Storytelling Images vs Snapshots in Candid Wedding Photography

Candid. Documentary. Photojournalist. Reportage. Natural. The list of terms used by wedding photographers is endless these days. All of these terms describe a style of photography. But what exactly do they mean?

The terms refer to a genre of photography that imply images shot with the subjects either camera unaware or if they are aware, not acknowledging the presence of the photographer, not “performing” for the photographer.

Candid: (of a photograph of a person) taken informally, especially without the subject’s knowledge.
Synonyms: unposed, uncontrived, impromptu

Once you use this definition, you’d see that many images being passed off as “candid” are really created with the direct intervention/direction of the photographer – through posing of the subject.

Having got that out of the way, in the genre of documentary/reportage, there are images that are snapshots and images that are storytelling. A good photojournalist/ documentary photographer is not just looking at the scene in front of him. She’s looking at the story that’s before her.

The difference between storytelling images vs snapshots is best explained with a series of images.

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Here’s a scene of a group of youngsters practising for a sangeet night dance performance. This first image is what would be called a snapshot. It “describes” the scene in a most basic, fundamental way. Through the image we know who’s practising and the location – an apartment room.

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Now this second image would pass off as a “candid” image. It’s taken with a longer lens so backgrounds are blurred and focus is on the subject. A lot of photographers today call themselves candid. But the photography in their portfolio is mainly such images – subject in focus with foreground & background blurred. It could be considered a nice image. However, it’s not storytelling. It isolates the subject out of context of the surrounding.

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Finally, here is another image from the same scene. Observing around me, I noticed the old grand mom and another member of the family sitting and observing the youngsters practice. Seeing this, I moved across the room to try and get the old lady in the frame while also telling the story of the dance practice. And this is what I got.

To me, this is a storytelling image. It’s not necessarily a “beautiful” image. But photojournalism is not about beautiful. It’s about story.

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Here’s one more image that I like from the shoot. It tells the story of who’s in charge while also giving hints of the setting and location.

Further, a good photojournalist will try and tell the story with a series of images, like a writer would use sentences or a poet uses verses. Each image helps build the story and viewed together, we see the larger picture. That’s something for a future post.

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