Documentary wedding photography sounds unfamiliar to most. Some brides and grooms have a difficult time differentiating a documentary wedding photographer's approach versus a non-documentary wedding photographer's. Some associate documentary wedding photography with un-posed, candid wedding photos and interpret it as the opposite to fine art and traditional. Personally, I don't find documentary wedding photography contradicted with fine art wedding photography nor traditional wedding photography. Rather, they can coexist. On the other hand, it's only partially right that a documentary wedding photographer takes un-posed and candid wedding photos. Documentary wedding photography is largely founded on a photographer's approach to documenting a wedding and the way we see weddings.
Here are the top 5 questions I've been asked the most as a documentary style wedding photographer:
1. What inspires a documentary wedding photographer?
Moments. I'm keen on capturing even the most mundane moments so much so that it became a habit. It became a way I interpret the world. There's a story behind every frozen moment. Each moment is unique and no real expression can be replicated. This makes a documentary photographer the perfect match for story-telling wedding photography especially for couples who treasure both the big and small moments.
2. So does a documentary wedding photographer put candid moments over posed photos?
The short answer is yes. A candid moment cannot wait while a posed photo can. In the example below, the little kids attracted my eyes as I'm posing my bride and groom for a portrait at Nathan Phillips Square. This set of photos documented an elopement in Toronto and a random candid moment can be a story in itself when the couple look back to their special day. After the first picture, we still have the opportunity to take a posed portrait as planned. It’s the little moments that connect the dots and give a story a life.
3. How does a documentary wedding photographer approach portraits?
I'm drawn to natural expressions and unique moments. When approaching wedding portraits and engagement photos, I try to initiate a moment and let it unfold itself. The result is capturing the couple in their zone. There's no one magic word to make every couple relaxed, behind the scene there's occasionally a cold joke, occasionally a long conversation and other times just intended silence.
4. What do black and white photos mean to a documentary wedding photographer?
We love black and white photos if you ask me. Monochromic image takes away distractions. My wedding photos tend to include a good portion of backgrounds and a black and white picture helps to either emphasize on subject of focus, or deemphasize the centre point of a photo and assist our eyes to move around the picture to read the story in and behind it. As Swiss photographer and documentary film maker Robert Frank famously said, "Black and white are the colours of photography".
5. What else is important in documentary wedding photography?
A sense of humour and appreciation for imperfections are important in my approach. I don't go to a wedding with a mental shot list but instead an open heart. I find this approach works the best for me. I often captured the least expected moments and again these moments give life to a story. It helps me to illustrate a personal story instead of producing a set of cookie-cutting wedding photos. My wedding photography intends to capture the intimate relationships that are unique to each bride and groom and their favourite people. On top of it all, a sense of humour never hurts.