My Approach - Michael Stanton Photography
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Wedding Photography

My Approach

It’s so important that clients are happy with the approach that any wedding photographer takes to shooting their big day before they hire them. Below I explain the reasons for my style of documentary wedding photography and the type of images clients are likely to receive.

If I had to describe my approach to wedding photography in one sentence it would be this: I capture natural moments of love, beauty and humour as your wedding day unfolds without interference on my part, that together create a visual story you’ll cherish for the rest of your life. Oh, and I’m very happy to take a few couple and group photos too if you want them. Hold on! That was two sentences, but you get the idea.

None of these natural moments can be staged or posed, or asked to smile, or stand still, or wait there, or do that again.

In short, I’m a documentary wedding photographer, which means that my pictures are created by observing, anticipating and capturing what’s in front of me, without interference. And that takes skill, experience, confidence and an eye for what makes a great photograph. I promise that in years to come it’ll be these candid, authentic pictures that you’ll treasure most.

Unposed wedding photography

This is the best definition of documentary wedding photography I can think of. Some people call this approach reportage wedding photography, or wedding photojournalism or candid wedding photography. However you describe it, it’s all about capturing moments that move us and reveal something to us. I was a writer and journalist before I became a documentary wedding photographer so for me this approach is the most natural way of telling the story of your wedding day

Why choose a documentary wedding photographer?

Of course, there are conventions and traditions on a wedding day, and I will capture those key moments that almost every couple wants from their wedding photographer. The first sight of a bride in her dress; the walking down the aisle; the ‘first look’ and wedding vows; the confetti and congratulations; the speeches and the first dance. But there’s so much more to a wedding day and that’s where a skilled documentary wedding photographer comes into their own, to observe and capture the authentic moments of beauty, humour and emotion.

Observational wedding photography

Of course, documentary wedding photography is not about randomly clicking away at what’s happening. To take interesting documentary wedding photos you need to have an eye for composition; know how to observe and be patient; always be anticipating what might happen next; strike the right balance between being unobtrusive and being close to the action; and know how to make the best of the available light to create mood and capture natural beauty.

To this end, I almost never use flash. This not only allows me to go unnoticed much of the time, which in turn means I can capture more genuine images, but also gives me the look I want – the look that my clients chose me for – beautiful, natural, atmospheric documentary wedding photography.

Couple and group photos – keeping it simple

Now that I’ve said all that, many of my clients want a few group pictures and a few of just the two of them together. I know quite a few documentary wedding photographers who really don’t like this part of the day. I’m definitely not one of them. Maybe that’s because I do the group photos quickly and in a fun way. However, I also always suggest to my clients, at the pre-wedding meeting, that the number of group photos is kept to a minimum. I’m yet to meet a couple that likes standing around endlessly posing for group photos!

When it comes to couple photos, my aim is always to capture images that are as unposed and natural as possible, using only natural light. I usually suggest going for a short walk (depending on the venue) and making use of the most beautiful light, but that’s it. 10-15 minutes max. Oh, and I don’t think telling someone to ‘put your elbow here’, or ‘smile now’ makes for good wedding photography. In fact, some of my clients don’t want any shots of this kind because they know that I’ll be taking candid pictures of them together from time to time throughout their wedding day. It’s totally up to you and whatever you feel comfortable with.

It’s funny because it’s true

Humour is a very big part of my documentary wedding photography. My favourite kind of photography is ‘street photography’, and especially pictures that make me laugh. And weddings are full of humour of all different kinds – I think it’s the main reason (along with the beauty of weddings) why I love being a wedding photographer. Simply capturing people interacting with each other in a revealing way. This is where my unobtrusive approach to photography most comes into its own. It’s like inviting a guest who’s also a street photographer.

Beautiful wedding photography

As well as humour, I’m always on the lookout for beauty, and when I say ‘beauty’ I don’t just mean the beauty of a couple looking their best and about to get married (although that’s a big part of it, of course). I also mean the little things that most people don’t see – the warmth and tenderness that guests show to each other at weddings, especially when different generations come together to celebrate love.

Again, this is where a candid, documentary approach to photography works best, to capture these moments in a genuine way.

Story-telling wedding photography

Another definition of documentary wedding photography I hear used a lot is ‘photography that tells a story’. As a journalist I learnt the knack of how to construct a narrative and how to edit my work in a way that tells a coherent and consistent story. I’ve since transferred that knowledge to my documentary wedding photography so that each image I hand to my clients is an important part of the overall story of their day.

During any one wedding day there are times when I’m trying to tell a story in a single image (like the one above), or in a series of images, such as the ones below of the nervous young ring-bearer that doesn’t quite know what to do with himself. Either way, your wedding photography collection will be full of beautifully composed stories.

Towards the end of the wedding day

There’s no better time in the day to be a documentary wedding photographer than after the first dance. It can make for some of the most memorable and natural pictures, and I love getting up close when everyone’s letting their hair down. So you won’t find me dashing off to my car after your first dance!

Meeting up makes all the difference

Most people aren’t used to being photographed all day by someone they don’t know. That’s why I think it’s really important to meet up a few weeks before the wedding day, ideally at the venue. Not all photographers feel this way, but for me, this is part of the ‘being comfortable’ process. We can also discuss any ideas or questions you have and chat through your wedding day plans face to face.

In the end, I want you to feel totally relaxed to the point where you can almost forget about me. In fact, the biggest compliment I can be given is to be trusted and then largely ignored on your wedding day. After all, it’s your day, not mine. I just have the pleasure of being your wedding photographer and telling the story of your day as I see it.

Advantages of documentary wedding photography:

Real pictures capturing genuine emotions

An unobtrusive photographer means you can focus on enjoying your wedding day

Not having to stand around posing for pictures with cheesy grins or fake emotions

A good documentary wedding photographer will be able to ‘tell the story’ of your special day and capture moments that the couple would not even notice

So if you’re getting married and like my approach to wedding photography I’d love you to get in touch.