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What is Wedding Photojournalism?

Posted on February 16, 2009

As a South Florida wedding photographer, I meet with a lot of clients. One of the most common things that I am asked about is whether or not I do photojournalism at weddings. Photojournalism has become a big buzz work for photographers – especially wedding photographers. When brides come in and start asking about wedding photojournalism, I must say that I sometimes cringe inside. Don’t get me wrong, I love wedding photojournalism. I enjoy shooting pictures that tell a story as well as capturing those on the fly un-posed special moments. However, As a professional photographer for 25 years and as someone who has spent countless hours studying the principles and techniques of lighting and posing etc., the concept of photojournalism, on its own, as an acceptable art form for covering weddings is hard to swallow.

While candid un-posed shots can be great and are certainly necessary to get at weddings, there is no guarantee that certain things will be covered if a photographer shoots ONLY photojournalistic style photos and nothing else. I mean, if I didn’t get a good, clean shot of the bride with her mother or father with both people smiling and looking at the camera, I would be crucified. To my clients it is simply unacceptable to miss those key shots and let’s face it, those shots are often posed. They are “must haves” and there’s no not doing them. Over the years we have known several couples that have hired photographers who primarily specialize in photojournalism. Nearly every time, they were disappointed with the outcome. They either had none of the key posed family shots they wanted, out of focus or blurry photos or photos that were badly composed where faces and expressions were obscured. The problem with photographing a wedding purely as a photojournalistic event is that there is a good chance that important shots will be missed – and there is no going back and getting those pictures later. Some strict photojournalists have newspaper backgrounds and are used to just shooting candids - covering a news story as it happens. The fact that they do not have any formal lighting and posing training is evident in their photos.

It is true that nowadays most couples want a good mix of candid photojournalistic style photos as well as the more traditional posed pictures. There is a way that I do this so that both styles are achieved. It is called light posing or casual posing. The subjects are placed in situations where the lighting is flattering and they are lightly posed so that they appear casual, not stiff, and their faces are visible in the pictures – their expressions as natural as possible. This is accomplished by talking to the subjects and encouraging them to have a good time while posing. The effect is nearly always a home run. Clients love the artistic quality and natural poses. The good lighting insures that the photo will be aesthetically pleasing and the subjects will look their best.

As a South Florida wedding photographer, photojournalism is a subject that I deal with on a regular basis. I have been able to walk this fine line with my clients by showing them the difference between totally unposed and random pictures and my lightly posed photos that appear to be photojournalistic. Once they see the difference, most clients agree that better lighting and clear views of peoples faces far outweigh candid, random shots which may or may not capture the essence of a moment depending on just how good the photographer really is. A lot of it ends up being sheer luck that a strict photojournalist actually captures a really amazing and unique shot at a wedding. We have had but a few clients who have insisted that no posed family photos be taken at all. In these cases, we will acquiesce, however we write into the contract that they have specifically requested that no guests be asked to pose for pictures etc. If they decide that they want a photo with mom or dad, they will have to come up and ask for it to be taken.

My many years as a wedding photographer have led me to the conclusion that strict photojournalism as a wedding art form is highly overrated and under-explained to brides and grooms. While some photojournalism style photos are great, shooting an entire wedding as a photojournalist without paying attention the lighting situation, and proper camera settings is sort of a “cop-out”, in my opinion, that many photographers use to mask the real issue which is that they are, in fact, under-trained in many important facets of the principles of photography. While I believe that photojournalism is an important part of wedding coverage it’s often a buzz word that has simply gotten too much buzz.

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