WHAT IS DOCUMENTARY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY?
Let’s deep dive into what wedding photojournalism or reportage wedding photography actually is.
The best photos are candid images that tell the wedding day’s story. I’ve always had a philosophy of shooting as a photojournalist, but finding couples who shared my view on weddings took some time. Around seven years, to be precise. I’ve been influenced by press photographers, street photographers, and masters of art throughout my life. I was blown away when I discovered photographers around 2006, like Jeff Ascough and George Trifunovic, who shoot weddings as photojournalists.
Photographing weddings is not for every photographer. Case in point, a photojournalist I spoke with even said he was scared of shooting weddings after only snapping a few. And top it off, he stated he felt the need to control the day.
No wonder. This is a high-stakes career, with so much riding on each wedding. Burnout is never far away.
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 try to keep to a minimum of 15 minutes and 10 minutes, respectively. Photographing weddings in this manner means I’m always challenged as, in essence, I’m shooting for myself, capturing moments and using geometry and on-the-fly compositions to tell the couple’s story. It’s pretty wild.
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.
Wedding photojournalism is a fascinating process of capturing events with a camera without interfering with the situation. 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.
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.
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.
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 events 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.
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!
Table of contents
- Post Production Workflow
- Photo Mechanic Settings
- Wedding Photography Workshops 2024
- Lightroom Catalog Settings
- Personal inspiration: Henri Cartier-Bresson
- How to become a successful wedding photographer
- My camera bag
- Internship Opportunity
- San Antonio – PUG a meeting for Professional Photographers
- 100 Leica M + M9 weddings by Leica Photographer Philip Thomas
- The Fibonacci Circle | The Golden Ratio
- Do wedding photographers deserve our respect?
- How to start shooting weddings
- 26 Quotes by Henri Cartier-Bresson
- Why the Leica M Rangefinder is so special
- Top 10 Reasons Why You Should Start To Shoot Film