Capturing special moments with an indie spirit, focusing on genuine emotions and lively, unique expressions.

A bride and groom sit together at a reception table, smiling and applauding. The bride, in a strapless dress, looks touched and emotional, while the groom, wearing a vest and tie, gently places his hand on her shoulder. The setting is warm and intimate, with food and wine on the table.


What is Documentary Style Wedding Photography (+ How I Use it)

July 4, 2024

When it comes to hiring a wedding photographer, you might initially think that you just want to find someone who has photos on their social media or website that you love, but there are a few other major boxes that you want to check off before picking the one. 

One of those boxes is what style of wedding photography you are looking for. This can have a big impact on not only how your photos turn out, but also the flow of your wedding day. 

Now, there are plenty of different styles of wedding photography, but the one we are going to talk about today is documentary style wedding photography. This is the style that I use most heavily in my own wedding photography and one that a lot of couples love having for their big day! 

So, let’s take a deeper look at what documentary style wedding photography actually is and what it can look like when it comes to your wedding day. 

What are Documentary Style Wedding Photos?

So, what is documentary style wedding photography? This style, also sometimes known as photojournalism, is one that focuses heavily on capturing the day as it naturally unfolds. Instead of constantly intervening or heavily posing all of the different moments of the day, you’ll find these photographers almost blend into the background and catch all of the small moments and details how they happen. 

Think about journalists who are out covering a story. They are not affecting the story at all, they are not setting up any scenes or posing things to look a certain way. Their job is to be there and show the story exactly how it is. 

This is very similar to what you will see with documentary style wedding photos. Now, I will say, most of the time you will find that your wedding photographer will not be as strict as a traditional photojournalist. While some may take a completely hands off approach, you will still find that your photographer interacts with you and your wedding party of guests a bit to help get all of those dream photos that you want. 

However, you won’t feel like you are constantly being posed, like you have to go back and have your mom put on your left shoe four times because we didn’t catch the perfect shot, or that someone is always hovering over you dictating what you are doing. 

With documentary style photos for your wedding, you’ll feel like you are able to be present and enjoy all of the different aspects of your wedding day with everyone involved…while still getting those incredible photos that you will cherish forever! 

A bride and groom walk arm in arm outdoors, smiling and surrounded by greenery. The bride carries a bouquet of colorful flowers and wears a white dress, while the groom wears a dark suit adorned with a boutonniere.

What Makes a Good Documentary Photographer? 

So, now that we know what documentary style wedding photos are, let’s talk about what makes a good documentary photographer. When it comes to this style, you want to make sure that you have a photographer that you are completely comfortable with, who can be there when you need them, but also can blend into the background and go unnoticed. 

One of the biggest benefits to this style is you are able to be more present during the day and actually enjoy the time with your friends and family. This is because you are not constantly being posed or trying to get the “perfect” picture. 

So, you want to make sure that you photographer is someone who can almost be a fly on the wall. They are able to move around without interrupting your flow, but are also there when there are specific photos or moments you want to capture. 

You also want to make sure that your personalities match and you are comfortable with each other before your wedding day. This is one of the most important days of your life and your wedding photographer is going to be with you for the entire day

So, take some time before picking your photographer to make sure your personalities match and you aren’t going to feel awkward or uncomfortable with them being around during all of these special moments! 

A bride and groom sit together at a reception table, smiling and applauding. The bride, in a strapless dress, looks touched and emotional, while the groom, wearing a vest and tie, gently places his hand on her shoulder. The setting is warm and intimate, with food and wine on the table.

My Twist on Documentary Style Wedding Photography

Now, I had mentioned earlier that not all documentary style wedding photographers are going to strictly follow the “no interaction” idea that some other photojournalist style photographers may. And this is mainly because when it comes to your wedding, sometimes there are parts of it that you may want to be directed or slightly posed. 

So, just to give you an idea of what this style could look like with a wedding photographer, here is how I use this style with a bit of a twist. Traditionally, we know that documentary wedding photography is almost entirely candid and tells the story of your wedding day exactly as it happened. 

I tend to use a light editorial influence, but for the most part, will lean heavily into the documentary. I take the energy from the day and reflect that into the photos that I am taking. 

So, what this could look like is during the morning, if you have more of a slow and romantic vibe going on, the photos are going to have more of a soft and ethereal feeling. As the energy starts to ramp up throughout the day, the photos are going to match, especially during the reception (I am known for my reception imagery and my clients definitely like to party). 

I also still love to include portraits even though these are technically “posed,” but I approach them with the understanding that having a camera pointed at you can be a little scary and nerve wracking. So I work with you to make sure that the images that we get are still a reflection of you and show you at your best. 

This means always prioritizing flattering poses (regardless of who you are or how comfortable you are in front of the camera). I am here to give ALL of my couples their dream model moment in the best light possible. 

I always work to highlight your unique love and really help you relax in front of the camera and give you simple prompts to bring out your personality rather than sticking to artificial posing. 

A bride and groom hold hands and walk through a sunlit field, smiling at each other. The bride wears a flowing white dress, and the groom is dressed in a dark suit. The backdrop features trees and a serene, natural setting.

The Importance of Communication 

Now, while this is my specific take on documentary style, that doesn’t mean it is how every wedding photographer will approach it. So, it is so important that you communicate with your photographer so that you are both on the same page before your wedding day arrives. 

For example, if you really want them to be more hands off, be sure to express that to them. If you do want help with some light posing or direction, tell them that. At the end of the day, these photos are for you so don’t be afraid to talk about these things beforehand. 

This can also apply to any specific shot list that you want to have for your wedding. Whether this is specific group photos you want, individual portraits, or any special details you know you want captured. The more you openly communicate with your photographer (regardless of their style) the smoother your wedding day is going to go! 

A bride and groom dance joyfully in a rustic indoor setting, while seated guests in the background watch and cheer with smiles and applause. The bride's dress flows gracefully as they move.

Final Thoughts on Documentary Style Wedding Photos 

Hopefully this helps give you a better idea of what documentary style wedding photography is and if it is the right choice for you and your partner. If you are looking for photos that are going to feel authentic and show the true story of your wedding day without feeling like you are constantly being posed, this may be the perfect style for you! 

And, if you are still looking for the perfect documentary wedding photographer for your big day, I would love to chat. Capturing these moments for you and your partner to cherish forever is one of my favorite things about being a wedding photographer. 

You can click here to learn all about my wedding photography services and my process or you can head over here to get in touch and start planning your own dream wedding!

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Photographer, amateur snowboarder, dive bar connoisseur,  inspired by music, good movies, and you.

I'm a Charlottesville wedding photographer and I specialize in capturing wedding days with a documentary approach. Love is pretty rad, and your photos should be, too.