Why Documentary Wedding Photography?
Sometimes the why is more important than the what –
I choose to be a documentary photographer because I love the true emotion of a wedding day. For me perfectly lit and posed images have no soul. I think a good photo can remind you of what people were really like – and this grows more important as people move on and our memories start to fail us. It’s natural, relaxed and unposed and for me it produces work that I can get really excited about.
What is Documentary Wedding Photography?
Documentary or reportage wedding photography is different things to different people. It does bring to mind quite classical looking, black and white images – but lots of reportage photographers are breaking the mould nowadays (myself included). I think there’s a new movement inspired by a new generation of photographers towards making bright, artistic colourful wedding photography that still has the documentary ethos.
Whilst all photographers have an element of documentary or reportage to their work, and most reportage photographers will take a few group shots or portraits, it’s more about where the photographers focus is on the day and the work that resonates most with them.
Is there a difference between Documentary and Reportage Wedding Photography?
They’re just different words for the same thing. Some people also use the term photojournalism – but this is seen less often nowadays
Does this mean lots of Black and White photos?
Not necessarily – I love the energy and meaning that colour brings to a photograph – and aim to provide as much colour as I possibly can.
That said, when photos are more staged you can choose where you stand people and light them as you see fit – and make sure your colours are harmonious. When you work with real life, often a Black and White treatment can help you focus on what’s more important.
Also – several of my favourite street photographers work solely in colour (people like Alex Webb or David Allen Harvey) – and I like to bring their influence into my work.
All about the people
Documentary photography is all about the people and the stories that make up the day. No two weddings are the same and it’s this variety that makes it really exciting. I do take pictures of venues and shoes and all the parts that make up the day – but what is so much more interesting is the characters and how they interact with them.
Light is so importance in conveying the ambience and emotions of the day. Whether it’s soft windowlight, shiny summer sun or romantic candlelight. So I like to use and abuse natural light wherever possible in conveying the moods and stories of the day.
Also, when a photographer uses a lot of flash, you always know where they are in the room. If I’m doing my job right people shouldn’t really be knowing where I am. It detracts from my ninja skills.
I’m always looking for pictures that are layered and complex. Where your eye can wander round the frame and take in everything that’s going on. They are insanely hard to make (so many moving pieces) – but when they come together they are so worth it!
Intimate and Interesting
I usually work quite close to get the feeling that you’re really in the moment. It’s really important to me that the photos aren’t just interesting to the people who were in the photo – but stand up as interesting photos in there own right.
Documenting not directing
So…. there will come a point when we want to get some couple portraits. At first I really struggled to make this sit with documentary photography. Then I discovered moment design techniques – and nowadays I’m a bit of a specialist in getting real natural emotions out of couples on their big day.