What is documentary wedding photography?

Documentary wedding photography, sometimes described as reportage or photojournalist wedding photography, is probably best described in contrast to traditional wedding photography.

The mother of the bride walking her daughter down the aisle

What is traditional wedding photography?

The traditional wedding photographer is a cliché - they are loud and bossy with the wedding guests, they stand on step ladders to set up group photos that take hours, and they stop the day to get posed photos of the couple looking right at the camera. There’s nothing wrong with this approach as such, it’s just that there is now an alternative and you might not be aware of it.

Documentary wedding photographers tend to not make themselves the focus of the day - they let the couple take the spotlight and photograph events without directing them. This is a very important distinction.

The father of the bride watching shares an emotional moment with his daughter

I won’t interfere during your wedding

Imagine the photographer arriving at the bride’s home to photograph bridal preparations. They spot that the light is better at a different window and ask the bride to move. This may seem like an innocuous thing, but it plants a seed in the bride’s mind. ‘ Am I doing what will look best in my photos? Am I standing in the right light? Is the photographer on my ‘right’ side?’

I prefer to have the bride be getting on with her wedding day and not worrying about the photography aspect of the day at all. It’s my job to worry about that. The couple should not be second guessing how they are behaving at all. They should be relaxed and natural and that will be reflected in better photographs.

The happy couple emerge from their wedding ceremony

Hate posing for the camera? Get me to take your wedding photographs instead

Traditional wedding photographers tend to take a lot of posed photographs. In part this is because they are safe. The photographer can pick a nice location, with decent light (or set up artificial lights), good composition and get the couple in the perfect position with a flattering pose. Which is all well and good, and may produce a single nice image, but do you really want to turn your wedding into a photo shoot?

The unexpected will happen on your wedding day and I’ll be ready to capture it all

I’ll still take the group shots, but the focus will be on unposed photos

My approach is to make candid, documentary style photographs for 95% of the day, and then set aside 15 - 20 minutes for bride and groom portraits. We agree upon a list of essential group photos and work through them quickly and efficiently so that you and your guests can get on with enjoying your wedding day. I often don’t take any group photographs at all. I’d far rather make a photograph of you and your mam laughing or crying in a real moment, than make a technically perfect but otherwise boring photograph of the two of you stiffly posing for the camera.

Of course, I can capture a killer portrait when required ;)

Rain on your wedding day doesn’t have to mean boring wedding photos

By not stopping the wedding for three hours to photograph an endless combination of family groupings it leaves me free to capture real moments.

Mother and son watch their daughter’s marriage ceremony

My documentary wedding photos are full of colour

Many people think that documentary wedding photography means black and white photography, but that’s not the case with me. Although black and white photography can be useful to strip out the visual clutter from a photograph so that you can focus on the raw emotion, it’s not the only way to make documentary wedding photographs. I like colourful, vibrant, fun photographs that enhance people’s personalities and add excitement to the frame.

Documentary wedding photography can be colourful and fun

I want to tell the story of your wedding

Yet another synonym for documentary wedding photography is storytelling wedding photography. A traditional wedding photographer would often treat every wedding the same. They would get the couple to stand in the same spot, they would use the same pose, they would light each shot the same. The only thing that would change from wedding to wedding was the couple’s name.

The speeches are always a good time to capture authentic expressions

Every wedding I photograph is unique

I try to tell the story of each wedding through documentary wedding photography. I believe that every couple is different and every wedding is different. Whether you are a serious, thoughtful couple or a crazy couple or a romantic couple, your photographs will be unique to you. And it’s not just about the bride and groom. The story of your wedding day includes your parents, your brothers and sisters and your friends and family. I photograph their silly faces, their funny dances and their happy tears.

This is a moment that the bride and groom didn’t see at their wedding but they will be able to enjoy afterwards

I believe that your wedding is about the people not the…stuff (although I photograph that too)

Although I do photograph the venue and the details (they are a part of the story of your day after all) my priority is to photograph the people at weddings and their interactions. This means I’m as happy photographing a Register Office wedding followed by cricket club reception, as I am photographing a large stately home. Some of my most memorable recent weddings have been on farms, in village halls and on a Navy Reserve base(!).

Documentary wedding photography is about letting the day unfold naturally and without interference. I use small cameras and short lenses to photograph your wedding discretely. I use natural light wherever possible.

Father and daughter embrace before heading off to church

You won’t even know I’m there

It’s about photographing real emotions. In ten years time I’d like you to look at your wedding photos and say ‘Remember when your gran said this,’ rather than ‘Remember when our photographer told us to do that.’ In fact, I’d rather you didn’t remember me at all, and you just remembered having the most amazing day, and that your wedding photographs help bring all of those memories flooding back.

Documentary wedding photography is about enjoying your wedding day your way

I want your wedding photographs to show how the day felt, not how it looked.

Intrigued? Excited? Want to see more? What don’t you get to know me by taking a look at my about page.