If you've spent any amount of time looking for wedding photographers, you've seen the phrase "documentary-style photography".
And with good reason. It's a trendy and professional-sounding phrase that markets itself very well - but what does it actually mean, from an artistic standpoint and from an approach to weddings?
The entire philosophy behind a documentary approach to weddings is to capture the day exactly as it unfolds — unobtrusive, honest, without intense direction or posing, and without interrupting moments or asking the participants to recreate them.
For some couples, this is a perfect fit - it allows them to remain so present in the moment, without interruption and without the pressure of remembering that there's a camera recording their every moment. While this approach may not always result in the most technically "perfect" images, mostly from a lighting and background perspective, it does result in the most honest images. These memories are poignant, raw, and the largest strength of this style is to allow the couples and their families to be entirely and deeply present in their experience on such a special day. There is absolutely still artistic and aesthetic strategy here, as well as posing and direction in the moments where it's needed to help you feel and look your best (primarily in formal portraits, couples portraits, wedding party, family photos, etc.), but the overarching priority is to allow you to feel present in these moments.
That said, other couples feel more comfortable and excited about heavier posing and direction throughout the entire day. This style is considered more editorial. There is absolutely no right or wrong about these approaches to weddings; every photographer will have their own strategy, and you'll be able to see that in the work they share and how they communicate through the planning process.
Engaged folks, you spend a lot of time with and around your photo & video team on your wedding day, and it’s so important to know that you’ll be a good fit personally and professionally. If you're in the process of making a selection, I encourage you to take a moment together to think about what you really want your day to feel like, and what you want your relationship with your photographer to feel like.
It takes time for photographers to find their rhythm here, too. I didn’t have much of a philosophy or strategy at all when I first jumped into photographing weddings. I had worked many, many weddings and events in other capacities before that point and really expected the roles to feel similar. My experience in venue management and catering certainly helped me a lot, but in reality the role of a wedding photographer is incredibly intimate and requires so much more than just technical knowledge (which, frankly, I was also lacking in initially).
Years after I started, and after trying a bunch of different methods, I can confidently say a documentary style approach is where both I and my couples thrive. I've found that it's the most honest and natural way for me to tell your stories - which, at the end of the day, is all that I'm here to do.
When you see your images, I want you to feel like yourself. I want you to feel at home in your experience. And most importantly I want you to remember the way it all felt.