Wedding Photojournalism 101: Candid Photos Are My Heart & Soul

Ever wondered what’s going on in the mind of an artist?  With an eye to explaining what goes into making a photo, I thought I might give a larger explanation of my own style as it pertains to wedding photography.

First and foremost, I consider myself a photojournalist.  This means that I try to attract as little attention as possible when I shoot so that I can capture natural moments as they happen.  If you’re working for a news desk, a photojournalist is not allowed to alter or influence anything being photographed.  As a wedding and portrait photographer, however, I give myself a bit more creative license while still adhering to the spirit of documentary photography.

Family portrait by NYC wedding photographer Kelly Williams

Ninety percent of what I photograph are candids.  But for weddings, how do I approach the remaining 10% of photos?  The way I look at it is this: weddings are essentially family reunions.  As such, you want to include a set of portraits where everyone is relaxed, natural, and looking directly into the camera so you can remember everyone that attended.

Family portrait by NYC wedding photographer Kelly Williams

Family portrait by NYC wedding photographer Kelly Williams

It’s technically a staged event when everyone stops and smiles into the lens, but I shoot the portrait in a way that conveys the love and friendship of everyone in the photo.  Nothing forced.  No holding flowers at exact right angles.  No jumping shots.

Now, if your family wants me to capture them jumping, then I say the sky’s the limit.  But if that’s not you, then that is not the photo I am going to take.

Bridal party jumping by NYC wedding photographer Kelly Williams

Similarly, it’s traditional at weddings to have the photographer take table shots — a posed group portrait of everyone at the table.  The way I approach the table shot dilemma is to follow the bride and groom as they greet guests table to table, and photograph the action from a distance.

Wedding table shot by NYC wedding photographer Kelly Williams

Wedding table shot by NYC wedding photographer Kelly Williams

Wedding table shot by NYC wedding photographer Kelly Williams

I’m a firm believer that when a photographer goes up to a guest and asks to take her/his photo, that guest can never learn to ignore the photographer.  Rather, the lesson is ‘here is the photographer, let’s all smile for the camera.’  The result is everything from forced awkwardness with guests who may be uncomfortable having their photo taken, to abject cheesiness in guests who love being surrounded by paparazzi.  Now, if anyone ever asks me to take their photo at an event, I always happily oblige.  The only time I step in is when I see a fun group already posed for someone else’s camera (or smart phone!).

The biggest (and most consistent) compliment I get from clients is that they never noticed I was there.  I want you – the client – to be able to ignore me and thoroughly enjoy your event.  When you forget the camera is present, you would be surprised how good your photos will be.  The only way to do this is to have designated portrait time.  Thirty minutes for family photos, and 20 minutes each for the bride and groom alone and the bridal party.  Everything else is all about the candid — the heart and soul of my photos.

For a peek at my most recent weddings, make sure to check out my website!

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