I’ve been doing a spontaneous style of wedding photography since 1989 with two photographers, black and white, and lots of pictures.
How is that different from wedding photojournalism?
TRUE photojournalism means that the photographer is looking for the truth in a moment. Something hidden. Which would mean people eating or whatever the photographer felt like photographing. Often, a true photojournalist doesn’t do weddings as his main work. That may be fine. Perhaps you don’t want a typical “wedding” photographer. But I need to suggest that you get someone who knows what the critical points are at a wedding and makes sure to capture the key moments (and be prepared for them.) Typically, a photojournalist doesn’t like to interrupt or direct. Well, that may be fine, since neither do I, but there are key moments that you might not want to miss and sometimes a LITTLE direction is necessary. For instance, although none of us like to interrupt your dance (or your dance with parents) there are subtle ways to get your attention so that you get at least one picture looking at the camera. Candids are easy, and pictures of heads over shoulders are great, but you might miss one good picture looking at the camera.
Here’s what I mean: A few years ago, I was a guest at my wife’s cousin’s wedding in the Berkshires. I went up to the main photojournalist and asked if he would mind if I take some funky pictures that wouldn’t conflict with his work. I was squatting down at the back of the aisle taking pictures that would produce an impressionistic look (combination of lens and film.) As they were exchanging vows, I looked up and didn’t see either photographer. This was distressing to me, since I was set up to take different kinds of pictures. I looked further, and there they were: Both photographers were up on the hill far from the main event! What I found out later was that the bride had requested overall pictures of the entire scene with the Berkshires in the background. Well of course! I would normally take those pictures (without being asked) and then run down to take front views of the bride and groom and family and guests and bridal party and then been in the center aisle for the vows, rings, candles, and kiss. Both “photojournalists” missed those crucial pictures and only had wide views of the whole scene. They BOTH stayed there for the WHOLE ceremony. Every picture must have looked the same. They didn’t move!
Also at this same event I got to witness (and be involved with) how this particular photojournalist posed a group portrait. There was a request for a large group family picture (basically everyone there – maybe 40 people. He brought us to a hill (good!) and got us into maybe 4 or 5 rows (good again.) However, he didn’t check to make sure that every face could be seen (bad.) Yes, I pose my groups quickly, and yes, I tell them to just “come together” but it’s REALLY important to see every face in the picture! I just do a little fine tune moving – it doesn’t take much. That makes the difference between a disappointing picture and a satisfying picture. My daughter and her cousin thought it was such a joke that they actually hid behind people on purpose!
FAKE photojournalism is thinking that just black and white qualifies. What would normally be color taken in b+w is not photojournalism (or candid photography.) Asking the subject to look at the camera and snapping a picture doesn’t count either. Nor does handing a camera to the lighting assistant to take a some candid pictures. Having a lighting assistant at all means that photojournalism or spontaneous photography is NOT going to happen. Imagine holding a pose until the lighting is just right and then holding it further to take the picture. As far as I know, that’s what everyone hates. Taking two hours to do the formal posed pictures cannot be spontaneous either. I take ALL of the posed family groups, bridal party, and bride + groom pictures (ALL of the combinations that any other traditional photographer might take – if you want) in as little as 15-30 minutes or so. I get great pictures because the people are still alive with personality instead of stiffly holding a pose.
There needs to be SOME compromise and SOME overlap between traditional and completely candid. Please understand that all candids is the easiest method for any qualified photographer. It’s knowing what pictures are needed that makes the difference.
But then again, what do I know?