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"What Is Documentary Style Wedding Photography?"

Arguably the 'documentary style' has become one of the most popular approaches to wedding photography, but what does this really mean?

wedding couple in fields

Choosing your wedding day photography is a big part of the wedding planning process and it's important to understand what style of images you want to create and also how you want to be captured as a couple. Here's my take on what documentary wedding photography looks like to me:


With the exception of group photos and sometimes your couples portraits, most of the images from your day are likely to be unposed and candid. This creates relaxed and natural images that showcase authentic moments and interactions. You'll be overwhelmed with love and excitment on your day and your photographer will aim to be as unobtrusive as possible. Your photographer will know where to be at the right time, without interupting or intruding in any way. This is not only to benefit your ejnoyment of the day but helps capture realism in your photos.  A good photographer is trained to look beyond what everyone else sees, and tell the story without you even noticing them.


Documentary photography is simply capturing real moments in real time. It's also those moments that you may have missed first time around. You can't be everywhere at once so when you sit down to view you photo gallery, it can give you an insight into multiple aspects of day from a variety of perspectives. For instance a traditional photographer may just capture portraits of you as a couple, however a documentary photographer may also notice the flower girl dancing in the corner.


One of the benefits of this photography style is that the aim to tell the full story of your day, from beginning to end. Capturing the journey from bridal preparations to your wedding party dancing the night away helps you relive the whole experience when looking through your album and gallery. It should be like a mini movie, including every split second moment and reaction.


To build this well rounded summary of your wedding day, the details are important. The details are also what you've likely been planning in the run up and deserve to be remembered. This can be your wedding decor, wedding cake, venue spaces, food and drink, wedding stationery, the list goes on! Although these type of images are likely on most wedding photographer's shot list, a documentary photographer may spend a little more time on these aspects to truly build a full picture of your day.


My favourite thing when photographing weddings is encapsulating moments in photographic form. As your photographer captures the action as it unfolds naturally, it allows for a little creativity when it comes to composing images. For instance shooting through a window for that glowy effect or close up shots of interesting details such as a hand being held or champagne glasses being raised for a toast. The black and white edit is also popular amongst wedding photographers, replicating a traditional reportage style of photography, removing colour to focus on the emotion in the image.


Just because you've decided to go with a more candid style of photography, this doesn't mean you won't also receive traditional formal group shots and portraits. This of course require a little bit of direction and organisation and normally only take up a small portion of your day. I personally like to incorpoate the natural and relaxed style when it comes to couples photos, giving you those posed and polished portraits, as well as some natural moments of laughter, movement and just you and your partner living in the moment.

Ultimately the documentary style of wedding photography is all about capturing unposed moments as they spontaneously occur. Without the input of prior instruction or elaborate set ups, this creates beautiful depictions of your day just as it happened.

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