What is a Documentary Wedding Photographer?

Documentary Wedding Photographer

It’s a term that’s come to common usage in recent years, along with Reportage Wedding Photographer and Wedding Photojournalism. But exactly what do they mean?

To me, being a Documentary Wedding Photographer is about telling the story of a wedding day, not only in taking the images but in how I put together my slideshows after the big day and how I design client albums. It’s capturing the real moments that happen throughout the day, the little things, the raw emotion and presenting them in a way that allows my clients to re-live their big day through their images.

A documentary wedding photographer has the role of storyteller, it is their job to capture the images as they occur and then curate them in a way that allows you to follow it. An individual image by itself may not say much, but when combined with the previous and the following it all falls into place.

Whether it be the story of an individual, a part of the day, a single moment. Stories within stories within the biggest story of them all, your love story.

It’s the little moments I love, and the images that will make people who weren’t even there wonder what was happening at that exact moment. What made the mother of the bride gasp like that? I wonder how long it was since she saw her granddaughter? Who’s playing the organ!?

Ok so maybe they’re not all traditional wedding photographs. But they’re honest, they’re true and they’re real moments that happened throughout the day. Whether it be one of the guests falling off the back of the chair after posing for a photo with the Bride (she was fine, and found it hilarious), embarrassing moments during the speeches, emotions, tears, drinking out of wellies…

They’re all real moments, they’re all part of the story and as a documentary wedding photographer it’s my job to capture them.

I don’t lurk on the edges of the scenes, I’ll get stuck in I’ll chat with your guests, I’ll mingle, I’ll have a laugh. I’ll capture those moments from within. Moments that as the bride and groom, you may have had no idea were happening. Not just moments between you both, but between your friends and family too. Perfect shots of perfect moments.

But what about the details?

The details are as important as the people, you spent the last few months of your life pulling all the little details together for this big day and they need to be documented too. From the dress and the flowers to the cake and the place cards. It’s all important and it all has to come together in your story.

I will, of course, make sure that I capture all of this as a documentary wedding photographer, but I won’t stage things, or set them up just capture them as they are.

What about groups? and couples portraits?

There are of course times throughout the day where you have to step away from the documentary approach. Family group shots are often important, but I aim to get through these as efficiently as we can. You don’t want to spend hours standing around looking straight at a camera. You want to be enjoying your day, and you want me to be working as the documentary wedding photographer that I am.

The portraits of the two of you are also very important, I may direct you, ask you to walk somewhere, put you in some nice light. But the important thing is that the interaction between the two of you will be real, genuine and honest.

Feedback from my clients is often about how they didn’t even realise I was there, which to me is a huge compliment. I strive to be as unobtrusive as possible, avoid using flash until the sun is down and I really need it, or for creative purposes. You won’t ever see me use a flash during the ceremony, I believe it’s distracting. intrusive and the opposite of what I’d expect from a documentary wedding photographer.



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