Content Based Wedding Photography
To bring forward a photography based on contents is not easy, as we live in a society that mostly seems to be minding the looks, rather than the content.
Photography is the epitome of immediate communication: a picture tells a thousand words. Such ease to communicate is where the strengths of a photograph lay, and in some ways also where its limitations are. A photograph is able to communicate regardless of the viewer’s language, level of cultural maturity and social extraction. But on the other end, its strong visual impact may also cause people to stop at its appearance, to only scratch its surface.
Content-based photography is not always easy to appreciate, as it presupposes a capacity on the part of the viewer to know how to go beyond the impact of appearance and thus to be capable of in-depth visual analysis, which is based on a developed level of personal and cultural maturity.
Why is Content Based Wedding Photography Not for Everyone
Proposing content-based photography for a wedding is even more difficult, because wedding photography is for everyone, unlike other types of photography. Wedding photography is a paid professional service aimed at the general public. And the vast public also includes, probably for the most part, customers having tastes with margins for refinement, so to speak. I’m talking about the vast public that makes trash television shows so popular. Or fast foods, for that matter. Where better references are to be found, the lack of substance not only becomes a habit, but it ends up flattening the taste and the perception of where the bar of acceptability lies.
The attempt to propose content-based and not appearance-based photography for weddings therefore presents a series of difficulties. Content-based will hardly ever be mainstream, as it doesn’t follow the fashion, which conversely is the epitome of appearance. On the other hand, wedding photography whose content consists in its appearance is intended to satisfy the general public and stands a greater chance of commercial success. Appearance-based, trendy photography surfs the wave of social media, blogs, magazines and is definitely mainstream.
What is Wedding Photography All About
Most of all, I guess for my own photography it’s just about identifying my market and hoping to reach it. For example, I noticed that clients who favor content over form in their own wedding’s photography, are clients with good self-esteem and generally speaking satisfied about their lives. They seem to value their day in its entirety, for better or for worse, versus the form of the photographs, intended as their adhesion to a certain fashionable stereotype. They seem to be willing to take the risk that in the photos of their marriage their real day will prevail over the perfect day, intended as the ‘best day of their lives’ as per wedding rhetoric. And if we look at it, such risk takers are those, who are sure that it will be their real day, that they will want to remember. Who are sure that their day will be identified by emotional contents, whose memory is worth much more than any predetermined and stereotyped aesthetic form.
And here is where the photographer enters the scene. Because in this case the job of the photographer as I intend it is to tell the story of the customers’ day in the best possible way. To make their story and their day shine, to effectively capture contents that are out of his control. The contents are those of the client, the day of the client, of the bride and groom.
Good Documentary Wedding Photography
For a photojournalist, to take a good photograph is to make the best of the contents that are given to him by observation, through composition, control of light and in general through normal photographic techniques. To apply these techniques to the unexpected and the unpredictable. Of course, a wedding is a wedding and, as personal as it can be to each bride and groom, it always ends up following a certain rough canvas. But for example as far as I’m concerned, when I leave home for a gig I never know what pictures I will take. This is also what I like about my job, which keeps me awake and interested. If I left my house knowing I had to take the same usual pictures, I probably would be doing something else by now.
Also in my opinion, documentary photography is a non-interpretative type of photography, as it is intended to make the best of contents that are given to the photographer but that are not created by the photographer. This assimilation of external contents works much better, the more the photography is emptied of the photographer’s ego. Ego is a bridle for creativity. The less the good photographer will act bridled by his own ego, the better he will be able to do his work as a reporter and to produce good photos for his clients.
In conclusion I know, all this may sound quite a bit too philosophical. But whether you are aware of it or not, it all has implications in what seems to be simple, or maybe not so simple, wedding photography.
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Great, thoughtful article Andrea, thoroughly agree. It appears, in the UK at least, that this kind of documentary photography is becoming more mainstream in weddings. I don’t know yet if that means more people are starting to appreciate content let photography, or whether the ‘candid style of people not looking at the camera’ is the latest fashion, and lots of people are filling the market. Time will tell.
Not sure I agree with you when you say “documentary photography is a non-interpretative type of photography”. I used to believe this, and it took me a while to steer myself away from approaching a wedding as a news photojournalist. But I now see the distinction between the way I would photograph a wedding as a photojournalist, and as a documentary style photographer commissined by the clients.
A photojournalist photographing a wedding should be impartial. Their pictures should represent what happened. Report it as it was. But when you take the news photographer out of the equation, still shooting in a documentary way, the photographers personality, past experiences and crucially opinion should have a larger influence on the results. Of course they will also form the way a news photographer reports a scene, but less so.
I think it’s that personality that your work in particular shows, as well as your strong belief on content over fashion. Keep up the great work!
Thanks for chiming in Paul – I think in the UK you’re probably a bit ahead of us regarding the market for documentary photography applied to weddings. I also do agree with you that when shooting a wedding in documentary style “the photographers personality, past experiences and crucially opinion should have a larger influence on the results”. I call that photographic lexicon – it’s the way each photographer has to tell the story as seen from his or her eyes, which as you mentioned, takes from each photographer’s personality, past experiences and in general his or her own way of being in the world. It’s still non interpretative, in my opinion – just narrated by your own personal voice. Anyhow, very thoughtful points and well exposed. Thanks very much for your comment!