I've been a documentary wedding photographer, working right across the UK and internationally, since 2004. During my photographic career I've seen many over and misused terms flying around the wedding photography industry, but none more contentious than ‘documentary wedding photography’! 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, producing isolated black and white portraits.
I would like to dispel that myth! Wedding photography documentary, 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 documentary photographer at the wedding.
A documentary wedding photographer is often referred to as ‘reportage wedding photographer’ or 'wedding photojournalist' however essentially, they all refer to the same thing - an observational approach to photographing a wedding. Put simply, I document each wedding with the same ‘hands off’ photo style, allowing you to completely enjoy what will no doubt be one of the most important days in your whole life.
Documentary style wedding photography records very genuine moments occurring throughout a wedding day. What's more, if the documentary style has been truly mastered, photography collections and individual pictures 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, as with any documentary work, should be photographed within context, conveying the true story and atmosphere. Documented 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 the discerning, documentary style wedding photographer - the variety of emotions 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.
Ultimately, documenting a wedding is about creating a beautiful, elegant and completely timeless set of emotive photos that fully tell the story of your wedding day. Done properly skilled documentary wedding photographers 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 honest emotional impact.
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 photo documentary of life - powerful, emotive wedding photography documentary, 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 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 in my documentary coverage and across the wedding day coverage is worth so much more than just a pretty picture or regimented formal family photograph.
To recap on what documentary wedding photography is:
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 photographer 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.