Documentary wedding photography in a nutshell is about using a fly on the wall approach to capture the loveliest of moments at weddings. Similar to street photography, caught in the moment in an organic natural way, something you cannot orchestrate. This is also described as journalistic wedding photography, wedding photojournalism, reportage style wedding photography, I’m sure there are others. I’ve seen the representation and definition or documentary / photojournalist wedding photography get watered down so much, I stick to it’s traditional sense. To have a true native documentary style as a photographer is a method and thought process of photographing the event. Here are 10 facts about documentary wedding photography.
1. We are storytellers. The couple, wedding party, and the guests are the authors. We are the publishers. Stories are told through the love, energy, happiness, emotion, and genuine interaction that we don’t orchestrate.
2. We are non-intrusive to your event. We document the event through photographs and blend in as much as possible, we don’t want to make the day about us.
3. We don’t boss people around all day and pose them for photos. In fact we have limited conversation throughout the day, because we are anticipating and then photographing real moments. A true documentary wedding photographer would find taking over an event to be rude. We realize that weddings aren’t a photo op. We can get our photos without disturbing the flow of the event.
4. I can’t speak for all documentary wedding photographers, but most I know, myself included, do not work with second photographers. We don’t like to create a media circus feel. Because we don’t focus on long durations of posed portrait work, they aren’t needed. We are hired for our specific vision. We are about technique and product, not showmanship.
5. We don’t stay in one place for long. This is one reason we aren’t focused on having another photographer capturing the other dressing room at getting ready time. It would be weird to stay there the whole time. It makes it easier to capture candids when going back and forth and when we aren’t expected to return when we do.
6. We work best when given as much creative freedom as possible. During consultations with the client, we learn the event timeline and work with it. Freedom to explore especially in between events gives us the opportunity to capture something interesting that the couple will probably not expect, but are ever so happy to have.
7. We don’t work off extensive shot lists or do large amounts of formal / posed portraits. Sure, I understand most couples want at least some family and formal portraits, and I get it done for them relatively quickly. Documentary is more about photographing carefully observed moments, and less about portraiture that traditional wedding photographers focus on most. That’s one factor that helps our efficiency.
8. I love beautiful decorations and venues, and love photographing them. I couldn’t tell you a thing about any of them, or one style of bridal gown from the other. I cook with the ingredients given to me and make a gourmet meal. My main emphasis is on people and mood.
9. Documentary wedding photographers won’t understand things like wedding dinosaurs and signs, or other inspirations from Pinterest.
10. We know you love color, we do too, and you shall have it. BUT we especially love black and white because it adds a dramatic feel to the photograph and makes the subject stand out more.