How to be a Wedding Photojournalist
There has been a large shift over the last few years to what has popularly been known as a reportage, photo documentary or photojournalistic style of wedding photography. Essentially, all that these confusing terms mean the same thing: the photographer will tell the story of the whole day photographing the real moments that happen rather than setting up a lot of posed shots or producing a set of predictable standard images.
Despite the apparent boom in popularity there are few photographers who can really claim to be true wedding photojournalists. It’s actually extremely hard to arrive at a wedding and create a coherent and consistently high standard set of images without recoursing to setting things up, posing people and photographing hundreds of detail shots. A true photojournalist will have honed his/her craft to such a high level that they will have the confidence to stand back and observe, wait for the vital moment, have an in built sense of where and what to photograph to capture the real essence and originality of each wedding day. This takes years of practice but here are a few tips to get started.
1) Be reactive and not pro active. Resist the temptation to move things, asking people to pose organising things. Become part of the background of the wedding, an observer, be careful of your body language, keep relaxed and unthreatening.
2) Always be looking for the image, ask yourself constantly “where is the photograph/where is the story” there is always a photograph to be taken in every situation at every moment of the wedding day. Its simply a case of looking and finding it.
3) Use natural light. Using flash makes you more conspicuous as a photographer and can be unflattering unless in the hands of an expert. If you have to use flash make sure it is bounced off a wall or ceiling.
4) Find the composition then wait for something to happen. The temptation is to be always whizzing around chasing photographs. Far better to look for the light, choose the composition and wait for some thing to happen or come together in the frame. This doesn’t always work but can be highly effective.
5) Use your ears and listen. Often it is possible to hear what is about to happen next, where is the laughter coming from, what are people saying, what’s going to happen next? Often it’s possible to be looking through the viewfinder taking an image whilst listening for the next!
6) Have a break frequently. There are a number of long spells at a wedding (during the drinks reception for example) where there is apparently not much happening but it is important to catch some key representative moments. With the amount of concentration it takes to be alert for images all the time it can become exhausting to be working continually. Take short breaks and then work intensively for a spell before taking a break again. This allows you to keep fresh and alert and photographically much sharper and the images will be stronger in the end.
7) Know your equipment instinctively so that you can give all of your attention to the image. This just takes practice, you need to completely understand all the technical aspects of using your camera so that your mind is focused on the emotion and event of the wedding. The photographer needs to develop an empathy for the subject being photographed and this emotional attention to detail is impossible to achieve if he/she is constantly worried about camera settings.
8) Keep the equipment you use as simple as possible. Less equipment means less distraction for both the photographer and the wedding guests – it is frequently perfectly possible to photograph the whole wedding using one camera body and just a 24-70mm f2.8 lens (with back up in case of emergency!)
9)Use landscape more than portrait – having the camera in landscape orientation allows more of the context of the image to be shown, the periphery of the main subject is often full of visual interest as well.
10) Always look for the best of the day. It’s the wedding photojournalist’s job to document the reality of events but also to look for the best of the reality of the day, the bits that most people miss, the interactions that make the day special and the details that will bring the memories alive in years to come. This takes careful judgement; when to photograph and when to hold back, as well as skillful editing.