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My blog title seems contradictory since I’m a big advocate of documentary photography at weddings. I even wrote extensively about it -HERE-. However, I recently read a thread on social media regarding documentary wedding photography that had me thinking about its strict adherence.
This type of photography, in the purest sense, requires that the photographer never interfere, direct or pose their wedding clients, ever. The argument was that, if you are going to promote documentary photography in your wedding service, you can’t really do any posed or directed pictures, at all. This was an interesting idea, but one that I, respectfully, disagree with, even as I advocate strongly for candid wedding photography.
No “Do Overs” on a Wedding Day
Regardless what a documentary purist wants to believe, a wedding day is a highly choreographed day. Everything is planned far in advance (usually) and there is a lot of money going into it. You don’t want to leave anything to chance. A little direction here and there. Some traditional portraits. These things ensure that your money will be well spent and you will get as large a variety of pictures as is possible in the finite amount of time that is available in one day.
Wedding Day Portraits
As I mentioned, I do documentary style photography at all of the weddings that I photograph. These are probably some of my favorite pictures from wedding days. These pictures are authentic and show true emotion and spirit. But I don’t rely solely on them. Too much time, effort, and money will be put into your day for me, as your wedding photographer, to not try to get the biggest variety and absolute best pictures that I am capable of.
If I could do 100% documentary wedding photography, I would still do creative wedding pictures. 99.9% of all brides and grooms expect some creative “posed” pictures. At least they do in the Cleveland area. I suspect that this is mostly true throughout the United States.
Imagine after your wedding day, because you didn’t “interact” with an important person and you didn’t get any pictures with them. I’ve heard about this happening with a bride and her parents and siblings. Imagine not getting a picture with your parents or your sister or brother because you all were busy on your wedding day. It happens but it shouldn’t.
If you don’t want any direction at all, and want to look like you do every other day, why hire a 100% documentary photographer in the first place? You can just hand someone a camera and have them keep the shutter pressed all day. That is a bit melodramatic statement but do you see my point?
We all say we want authenticity and want to look “normal” but we are all critical of ourselves in pictures. The whole point of hiring a professional photographer, regardless of style, is so that we look our best, and our events look their best, in pictures. Otherwise, there is no point in investing the money.
Documentary style photography at weddings is important. But it’s not an end all, at least not for my clients and I. When choosing a photographer you have to decide if missing important pictures outweighs just a little bit of direction throughout out the day.
A good mix of documentary and some posed, even if they are a few of immediate family, will ensure that the important participants (i.e. family pictures) in your wedding are properly documented for posterity sake.