What is documentary wedding photography?

Have you ever looked back on an album of old photos and felt that tug at your heart? More often than not, it’s those unposed moments that tell more of a story.

Documentary wedding photography leverages candid, authentic moments and raw human emotion. You can be exactly who you are and not worry about the perfect placement of your arm or tilt of your head.

But there’s more to it!

Key Takeaways: 

  • Documentary wedding photography is one of the many types of creative approaches.
  • Wedding photographers can lean on more than one creative approach to capture your day – it’s possible to combine looks.
  • You should remember your wedding day for exactly what it was.

What is documentary wedding photography? 

Documentary wedding photography aims to tell the story of your special day through those unique, candid and meaningful photos. Moments are captured as they happen. 

It is meant to bring those raw, tear-jerking emotions to life:

  • Your guests laughing at the maid of honor and best man speeches
  • That one groomsman that can really dance
  • Your grandpa taking photos of you dancing the night away
  • The unpredictable behind the scenes
  • The details of your day

Documentary wedding photographers weave these photos together to tell the story of your wedding day. 

It will allow you to relive your wedding day as if you are sitting front row at a movie theater, starring you and your partner as the main characters. And each time you watch it over again, you’ll find something new that you didn’t see before.

You might be thinking, well isn’t that the same as any other type of photography? What makes it different? 

Why does documentary wedding photography matter? 

Trust us when we say, it can make your day a lot less overwhelming.  

Although your photographer will be running around snapping candids, they will be running around snapping candids out of your way. 

Documentary wedding photography demonstrated through a groom and mother of the groom enjoying their mother-son-dance.

Here’s Frankie and his mom, Stephanie, enjoying their mother-son dance – so happy in the moment that their eyes are barely visible. They’re smiling with their whole face.

Don’t worry about redoing one specific moment: “Wait! Hold on, can you stay like that?” or “Try moving your arm this way.”  

Instead, your photographer will capture these moments as they’re happening. They will not disrupt or redo any special moments because their key focus is catching these moments while no one is watching.

Your photo will be taken almost like there isn’t even a camera in sight! 

Are you still wondering whether or not it’s the right style for you? 

Who might documentary wedding photography be best for? 

Odds are, you’ve seen a few of your friends or acquaintances get married over the years. Certain photos might have stood out to you more than others. You should be able to imagine yourself in that moment!

It’s all about what you & your partner like! Think about who you are at your core as a couple. 

Are you obsessed with flatlays of all details, assorted perfectly? Or the photos of a couple holding hands in front of a grand entrance, looking in opposite directions?

Oh goodness, how about the luxury getaway cars? Some couples thrive in that environment, leaning up against the car like the cover of a magazine. 

If there is spare time, any photographer would certainly take photos of you by request.

Documentary wedding photography demonstrated by a bride and her father getting a first glimpse at their guests arriving.

Julia & Frankie’s wedding was the perfect blend. They wanted to focus heavily on photos of them together as a newly married couple. We still got glam photos of them getting ready in the morning, but only spent a few minutes here and there.

Instead of having Julia and her dad, Michael, look at the camera and take a photo that might not evoke a strong feeling, this photo shows the moment that a few relatives caught a glimpse of her before making her debut down the aisle with her (very obviously) proud dad.

Photography is literally the art of capturing memories. And you’ll get that with any photographer you hire! The difference lies in the approach. 

But what about family portraits?

No worries. You’ll still have the opportunity to get photos with the key people in your lives! Sometimes, creating a checklist can save the day. Each photographer will have a different method to the shot list madness.

At Perennial, one way we make sure to get all of the key photos of your VIPs is through our questionnaire strategy:

  • 5 months before your wedding day, we send a comprehensive questionnaire to learn the names and roles of your family and wedding party
  • There is a section in the questionnaire to list out your other VIP guests
  • Your photography timeline and shot list will be complete far in advance so there’s less to worry about leading up to your day

Documentary wedding photographers aim to build majority of the photography timeline around being present and taking a hands-off approach. But we still understand that some photos are just too important not to put into an organized list.

You might even wish to set aside time alone with your partner to snap a few photos away from the noise of the party. Or maybe you want to be fully alone. Those moments are the ones you’ll want to remember.

Jen and Bryan enjoying a quiet moment alone during their wedding day, captured through an unposed documentary style.

Here’s Jen & Bryan, unposed, admiring their new bling, finally husband and wife.

You’ve worked SO hard to put this day together so that your loved ones can celebrate alongside you as a newly married couple. Spend time with them. Focus on one another.

Don’t even BLINK! Because the day will fly by.

Your wedding day is a story you will want to tell forever.

Find your dream photographer

Finding the right photographer for your wedding day can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. All photographers have specific styles that highlight their vision as a creative.

Your goal as soon-to-be newlyweds should be to find YOUR vision of your wedding day. How can you imagine it transpiring? What matters most to you on your wedding day? 

Once you look inward and dream up your day, set out for a photographer who demonstrates your goals through their work and messaging. 

If you’re interested in asking a documentary wedding photographer your burning questions, head over to our contact page and fill out a form! We’re dying to tell more love stories.

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