I've been photographing weddings for 17 years, and it took me about seven years to reach this point of achieving my aims.

I've always had a philosophy of shooting as a photojournalist, but finding couples who shared my view on weddings took some time. I've been influenced by press photographers, street photographers, and masters of art throughout my life. I was blown away when I discovered photographers like Jeff Ascough and George Trifunovic, who shoot weddings as photojournalists.

The best photos are candid images that tell the wedding day's story. I love what I do, and it's all thanks to the trust that my couples have in me.

Let's dive deep into what wedding photojournalism is.

What is wedding photojournalism?

I recently spoke with some wedding photographers, and they feel tremendous pressure to control the wedding day. A photojournalist I spoke with even said he was scared of shooting weddings after only a few. No wonder. This is a high-stakes career, with so much riding on each wedding. However, it's possible to photograph a wedding day without controlling anything. In fact, that's precisely how I approach it. I don't direct the couple or stage any shots. The only exceptions are the group and couples portraits, which I keep to a minimum of 20 minutes and 10 minutes, respectively.

Updated: April 2023

Couple steal a kiss during wedding reception under string lights at The Witte Museum Wedding photographer San Antonio Wedding Documentary Photojournalist Leica Wedding Photographer Philip Thomas

Authentic Wedding photojournalism is the process of documenting events with a camera without actually controlling or affecting the situation.

Photojournalism is a form of photography that is commonly understood to refer to still images, although it can also refer to video used in broadcast journalism. It is distinct from other types of photography (such as documentary, social documentary, street or celebrity photography) as it adheres to a strict ethical framework that demands honesty and impartiality while telling the story in journalistic terms.

The goal of photojournalism is to create images that contribute to the news media and help communities connect with one another. To achieve this, photojournalists must be well-informed and knowledgeable about events happening in their local area. They present news in a creative format that is both informative and entertaining without compromising on accuracy or impartiality.

Wedding photojournalism is a fascinating process of capturing events with a camera without interfering with the situation. Henri Cartier-Bresson is known as the father of modern-day photojournalism and is renowned for his use of small Leica Rangefinders in the 1930s. He began documenting European society and produced images that have a timeless quality to them.

The Leica camera is discreet and allows the photographer to capture moments when the subject is unaware of the camera. According to Wikipedia, photojournalism is a unique form of journalism that tells a news story through images.

WPJA award winning image- little boy plays maracas

When it comes to capturing that perfect wedding day moment, a wedding photojournalist relies on their ability to see events and stories unfold naturally. They don't try to manipulate situations or organize people for the perfect shot. Instead, they use their keen observation skills to discreetly capture those special moments as they happen. These moments may seem simple, but they come together to create complex and beautiful images that tell the story of the day.

Wedding photojournalism is all about documenting these moments without interfering. A skilled wedding photojournalist observes, anticipates, and reacts to capture the perfect shot. There are many different types of wedding photojournalism, but the truest form involves no set-up shots or directed moments. The images delivered to the happy couple will be candid and real, capturing the essence of their special day.

At an outside wedding reception cocktail party the bride wipes away a tear and a ring bearer hugs his mother during a toast at Hotel Valencia, San Antonio Texas

When it comes to wedding photography, there are a lot of different styles to choose from. Some photographers describe themselves as wedding photojournalists, aiming to capture natural, candid moments throughout the day without interfering or setting up shots.

Other photographers, however, work in a more traditional style, which involves more direction and posing. They may work from shot lists and create memorable images, often with couples looking directly at the camera. It's important to understand the differences between these styles when choosing a photographer for your wedding, as they can significantly impact the look and feel of your final images.

While it can be difficult to distinguish between staged and candid shots just by looking at them, the setup and direction involved in traditional wedding photography make it a distinct style that's different from true photojournalism.

When it comes to photojournalism, I don't strictly adhere to Wikipedia's definition. Weddings require a bit of balance. I take obligatory group and couple photos, which are captured quickly. Aside from that, I don't contrive or control anything. I am a pure wedding photojournalist.

If you look at my website, you'll see that I capture unposed moments throughout the couple's wedding day. I take a few decor and details shots but photograph them as I find them. The day has to unfold organically. If I start directing the couple or bride, I'm interfering and altering the day's narrative.

I apply the same skills and philosophy of news photojournalists to the wedding day. Instead of setting up scenes or manipulating the dress with the shoes, I rely on my ability to observe the event and stories unfolding and capture those moments unobtrusively.

The resulting images are often simple yet complex photographs that reveal compelling moments. I never use a flash since I find it intrusive and unnatural. Instead, I use available light that envelops guests in an almost 3-D effect. It's all about capturing honest and dignified moments. Over the years, I've found that brides who seek this type of photographer are confident and interested in enjoying the moment. They want their photographer to capture their day in a dignified manner.

St.Anthony de Padua Catholic Church Wedding-San Antonio wedding photographer-Philip Thomas Photography
Couple Kelley and Erich share a funny moment inside a limo with green sparkling lights Houston Texas en route to Brennan's of Houston, Texas

"So, how do you know who's a wedding photojournalist?" One way to find out is to ask your potential photographer how they capture moments. Do they stop and redo a moment or ask for a wide shot of the bride's mother lacing up her dress, for example?

It's essential to ask the right questions to ensure you get what you want. In the past, many photographers marketed themselves as wedding photojournalists, but their galleries showed mostly staged images and pretty decor shots. It's also important to note that many photographers who use the term "wedding photojournalism" may not understand its ethics or true meaning.

As with any craft, photography is a skill that takes time to learn and perfect. A photographer must be technically proficient and have a good eye for composition, whether they studied photography in college or are self-taught.

A great resource to locate a vetted wedding photojournalist is David Robert's WPJA, and I'm proud to be an active member.

Want to talk more about a documentary approach to your wedding photography? Email or call. I hope to hear from you soon!

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