What is Documentary Wedding Photography?

Documentary, or reportage, wedding photography is all about capturing a story on camera without input from the photographer. Just like a short story, a wedding story has all the same fundamental elements which make a great read - setting, theme, characters, plot. It's building a picture story around those elements and combining them with technical, lighting and compositional skills of photography which makes for a beautiful set of natural, documentary wedding pictures.

Quite often, I see a shot that has all the elements of great light and composition, but lacks any subject. I may wait around a few minutes or at least keep an eye on that spot, hoping something comes together when a character steps in, full of emotion, and the light hits them in just the right way. Sometimes it works out, sometimes I have to move on.

For this shot in particular, I didn't see it coming. This shot was taken at the Bishopstrow House Hotel in Warminster, Wilshire, in a two story bedroom suite. When the 6 or so bridesmaids upstairs were about to get changed, they (understandably) gave me the boot to go downstairs. As I was walking down the stairs, I noticed this image on the sofa and all the pieces just fell into place: the tender moment shared between the Bride and her niece, the perfect lighting, the balance, shape and depth provided by the overhead lamp and the two large windows. They were unaware I was taking the photo meaning they were totally natural and relaxed. For me, it's images like this that tell the story of a wedding day and is what natural, documentary wedding photography is all about.