We sometimes get questions from future brides and grooms about what makes documentary style wedding pictures special. Which of course, is just another way to ask why they should pick documentary wedding photographers like us! A lot of what we tell them is about the value of preserving the moments that are going to make their wedding day unforgettable. Their first look, their first kiss, their first dance. But documentary style wedding pictures capture so much more than just the highlights! They also get on film all the little moments you don’t even realize are going to matter in 30 years. Particularly all the fun you’re going to have with your family and friends! The unplanned, unscripted and often goofy ways in which you all really celebrate the day! Like how this couple and their wedding party did while riding around in their party bus.
Not all documentary style wedding pictures are created equal, of course. Some are more effective than others at telling the story of your wedding day. Makes sense, right? But how can you tell whether the pictures in one documentary wedding photographer’s portfolio are better at this than those in another’s? Some of that you can just see and feel, of course. But if you’re still not sure, here are three things to look for when you’re comparing different photos that capture real moments:
Ask yourself how well a particular image tells the story of what is going on in the frame. It is clear to you what’s happening, even though you weren’t there? Or do you need more context or explanation? If there’s any guesswork or a sense that “you just had to be there” to understand what’s going on, then the photo doesn’t work. We’d like to think that this image does a pretty good job of telling you exactly what transpired during this wedding party’s bus ride. The main story – one groomsman slapping the other’s butt while he danced – is very clear. But the picture also gives you a feel for what the atmosphere was like (raucous and a lot of fun).
Understanding the story a wedding photo is telling is important. But for a documentary style wedding picture to really work, you also have to care about what’s happening. The moment captured has to be important in some way. It can’t just be a pretty picture of something that really doesn’t matter. And what makes a moment matter? Emotions! People smiling, laughing or wiping away tears. These are the elements that make a photo unforgettable and a couple want to revisit them in 30 years. This image works (in our opinion) because it is overflowing with emotion.
The best documentary wedding photos also have something extra. Something undefinable. Something that makes you take notice of them and doesn’t let you forget them. Often, it’s something small or subtle. But it’s always something without which the images just wouldn’t be the same. In the case of this picture, it’s the hand about to smack the groomsman’s butt. Without it, this image would still be great. It would be a goofy shot of the guy dancing and the couple laughing. But the slap-to-come adds a bit of dramatic tension and makes the picture really funny!
It isn’t just the moment that makes this picture one of our favorites. It’s also the color! As we’ve mentioned elsewhere, we’re drawn to bold, colorful wedding photography. There are a variety of reasons for it. Anji’s Indian heritage, for example, and the role that bright colors play in that culture have given her a love for photography that celebrates them. (We often say that editing photos of Indian marriage celebrations in a way that doesn’t highlight the colors is a crime against nature!)
Perhaps more importantly, though, we think that colors make the world a beautiful place and that our wedding photography needs to celebrate them. That’s why we edit our photos the way we do (i.e. with a very bright and bold style) and why we seek out ways to inject color into our pictures. Like we did with this photo. We love the way the purple lighting in the back of the party bus gives the image a little splash of color!
The other thing (or perhaps the main thing) that we love about this picture is the silliness of the moment we captured on film. Nobody (and we mean nobody!) loves a goofy wedding moment as much as we do! We believe that it’s important to have a good laugh at the absurdity of life. So we’re always on the lookout for little scenes like this on a wedding day. And if you like those moments too and want to look back at your wedding photo album and smile, then give some thought to hiring documentary photographers like us.
Interested in learning more about our services? Please visit our Wedding Photography FAQ page for answers to all your questions! Ready to inquire about our availability on your wedding date? Contact us now to get the conversation started!
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