Over the last few years “documentary style” has become a bit of a buzz word in wedding photography. The idea of an unobtrusive photographer who stays completely in the background and only documents the day as it happens has of course its obvious perks; it seems like the most relaxed photography experience ever, as the bride and groom just have to think about getting married to each other, and the photographer will be there to capture the moments as they pass.
When we initially started photographing weddings in the US, the whole documentary style was only just emerging. With my background being in journalism, we both found the idea of being “wedding photo documentary makers” very fitting and got really passionate about capturing all the brilliant little moments during a wedding day: the little reactions, small hidden smiles and glances, interlocked hands under a table, a bride’s half-amused-half-worried smile during her dad’s speech… And we still love all these moments today! In fact, these often unseen gestures make up an important part of our wedding day coverage.
So what has led us to re-think the way we take pictures? Over the last few years, after doing more and more weddings, we have realised that with a purely documentary style, there can be a level of detachment in the pictures. Photographers can try so hard to not get involved in the wedding day that the photos look like they have been taken by a complete stranger. Or in other words, the pictures reflect that “outsider feeling”. In some cases, you see photographers trying so hard to hide that they become the most visible thing in the room.
A famous photographer, Robert Capa, once said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” Capa didn’t just talk about using a bigger lens or walking physically closer to the subject, he was talking about getting more involved and connected when taking pictures.
Capa’s statement very much reflects the journey we have been on. We realised that, for two reasons, we wanted to get more involved with our wedding couples, wanted to get closer to the subject. First, because it very much fits our personalities. Wherever we are, we love getting to know people. Hearing how “our” couples met and listening to their vision for the day before the wedding just sets the right mood for the Big Day. When the wedding comes around, we are both really excited to see these two people say yes to each other. We truly care about them and we believe that shows in our pictures too, which leads us to point number two. Second, because getting to know the couple and being a more integral part of the wedding makes for stunning pictures, full of character. We never like seeing wedding photographers ordering couples around, but we’ve realised that people appreciate a little guidance here and there. An encouraging comment on a nice smile or a good pose go a long way.
We really enjoy having some interaction with the wedding couple at certain points on their big day, particularly when it’s just them and us for the bride and groom photos. And at all of our recent weddings the couples have commented on how nice it is to step away from the guests for a short time when taking pictures and breathe, relax and take it all in. As a result, we think the photos really reflect this atmosphere, where the couple can just focus on each other and enjoy each other’s company.
[Alex and Becci on their wedding day in the coffee shop where they first met.]
So when asked about our style when photographing weddings, we describe it as “story telling” rather than “documentary”. Because yes, we do want to get to know the couple. We do want their photos to show them at their best. And we do actively seek out moments and details that reflect the day. Sometimes that might mean doing a little re-shuffling in order to do the moment justice. Like placing the bouquet on that perfect vintage dresser in the bride’s mum’s kitchen.