The purpose of this page is to explain what documentary wedding photography means to me and why I’m so passionate about this approach to photographing a wedding and capturing the events and the people in an authentic and honest way. If you like my work and are considering me as your photographer it will give you some insight into how the images are achieved and what you can expect on the day.
It’s all about storytelling
I use pictures to create a narrative, building up the layers of the day and weaving them together to make your wedding day story. The story will reveal the essence and atmosphere as it really was and requires a very different approach to that of many wedding photographers who have to direct, manipulate and interrupt to achieve their results.
You will see this story telling approach described in various ways in the media: documentary wedding photography, reportage wedding photography or wedding photojournalism. Some people will try to distinguish between these different terms but in essence they are one in the same – telling the story in a natural and unposed way.
Every wedding is full of spontaneous moments which no one planned and I’m on the lookout for them all the time. This picture of the priest taking a selfie at the alter was completely unexpected and was over in a split second! The best man and ushers behind hadn’t even noticed it was happening and the minute I saw him rummaging around in his cassock pocket with a twinkle in his eye I knew something out of the ordinary was about to happen.To be done well documentary wedding photography requires skill and experience and for those at the top of the field it has been elevated to an art form. In an effort to join their ranks there are a few simple rules that I have set myself.
Don’t direct or interrupt: to capture the energy and emotion of a wedding authentically observe a situation unfolding and document it as it really happens, anticipate the way the composition will come together and push the button at exactly the right time for that moment of magic.
- Be discrete and unobtrusive: Some photographers like to be the centre of attention but the most natural and authentic pictures are taken when the subject isn’t even conscious of the fact that they are being photographed. This doesn’t mean standing at a distance with a telephoto lens, it means getting close and blending in. I wear a suit and a tie to look like any other guest and I don’t weigh myself down with bulky equipment.
- Carry minimal equipment: To keep you and your guests as unaware of the camera as possible I carry the minimum of equipment. I have two small cameras with me at all times and I use small lenses which enable me to get close without making you feeling self-conscious or particularly aware of my presence. The idea that a photographer needs to be bristling with camera bodies, lens pouches, safari jackets and camera bags isn’t true for a photo journalist. It’s the eye of the photographer that creates the picture not the camera – in the same way it’s the skill of the chef that creates a beautiful soufflé, not the oven!
- Don’t use flash: A flash popping every few minutes will draw everybody’s attention to the presence of the photographer without fail. The flash will also kill the atmosphere and natural dimensions created by the available light and it is yet another piece of bulky equipment to get in the way. There are a few occasions when the use flash is essential, sometimes during the first dance but I keep it to a bare minimum.
This picture to the right is one that illustrates the power of documenting a moment authentically without interference.
In an ante-room the bride gathers her thoughts before walking up the aisle. It’s time to compose herself, a moment she’s been working towards for a long time. She takes a deep breath and clears her head of all the noise of logistics and planning and focuses on the one thing that matters – her new husband waiting next door.
It’s not a moment to be interrupted. When she revisits this picture in the years ahead she will remember how she felt waiting in that room, the expectation and the nerves. The moment won’t be lost because a photographer was fussing around her, arranging bridesmaids in the right order and making sure the bouquet was at the right angle.