 

What About Group Photos?

 

Does this approach mean that I won't do group photographs?  Absolutely not.  It is your wedding and I know that you have numerous people who have a great investment in the day - not in the least parents who may be looking for that more traditional family group photo which will be pride of place on a mantlepiece.  I'm more than happy to do group shots but again will approach them quickly, efficiently and with a more creative edge to avoid the stiff line up.  For more examples of group photography see this page.

 
Natural group shots

Natural, unposed Wedding portraits

I usually allow about 20 minutes for natural portraits during the day.  I try and shoot at golden hour and will work with you to minimise the intrusion on your day and your time with your guests.  Most couples enjoy the opportunity to take some time out to wander round the venue and have some intimate time together.  I tend to keep my distance and offer basic direction to ensure natural portraits that don't look staged or make you feel uncomfortable.  And I am very much led by your characters and the way in which you interact.  

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