8 Tips for Shooting the Best Documentary-Style Wedding Portraits

Want to know the secrets to revealing the intimate moments behind every “I do”? Get eight pro tips for creating perfectly lit, romantic portraits. Plus, see here for your chance to take award-winning photographer Kirsten Lewis’ online Craftsy class, Documentary-Style Wedding Portraits, and develop your signature style as you learn how to capture compelling wedding photos that will thrill your clients and build your business.


1. Get to know your bride and groom

Having a documentary or photo-journalistic style implies that you are capturing moments as they happen without posing or setting up a photo. Just like a news photographer would not walk into a situation without knowing who the key players are and what the main issues are, make sure you know something about the bride and groom—for example, what is important to them, some details of their relationship, and which other people at the wedding are most significant. This will help you to capture powerful and emotional portraits, and eliminate a lot of the guesswork.


2. Move your feet

It’s important, as a documentary photographer, to stay out of the way. However, do not let this keep you in a corner. Move to get the best shot and keep moving until you have the angle you want.

3. Use the right lens

As you have more experience with wedding photojournalism, you will start to understand what kind of lenses work best for different situations. Generally, it’s nice to have longer lenses to stay out of the way and to keep people from noticing you. If you are the kind of person that adds energy to a group, getting in close with a wide lens might work better for you.


4. Anticipate moments

There are certain moments on a wedding day that almost always produce a reaction that makes for a great candid shot: the mother of the bride helping to get the dress on her daughter, the father of the bride right before walking down the aisle, and the groom as he sees his bride for the first time.

5. Tell the story with each shot

As you are composing and cropping each shot, look to tell a story. Use foreground and background elements to set the stage. Reaction shots are great, but context will take your shot to the next level. Include the person or thing your subject is reacting to in the photo so the viewer understands the whole story.


 6. Find the details

Sometimes, a great photo doesn’t need to show the whole story in order to tell it. Look for details that say something about the wedding or about the couple. Maybe it’s a pair of shoes lying on the dance floor—telling us there was some serious dancing going on. Maybe it’s the rings sitting on a Bible—telling us the couple is serious about their faith.


7. Walk the bride into moments

Unfortunately, not every couple or wedding makes for stunning, epic wedding photos. Gauge their expectations and if you think you might need to coach them a little to get awesome photos, do so. It’s not the news. This might mean placing the bride in good lighting right before you think something important is going to happen. Or it might mean staging a moment of anticipation (like a First Look) that brings out more emotion.


8. Be sensitive

Documentary photographers are often faced with the dilemma of spending their time photographing someone in pain versus helping that someone out. It’s important to be a compassionate human above being a photojournalist, and even more so at a wedding. When someone is crying or embarrassed, be discreet about your photo taking. Look to capture the bride and groom at their best, even if it’s not a completely accurate depiction of the day.

Now that you’ve discovered a few tricks for documentary-style wedding photos, get the expert strategies you need to attract new clients with stunning wedding portraits. See here for your chance to take the online Craftsy class Documentary-Style Wedding Portraits, and learn how to harness ambient light, play with composition and engage with your subjects. Plus, get website and marketing tips, discover how to capture a dynamic range of images in less than 15 minutes with Kirsten’s innovative 360-degree challenge, and learn which creative risks always pay off for standout portraits. With this class you’ll enjoy lifetime access to personalized guidance from award-winning photographer Kirsten Lewis, in the comfort of your home.

What are some of your favorite tricks for taking wedding day portraits?

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4 responses to “8 Tips for Shooting the Best Documentary-Style Wedding Portraits”

  1. Gagan Dhiman says:

    These are good. You should check out Adonyejaja.com/blog He is really good. Talk about photojournalism shooting style, This guy got it down!

  2. I am not much of a wedding photographer, but this is good advice,

  3. Marek says:

    Awesome! Wise advices and specific, 100% photojournalistic approach.

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