I've been a documentary wedding photographer, working right across the UK and internationally, since 2004. During my career, I've seen many over and misused terms flying around the wedding photography industry, but none more contentious than ‘documentary wedding photographer’!
It’s a term that has been so distorted that it now unfortunately conjures up images of wedding photographers draped in cameras with huge lenses sniping off headshots like crazed paparazzi.
I would like to dispel that myth! Documentary wedding photography, contrary to all the misuses of the term, is about an unobtrusive approach to wedding photography which seeks to avoid directing how the day unfolds, lets the couple and guests enjoy themselves and often leaves people wondering if there was even a photographer at the wedding.
Documentary wedding photography is often referred to as ‘reportage’ or wedding photojournalism however essentially, they all refer to the same thing - an observational approach to wedding photography. Put simply, I approach each wedding with the same ‘hands off’ approach, allowing you to completely enjoy what will no doubt be one of the most important days in your whole life.
Documentary wedding photographs record very real moments occurring throughout a wedding day. What's more, if the documentary approach has been truly mastered, photography collections and individual images will convey subject and scene honestly and with authenticity. For me, the aforementioned values far outweigh any qualities that, perhaps, a pretty but relatively meaningless portrait could...
Subjects, where possible, should be in context and images should convey the story and atmosphere. Images should be able to tell the viewer what is happening in the moment or scene without the need for any further explanation.
Weddings are an absolute gold mine for discerning, documentary style wedding photographers. The variety of emotion over the course of the day makes a wedding day really quite unique - the pre wedding ceremony nerves and then the joy of being married, this is often followed by a touch of sadness when, perhaps during the speeches, absent family and friends are reflected upon, then wrapping things up with the high energy and elation of dancing and entertainment.
It’s very real and I often find myself feeling immensely proud to have been hired to document such personal moments. This isn’t just photography of a wedding, or at least as most people know it, this is photography of life - powerful, emotive documenting photography of those little things that often go unnoticed, those subtle emotions and nuances unique to each wedding, to each family and to every couple.
It’s touching to know so many people place this responsibility in my hands, it’s a very real and genuine honour to earn my living making highly personal collections of documentary wedding photography, collections that I know will become family heirlooms.
A wedding photographer's work should always evoke a reaction. The authenticity, or more ‘believability’, that I look to produce across my wedding day coverage is worth so much more than just a pretty picture or regimented formal family photograph.
Ultimately it is about creating a beautiful, elegant and completely timeless set of emotive images that fully tell the story of your wedding day. Done properly a skilled documentary wedding photographer will create a treasured family heirloom that will be looked at time and again throughout the years and will take you back to the day with utter clarity and real emotional impact.
It’s a focus on storytelling, on creating a faithful documentary record of the most important day of your life. The most professional documentary wedding photographers will even find and capture moments and stories that you didn’t see on the day and tell a story that you may have been too focused to see unfolding around you.