Unlike traditional wedding photography, which is based on posed pictures, staged shots, and formal portraits, the wedding photojournalist focuses on capturing the spontaneous, natural moments of the wedding: capturing the personalities of the bride and groom and the unique story of their wedding day. The photojournalist will remain as inconspicuous as possible, and the only time he/she will set up a shot is during the portrait session, which tends to be relaxed and brief.
These days, many photographers advertise a photojournalistic
approach, but far fewer actually provide photojournalistic coverage. So
how can you tell if it's really photojournalism?
First, check and see if the photographer is a member of the Wedding Photojournalist Association. The WPJA is an exclusive and authoritative organization on wedding photojournalism, with exacting standards.
Second, a photographer's portfolio and website will give you a good
idea of the photographer's approach.
What percentage of the
pictures are are ones in which the person being photographed is aware
of the camera?
Photojournalists try to avoid "camera aware" pictures, under the
belief that the photographer should document what happens, not be a
part of what happens. As soon as someone is aware of the
photographer, the photographer is part of the story.
(I also try to avoid "camera aware" pictures because I think people look best when they are being natural and having fun, and not being self-conscious)
For example, at the cutting of the cake, a traditional photographer might set up a shot of the couple holding the knife, maybe having the couple look into the camera for a picture or two, and then have them position their hands a certain way to take a close-up.
The wedding photojournalist instead will keep quiet and allow the cutting of the cake to unfold naturally, with the bride and groom's attention on the cake and the guests and, most importantly, each other (not the photographer).
The WPJA stipulates that 80% of one's images should be spontaneous, natural, un-posed, non-camera-aware pictures.
guideline in mind when you look at websites. In how
many pictures is the person looking at the camera? How many
pictures look posed? How many are set-up shots of shoes and other
Third, the aim of the wedding photojournalist is to capture what
happened. They document the day, rather than create an illusion
of the day.
Therefore, wedding photojournalists tend to avoid
overly processing images in Photoshop. When looking at a
portfolio, pay attention to now "natural" the images are.
Photojournalistic shots tend to be crisp, clear, well-composed, and
above all, natural.
On the other hand, many photographers will "spice-up" a picture with
Photoshop, like vignetting (darkening and blurring the edges
of an image) or color-select (where an image is in black and white
except for one element--the flowers, for example), or toning (changing
the overall tone of an image) or over-saturating an image with
unrealistically bright colors.
Finally, interview the photographer. Find out about the photographer's philosophy. Find out how the photographer handles things at the reception (the photojournalist will do no orchestration of events at the reception).
But above all, look at the pictures. Wedding photojournalism, at it's best, will lead to images that convey the personalities of the bride and groom, give a sense of the wedding, and be natural, spontaneous, and distinctive. No two weddings will look a like.