Wedding Photojournalism | Documentary Wedding Photographer | Candid Wedding Photographer
Photojournalistic Wedding Photography:
What It Is, How to Capture It, and Why You Need it
Simply put, photojournalistic wedding photography is imagery capturing the unposed, in-the-moment, overarching story of the day. If you think about how a journalist might write about someone’s life, it tells a story. If you consider a photojournalist who works in the field covering news, that photographer will take you on a journey with them. It’s the same for wedding photojournalism in that we strive to tell stories, from capturing the nerves and special mementos to the joy, relief, letting loose, and partying.
Wedding photojournalists know that every wedding is different, and in today’s era of Covid elopements, adventure elopements, intimate weddings, and more, being able to capture these unposed photo moments is what we’re hired to do.
I’m Kathryn Cooper of Kathryn Cooper Weddings, and I’m a destination wedding photojournalist based in New York and California. My style is fun, unposed, unconventional wedding photojournalism.
Who Loves Photojournalism? Who Doesn’t?
My couples are travelers, quirky types, outdoor adventurers, doctors, and lawyers. The theme here? They want to let loose and have an amazing time—not stare into the camera while holding a stiff pose. My images are often described as not just candid and fun, but in-the-moment and real. Clients of mine often tell me that when they get out their albums and look at their photos, they’re transported back to their wedding day with the music, the colors, and the people.
To me, this is what photojournalistic wedding photography is all about! It’s capturing your wedding day without interfering much, and capturing candid wedding photos right as they happen (which means being prepared FOR them to happen. More on that later.)
People who aren’t a fan of my work–and who generally don’t love photojournalism–may be more formal, self-conscious people who prefer elegant, posed formals rather than a shot of them laughing. No judgment: It’s all preference.
The Difference Between Documentary and Photojournalistic? Candid and Storyteller?
If you got here googling “documentary photography” or “candid photography,” you’re probably wondering: What’s the difference among wedding photojournalism, documentary wedding photography, wedding storytelling, and candid wedding photography?
The answer? In 2022, not much. For all of these, the goal is to stay in the background, and capture the fun, hair flinging, the crazy dance moves, the surprise, the emotional moments, and the joy that would happen whether you were there or not.
Put it this way: If you’re photographing a little girl, those photos of her staring right into the camera are beautiful, but that candid shot of her mid-run, giggling, with cheeks glowing and hair flying behind her? Utterly priceless. (And I don’t even have kids–it’s just fun to photograph them!)
Candid wedding photography/documentary wedding photojournalism is all about a healthy mix of posed and natural that concentrates on the emotions of the day. There are, of course, certain moments of the day that are always going to be photogenic and perfect for unposed wedding photos. Examples: The hora at a Jewish wedding. The pooja or baraat at a South Asian wedding. While capturing any games, such as the shoe game, limbo, or cornhole. And any dancing, of course.
If you’re looking to capture candid wedding photos, here are some pointers:
- Always have your camera ready. A camera out of your hand is a million photos you won’t get
- When the moment has already happened (the first kiss, the cheers, the laugh), now is NOT the time to put the camera down. A lot of times, the best moment comes after the expected one
- Despite always wanting to have your camera in hand, make sure to gain trust first. Meet people and get to know them beforehand, whether this is speaking with parents, nibbling food with guests, joking around with the wedding party, or what have you. Don’t barge into a room with your camera up, because in order to capture the most candid moments of any wedding naturally, folks have to feel they can be themselves in front of you. Establishing rapport is huge.
- Study people and get experience. When are the best reactions of something simple happening? Often before or right after, not just during. Be ready for all those moments.
- Focus on unique angles or perspectives to tell the story. Being center and in the back during the ceremony is great for traditional wedding photography, and everyone should get those images, but go for the extra: get back or even behind the couple (with permission—many couples ask for this), or get to the side behind bushes and focus on a crier. It’s all about those reaction shots!
Being a natural/candid/documentary wedding photographer doesn’t mean you skip all the traditional shots. Rather, it means you capture both traditional AND candid wedding photos. Every photographer you hire should be able to capture the family photos, posed shot for grandma, and expected ring and flower shots.
But after that, some photographers—editorial or fine art—will take gorgeous, frame-worthy, posed formal photos on a grand staircase or in a majestic room. That’s a specific style, called editorial wedding photography or fine art wedding photography. You can check out my article on different wedding photography styles here.
Others will take a more posed approach in various locations, but with less setup and more traditional poses. This is more traditional/classic wedding photography.
Still others will take a storytelling/photojournalism/documentary/candid approach, getting both tiny details and far-out landscape/environmental portraits of the couple, perhaps as they’re hiking up a mountain or ditching the shoes for the dance floor (this is my personal style).
Wedding photo storytelling is especially good if you’re planning on having a print album made. A photographer who documents your whole day and tells the story of your entire party/elopement/destination wedding creates a visual timeline for you to relive every time you see it.
Why is Hiring a Wedding Photojournalist Important?
If you want to capture the most amazing, fun, shocking, tearful, crazy, joyful, and unexpected moments of your wedding, a photojournalistic wedding photographer is for you. There’s no better way to capture the real, authentic moments–and then relive them every time you look at your wedding photos.
Photojournalism and documentary wedding photography is how you capture the personality and vibe of your day. Would you rather see posed photos as every photo, or a photos that capture the party, the setup, the lights, the dance moves, the champagne spray, and the happy tears? Candid wedding photos aren’t for everyone, but as a wedding storyteller who specializes in beautiful candid wedding photos and creative/artistic shots, I’m here to tell you you can have it all!
For me, there’s nothing better than capturing candid wedding photos like this.
Working as a Travel Photojournalist and Humanitarian Photographer
Some of you know that in addition to being an elopement & wedding photographer, I also am a nonprofit and travel photographer for my other business, Kathryn Cooper Photography. I’ve traveled to, worked in, and/or lived in over 50 countries around the world, capturing images for international NGOs, personal projects, travel companies, and more.
Capturing street photos, environmental portraits, and international causes as a humanitarian photographer means I have to be a visual storyteller. If I don’t, the images I’ve taken that are for television, print, and fundraising won’t generate the help needed.
So when it comes to weddings in 2022, many people intertwine the terms wedding photojournalism, documentary wedding photography, and candid wedding photography—and that’s okay. Sticklers will argue that there’s a huge difference among photojournalists, documentary photographers, and candid wedding photographers, while others insist it all means the same these days. I asked multiple non-photographers if they saw a difference, and I got different answers from everyone. The moral? Find wedding photos you love, and it’ll work out.
When Picking Your Wedding Photographer, Pick a Photographer Who Makes You Feel Comfortable–AND Takes Amazing Images
When you’re picking your wedding photographer, what’s most important is that you love their work, no matter what it’s called! Use a variety of search terms, including photojournalistic wedding photographer, wedding storyteller, documentary wedding photographer, nontraditional wedding photographer, unposed photography…you get the picture. Fans of my vibrant, fun, candid photojournalism can inquire on my contact page.
For more amazing photojournalistic wedding photography examples, check out some amazing websites including Fearless Photographers, Wedding Photojournalists of America, and This is Reportage.
Now, enjoy this photojournalistic wedding photography from yours truly, and let me know in the comments which one you love the most!~
Kathryn Cooper Weddings: Wedding Photojournalist | New York Wedding Photographer | Destination Wedding Photographer