What Is A Documentary Wedding Photographer?

Documentary wedding photographers work in a very natural, unposed and relaxed way. They possess a special skill for photographing genuine emotions that cannot be staged or recreated. Rather than aiming for perfect images, they are looking to capture how it feels to be there on your wedding day, so that you can look back and experience all the emotions, all the love and laughter to relive your special day time and again with those you love.

As well as capturing the key photographs of your day, such as the first kiss, documentary wedding photographers also look for the meaningful, inbetween moments when a couple and their guests are relaxed and not thinking about the camera because these are the moments that they feel make the best photographs. They are looking for emotional, humorous, quirky moments that pull on the heart strings or simply tell the story of your individual wedding day. Documentary wedding photographers know how to wait for the moments that make the best photographs and that tell a personal and beautiful story of your day. From pre-wedding nerves to the joy of saying “I do” or the hilarity of the drunken dancing at the end of the evening and everything in between, documentary wedding photographers tell your story in a truly authentic and natural manner.

Capturing Real Moments

This style of photography captures the “real”, genuine moments as they unfold. Many couples don’t want the pressure of having to pose for pictures on their wedding day, or to spend hours away from their family and friends just to get those fun, faddish posed pictures which will soon be out of fashion.

It’s the candid, unposed and unplanned shots that documentary wedding photographers are looking for. These are the moments that simply unfold in front of the camera with no direction from the photographer. The photographer is a fly on the wall, documenting what is happening and looking out for all the truly unique, storytelling photographs. For example, when the groom gives a quiet wink to his bride as she arrives at the alter, the look of love in the eye of the Father of the Bride, or when a guest laughs out loud or reacts to something happening during the speeches. These are the moments that should be included in your wedding album: photographs that don’t just tick the boxes of all the key moments but photos that go beyond that, to tell the story of your own special day in a characterful and personalised way. These are the moments that will help you to remember everything you want to remember about that perfect day, forever.

Documentary wedding photography represents who you really are as a couple and what you stand for. You do not need to pose for hours to get the perfect shot, you can leave all the hard work to the photographer and you can just do you. 

Capturing Relationships

Documentary wedding photographers understand that their work is more than simply taking couple shots or group shots; rather, they strive to capture moments as they unfold – from the anticipation and emotion of family members getting ready together, to tears running down your mother’s face during a heartfelt speech. They strive to capture candid yet artistic moments that tell a story about relationships and love.

This style of photographer notices intimate connections between couples and their closest friends and family. They use their skill and experience to anticipate and notice the moments of love and connection before they even happen. They recognise the importance that their subjects feel at ease in front of the camera, and so this type pf photographer knows how to step in for the important moments and then step out again, without making the guests feel awkward or spied-upon. Often couples say “we forgot you were even there!”

Capturing the Fun

Weddings offer the perfect opportunity to capture a beautiful range of fun and happiness with your loved ones. That’s why hiring a documentary wedding photographer is a good move as they can glide in and out of the celebrations and hardly be noticed. There is no need for any cheesy smiles or awkward posing even from your guests – your photographer will simply snap what they see – your guests being themselves merrily celebrating and letting their hair down. Your photographer will capture natural photographs that you can cherish for years to come and relive the wonderful fun from your special day.

Moments like these cannot be recreated, which is why they need to be captured by an experienced professional. A documentary wedding photographer knows how to capture all of your special moments and tell your story in an impactful manner.

Capturing the Details

Documentary wedding photography captures the true moments of your special day, making it less intrusive than traditional photography and allowing guests to relax and take in all of the day. All of the usual details such as flowers, rings, the dress, and table decorations will still be photographed but in less of a posed / set up manner. The detail shots will always be thought through and captured as part of the whole story, often with people also in the shot. 

It may take a bit of trust and perhaps a leap of faith to hire a documentary wedding photographer as it can be less obvious how they work until you receive your gallery of beautiful images a few weeks after your wedding. They will interact with you less than a traditional photographer would throughout your day, as they leave you to celebrate with your loved ones without interruptions.

Growing in Popularity

Documentary photography (or reportage photography as it is sometimes called) is a genre that is growing in popularity – not only in wedding photography but also in family photography and commercial photography. You may spot more and more big brands opting to use real families and genuine moments to advertise their products on TV and online rather than polished, perfect households that the majority of us find it hard to achieve or identify with. Equally on a wedding day, more and more couples are opting for this approach of leaving the hard work to the photographer, whilst they are able to simply enjoy their day and forget they are even being photographed. 

If you prefer this less formal approach and you would like to be able to concentrate on simply celebrating with your family and friends then documentary wedding photography is probably the style for you. 

A Few Couple Portraits or Group Shots if Desired

Documentary photographers typically capture candid, natural photos throughout a wedding day; however, if you would like a few couple portraits or a handful of more formal group shots taken as well, they will usually be happy to do this at an appointed point of the day – often straight after the ceremony. Some quick group shots (usually up to 5 or 6) are an excellent way to tick the more traditional box of a posed photo of key family members, without making it feel too staged. However, it’s best to discuss this option with your photographer ahead of time so they can plan for this part of the shoot and ensure it is done swiftly and correctly, so that they can get back to what they do best: capturing beautifully candid storytelling photography of your special day.

The relaxed, informal and stress-free approach

Overall the main difference between a traditional wedding photographer and a documentary or reportage wedding photographer is that aside from the small handful of group shots at an agreed point in the day, a documentary wedding photographer will not be asking you to smile, pose or direct you to do anything to make a great photograph. A documentary photographer does not need to do this as they have an eye for creating a gallery of beautiful, artistic photographs from the real, candid moments throughout your day. These are the moments that a documentary photographer believes mean the most when you look back. These are the moments that help you to re-live your special day and remember how it felt to be there when you said “I do”. 

Rose Dedman is an award winning documentary wedding and family photographer working in Bath, Bristol, Somerset, Wiltshire, Bath and North East Somerset, Devon, Dorset and beyond. She creates a beautiful, artistic record of real-life moments, love, genuine emotions and how it feels to be there, on one of the most important days of your life.    

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