A 15-PART DOCUMENTARY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHY SERIES.
PART ONE -
CHOOSING A 'HANDS OFF' DOCUMENTARY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHER. IS THIS STYLE FOR ME?
Do you remember the last wedding you went to? Maybe you were a bridesmaid, an usher or perhaps part of the bridal party. How do you remember that day? Was it relaxed? Fun? Enjoyable? Do you remember much about the photographer? What were they like? Bossy? Discreet? Funny? How did they make you feel? What are your overall memories from that wedding?
The chances are, if you don't remember seeing or hearing the photographer very much, they were probably shooting in a candid documentary style.
I want to share two stories with you, both from personal experience, both were before I became a wedding photographer, and both have massively influenced the way I approach my weddings today.
The first story is about a wedding I attended as a bridesmaid a few years back... a fabulous wedding I might add and some very happy memories, but some of those memories are of the photographer, and this is where I will expand.
My friends hired a really funny wedding photographer. He was quite a character and he made jokes about everything and everyone during the bridal preparations. On reflection, I am sure this was to evoke reactions from us in his images. I must add here that I make no judgement on him as a person whatsoever - he was a character, and a nice man but when I think back, my memories (particularly from the bridal preparations) are overshadowed by him and his bad jokes and particularly just how much he was trying to make us laugh. At the time I remember feeling uncomfortable and wishing that he'd stop making jokes - I felt like I couldn't be myself around him. Yes, he was funny but he was taking control of the morning and I felt that none of our reactions were really genuine.
As well as giving you lasting images of your wedding, your photographer has a massive influence on how you remember your wedding day by how they act.
I'm not saying that he was wrong for making jokes or for taking the reins during the bridal preparations. His approach may be just what you are looking for, he may have just been trying to get us to relax but influencing the scene so much now feels so wrong to me as a documentary photographer and his style is everything that mine isn't. It's not my job to try and get you to relax, it's my job as a candid photographer to capture - without interruption - the emotion in the room and everything that goes with it.
Our Wedding Photographer...
Fast forward a year to when I married my husband in 2007, we decided we'd like a reportage approach to our day. In hindsight (and hindsight is a wonderful thing) we didn't properly do our research, but we did know that we wanted a 'hands off approach' - we didn't want too many group shots and we wanted 'real' moments. We only met with two photographers - the first was so bad (in both image quality and attitude) that when we met the second, we booked him straight away. He brought some prints round and showed us some images on his laptop but I don't remember paying too much attention to the pictures in all honesty, I just remember thinking that he seemed like a nice person and the style he was selling us was just what we were looking for. I look back on our images from our wedding and the majority of them are group shots, people smiling for the camera and details. We have very little in the way of 'moments' in our pictures. I remember our photographer was really discreet and quiet, which was great, but he didn't get the shots we had hoped for. I'm more disappointed in myself about this rather than him as we rushed into booking him, and we gave him too many group shots to shoot.
Do your research.
The moral of this, is not to book a photographer based on how you 'think' they will capture your day - ask to see full weddings and don't hand a documentary photographer a long list of group shots. We booked ours for his reportage style, which turned out not to be very reportage at all and we handed him a list of 20+ groups which meant we were standing around outside for ages away from our guests. I learnt from our mistakes and we certainly wouldn't make them again but we can't go back and make better choices.
A hands off approach.
I choose to mingle with your guests. I choose to allow your day to unfold naturally without any influence from myself. I won't tell inappropriate jokes during emotional moments. I won't manipulate the scene just to get the image I want. I will be patient. I will capture the moments that our wedding photographer missed. I will make the group shots quick and painless (if you promise not to give me a long list) and the couple portraits will be relaxed and fun. I am so passionate about authenticity. I choose to document not direct. I choose to be forgotten, not remembered.
If I can come away from a wedding and your guests question if I was even there, whilst delivering authentic images that make you smile, then I have done my job as a documentary wedding photographer.
A hands off approach may not be for you and that's fine. It would certainly be boring if we all thought the same, but if I am what you are looking for in a wedding photographer... if your heart does a little flip when you see how authentic your wedding pictures can be then I would absolutely love to hear from you and your plans - please contact me!