Surrey Wedding Photography
London Wedding Photography

Documentary vs Staged Wedding Photography

There has been much debate in recent years on the merits of documentary wedding photography (often called reportage or photojournalism) versus staged/posed wedding photography.  At these ends of the spectrum www.jeffascough.com (reportage) and www.jerryghionis.com and www.gordonmcgowan.com are amongst the world’s best wedding photographers.

In many ways though the debate is fairly pointless. A good wedding photographer needs to be able to adapt his or her style for nearly all weddings. Whilst couples will often have preferences for the actual mix of photography, photographers cannot for example, start posing couples – or ask them to move to a better light – during the wedding ceremony. Equally, it is very rare for a couple not to expect some photographs within a formal framework which shows them in their best light. These are the obvious examples, but the point is that during the wedding day, photographers will typically need to draw on both skill-sets.

Many photographers will of course excel in one type of skill over the other and indeed emphasise and market it. My objection is though is where the debate reaches a level where professionals argue that one style is superior to the other as a matter of principle.  (Interestingly the combination of digital technology and rising popularity of documentary photography has led to the flooding of the market with fairly unskilled “documentary photographers” who simply shoot everything and everybody to death on “auto”. The photography is often flaccid and more importantly, these photographers become unstuck when the weather and other circumstances are not ideal).

My own style is very much a mix genres, but I do not try to play down the importance of staged photography. Within the very tight time scales of a wedding, I think that it is important, for example, to spend at least 20 minutes partially directing/posing the couple away from the attention of the guests.  The key objective for me here is to give the couple innovative photographs that they will probably never have taken again – but in a way that they do not feel is too forced. This often means the couple finding their own natural level within my framework and lighting.

Filed under: Advice Tags:

All images copyright Gary Roebuck AMPA ABIPP.