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Wedding Photojournalism: What is It, and is It Right for You?

May 18, 2008
Today you hear lots of wedding photographers talking about using a "photojournalistic approach" or being a "wedding photojournalist." What does this mean, and how does it differ from traditional wedding photography?

Traditional wedding photography relies on the photographer setting up moments and images that convey the wedding day in the most glamorous way possible. There is a heavy emphasis on traditional portraits (the family or attendants all lined up in a row), and in most of the pictures, the bride and groom show an awareness of the camera's presence.

By contrast, the wedding photojournalist tries to be as inconspicuous as possible. He/she does as little "setting up" as possible. Instead of focusing on glamour, the photojournalist focuses on the personalities of the couple and the story of their wedding. He/she is there to document the day, as a historian, and capture the natural, spontaneous moments of the wedding day. Ideally, after a few minutes, the bride and groom will forget that the photographer is there.

At the cutting of the cake, for instance, a traditional photographer might set up a shot of the couple holding the knife, maybe have them look into the camera for a picture or two, and then have them position their hands a certain way and take a close up. For the photojournalist, all this creates an unnatural intrusion. The photojournalist instead will keep quiet and allow the cutting of the cake to unfold naturally. He/she will capture images of the cake cutting, but they won't be posed, and hopefully the couple won't even be aware of the photographer.

The photojournalist will still take some formal portraits, though they tend to be quick and relaxed: sometimes the portrait session might not be more than 10 or 15 minutes. This is particularly convenient if a couple plans on taking their portraits after the ceremony; it means there won't be a long delay between the ceremony and reception.

Both the traditional photographer and the wedding photojournalist have their place, because they appeal to different types of people. Some brides have dreamed all their lives of their wedding day, and think of it as being a princess for a day. In this case, traditional wedding photography might be best. Other couples are less interested in the fantasy of the day and more interested in being themselves and having their personalities conveyed in the images. For these couples, a wedding photojournalist might be a more natural fit.

Many photographers claim to use a photojournalistic approach, but still orchestrate the event. When interviewing photographers, be aware of the differences between the traditional and photojournalist photographers. Be sure to ask about their approach to wedding photography. Ask how they handle the cake cutting, or the first dance, or how much instruction they give. Find out what their philosophy is towards the portraits and the rest of the images taken that day. That will give you some idea of whether or not the photographer is more traditional or more photojournalistic. The photographer's approach to the day should be one of the main considerations when selecting your photographer.
About the Author
Larry Brunt is a wedding photojournalist. His company, Essential Moments Photography, is located in Spokane, WA, and Larry photographs weddings throughout the United States. Visit his website at www.EssentialMomentsPhotos.com or drop by his blog.
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