An Insider's Guide to Photojournalistic & Documentary Wedding Photography

As the groom anxiously waits, the bride dazzles as she walks down the aisle, before taking the groom’s hand. The couple then exchanges vows, and, once they are announced husband and wife, they share an electrifying first kiss. A wedding photojournalist should capture all these captivating moments, as they happen.

While some couples may opt for a more traditional look to wedding photos, others will prefer the more modern documentary wedding photography approach. So, what's photojournalistic wedding photography? Why would this wedding photography style work for you?  Read on to find out.

What Is Photojournalistic Wedding Photography

This fine-art photography style is candid-oriented and breaks free from posed shots—resulting in wedding albums that tell a story as opposed to a collection of posed photos.

Is There a Difference?

Fundamentally, the term photojournalism photography and documentary photography are analogous and, therefore, often used interchangeably. The origin of wedding photojournalism is credited to photographers who worked for newspaper publications and used photos to enhance their reportage.  The key idea is to capture the emotions of a wedding day from start to finish.

Acute awareness plays a significant role in wedding photography. In fact, it's a crucial element for a documentary wedding photographer to see and capture the real story of your wedding day.

Photojournalism's objective is to deliver a sequence of natural and candid pictures. And as such, a professional wedding photojournalist should be adept at not interrupting the natural flow of a wedding and avoid over-directing posed instructions to the subjects.

Great wedding photojournalists unobtrusively capture each notable moment while blending into the background, allowing you, your new spouse, your favorite bridesmaid, the wedding party, family, friends, and guests to have unhindered freedom as they focus and enjoy your wedding.

"Wedding pictures are about documenting your real emotions and sharing those joyous moments with your friends and family."

In the long run, an expert wedding photographer captures photos that are spontaneous and filled with real moments and expressions.

And due to the stealth demands of such shots, a photojournalist photographer will often carry minimal gear during the wedding.  They become a seamless and invisible part of the day. 

The approach brings about unposed, natural, and a real representation of your wedding—and that's wedding documentary photography for you!

Great photojournalistic wedding photography blends in creative and artsy compositions with genuine emotions and relationships, vividly bringing your personality to life.

This style of wedding photography delivers not only authentic photos but also an immersive, true-to-life representation of your wedding day.  It's a time capsule.  An earnest glimpse into the most important day of your life.

An expert wedding photographer captures photos that are spontaneous and filled with real moments and expressions.

As part of your wedding planning process, you've probably gone through an array of sites, magazine publications, or visited local bridal shows. Yet, with so many things on your wedding day roster, the amount of information you get from these sources may leave you feeling anxious or ill-prepared for your special day—which may be fast approaching.

Now, here's a significant problem you might face, especially if this is your first time looking. After you look at the various websites of prospective professional photographers, some things may stick out! Most vendors like pledging 'awesommeee' or ‘epic’ pictures. But with so many written promises and a schedule to keep, you'll need the assurance of a photographer who can back up their claims by having a catalog of consistent images.  Look for photographers who have won tons of awards.  It’s a quick way to know you can trust they will deliver on your wedding too. 

To find that consistency, you may require to see past the highlight reel of the average website and start browsing complete wedding galleries.  You will want to see a set of 600-1000 photos from one wedding.  This research is important if you really desire epic wedding photos that will evoke memories; make you laugh, cry, and most importantly make you genuinely re-live the raw emotions of your wedding day.

Indeed, the top photojournalist have a keen eye for the often-overlooked small moments—that when well documented during your wedding, will actually turn out to be the more important things to remember. These are the subtle moments the traditional photographer will miss.  Thus granting you an enduring memory captured forever.

"Because you deserve a day of bliss, a great wedding photojournalist blends into the background, and enables you to enjoy your wedding day, capturing real emotions without needing you to pose unnaturally during the important moments."

Here's how a photojournalist achieves this objective:

  • Wedding preparation—every credible photojournalist understands a great "wedding story" merits an equally grand introduction. And for that reason, strives to set the stage before reeling you into the fascinating narrative..

Photographing the bride's and groom's preparation gives you an amazing glimpse into raw emotions, nerves, and moments before the celebration begins. As part of the lead up to the wedding day, wedding preparations are the culmination of a lot of planning, and often these intimate moments are unlike any other part of the wedding day.

  • Wedding ceremony—imagine the raw emotions when you first see your loved one waiting as a family member leads you down the aisle. It's those priceless wedding moments brimming with character and emotions that you will want to remember.

So, with the photographer facing the challenge of having a relatively small window of opportunity, how then does the photojournalist deliver the highly anticipated images?  This is why you want to hire the best photographer you can afford.  Undoubtedly, these fleeting moments define the proficiency of a photojournalist—for each shot should mean something to you, have no fillers, nor fluff pictures taken to make up the numbers.  And there are no redos. 

  • Wedding portraits—for both group and couple shots—documentary wedding photography blends ideas from fashion magazines and posed formal portraits. This allows you to enjoy the convenience of both styles. Whether it's an editorial-style portrait of you and your partner, a picture of you and your bridal party in a garden, or a stunning formal family photo, an expert photojournalist will be able to do it, and then some.

  • Wedding reception—your reception is typically a time when people relax and the night is filled with movement, laughter, joy, dancing. This is also the time your wedding planner or committee designates for toasts and speeches. Here, a photojournalist should tactfully capitalize on a receptive audience to capture the cheers, something you're likely to remember for some time to come. Besides, a photojournalist ought to get shots of people milling around tables, or a relative talking to your friends. You will be surprised at some of the people and groups sharing moments together!

  • Let the party begin—usually, the couple's first dance marks the start of the party! A photojournalist innocuously follows the dance, capturing images of the bride and groom as they have a go at dancing. And as your friends, relatives, and other guests pour onto the dance floor, the photographer is sure to match the rhythm with amazing pictures.

What you're to expect from your wedding photojournalist

One main strength of a photojournalist lies in the ability to minimize stress on the bride, groom, bridal party, and sometimes even the wedding planner. A photographer will accomplish this through attention to detail, effective communication, and staying adequately in the background to let you and your loved ones remain in focus.

Wedding planning Stage

A professional wedding photojournalist works closely with you and your wedding planner to prepare for your wedding event. Ideally, photographers have to familiarize themselves with your wedding day to help you have a more relaxed event. This entails a detail-oriented approach that takes into consideration:

  • A timeframe for your wedding event, one with your input or drafted by your wedding planner
  • Relevant locations:
    • Briefing of where the bride and groom will individually be preparing
    • The venue of the wedding event
    • The physical address of the reception
    • Provisional information about the unique challenges and opportunities you expect from the selected wedding venue.
  • Important traditions for both you and your family
  • Particular surprises or elements you intend to use for a personalized wedding day experience
  • Themes you desire as a couple—a compilation of special instructions that a photojournalist can work with to make sure all the important photos are captured
  • Your family's formal list. Having a prepared list helps your photographer stay organized. Furthermore, this information enables a photojournalist to allocate ample time and capture all parties important to you without disrupting your wedding event.

Challenges and Rewards of Photojournalistic Wedding Photography

It's a Matter of Trust—Apart from the formal family portraits that are usually a small section of the wedding coverage, you should expect a photojournalist to blend into the background. Basically, this allows the documentary-style photographer to take authentic pictures as moments unfold.

 “Perhaps the most telling compliment a photojournalist can receive is, "No one noticed you were even there."

Yet, this fly-on-the-wall strategy demands a level of trust and skill  that a photographer is unlikely to need for other photographic genres. Equally, a photojournalist has to build this confidence with all your guests.

“So, what's the secret formula a photojournalist uses to build trust?”

During the wedding event consultation phase, a documentary-style photographer may seek more information about the wedding event and lay out an elaborate plan for your approval. Having an engagement session or pre-wedding photoshoot can help establish rapport and build confidence for your big day.

For a photojournalist, hidden interactions at your wedding are an essential facet of the photoshoot. But a professional documentary-style photographer understands the need to make the couple and all other parties comfortable, otherwise capturing these special moments might become a difficult task.

By arranging to get to know the couple on the phone or in person on multiple occasions, a photojournalist speeds up the process of building a relationship. During these sessions, the photographer will listen and request for additional information. Ultimately, the idea is to help the photographer identify what to focus on when shooting your wedding event.

Since documentary-style photographers usually might not have met your family and friends, it helps when they show up for getting ready photos before the start of the event—and spend time getting to know people—hence when they generally start the wedding photoshoot, all parties are comfortable with the photojournalist's presence.

Documentary wedding photography requires the couple and wedding planner to work in tandem with the photographer to avoid timelines that may be too tight or too loose. A poorly planned timeline can make it more challenging to document your wedding day in a way that also tells your story.

Also, shooting photojournalistic-style wedding photographs calls upon the photographer to be bold and understand the personality of the subjects.

Benefits and Rewards of Documentary Wedding Photography

It Tells a Story of Your Wedding Day

Documentary wedding photography avoids interfering with your wedding event. And thanks to the photographer remaining as unobtrusive as possible, this photography style keeps your wedding day's story fresh and authentic—granting you a true reflection of your family.

With less posing, this style gives you remarkable memories of your family and friends as they interact naturally in a candid manner.  Your real personality will be captured.  Your authentic smile will be documented.  This gives you photos that are beautiful memories, instead of a collection of posed unnatural photos.

It Captures Raw Emotions

This documentary-style approach conveys the emotions of your wedding event in a uniquely raw manner in comparison to any other style of wedding photography.

Although other techniques may capture some level of emotions and also cater to telling your wedding day story, none can match the intensity of a documentary master.

In most cases, you will also find the other styles concentrate more on fashion-centric, “epic” shots approach rather than primarily focusing on raw emotions.

Else, a photojournalistic view of your wedding photoshoot creates awareness around the little interactions between your family and friends while capturing these moments.

While it's worth having incredible landscapes “at sunset” photos, over time (which a versatile documentary photographer will do), you'll probably reminisce on the emotions candid photos give you especially as your wedding memories fade.

To put it differently, how much more special will that wedding day moment of your mom hugging you (with tears in her eyes) be in a couple of years as compared to a staged photo of your invitations?

Photojournalistic Wedding Photography is Less Intrusive

Now, a photographer might find means to be less intrusive in the routine traditional wedding photography setup, but photojournalists take this initiative a notch higher, going out of their way not to intrude in your wedding day events. This fine-art approach allows you to enjoy the moment and wedding in more ways than most other traditional wedding photo styles.

As such, it demands excellent awareness and patience on the part of a photojournalist hence enabling them to wait until the subjects enter the surroundings. Besides, it's the role of the documentary-style photographer to be mindful of the composition, while waiting for real emotions like the entertaining activities your friends engage in, etc. These elements become the focus of the photographer, rather than them spending time trying to pose the subjects unnaturally.

A photojournalist works with one objective—to make your wedding day as seamless as possible, and yet remains almost invisible!


An ideal wedding photoshoot considers the experience of your family, friends, and guests while also allowing you to relax. So, when making provisions for your wedding photography needs, you must evaluate every option and ensure you're making the right decision for all parties involved. Surround yourself with a trustworthy team that's flexible and earnest with their responses—this will enable you to have a wedding that's fun for everyone—and a wedding to remember forever.

Because you're the center of attention, it's easy for an inexperienced photographer to get carried away and exclusively concentrate on taking photos of the couple. However, an adept photographer should address this concern by taking into account other important guests and capturing each awe-inspiring moment as the wedding unfolds.

This approach ensures the photographer secures photos your parents will be proud of, while it also delivers excellent wedding photographs without making the entire wedding experience remind you of a pageant or show. 

As such, it's in your best interest to consult extensively and check out the full wedding galleries of several photographers before you start discussing your choice with your partner.

Do you want wedding day pictures that remind you of how you felt during your wedding event? If your answer is affirmative, documentary wedding photography will be the best option you can make.  Check out my portfolio for unobtrusive, thrilling, and artistic photojournalistic wedding day photographs!