Reportage Wedding Photography: People-Centric, Not Shot-Centric

Reportage Wedding Photography: People-Centric, Not Shot-Centric

Wedding photography is a booming business. The bride and groom, giddy with excitement about spending the rest of their lives together, want to capture every moment of their big day. There was a time when the photographer set up shots, posing relatives and friends for “wedding portraits” then waited outside for the happy couple to emerge amid a shower of rice, hoping to snap that perfect shot.

Times have changed. Couples are now looking toward reportage or photojournalistic photography to tell the story of their wedding day. The appeal of reportage photography is that the photographer is almost like a ghost, slipping in and out of scenes, capturing special moments, candid shots, and the story in those split second photos that evoke emotion and stir up warm memories.

Reportage Photography Tips

Equipment is important to the reportage photographer, but not in the way that one might imagine. Because the photographer is supposed to blend in and not draw attention, the lower profile the equipment, the better. A reportage photography kit may include:

  • Digital SLR body (some photographers use two bodies if they are using two different lenses but this can be cumbersome)
  • 24mm lens
  • 50mm lens
  • 135mm lens (primarily for portrait photography – a 200mm lens works well too)
  • Speedlight (preferably two – one for back up)
  • Inconspicuous bag

Naturally you want a good camera, but even point-and-shoots can turn out stunning, professional quality photos in the right hands. Remember, this is your art. Never stop perfecting it. Your camera and lenses are merely tools for you to create your art.

When you are shooting a wedding or event, get to the venue early so you can assess the lighting, take some test shots and make necessary adjustments to your equipment.

Take your camera everywhere and use it every day. Become so familiar with your camera and lens that they are a part of you so you see the world as if looking through your lens. When you can see the art, frame up a shot without even raising your camera, you are an artist.

Method & Approach

The reportage photographer is essentially a ghost at the event. You must move in and out of the crowd without drawing attention to yourself. Zoom lenses are not optimal for this type of photography because you need more control over the shot and you need to be in the crowd, not on the fringes. In the middle of the crowd is where the stories happen and you are capturing stories.

Angle and shooting height are integral to the telling of the story. Do not shoot everything from the same angle and same height. Climb on stairs, sit on the floor, lean over a balcony – get your shots from a variety of angles and heights.

Since the intent of this type of photography is to tell a story, then you must treat it as such. A story has a beginning, middle, and an end. Find your starting point for the beginning of your story, whether that involves shooting the couple’s engagement photos or capturing the bride and groom getting ready for their wedding.

The middle, of course, is the meat of the story. Move among the guests and capture those moments, the groom’s mother’s face as she watches her son take his vows, or the bride’s father as he stands with her for those precious moments before walking her down the aisle and into another man’s arms.

Finding an end could be as they drive away or even a quiet time when they slip away, just the two of them, to enjoy a quiet moment together. You are the artist, though, and you have to find your own creative approach to the process.

Contemporary Portraiture and a Growing Audience

Portraiture is moving away from its traditional, posed roots as people seek the emotional connection of the realness of reportage photography. People are also drawn to the story, but most of all the emotion that emanates from contemporary portraits is what has made this such popular photography genre.

In fact, more and more people are moving out of the studios and requesting location portraiture sessions. Location shots tend to be more relaxed and natural, less posed. Many think this is a new way to shoot portraits, but any child photographer will tell you the method has been around for a long time. Try posing a two year old for an entire session; you’ll see what they mean.

Reportage photography is people-centric, not shot-centric. It captures the imagination and stirs the heart which is exactly what many of your customers are seeking in their portraits.

Links to Reportage Photography Examples

Wedding Photojournalist Association (WPJA)

Reportage Wedding Photography (Pinterest)

Reportage (Getty Images)

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About the author

I am a seasoned photographer with over 12 years experience in wedding and fashion photography. I am lucky to have travelled far and wide to clients, colleagues and friends' weddings over the past years. I love nature, outdoor life, animals, films and fashion.

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