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Documentary Wedding Photography? 10 Reasons Why

When it comes to choosing your wedding photographer, we know that it can be massively overwhelming – so many talented photographers out there to choose from! However, we think a good place to start is to decide on what style/approach would really suit you, and, you may have guessed it from the title of this article, but we think documentary wedding photography – also referred to as reportage or photojournalism – is the style to go for. Why? Well, here are ten good reasons…

1. Memories: When you look back at your images you’ll remember what you were feeling, rather than what you had been told to do by a photographer.

This is huge; *so* important. When you look at your wedding photographs, you can be transported back to the moment (sorry if that sounds a little grand, but it’s really true!); you can almost re-live the memory of your Dad seeing you in your dress for the first time, or the moment you oh-so-nervously glanced towards the ceiling as your bride walked down the aisle…and that’s because your photographer captured the moment naturally, without any direction.

On the other hand, if your photographer had told you to stand in a certain place, or asked you to repeat the action of applying your make-up, for instance, then when you looked at those images, you’d just remember being told to do something by the photographer. Being told to do something? Those are surely not the memories that you want from your wedding!

2. You get to see things you didn’t even know happened.

The bride and groom are obviously the most important people at a wedding – and will obviously be in lots of the photos – but they can’t be everywhere at once, and good documentary wedding photographers know this. Not only do they know this, but they also massively appreciate how there are hardly any occasions in life where the people closest to you – both family and friends – are all in one place.

So, they will capture the moment your Aunt has a little doze after drinking one too many glasses of champagne; the time your friend from uni splits his trousers on the dance-floor; the moment your nephew decides picking his nose during the ceremony is a much more interesting use of his time….some of which – or all of which – you didn’t even witness yourself on the wedding day. You can literally look at your wedding images, and see things you didn’t even know had taken place. Pretty magical, I think.

3. It’s perfect if you’re camera shy or self-conscious.

Hands up if this applies to you (I know it does to me!). It’s totally natural to feel like this; so many of us have our insecurities, and it can be scary to think we’re going to be photographed all day. However, that’s where another key benefit of wedding photojournalism appears, as these photographers won’t be asking you to pose, or repeat things, or look at the camera – their very goal is to capture moments while you’re totally unaware they’re doing so.

4. You capture the raw emotions.

There is nothing quite like a wedding when it comes to witnessing a truly myriad of emotions – it’s one of the reasons why so many photographers are drawn to weddings in the first place, as capturing emotion is both so thrilling, and incredibly rewarding.

And, do you know what? Obviously, these moments of raw emotion can’t be staged. They just can’t be re-created or set up; that’s just not the way emotion works. So, if you want these to be captured, you need to hire someone with the documentary skills to get them. It sounds simple, but it’s really not; capturing emotion is an art – just as reportage wedding photography as a whole is an art.

5. There’s no shouty/bossy photographer around, running/ruining your day; instead, we’re unobtrusive, and often get mistaken for guests.

And that’s a very good thing! Yes, a lot of documentary wedding photographers get asked ‘how do you know the couple, then?’, as guests think that the photographers are actually guests – and this is because the photographer hasn’t been controlling the day, barking orders, or telling people what to do, but rather blending in with the crowd, almost-invisibly capturing moments without people being aware.

6. People look their best.

As soon as people know they’re being photographed, they change – whether this is to put on their ‘camera-face’, or to change whatever it is they’re doing at the time, because they think it may not look too good. The irony is that as soon as they do either of those things, they often don’t look their best – people can look unnatural, stiff or awkward when they ‘think’ they’re doing what looks good.

On the other hand, when people are captured totally naturally – when they don’t know they’re having their photograph taken – people look their best: Natural, beautiful…themselves. Because capturing the real you, well, that’s what beauty really is.

7. Images are fresh, dynamic and unique, as they’re not re-creations.

Your wedding will be unlike any other – totally unique, because it’s your wedding. So why would you want your wedding photos to look like everyone else’s? Shouldn’t they be just as unique as your wedding? That’s where the documentary wedding photography style excels, as we’re capturing moments on the fly – unique moments, composing and capturing them in totally new ways, because those moments haven’t happened before either.

Conversely, traditional photographers will deliver the same images as everyone else’s, because they’re controlling the scenes; putting you into the same poses, asking you to re-create the same ‘putting on make-up’ shot, asking you to stand in the same window light for the exact same bridal portrait they’ve done a hundred times before. Suddenly, the images aren’t about you, or your wedding, but instead are about the photographer; their poses; their method.

8. You can relax and just enjoy your wedding day.

There are so many things to be thinking about on your wedding; we don’t want photography to be one of them. When you hire someone who excels at documentary wedding photography, you can relax and just enjoy your day, safe in the knowledge that all those important moments are being captured. And though some photographers may still take you away for a few portraits (if you want that, of course) or group shots (again, only if you want them), they won’t be taking you away from your guests for hours, like traditional photographers sometimes do.

It’s your wedding, not a photoshoot, so just go about having the time of your lives, rather than posing in front of a camera all day.

9. You capture the humour!

Weddings are (obviously) incredibly joyous affairs – full of incredibly funny moments and laughter. And, just like the raw emotion capturing, these moments of humour can’t be staged; by their very nature they’re spontaneous. Documentary wedding photography can sometimes have a bit of a myth about it, that it’s very demure, often black-and-white sombre captures – but that couldn’t be further from the truth!

10. You get the best of both worlds.

Why so? Because, though there are some reportage wedding photographers out there who are ‘100% documentary’, the vast majority of photographers still love to capture some portraits of you both (if you want that), and are more than happy to do some group shots, too (again, only if you want them). So, you can still have 99% of your day captured in the way I’ve spoken about above – with all those amazing benefits that the style gives – whilst also having some lovely images of just the two of you, and those groups for your gran’s mantelpiece, too; you really do get the best of both worlds.

This article was written by the owner of This is Reportage


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