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In-depth guide on how to decide on your wedding photographer

In-depth guide on how to decide on your wedding photographer

In your search for a wedding photographer, you’ve probably come across many terms. One common term bandied around these days by wedding photographers is “candid wedding photography” and “wedding photojournalistic style” or “wedding photojournalism”.

We’ll get to their meaning and differences later. But its important to note, a lot of times, what is projected as wedding photojournalism is traditional posed photography and not photojournalism at all. To me this is amusing. But to you looking to hire a wedding photographer, this can be most confusing. Worse still, you could end up choosing your wedding photographer with your eyes wide shut – quite literally.

To help you clarify the subject, I’ve written this post on what is wedding photojournalism and what you should expect from your wedding photojournalist on your wedding day and when she gives you your images.

What is Photojournalism?

Photojournalism involves a photojournalist integrating with subjects up close and personal. Yet subjects are at ease and camera unaware.
Real life is un-scripted. And in the spontaneous moments we experience reality. It is nigh impossible to re-create these spontaneous moments. The fine traditions of photojournalism seek to capture these fleeting moments for future generations. A photojournalist is a journalist who reports with his camera. Like any good journalist, a photojournalist respects the integrity of the scene before him and will seek to document it as an image, as truthfully as he can. This essentially means no inteference or direction whatsoever to influence the scene. Instead, he will go about quietly studying the scene and, using his skills with light and composition as a photographer, document what’s before him naturally, trying to capture the emotion and moments as they unfold.

The Number-one proponent of the craft of photojournalism was Henri Cartier-Bresson who was the master of “capturing the moment”. In his book, the Decisive Moment he says:
“Photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth which can make them come back again.”

Life magazine was one of the first magazines dedicated solely to photojournalism. Through its pages society witnessed major events like the World War, famines, earthquakes and the great sporting spectacles like the Olympics.

What is Wedding Photojournalism?

Raw moment-driven wedding photojournalism came as a breath of fresh air in weddings.
Now that we’ve understood what is photojournalism, what does this mean for wedding photojournalism?

In the 1990’s some newspaper photojournalists decided to take their craft and experience into weddings. They used the same style of non-interference for documenting weddings and thus was born wedding photojournalism. By 2003-4 the style caught on worldwide. This was a breath of fresh air in weddings. Up until that point, traditional wedding photography consisted of almost entirely of contrived poses. Portraits ruled the day and time lines followed the direction of the photographer.

Wedding photojournalism changed that. The wedding actually takes centre-stage. Photography captures the moments as they unfold instead of directing the moments. A wedding photojournalist will never ever interfere with what’s happening before him. Instead, he will go about quietly capturing the true emotions in his photographs.

Through wedding photojournalism a wedding photojournalist seeks to create an authentic record of the wedding day.

What are the advantages of wedding photojournalism for you and your guests?

By hiring a wedding photojournalist to document your wedding, the first advantage is you actually live each moment of your day, the way you want to. You do not have a photographer posing you or telling you what to do, through the day. So for instance, during pre-ceremony when you are getting ready, a wedding photojournalist will seek to capture the moments – with yourself and those between you and your loved ones – naturally and without you even noticing him. You don’t have someone who’d tell you, “now can you look in the mirror and pretend you are putting on that necklace” or “lets take a picture of you and your dad” because your wedding photojournalist would have already caught the emotion in your dad’s eyes when he first came into the room. That is worth more than a million posed shots with you and your dad.

So, without the stress of a photographer posing you at all times, with wedding photojournalism you and your guests get to truly experience and enjoy the day in the company of each other. And if things get mad (and they often do at weddings!) your wedding photojournalist will be there, silently capturing the moments! It may be mad at the moment, but in the years to come, there will be times when you snuggle up on the couch and thumb through the pages of your wedding storybook and laugh at those mad moments and cry as you re-live the real emotion of the day.

The relaxed style of wedding photojournalism ensures you and your guests can enjoy every moment of your wedding.

Is wedding photojournalism for every couple/are there disadvantages?

I am a wedding photojournalist but I’d be the first to tell you wedding photojournalism is not for every bride and groom. Some couples prefer to be posed. Perhaps its because they think they don’t look good naturally. Perhaps they are influenced by the glamourous poses in society magazines. Perhaps they want something larger-than-life. There could be varied reasons.

Wedding photojournalism is not about making people look good and pretty. Its all about capturing moments. The Moment trumps everything for a photojournalist. So, if looking good is your number one concern, perhaps other styles of photography would be a better match for you. Styles that would mean posing you to make sure you look good. In these styles, the look is important and not moments.

Wedding photojournalism for confident brides

Wedding photojournalism also involves risk. Since a wedding photojournalist works in the moment, the outcomes are not predictable. A wedding photojournalist cannot go into a wedding with a set of photo ideas in mind. He has to work with what presents itself before him. His training and experience as a photojournalist will give him the skills to react almost instantaneously (think ninja!) to light, compostion and moment to make that photograph. So if you want your photographer to give you specific poses and/or specific types of shots, this is impossible with wedding photojournalism. A wedding photojournalist will tell it like it is.

As Bresson says: “Above all, I craved to seize the whole essence, in the confines of one single photograph, of some situation that was in the process of unrolling itself before my eyes.”

In my experience, it takes a very confident bride (and groom) to appreciate wedding photojournalism. If you are the bride (and groom!) who cares about the moments and emotions and relationships between people and not simply how you (or other people in your photos) look, then wedding photojournalism may be for you.
In any event, its a very important decision to make so take your time, look at wedding photographs that interest you and see where you gravitate towards.

Can I just hire photographers with different styles?

Hiring photographers with different styles can be a very bad idea. A photojournalist works with moments and clicks away as they unfold before him. Other forms of photography involve direction from the photographer. This direction/interference in the scene will ruin the moment your wedding photojournalist is waiting for. This applies to the clash of styles between your photographer and videographer too. Make sure they understand each other and are on the same wavelength, if not the same style. The horror stories in this regard are many.

How do you tell a real wedding photojournalism portfolio from a faux?

Like we observed earlier, wedding photojournalism is a term being bandied around by almost all wedding photographers today. It’s considered cool 🙂 Although they do not follow that style. So how do you tell a genuine wedding photojournalist from a faux?

Check if the photographer claiming to offer wedding photojournalism is a real photojournalist. Does he have any experience in a newspaper or magazine as a journalist? If so, look up his journalism portfolio. You have a right to ask, so don’t be afraid to. Now, if a photographer is experienced as a photojournalist, you’ve hit one mark. But that’s not all.

Now check the wedding portfolio of the photographer claiming to shoot with the wedding photojournalistic style. Here’s where the faux wedding photojournalist will be apparent. Does his portfolio contain a majority of posed shots? Or does his wedding portfolio have a majority of moments where the subjects are not aware of the camera?

A majority of wedding photographers today, claiming to offer photojournalistic or candid wedding style photography have a large number of posed shots in their portfolio – posed photojournalism! That’s an oxymoron. Shots like bride holding her shoes next to her face, bridesmaids “adjusting” the dress while standing around in a perfect semi-circle 😉 You get the idea. A wedding photojournalism based portfolio would focus on moments and emotions with a small fraction (if at all) of not more than 20% that are posed portraits and/or detail shots. Because for a photojournalist, moments trump everything and a wedding is full of moments that he simply cannot ignore. And no! No photojournalist will have shots of dress hanging out on a tree in his portfolio! That simply is not real life! I mean, when was the time a bride, on the morning of her wedding got up and said, “Oh! Let me hang my expensive dress out on that tree in the garden while I get my makeup on!”. Just never happens 🙂

Wedding photojournalism is about finding the moments between moments, when most photographers will put down the camera and walk away.

A different breed

A photojournalist is a different breed of photographer. In wedding photojournalism its not just about the photography. A wedding photojournalist is genuinely interested in the relationships of people he is photographing. He looks to tell a story. The real story. And he lets events unfold. He’s trained in the art of telling visual stories. He’s not interested in directing you so as to get a great shot at your wedding for his personal portfolio!

If you are looking for wedding photojournalism for your wedding, and you hire a photographer who is a faux wedding photojournalist, it can be very frustrating experience. Because, you hire him to shoot natural moments but he would end up asking you to “hold it”, “look here”, “do this” and thus spoil your natural flow of moments. I started this post with wedding photojournalism and candid photography. Those are similar yet very different. Its too much for this post so I’ll dedicate another post to shedding some light on that.

As I end this post, I’ll reiterate, it is extremely important for you to understand your wedding photographer’s real style of photography before you hire him. The best time to do this is during the initial consultation when you see his work from a few full weddings and not just online portfolios. More on what you should expect at the initial consultation in a later post.

I hope this post has helped you understand what is wedding photojournalism. Real life is un-scripted. Wedding photojournalism ensures your wedding photography is just as spontaneous and full of surprises.

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