So what makes a documentary wedding photographer different from any other wedding photographer? Many photographers will claim to be documentary in style and it is true that many will shoot a lot of a wedding day in a documentary style.Often I will see the work of someone claiming to be a documentary photographer but their website will be filled with set up shots, posed images and heavily styled and lit creations. All this is fine if that is what you want, but my style is very much about letting you get on with your day – going about the business of getting married and enjoying your day. I create an honest record of your day as it really was – rather than a preconceived stylised version you will get from some photographers. Each approach has it’s own merits and I am not saying one is better than another. I am just clear about what wedding photography is about for me… and my clients.
I have been a full time professional documentary wedding photographer for many years although I have taken photographs as far back as I can remember. I have always been fascinated by photographic images. I have early recollections as a small boy, of sitting beside my grandmother and looking through her box of photographs. She would tell me who all the people were and their relationship to me, albeit even then many of them were no longer with us. I would spend ages just looking at the faded images wondering what it would have been like to meet these people whose memory lived on through those images. Even more interesting for me were the stories behind the images – what was the occasion, why were they there? I think it is this interest in the story that drives my photography today. As a documentary wedding photographer, I strive to provide similar memories, not just for my clients, but also for their families. It would be a great joy to think that somewere down the line, there is another small boy sitting beside his nan, looking at the photographic memories I have created.
It is genuine, natural moments such as this that I enjoy taking at weddings.
I consider myself a visual story teller whether that be a personal documentary project or a wedding. I like to record the details which made up the day but by far the more fascinating element of a wedding is the people, their character, their relationship to each other. As an avid people watcher I am in a great place. I get to watch people as a unique story unfolds before me. Without wishing to sound too melodramatic, I am witnessing and recording a special occasion in that family’s personal history.
I like to work by “being in the thick of it” but at the same time remaining unobtrusive, to be able to get in close to capture genuine moments of human interaction without directing or controlling them. The famed war photographer, Robert Capa provided the quote ” If your pictures are not good enough, you’re not close enough”, and there is an element of this in my method of shooting.
Working in close provides a closeness, an intimacy that enables the viewer of the image to really feel what is was like to be part of that occasion, and for those who were there, to relive the memories. A comment I receive quite often after a wedding is that I had captured moments that the couple were unaware of at the time, or ” I didn’t even notice you taking that shot” – and for me, that is what my wedding photography is all about – creating a visual story of the day without creating false events that are not in keeping with your day or indeed your personality.
I do not force false situations by asking all your groomsmen to leap in the air etc, as this is not a natural part of a wedding day – of course, should, for some reason, your groomsmen decide they are going to jump in the air I will be there to record it.
I look for connections and interactions between people.
Here is a short slide show with a few more images which show off my documentary style.
The majority of my wedding photography involves just watching people being themselves. I look for characters, personality and emotions. The emotion will often be one of joy and elation – it is a happy occasion after all. Sometimes there might be fleeting glimpses of other emotions – Sadness at a missing family member. Fear from being a flowergirl for the first time. Apprehension as the wedding march starts to play on the church organ. Shock at hearing stories about relatives during speeches. All are very much part of a wedding day and as a documentary wedding photographer, these are the stories I want to tell.
Posed group shots.
I am often asked about posed group shots. As a documentary wedding photographer the group shots are not my main focus.These are of course a throw back to the days of film where the wedding photographer would arrive outside the church at the allotted time and use the 2 or 3 rolls of film that had been paid for. To maximise the use of those perhaps 36 frames, it was felt necessary to ensure that everyone was in at least one frame and hence the group shot arrived. Today with the use of digital photography, the need to ration the shots and ensure that the entire wedding party is in one of the 36 frames has gone. The need for posed portraits is no longer there and with my story telling style it is more likely that your picture of ” uncle Reg” will have him engaged in a hilarious conversation with other family members than stood to attention staring at the camera whilst, at the same time, trying to hold in his stomach and force a grin. However, having said all that, I appreciate that the posed group shot is as much a tradition of weddings as the cake cut and the first dance – all in reality, unnecessary , but just part of the day.I am therefore happy to shoot a small handful of these, say 6-8 but would point out that they take far longer to do than is ever imagined . Vast lists of every combination of cousins and relatives will take up a large part of your reception time and seriously interrupt my story telling.
Similarly, it is nice to capture a few ” romantic couple” type pictures with just the bride and groom. Typically I would spend 10-15 minutes doing just this, before returning to the events of the day. My previous work with a national model agency means that I can quickly create some stylish but natural looking poses without turning your wedding into a photoshoot. That is the only directing I do throughout the day, and of course, neither the couple portraits or group shots are compulsory!