What is Documentary Wedding Photography?

What is Documentary Wedding Photography? It’s a common question asked by newly engaged couples researching wedding photography. I will answer this question with an example, after all, a picture speaks a thousand words!

Below is Kristine’s aunt, at the morning preparations in a Hotel room Dublin, Ireland.

There’s no bride in this photo. You can’t even see her face, and the bride is out of focus. But I’ve chosen this image to start off my wedding portfolio because it represents what I do best. It’s why my work as a wedding photographer is different from the hundreds of other photographers out there. This mental touch of reassurance from her aunt, that was raising her as the bride patiently awaits for her most important day in the life. Everything about this part of the day that Kristine will want to remember for the rest of his life.

My promise to you is that I will work ceaselessly to capture those special moments from your wedding day for you to treasure.

How will I accomplish this for you?

I use the 10 years experience I’ve built up photographing people, in different scenarios, under different pressures. I see the expressions.

You only get one chance to get the wedding photos you deserve. Read on to see if I’m the best documentary wedding photographer for you.


What can Documentary Photography do for YOU?

  • Produce a beautiful set of photos that tell the story of your wedding day
  • Capture moments naturally and un-contrived
  • Record parts of the day you didn’t even know were happening
  • Allow you to relive the day every time you open your album
  • Provide your family with a valuable heirloom
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Candid, Reportage, Documentary, Photojournalistic - What's The Difference?

You might be familiar with the terms wedding photojournalist, reportage wedding photographer or documentary wedding photographer. They broadly mean the same thing – an observational and unposed approach to photographing a wedding. But there is a subtle difference between a photographer who practices ‘candid’ photography, and one who uses photojournalistic techniques to tell a story.

Here’s Wikipedia’s definition of a candid photograph:

“A candid photograph is a photograph captured without creating a posed appearance.”

It goes on to suggest ways in which this can be achieved –

  • when the subject is in motion,
  • by avoiding prior preparation of the subject,
  • by surprising the subject,
  • by not distracting the subject during the process of taking photos.

So we can see that this is only concerned with whether the subject appears to be posed or not.

Documentary photography and photojournalism takes this idea in a different direction. The two genres share similarities, but again, there’s a subtle difference.

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Documentary Photography or Photojournalism?

The term documentary photography describes when photography is used to chronicle events, either historically significant, or part of everyday life. It’s usually associated with long term projects with complex story lines. If you’re interested in documentary photography, you should check out the work of W Eugene Smith and David Hurn to start with.

Photojournalism on the other hand, is concerned with shorter time-frames and usually with breaking news. It’s often commissioned by a news outlet, and consequently has a more commercial bias.

So How Does Documentary Wedding Photography Fit In?

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Back to our original question – What does a documentary wedding photographer do?

A wedding day can be seen as a significant event in the lives of the couple as well as their family. It’s a concise ‘news event’ with a start and an end. Photographers can therefore use documentary and photojournalistic techniques and apply them to the wedding day. It’s slightly different, in that the couple are the commissioning clients, so there is usually an expectation of what the photography will show.

But the core elements employed by a documentary wedding photographer are to tell the story of the day, in an honest, natural way, using candid photography as well as portraiture. The complete set of images should be viewed as a single work, with the end result evoking the feelings of the day when viewed many years into the future.

Meaningful Moments, Not A Portrait Session

This philosophy of documenting a wedding is a powerful driving force for me. So I set myself a challenge when putting together a blog post for my end of year highlights. Instead of showing spectacular, well lit and highly stylised portraits of the Bride and Groom, I chose images without showing the Bride or Groom at all. Photos that concentrate on the guests. Ones that show the family members, and everything that makes a couple’s wedding day unique and special to them. These are the kind of pictures that define a wedding day. This is what shows their loved ones and what their relationships with them look like.

Top 6 Reasons To Hire A Documentary Wedding Photographer

  • Minimal posing on your part (no fake grins!)
  • No direction or interference from your photographer
  • Reportage photography is much more natural
  • Family and friends will prefer genuine pictures rather than anything posed
  • Story telling photography captures much more of the day
  • Photojournalism never goes out of fashion like Instagram filters

But do you know what makes me proud of the job I do?

What do I love about being a wedding photographer? It’s being able to hand to my clients, photographs of moments like the one above. If I had’t seen them, these moments would have been lost and forgotten before the first dance. That’s the strength of hiring a great documentary wedding photographer.

Scroll on to see some more beautiful wedding photography, of moments you’ll be expecting, and ones that will surprise and delight you.

Then consider whether you’d like your wedding album to look like the hundreds of others out there, or if you’d like your children and grandchildren to see you in these kind of images, and ask you to tell them all about your wedding day, just one more time…

Well, this is how I work as a Documentary Wedding Photographer :)

It’s a compilation of photographs from the last couple of years and I know that any photographer will be able to put together a great set of pictures if they’ve shot enough weddings.

If you’re keen to see more, I post almost every wedding I shoot on the blog page. You’ll be able to get a feel for how consistent I am in different light and with different venues and couples.

If you’re planning your wedding, I’d urge you to get in touch with me as soon as you can. Popular dates will book up to two years in advance. Even if your wedding is in the next few weeks, please drop me a line. I may still be available!

Thank you for taking the time to look through my portfolio, I hope you enjoyed it. Why not check out some of my Documentary Family Photography.