With the recent increase in interest in wedding photojournalism / documentary wedding photography / reportage style wedding photography (choose your favourite term), there are more and more photographers advertising themselves as capable of providing this service. But what does it actually mean?
Well, let’s start with what it isn’t…
Its not simply standing in the corner of the room snapping random headshots of people smiling. In fact its not random snapshots of anything. Its not automatically documentary photography just because the subject of the photo is not looking at the camera – a candid snapshot maybe, but nothing more. Its also not just shooting close-up details of rings/flowers/table plans/place settings etc. And lastly, it most definitely is not posing people and then telling them to “look natural”. Anyone who is advertising themselves as a “wedding photojournalist” or a “documentary wedding photographer” but only showing examples of these lazy, cliched photographs is doing it wrong. And hitting the magic “black and white” button in Photoshop does not make it photojournalism either.
Wedding photojournalism should tell a story using photography. The photographs should be good photographs in themselves and tell their own individual stories, but each photograph should also contribute to the greater narrative of the wedding day. People should be shown in context, interacting with their surroundings and each other. Carefully observed moments should be captured in visually interesting ways. Expressions and emotions should be recorded in well composed pictures.
When you look through your finished collection of pictures it should bring back memories of your wedding day and not memories of being photographed. Those photos might even remind you of moments you had forgotten or hadn’t even noticed at the time.
This unobtrusive approach is summed up nicely in this quote from one of my favourite photographers, Elliott Erwitt :
"I wasn’t imposing my presence on anyone, …which is very important for a would-be journalist. I stayed back. Always let people be themselves."