What is wedding photojournalism?

November 01, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Well its time to give my thoughts on our style here at Zekar.

The phrase 'wedding photojournalist' has become somewhat of a marketing term as of late. You can find it plastered all over wedding websites. The reason being is most photographers know that the traditional style of wedding photography is not something that attracts very many clients and to use the term suggests they are responsive to the demands of most couples these days. So I thought its time I put my thoughts in on the matter. 

Wedding photojournalism is often defined as capturing the wedding day in a manner that is unobtrusive and candid. I would agree with this for the most part. However, I feel photojournalistic wedding photography goes deeper than just this. Before I explain my thoughts on it I want to make sure you know one thing: there is no set in stone definition of this form of photography, and that is a good thing. What we do is an art and if you ever could define it its mystery and speciality would be diminished.

Some photographers believe wedding photojournalism means absolutely no interference with the moments at all, even to the point of only basic editing and no camera flash. Others will say the photographer is in control of the situation, lighting, where they place the subject, but not taking away from what happens naturally. And other may say something different still. Ultimately the only thing that matters is that if you are looking to have photojournalistic wedding photography done, make sure that whatever style is put forth by a potential photographer suits your needs, and the personality of your photographer complements you so you feel comfortable. 

bride and groom laughing at altar

What is wedding photojournalism at Zekar Photography?

So how do I define wedding photojournalism? For me it comes down to one simple idea: telling a genuine, natural story! I’m not one who will ask a wedding party to jump for a picture, in fact I don’t like those pictures because its overdone and I like to kick against the norm not copy it, it’s my nature to trail blaze. I don’t ever want to make a wedding look like some other wedding I found on a blog! However if a couple asks for one I do it because part of their story is the time where they asked for a certain picture from their photographer, so at that moment its natural and my feelings change. So in that sense I am happy to do it.

But what does telling a story mean to me? Its complicated. In fact I haven’t been able to figure it out completely yet myself. There is a good reason for that however, I am always growing, learning, changing, so how I define the core of my style has to be malleable. I revisit my foundation often and question it. 

However, there are three clear aspects to wedding photojournalism I see in my work that I can explain that will never change.

First is the story of the day. Most couples who commission me to document their day do so from beginning to end. The reason is they want to relive the whole day again and again through my pictures. So my primary focus is to tell the whole story of the day in the collection of images so that once they have gone through them all they have relived each part like they were right back on their day. Years after a wedding I have gotten emails from couples on their anniversary. They tell me “we just went through our wedding and want to thank you again, I took us right back and we remembered the whole thing”. That is my goal!

Second, telling a story in a single picture. This is where the magic happens. This idea separates a real photojournalist from one using the term as a marketing tool. So what is an example of this? Well, lets say a bride is sitting at the head table and her maid of honour is giving a speech. She brings up a past moment that causes the bride to tear up. The photographer takes notice and takes a picture of just the bride crying remembering her friendship. Is this a photojournalisim? It was candid, the photographer did not interfere, so is this photojournalism? For me however, I don’t think it has become wedding photojournalisim yet, certainly not in the single image. What story does it tell, if its just the bride in the image she could have just found out her chicken was over cooked and it upset her. Or maybe it was her father giving the speech, how could you ever know. What a wedding photojournalist will do is get that shot, but another that seeks to incorporate the brides maid in it as well so the viewer later on can see who it was that caused the emotion. For the bride it will remind her of her friendship again years down the road.

It also stretches a photographer to their creative limits, the best composition might be a picture of just the bride, the best light etc… but if it avoids the story it has missed the real picture taking place. So only experience and knowledge on how to make a situation work well will make a good image. This is what makes a good artist, one who can take limitations and have limitless options from experience to choose from, that tell the whole story. That to me is what wedding photojournalisim is when telling the story in a single image. 

Yep. They really did just say that.

 

Lastly, how far do I get involved in an image. This would be the controversial area where photographers really start to disagree. What crosses the boundary? There are two areas to talk about.

First is in the actual image its self, my best example would be the use of flash. Photography is the manipulation of light, everything you see is light that hit a sensor. So if you add or take away light you have changed the environment the couple was in. So for me, how I view light is I will ues it to enhance only what is happening.

A first dance is a good example, if it’s a very intimate dace where the couple feels as though they are the only ones in the room I will create light that complements that emotion by isolating them from the crowd. If they have done ball room dance lessons and are putting on a show for their guests I will create light that incorporates their guests.

The second aspect is in editing, how far do you manipulate and image? Do you change the colors to give it a vintage look? If you do that then you have in a sense created a false environment and have changed reality. So my same principle applies here, my edits will only go as far as to enhance what is already there. I will not manipulate an image, change the environment, change the mood, my goal is to keep the image as genuine to the moment as possible while making it artistic and of quality. 

What wedding photojournalism is not.

It is not just taking candid shots, it is a thought out, planned process to tell a story. Getting to know our couples their dreams and ideas for their day is massive so we can be prepared to get those moments. 

It is not avoiding posed shots, part of a wedding is doing portraits, so taking a hard line approach and not getting involved at all would mean no set up shots would happen. This is not the case for us at Zekar, and in fact many of the best candid moments I have gotten happen during a set up shot. How we approach the photojournalistic side of portraits is to do what we call staged shots, we find the best location, make suggestions to the couple, and then let then engage on another. There will be natural moments generated in this and we document that. We help create natural moments for the couple because portraits are a natural part of the day.

It is not without structure. We don’t cross our fingers and go into the day hoping to see all the moments by chance, we develop a detailed outline of the day, ask lots of questions about what will be taking place, and make lots of suggestions on how to structure things to be optimal for the best photojournalistic shots. 

Details are a big part of the pictures. Its not just about the people its about the things, the rings, flowers, handmade décor, all of these things were planned out before hand and are a major part of the day, we document them because they are part of the story as well. 

So to sum it up, wedding photojournalism is something left to be interpreted. Every photographer has a different approach or theory as to what it is. But at its core it’s the ability to tell the story of what is happening naturally. At Zekar Photography, we do not follow trends, we follow the story of your day and how it reflects all your planning. We document that in a candid unobtrusive way and add our artistic vision to a natural moment.


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