Is getting a Documentary / Reportage Wedding Photographer the right thing for you?
The short version
I guess in order to consider answering that question you really need to understand what a specialised Documentary Wedding Photographer can do for you that's different to a more traditional Wedding Photographer.
In short, from your perspective of 'what can this kind of photography give me', the quick answer is this: (I'll go in to more detail in the next part)
- A completely non-intrusive approach - you really do just get on with your day
- Real moments from your wedding - not just pictures of people gorping at a camera, or eating crisps
- You're fully relaxed - No worrying about posing, no stopping your day
- You get a full story of your wedding, beginning to end - not just a series of random pictures
- It's unique to you - there are no templates, no regurgitated poses, your wedding looks like your wedding not someone else's - it's very personal to you
- It doesn't matter where you get married - Documentary wedding photography is about people, not places - places do feature but it's about you (pointy finger)
The long version
A much more comprehensive explanation as to why a Documentary Wedding Photographer may just be the thing you're looking for.
You want to relax on your wedding day rather than being bossed around by a photographer
There's nothing worse than being at a wedding and having a photographer running around like a loon barking orders, bossing people around, generally getting in the way and being a bit of a nuisance - unless you like that sort of thing.
Documentary wedding photography for me is all about 'being at one with the wedding hommmmmm' (ok, maybe a bit too new age), but seriously it's about blending in, not being a nuisance, not telling people what to do. Every wedding without fail I'm asked, usually by a few people, "So how do you know the couple?" or "Which side of the family are you from?". Blending in, being a guest and simply taking part is the number one important thing for me at your wedding. You're relaxed, there's no pressure to perform like a monkey, no expectation on you to smile or act up for a camera.
You want real memories to look back on, to remember how you were feeling
Photographs are brilliant things, they have the power to instantly bring you back to a feeling. I've got a picture of my kids, it's only a picture taken on my phone from when we all went to the cinema to watch 'Trolls' - the cinema was empty apart from us for some weird reason, anyway, it's a picture of Isabella & JJ dancing in the aisle, really going for it type dancing, heads back, mouths open, arms and legs everywhere. It was the end of the film when that song 'Happy' comes on, they were both running up and down dancing like crazy shouting 'best day ever!!' while singing along at the top of their little voices - I love that picture, it's a real memory, every time I look at it I'm taken right back to that moment - a feeling of pure happiness. That's the power of pictures.
As a documentary wedding photographer I'm all about feelings and memories. Having a picture, a series of pictures that take you right back to how you were feeling at the time is incredibly powerful. The plastic set up stuff might at first glance look ok, but there's no emotion, no connection and no feeling there.
Take a look at the picture below. I absolutely love this picture, not just because the couple, their family and friends love it because they can all relate to it, also because I can too. As I saw Rad's reaction at seeing his wife to be approaching him, it took me straight back to how I felt when I saw my wife walking towards me during our wedding - I reacted in exactly the same way (and yes, I did have a bit of a lip wobble I don't mind admitting). Pictures, when real personal moments are in them, they're powerful things. That's what a Reportage photographer does.
You really do get to see how fun your day really was. There's a lot going on during a wedding, you don't want to miss it all do you?
Being absolute centre of attention at your own wedding often means it really hard to just step back and soak the full day up, you get moments in a bubble together of 'wow this is our day' but the rest of it seems to fly past ridiculously quickly. Of course you'll notice things happening but you'll miss an awful lot too. That's where my approach as a UK documentary wedding photographer really comes into its' own. It's my job to see the little things, the big things, a helluva lot of the things you don't see - I see them for you. Documentary is all about memories and emotion and fun (in my case), unlike a traditional wedding photographer who's a bit of an outsider, I'm well and truly in insider - from a picture perspective that's a very unique and personal view of your day.
If you're feeling a bit 'weird' about having your picture taken, you're not the most confident person in the world, but you want to look your absolute best in pictures.
I HATE having my picture taken, whenever I know someone is about to take my picture I do this weird tight lipped smile, try and stand a bit straighter and my hands jiggle about like they can't decide where they need to be, in my pockets, one in a pocket one flapping about uselessly, on my hips (might as well do a pout too I guess), I know I'll put one on my chin like I'm thinking about something, orrrr the dab...I'll do the dab - that'll look great. I look at the camera person (secretly thinking I hate you, look what you're making me do with my hands), oh I know I'll look into the distance, or at my feet, or at their feet. Yeah it's a weird feeling. I feel sorry for you lot - knowing you're going to be having your picture taken all day.
That's the beauty of what I do, I'm there to get pictures without you knowing I'm taking pictures. It's called being camera unaware. Even when you know I'll be taking a picture of you - times like cutting the cake or whatever, I'm not going to ask you to pose, or do it again, or smile, or look at me. I'm just there - usually amongst your guests. Reportage wedding photography is 100% relaxed, it's you just being you - natural smiles, genuine emotion ya de ya. It's ideal for people like me, and people like you.
Point a camera at someone and all of a sudden they stop being who they really are, the guard goes up, they become self conscious, a bit stiff, pull a funny face or use their 'go to' camera expression. Basically cameras have a brilliant ability to turn you into a pretend version of yourself, now if you want your wedding pictures to be full of stiff, awkward people you barely recognise then great - you might as well buy someone else's wedding pictures and save yourself a load of money.
Conversely, when pictures are taken of you and everyone else just being who you are, you all look your best. That's because a natural you, a genuine smile and how you normally act looks a helluva lot better than anything else. The real you is the thing your partner actually loves about you, they see that every day, that's why they are marrying you - for who you are. Trust me, you look your absolute best when you don't know you're having your picture taken.
Look at the two examples below - both pictures were taken while the brides were simply 'doing other stuff', no guidance, no set up, didn't even know I was taking their picture. It's also worth noting that pretty much everyone who does book me states "We HATE having our picture taken" or "We can't be bothered with the faff of photographs, we just want to get on with our day" - that's the beauty of my approach, you don't feel weird or awkward.
Weddings are emotional - you'll be wanting emotional pictures
Emotion can't be staged or set up or re-created - it can't. Real raw emotion happens at weddings, sometimes in a split second, sometimes there's a build-up to it but one thing is certain, weddings are jam packed full of the stuff. Emotion come's in many forms, it's not always out and out tears, or laughter, it can be a simple moment of reflection or a gesture - if you look at an emotional picture of someone you know, you'll know what they are feeling (providing that picture captures that emotion). Great emotional pictures are often very subtle, but hugely meaningful.
Really you want someone who's rather good at getting pictures of that emotion and that's where a documentary photographer excels. Getting an emotional picture isn't just about pointing a camera at someone who's crying or laughing, it requires timing, sensitivity, empathy, understanding, subtlety and not ruining that moment by obviously pointing a big hoofing camera in people's faces - those pictures also need to convey what was actually happening at the time, a bit of scene setting etc. It's a very specialised skill and something a good documentary wedding photographer is pretty damn hot at.
You want your family and guests to be just as relaxed as you are
It's all very well and obviously very important for you to feel relaxed on your wedding day, what about everyone else though? The last thing you want is a photographer disrupting everyone else at your wedding - they want to enjoy your day too! There's nothing more annoying as a wedding guest than being interrupted mid conversation for picture number 10 (of them relaxing and enjoying themselves - ironic), or being made to feel rather uncomfortable by someone with a big camera and the social skills of a 3 year old after 10 packets of haribos.
A reportage wedding photographer approach is just as good for the rest of your wedding party as it is for you, pictures of the people at your wedding simply being themselves say so much more about your day.
The other big advantage is you don't have to worry about your guests not enjoying themselves fully - there's nothing worse than a photographer who's a pain in the ass.
You get real, honest, raw moments from your wedding
Moments to me come on a sliding scale, technically everything that happens is a moment, but in reality if I were to rate moments from 1 to 10 (1 being a picture of Uncle Kev eating a bag of crisps in a corner, 3 being a you blowing your nose - you could be crying or just have a cold the picture doesn't really make it clear, 6 being reasonably happy walking out of a church but you don't really look THAT happy, and 10 being one of the really memorable points of the day that really make you well up or belly laugh or you'll talk about for years and it's abundantly clear in the picture - then an absolutely focussed documentary photographer will be pushing pictures of a minimum rating 7 throughout the day - and all those pictures fit together to tell the complete story.
Now obviously moments and memories mean different things to different people, memories are extremely individual things. That's why I treat every wedding completely differently, because every wedding is different and the people at each wedding are different.
In all honesty I don't expect anyone who wasn't part of a wedding I've photographed to relate to any of the memories in it, moments and memories are hugely personal things and I'm certainly not taking pictures for a generic look to please everyone - just the people who's wedding it was.
Here's a wedding, full of little personal moments and memories. A small selection of pictures from the final full set. Strangely this is the closest I've ever photographed to home - A lovely intimate ceremony at Stockport registry office followed by a gathering in Heaton Moor.