What is Documentary Wedding Photography?
Our photography style has a few different names: Storytelling, Photojournalism, Reportage and Documentary Wedding Photography, to name but a few.
Documentary Wedding Photography is the main way we would describe our style – but what does it really mean?
Putting it simply, a documentary approach means capturing events as they unfold.
The approach to documenting a wedding
It’s about capturing a series of images throughout the day that, when put together, tell a story.
In part simply documenting the events as they happen, but also capturing something unseen – perhaps that’s an emotion or something that the photographer perceived throughout the day.
Simply documenting a wedding day can be enough for some photographers, but we believe our couples deserve more – we aspire to capture how things felt, as well as how they looked.
If you were watching a documentary photographer at work, you would witness someone thinking, watching and waiting – composing frames in advance and waiting for the right moment to take the image.
Maybe it’s laughter or perhaps tears, maybe just an emotion-filled glance.
There is always a story-telling moment and a good photographer will find it.
Sometimes it is loud and sometimes it is quiet – a good documentary photographer puts themselves in a position to capture it beautifully, whatever it may be.
They’ll have an understanding of the events unfolding and will be looking for probabilities of an interesting, emotive moment that captures the story.
This is what we do.
By getting to know our couples, we enter the wedding with a good understanding of who they are, what the day means to them and what memories will be the most precious to them.
We want to understand the connections and bonds between our couples and their families, between them and their friends.
This helps us because we then have an understanding of what an image will mean to our couples before we take the photo. Which means we can put ourselves into a stronger position to tell emotive stories that resonate with people.
Something we never lose sight of is that the images are for the future – they are a way to bring back all the feelings and memories of a single point in time.
Available Light and Flash Photography
Another thing a Documentary Wedding Photographer might do differently is in their use of available light.
Essentially, the available light is whatever light that exists at the wedding – from the natural light outside, or coming through a window – to the light emitted from candles. Many documentary photographers have refined skills and techniques that allow them to capture emotive imagery using whatever light is available. Some documentary photographers will choose to add to the available light with their own light, flashes for example – getting the balance correct between the ambient, available light and artificial light in crucial in capturing the wedding as it was
We tend to utilize available light for around 90% of a wedding day, so as to remain as unobtrusive as possible – coupled with a respect for the ambience of the day. But if the quality of light gets too low, we have no problem adding in a little of our own, by way of flashes.
To further understand the concept of documentary photography, it’s also useful to look at what the alternative is, we believe the alternative to be posed, staged and scripted – This may be the photographer setting up a moment or directing the action, but we believe it to be intrusive and not in keeping with the flow of the wedding day.
A more staged approach may result in more ‘perfect’ imagery, and for editorial work, or commercial shoots perhaps that’s the right approach, but certainly where weddings are concerned, it wouldn’t be real and wouldn’t communicate emotion in the right way.
There are so many different names for all the approaches of wedding photography, check out our guide – Types of wedding photography
Our documentary approach is sought after by the most discerning couples because we elevate the candid nature of documentary photography, into something more creative, something more artistic. By getting to know our couples we see beyond the obvious visual side of the day, we capture stronger stories of how the day felt, rather than just how it looked.
If you’re looking for a wedding photographer and think our documentary approach might be a good fit, we’d love to hear from you. We often book up several years in advance, so do get in touch once you have a date in mind.