What exactly is "Documentary Style" Wedding Photography?...it's something I am often asked, a term or phrase that has become the buzz word over the last decade.
Wedding photography as a whole is nothing new, but the styles and needs of the clients have changed and evolved over the years. At the moment we seem to be going through this hip-glam style with light airy images, which no doubt will soon come to an end.
I am very fortunate as far as wedding photographers go in that some weeks I get access to weddings when driver our VW camper around Kent. I can dip in and see exactly how other wedding photographers work, I see their flaws, I see how some like to bark commands and shout out orders or push people around. Willy waving their huge cameras and blatting off 50 frames a second in order to get 'that shot'. I also get to see some very good photographers and see how they also work. One thing I hate to see is the posed images that you see week in week out where the bride is on the left the groom on the right and the commands of.."look at the bride....kiss the bride....heads together....blah blah"....who still does this rubbish!!!! I still see photographers using flash during the ceremony or firing on a high burst rates during the ceremony detracting from the moment in a strange sort of way. I have even seen a ceremony paused due to an annoying photographer as he was asked to stop taking photos!!! imagine it........your photographer told off just before you are about to exchange vows
Of course I still have my unique style, sometimes different approaches are needed - not everyone wants a pure documentary style wedding and the groups may call for a posed setup.
I also see the typical 'Husband and wife combo' a lot when I drive for weddings, they never seem to have a clue yet you can be assured they do have a suitcase full of camera gear.....which in turn makes them brilliant photographers!!!!
Back when I was shooting film you were very limited to the number of images you would shoot for a wedding - 35mm format you were governed with your roll of 36 exposures. Your shot selection had to be very deliberate, couples were wanting more posed or staged images. With the advent of digital media the stakes are higher, its not unheard of for me to shoot in excess of 1500 frames at a very busy wedding. Its not that I am shooting for shooting's sake, after all it's me that has to sit down and post edit!!! But digital is easy, frame counts don't matter and after your initial expenses are covered digital is FREE ( Kind of).
So What is Documentary photography?
It's a more natural and unobtrusive style of photography, allowing the photographer the freedom of movement.
I can then concentrate more on documentary style work - varying my lens selection, viewpoint, stronger compositional angles, playing more with shadows and light form than I may have done 15 years ago.
I guess some would call it "candid" - you are given the freedom to tell the "story" of the wedding from beginning to end. After all I am a story teller. I have been shooting documentary work for news purposes for a long time, adapting it to my wedding work was quite straight forward.
I like to blend in at my weddings, becoming one of the guests and allowing myself to get up close and personal with everyone. The Fuji X-system is the best tool for this job, it's small light and best of all silent and flash is never needed. It's about capturing those tiny little moments of emotion and eye contact....moments that come along in an instant and gone in an instant.
I am asked at least 8 times out of 10 to shoot like this nowadays, and for this is the reason I have opted to switch to the Fuji X system - its the perfect tool for the job.
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Here are few examples of my documentary style work both during the service and preparations.