Why choose a documentary wedding photographer?
A fair enough question. But first up, what is a documentary wedding photographer?
Documentary wedding photography* is all about the story of your day. The pictures pull this story together in a narrative . There's no script, or big orchestration. A documentary photographer is part of the day, but without big flashing lights saying 'I am a photographer!'. On top of that of course, is an eye for composition, light and the moment.
A documentary wedding photographer is a good choice for couples who want the real and unique story of their day.
*sometimes also termed: reportage photographer or photojournalism
Is a documentary wedding photographer right for you?
There's lots of a good reasons for choosing a documentary wedding photographer to photograph your wedding. The website 'This is Reportage' has compiled a handy list which I've summarised below (follow this link to read the detail on their website and to see some other great documentary pictures):
1. Memories: When you look back at your images you’ll remember what you were feeling, rather than what you had been told to do by a photographer.
This is important for my photography - I want to capture authenticity both in photographic and emotional terms. My pictures are not about a 'fantasy' or contrived to meet predefined ideas about wedding photography or what's on trend.
This is one of my favourites from Emma & James' wedding and is representative of my shooting style: close to the subject with a wide angle lens and looking for very candid moments that tell a story.
2. You get to see things you didn’t even know happened.
You'll be busy on the day but there's lots going on around you that you'll inevitability miss. A documentary wedding photographer has this covered because they are looking out for the interesting sub-plots at your wedding rather than working to a predefined shotlist.
By this stage of prep, Louise and her daughter no longer noticed me. Here we see a small but emotive moment as they play together no longer so conscious of me being in the room. I also like the framing of Louise' mother in the background this telling a little more of the story which is the aim of the documentary approach.
3. It’s perfect if you’re camera shy or self-conscious.
In many cases you won't know you are being photographed largely because a documentary photographer is trying to blend in. This is probably one of the most important attributes of a documentary photographer. This is what Emma said about my approach: "On the wedding day, he mingled in with the guests and helped us to celebrate, half the time we forgot he was taking snaps of us, so the end results were some beautiful natural shots!"
By keeping a low profile it's possible to capture shots of people just being people. Here I'm using an 85mm lens to allow a more discreet approach that has a cinematic look. I'm actually stood outside of the dining room, and I am able to capture this guest interacting normally with friends. By using the door frame on the right-hand side of the photo I'm also able to both create depth and draw the viewers' attention to the subject.
4. You capture the raw emotions.
They're 'raw' because they are happening there and then and are spontaneous. You and your guests are not actors, but real people experiencing very real feelings. People look there best in these circumstances - there's no camera face it's just 'people being people'.
It would be wrong to suggest that your guests have no idea I'm there. There will be lots of times when I get more involved to help get the shots I'm after and to be part of the fun! The dancefloor is one example of this where my approach is to get involved, get close and use flash. I love this part of the wedding. The pressure's off (including for me!) everyone's more than a little tipsy and the images are full of joie de vivre! You'll notice a lot of my dancefloor shots use direct flash - I love the energy and immediacy of this type of photography.
5. You get the best of both worlds.
Most documentary wedding photographers will spend a small part of the day taking 'formal' photos (assuming the couple want them - you shouldn't feel compelled to). I recognise your wedding is a day when lots of family and friends get together so having a small number of portrait shots is important (click to see some of my portrait work).
This was a quickly taken and relatively informal groupshot - I love its simplicity and the jovial nature of its participants.