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As a documentary wedding photographer I go to a lot of weddings. I document so many beautiful days. And the more that I do it, the more sure I am of what I love about weddings…

There are so many things to think about when planning a wedding, that it can often feel a little overwhelming. Surrounded by a hundred and one decisions to make, it can be easy to lose sight of the things that are most important to you. For me, weddings are about the people. Everything else is a secondary. That’s not to say that nothing else matters, or that you shouldn’t care about it at all. It’s great to celebrate in style and in a beautifully decorated surrounding. But the more I photograph weddings, the more I realise it really isn’t what is important.

People Matter | Documentary Wedding Photography

Whether the venue is a stunning country house with beautiful views, or a local town hall that has been lovingly decorated by friends and family, the thing that really makes a wedding are the people and the relationships. A tear in a Dad’s eye when he first sees his daughter in her wedding dress. A tight embrace between the bride and a best friend right after the ceremony. A look of pure happiness during the first dance between the newly married couple. Those are the things that make a wedding. Those are the moments that matter and the memories that you’ll want to keep with you for the rest of your lives. I live for those moments on a wedding day.

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A wedding day is like a story, and like any good story the characters are far more interesting than the setting. Through wedding photography we’re there to tell your story. Of who you are. Of who you love. Of why you love them. Of the people who are there to celebrate with you.

Sometimes the moments that matter are kind of obvious. They’re there for all to see with tears and hugs and laughter. But sometimes they’re so much more subtle and tender. When the Bride and her best friend hold hands during the morning preparation, that small and subtle gesture can say so much about their friendship. It’s so fleeting and easy to miss, but it matters so much.

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Working in a Documentary Style

To be able to capture personal and intimate moments at a wedding takes a lot of trust and empathy. It’s such a privilege to be allowed to be present for some of the most emotional and memorable moments of people’s lives. With that permission comes a lot of responsibility.

A photographer can’t be invisible. At least, not if you want them to capture emotional moments in a way that resinate. But with the right attitude and approach, with empathy and discreteness, a photographer can be in the right place to get great photographs without you caring that they are there.

A huge part of being a wedding photographer is reading people and their body language.

Reading the mood

I was once photographing a wedding where the bride had given her dad a ‘thank you’ card on the morning of the wedding, with a hand written letter from her thanking him for everything he had done for her. It was obviously going to be an emotional letter, and not wanting to breakdown in front of the rest of the family and bridesmaids, he took himself off into a separate room to read the letter. I knew that his reaction, how he felt about her, meant so much to her that I really wanted to try to capture it.

I entered the room discreetly, quietly, and most importantly with empathy. The most important thing for me, even above getting the photograph, was to make sure that I didn’t ruin that very personal moment for him. That’s why I say that reading people is so important. He knew that I had entered the room, but there was no glare, no ‘go away’, neither in his words or his expression. So I quietly moved closer and let him continue to read the letter.

The result was an image that the bride cherishes, and without interrupting a moment.

Documentary Wedding Photographer

If his body language had been different I would have backed away. There has to always be a balance, a dance almost, between capturing emotional moments and interfering with them. That’s why I am always so pleased that the feedback I get from couples comments on my discretion and approach…

His quiet, gentle manner was so non-intrusive on the day that I didn’t feel uncomfortable at all despite normally hiding behind a camera myself! {Kathryn + Martin}

What about the rest?

An obsession with moments and emotions doesn’t mean that the rest gets forgotten. It’s just about priorities. I mentioned earlier in the post that I see a wedding day as being a story. I capture the details and the family groups shots at a wedding because they’re a part of the story too. Not every part of a story is a powerful emotional moment….but they are the parts of a story that really bring it to life.

I love wedding portraits too. They can be creative, sweet, romantic. They can be up close or as part of a landscape. They’re part of the story. A newlywed couple stood holding each other closely as the rain pours down all around them. A portrait like that brings together so many parts of their wedding day and can be an beautiful emotional moment even though it is set up.

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In that sense, I am not a pure Documentary Wedding Photographer. I love the addition of beautiful portraits that have relevance to the couple and to the wedding day. I have photographed weddings where the couple have requested that they’d like no portraits at all. I’m more than happy to work in that way, but to me the portraits are the icing on the cake. They complete the story.

The Story

I live for the story. The real. The authentic. I truly believe that in years to come, when people look back at their wedding photographs, it is those moments that will matter to them. A posed portrait of a couple smiling at the camera can be nice, but it lacks emotion. Looking back at a photograph like will tell you nothing about how it felt to be there on your wedding day. The moments that will take you back, to remind you how you felt on the day that you married your soul mate, will be the photographs of you holding each other in an unscripted moment, or the look on his face as he saw you for the first time walking down the aisle.

Documentary Wedding Photographer

You can’t pre plan for those moments. They’re too real, too unscripted. You never know at which point during a wedding day the most emotional and tender moments are going to happen. It’s what makes every wedding so beautiful and unique.

It is those moments, and the hunt to find them, that are what I love so much about being a documentary wedding photographer.

If you’d like unobtrusive photography that focuses on moments and emotions then why not get in touch and lets have a chat about your plans. I’d love to hear from you.

Comments

Hi I would like to ask if you are free on the 16/5/2019
And if you are could you please send me some details of your prices / packages
Many thanks Linda carlton

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Hi Pete.

Aaron and I are getting married on Saturday 24th August 2019 at The Pumping House in Ollerton, Nottinghamshire.
We have been recommended to look at your work by Samantha Hook.
Could you please give me a little more info on prices, how long you spend with us on the day etc.
We are looking for a more relaxed approach with a bit of quirkiness added in. Both of us are a little awkward in front of the camera, so not too staged or robotic is what were hoping you can offer.

I hope to hear from you soon.

Thanks

Emily

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Hi Pete
Please can you tell me what packages you offer ei. number of hours, number of photos, cost, album cost ect.
Venue and date is yet to be confirmed but were looking at Friday 5th Oct 2018, the ceremony at Portico Library in Manchester followed with the ceremony at the Curious Tipi (The Oust House Manchester).
Ideally we’d like coverage from ceremony to Dancing.
Looking forward to hearing from you.
Becky

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