Documentary Wedding Portraits
Portraits have long been an established part of wedding photography,
but portraits don’t always have to be posed…
WHAT IS A WEDDING PORTRAIT AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR DOCUMENTARY WEDDING PHOTOGRAPHERS?
Perhaps the simplest tool that people use to distinguish between documentary wedding photography and other styles is that “documentary wedding photographers don’t take portraits”.
This definition is in some ways however somewhat misleading. Aside from the obvious caveat that many documentary wedding photographers are more than happy to do one or two posed portraits or groups if the couple would like them (they are merely not the central focus of a documentary photographer’s imagery) the truth is that, for us at least, as documentary style wedding photographers we’re actually looking for portraits all the time and through every part of a wedding day, we’re just not looking to stage them.
A portrait is a painting, photograph, sculpture or other artistic representation of a person in which the face and its expression is predominant. The intent is to display the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person.
Whilst a photographic portrait is commonly thought of as being a very controlled form of imagery where the subject is told directly what to do and where to look (or at the very least is placed by the photographer in a particular location in order to utilise a particular backdrop or lighting element) this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case. To us a portrait is just what the above definition describes – a representation of a person with the intent to display their likeness, personality and/or mood, and that is something that we’re looking to do at all times in our documentary photography.
To us the most meaningful thing we can capture in a photograph is not just what happened but a truth of someone – a moment where their personality is revealed to us; and whilst a great portrait photographer can absolutely bring that out of somebody it can also be captured naturally and without any interference by the photographer at all. By isolating the subject and focussing on facial expressions just as a perhaps more orthodox portrait photographer would approach an image, we can capture our couples at their most beautiful – not holding a prolonged smile for the camera but displaying the real genuine joy they’re feeling in that moment in time, unaware that their portrait is even being captured.
Whilst wedding portraits are sometimes simply about showing how amazing you looked on your wedding day (and that’s definitely an important thing to capture!) for us the portraits that truly stand the test of time are the ones that reveal something of you or that invite some form of contemplation or ambiguity and in the limited timescale of a wedding day, often it’s the documentary portraits rather than the posed ones that can provide that level of intrigue.
Now don’t get us wrong, whilst Documentary may be our personal style, we absolutely love great portraiture too and are of course happy to take one or two posed images for our couples if they request it, but for us and our style, our aim is to create documentary portraiture that belongs on your wall or framed on your parent’s mantelpiece every bit as much as the most carefully crafted posed image.
A great photographic portrait is not concerned by the technique with which it was captured, it is concerned only with capturing the soul.