Wedding Photojournalism Explained

Written by: Michael Tigchelaar, Ninja Photographer!

The term "photojournalistic wedding photography" has almost become a marketing term as of late. It is loosely used and defined by photographers. The truth is, most use it to land clients knowing it is in demand. It can also be called documentary or candid photography by some.  But what is it really?

The truth lies somewhere between the marketing and an idea we can hold down. The reason it is such a loose term is at its root it means "telling a story". Some will define story telling as being completely hands off, while others will say the photographer will manipulate the image to tell the story. I tend to lean to the latter. An image has a frame after all, and a photographer chooses what goes in and what will stay out. That alone can change the context of an image. After we define this art form some more I will be giving some examples and explain how I used the frame to tell the story.


Simply taking candid shots does not make someone qualified to call themselves a wedding photojournalist. Experience and education does. Anyone can take 500 pictures and get a few good candid moments. But only experience can deliver 500 truly candid shots that either tell a story together as a whole, or within each photo individually, and have high artistic value. That's where the genuine article is, a complete set of quality photographic moments that can stand on their own as a story or become a part in a greater whole.

So how do I define wedding photojournalism personally? For me, it comes down to one simple idea: telling a genuine, natural story through my camera's limits.

 The factors that come into play are simple. The wedding couple or subject are not fully aware of my presence or that I’m taking a picture. And if they are, they don't feel the need to allow it to affect how they behave. I am also not posing them to create a story that did not naturally exist. This does not mean we do not pose shots, or ask for things to happen. It's mostly just a rule for the bulk of the day when stories are taking place.

The following is an outline of a few images, the story behind them which makes them wedding photojournalism, and how I thought out the shot when I captured it. 


Examples of wedding photojournalism


The Story

Ryan received a pair of cufflinks as a gift from his bride on the morning of their wedding day. On them was a picture of his Dad who had passed away. This is the exact moment he realized what his bride had intended in the gift. To have his Dad with him close during this major moment in his life.

Groom crying over gift. Black and white. wedding photojournalism.Wedding picture. Opening gift from bride.

How I got the shot

Ryan told me he would be opening a gift from his bride. The only set up I did here was asking Ryan to open the gift on a bed near a window so I could utilize the ambient light. Knowing its a natural moment, choosing natural light like this keeps it raw and allows me to take images as I need to - not being subject to artificial lighting that can be finicky and possibly not work missing the moment.

Notice the composition. Although he is crying and one might be tempted to zoom in to focus on that tear. I purposely left his hands in the frame to show what he was crying for. This tells the story, a tear alone would not.



The Story

This image is of Sum Yee, our bride that day. The three prime subjects in the image are her brother, whom she is hugging, and her sister who has her hand on their brother. Sum Yee's brother flew all the way in from China and nobody knew he was coming. This was the moment he surprised her.

How I got the shot

We were doing wedding party pictures on the stair. You can see Derek, Sum Yee's groom, in the back smiling. All of a sudden Sum Yee's sister ran from the grouping. I knew from how she moved this was important. So I quickly ran and positioned myself to be behind her brother. I did not know who he was but knew he was very important, I managed to get Sum Yee running down the stairs into his arms. All of this happened in a matter of seconds.  Instintively knowing where to move is key.


The Story

Carlyn and Rob decided to see each other before their ceremony. This was the moment he turned around and saw her in her beautiful two piece dress. I noticed with these two that whenever they hugged, they breathed each other in.

How I got the shot

We were in an area on Dyment’s farm that over looks Dundas Valley. There is a small opening amongst the trees on the cliff that opens the view up to the town down below. I positioned myself to make sure that scene was the background. Knowing it would be blurry and out of focus leaving Carlyn and Rob isolated sharp in the shot. This would express the importance of this moment. Alone together on their day! An interesting side note, Rob said the exact same thing about Carlyns dress her dad did when he saw her the first time. That dress is so you! What does it mean that a groom says the same thing as a brides father in a moment of awe! We all know hehe!