First of all, I need to define Documentary Photographer, so this is wikipedia’s definition: The photographer attempts to produce truthful, objective, and usually candid photography of a particular subject, most often pictures of people.
That definition basically says enough about why I like photographing weddings and the way I approach photographing them, but I am still going to say more.
It is odd because within the documentary photography world, there is some snobbery about photographers who photograph weddings. But if you are a documentary photographer (see definition above) then there is no reason not to love photographing weddings… there are usually 50-200 people to photograph and that means lots of moments, stories and emotions everywhere you look. And generally, most everyone is in a good mood and happy to be photographed (although I have definitely learned that is not true for everyone!)
As for my approach to photographing weddings, I love telling the story of weddings through photographs.
I would so so so much rather take candid and truthful photos than any posed photos. Posed photos make my stomach flip with nervousness. I am getting better at directing, but at the weddings I photograph, I can’t wait until all the formals are over and I can get back to taking candids. I feel like a wedding should be about enjoying the day and living in the moment… not stopping the moment, and leaving the moment, so you can go and freeze a false moment. (Although I know that formal portraits are important too… but I keep them to a minimum, and my philosophy is: the faster, the better.)
The one formal part I do look forward to, is stealing the bride and groom soon after the ceremony and photographing them alone and happy being brand newly married… but I try to make them forget I am there.
Here are some of my favorite parts of the wedding I photographed a couple of weekends ago. It is the story of Jodi and Dan. Their story is more emotional and complex than some; it involves Dan’s 8 year old son, a considerable difference in ages and Jodi’s mom who is living with cancer, all coming together on this one day to celebrate.