Pure Documentary Approach to Wedding Photography

One of the most difficult and anxious things for anyone in a creative field to do is to specialise.  By planting your flag in a specific genre or style of work and run the risk of narrowing the number of clients that would be seeking their services.  It's why you see so many photographers listing about 50 genres on their website(weddings/portraits/animals/corporate/commercial/editorial/newborn/childrens/party/landscape photographer available to shoot anything you could possibly think of)   You never know who might be looking at your website right?  Hell, I've been guilty of it myself way too many times.  You get one enquiry about shooting dogs, and before you know it you're down a rabbit hole of trying to create a pricing structure and a portfolio for future dogs shoots "just in case".  But that does you and your clients a disservice. 

With my latest rebrand I decided to plant my flag firmly in the documentary approach to wedding photography and hope to transition the other aspects of my business over to this documentary approach in the coming years.  By never specialising in anything, you never become a master in anything.  But by specialising you become the exact thing somebody is looking for and make it an unquestionably easy decision for someone to hire you.  Wouldn't life be much simpler if there was a perfect match for every service we wanted.  No cutting on features, no compromises, just exactly what you wanted when you first started looking.

Wentbridge House Wedding Photography - Sam & Rachel

What this has allowed me to do is concentrate solely on one genre of photography and hone my craft into something that will speak volumes to the right couple.  The best service I give, and when I'm in my element is when a couple truly believes in my approach to documenting their wedding, and just allows me to get on with how I work, no showy portraits, no massive long shot lists, no stress on the couple being dragged from pillar to post for certain signature shots.  I've found this approach frees my couples up on their wedding day (which is stressful enough without a photographer moving you all over the place) to just take it all in as the day goes by.  My love of documentary photography goes right back to when I first picked up a camera, so much so my friends would actively get annoyed when I told them to not look directly at me when I was taking photos.  I wanted to capture the moments, not just a grip and grin facing the camera. 

In my opinion couples should just be able to enjoy their day completely unencumbered by photography.  But whether it's external pressures or being unclear on the variety of photography available, they usually end up compromising on what they want because they feel the "have to" do certain things.  It's my one frustration with weddings in general, there's a lot of junk and custom that comes with a wedding "just because that's how it is" when it really doesn't have to be that way.

Emily & Simon

Don't want any formal photos?  Then don't!  Want to see your husband before the ceremony?  Then do!  Everyone is so wrapped up in the wedding machine, that it becomes a competition to keep up with the Jones and do everything that's expected of you as opposed to what you want deep down.  This mindset comes from my own wedding where I wish we'd had less formal shots and spent more time actually spending time with people.  But you have to have formals right?

As I always try to reinforce when I meet prospective couples; there's a photographer out there for everyone, you just have to know what you want from your photography and go out and find them.  But don't compromise in what you want, don't go with a Jack of all Trades that's just there for a paycheque.  Go for someone that believes in their approach to your wedding and will give you everything you hoped for.

What I can offer is a 100% stress free (from the photographer) experience where you're completely free to enjoy your day without worrying about your photography.  Then the finished images will reflect how wrapped up you were enjoying your day, and less how stressed you were as Uncle Jim was nowhere to be seen during your 34th Family Formal.

Sandburn Hall, York Wedding Photography - Andrew & Sheena

I've known Andrew since we were about 9 years old and I first moved over to Wetherby from Manchester.  I distinctly remember one of my first days in the new school in a new town being a freezing cold snow whipped day spent pushing giant balls of snow around the playing fields.  Who would have thought then that more than 20 years later I'd be photographing his wedding to the beautiful Sheena.

They chose to get married in the stunning Sandburn Hall on the outskirts of York.  Never have I seen such a light filled ceremony room.  If I could shoot weddings there every week it would be an absolute dream.  Fortunately in this day and age cameras can pull a good shot out of a dingy poorly lit church but having this much daylight streaming through giant glass windows made the wedding an absolute joy.

Sheena got ready just down the road from Sandburn Hall in the Griffon Forest Lodges which would make an ideal getaway.  I was shocked at just how far into the woods you had to drive to even reach the reception, never mind the lodges themselves.  Then it was onto the ceremony in the pouring rain.  However my current dry streak of weddings continued and it cleared up to be a beautifully sunny day by the end.  Enjoy the images!

Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena
Andrew & Sheena

Gregory Heisler's 50 Portraits Book Review

This book came out of nowhere for me.  Whilst I'd heard of Gregory Heisler (who strangely enough follows me on Twitter! Hi Greg!) I wasn't aware of his vast vast back catalogue of portraiture.  Perhaps because he's mainly based in America shooting American celebrities and politicians he'd never really crossed my radar.   How naive could I be?!

Gregory Heisler 50 Portraits Cover

I wasn't actually aware this book was coming out until David Hobby posted a blog on Strobist outlining a number of photography books that would make great gifts for photographers.  I was much more interested in The Road to Seeing by Dan Winters at the time mainly because of the gushing reviews I was reading everywhere.  But I saw 50 Portraits was coming out around the same time and had some Amazon vouchers to use up after Christmas so ordered myself a copy.   I certainly wasn't expecting this book to be as thorough and captivating as it is.

George W Bush in 50 Portraits

I did eventually get hold of The Road to Seeing, which is an entirely different kettle of fish to this book.  Whilst that's more of an autobiography detailing how and why Dan Winters shoots the way her does, Heisler's book is a fascinating and in depth look into the mind and thoughts of one of the best photographers of our times.

Arnold Newman in 50 Portraits
Pete Seeger in 50 Portraits

Each of the 50 portraits is set up by introducing the person captured and the reason behind the photograph being required.  Heisler then goes to beautifully deconstruct every single one.  And not just from a technical standpoint including lighting positioning, cameras used etc etc, but also the reasoning behind the multitude of choices that can present themselves to a photographer at any given time.  He does this with an ease of language and an understanding that would make sense to even the most beginner of photographers.

Mario Andretti in 50 Portraits
Mick Jagger and Tina Turner in 50 Portraits
Bruce Springsteen in 50 Portraits

It's truly staggering how much thought goes into something that to the outside viewer would at first glance appear quite simple.  Heisler's brilliance lies in both his brilliance in bringing out a certain feeling/expression from his subjects and his ability to make his lighting setups look completely natural.  He is never lighting for the sake of lighting, there's always a reason behind using a certain light, or a certain lens.  None of the photographs in the book are about the photographer, you pick up throughout that he never really wanted it to be about him showing off.  He makes choices that are in perfect keeping with his subject.

George W H Bush in 50 Portraits