What is Wedding Photojournalism?

What is Wedding Photojournalism?

It’s a fair question to ask what exactly is wedding photojournalism and how does it differ from other styles of wedding photography.

  • First off it’s not about being perfect, all staged and directed and made to look better than it was for the benefit of the wedding photographers website or some bridal magazine. No it’s real, real weddings photographed in the moment.
  • The word wedding photojournalism comes from three words wedding-photo-journal. Or to document the wedding day in a series of photos. Nowadays it’s used to represent a certain style of artistic wedding photography, often related to reportage and documentary photography.
  • Unfortunately the word reportage has been misused by wedding photographers and over time its true meaning has been diluted, reportage wedding photography has come to mean “candid snaps”. Actually it means an un-staged photo which is used to report on an event.
  • It could be said that a wedding photojournalist takes a series of reportage images yet again this would miss its full meaning.

Henri Cartier-Bresson coined the phrase ‘the decisive moment’, later his co worker Robert Capa who coined the phrase ‘get closer’ was famed for capturing the moment a bullet killed a solider on the beaches at Normandy on D-day less than 10 foot from Capa. The image remains one of the most poignant images of all time. This is called “the decisive moment” it cannot be reenacted and is less about technical perfect images and more about the moment.

Whilst todays documentary photographer will take photographs that tell a story, first setting the seen with landscapes, then taking environmental portraits and detailed photographs all from a safe distance and todays street photographer tries to work unobtrusively watching life looking for comedy or drama.

The true wedding photojournalist has to be apt at all these areas of photography whilst having a perfect sense of timing. Having the ability to get in close and capturing “the decisive moment” without being noticed. They must have the ability to document details and locations, take environmental portraits and candidly following the life of the bride and groom throughout the day.

Because the early pioneers of photojournalism involved the use of small format cameras with high speed black and white film and large wide open apertures to compensate for the lack of flash the images produced by todays wedding photojournalists tend to mimic this style with grainy black and white images making up 60% of the images presented to the couple.

Steve Watkins approach to wedding photography is considered true wedding photojournalism.


A Word on Portraits and Posed Photographs


Some wedding photographers wishing to degrade the skills of the wedding photojournalist will suggest the photojournalist only does reportage photos and can not produce quality portraits of couples or take group photos, this is completely untrue.

Many wedding photographers will stage the couple in several different poses against several backgrounds taking lots of posed photos before choosing the best images which is what you will often see on their website and in their portfolio, this approach whilst producing nice portraits is very time consuming. An hour and half to take photos may not sound long as part of the day, but when you think of standing being staged and directed into groups for 50 minutes and then walking up and down from one place to another for 40 minutes 1. You and your guests miss out on talking to each other in a relaxed way and 2. Your memory of the wedding day will include all that matching around and being bossed about which to my mind is far from relaxed.

The photojournalist working with the spirit of capturing the moment as it happens may indeed stage a few portraits as requested however this is done in short quick bursts allowing the couple to carry on enjoying the day.

A Thought for the Details


Many wedding photographers websites will show you a series of isolated detail photos, including the shoes, rings flowers, perfume, order of service, table settings and so on. It’s easy to be taken in by these photos thinking how nice it would be to have this or that style at our own wedding and these sort of images do indeed help give us a feel for the style of a wedding, however they don’t really capture the emotional feel of the day. The professional photojournalist will still take detailed photos but will also aim to capture these details in a scene for example the bride is seen putting her shoes on, these images not only show the details they also capture the emotional feel.

It is now generally accepted that professional wedding photojournalists are amongst the best contemporary wedding photographers and offer a more relaxed artistic style of wedding photography.