What is candid wedding photography and how does it relate to photojournalistic wedding photography?
Take a minute to look at any of the photographic or written works on this site and you’ll doubtlessly conclude that I’m a photojournalistic wedding photographer. Wedding photojournalism is my favoured approach and specialty, and it’s also the term I predominantly use to describe my style of work. (If you’re in the mood, you should read about the differences between traditional, hybrid, and photojournalistic wedding photography.) Despite all that and despite the term’s total absence from the copy on my website—until now, I suppose—I still find myself being referred to as a candid wedding photographer by all sorts of folks. I hope you don’t dismiss this as pedantic rambling, but there is a subtle yet important difference between photojournalistic wedding photography and candid wedding photography.
What is candid wedding photography?
Distilled to its essence, candid wedding photography features subjects that: a) avoid preparation for the photography; b) are not distracted away from what they’re doing by the photographer; and, crucially, c) are not posed by the photographer for the image. That’s all there is to it. Whether the subject is aware of the wedding photographer’s presence is irrelevant. Being unaware or minimally aware of the wedding photographer is desirable because some people cannot help but turn themselves on at the slightest possibility of being photographed, but it’s definitely not a deal-breaker. Because I’m a firm believer in the superior beauty of genuine wedding moments and capturing genuine expressions and feelings, I aim to minimize my presence as much as possible and whenever practical.
What is photojournalistic wedding photography?
Photojournalistic wedding photography takes all of the simple requirements of candid wedding photography and elevates them to a different realm with the addition of a critical feature: a story. With photojournalism, stories may be conveyed by individual images or as a series. In my opinion, the hallmark of an excellent photojournalistic wedding photographer is the ability to convey a story through a single image. To understand why I’m not being quixotic, let’s focus on photojournalistic storytelling.
An effective photojournalistic story piques your curiosity about the scene and emotional content represented in the photograph. It arouses a wonder for that particular slice of time, that ever-receding moment: What preceded it? What became of it? The mystery is both fascinating and rewarding; and sometimes, the abutting images—the series—provide clues to help illuminate your understanding.
Admittedly, photographs of such calibre are rare. Fortunately, both candid and photojournalistic wedding photographers have their work cut out for them in delivering stories on account of the series. Virtually every one of us delivers a large collection of photographs that tell the chronological story of the wedding day. Nonetheless, it’s the thought behind the total process, from shooting to image selection and editing, that’s key in forming an overall photojournalistic story. While it is necessary and rather easy to create a cohesive-looking set of images, it’s important to understand that in the hands of a photographer without vision, experience, or skill, the work may lack substance and fail to engender that inquisitive reflection that is the mark of a great photojournalistic narrative. For example, in a situation where a candid wedding photographer will notice something, point their camera, and take a shot (or many shots and sort them later), a photojournalistic wedding photographer will notice something, point their camera, and wait for that decisive moment that puts everything into context. That term, the decisive moment, is important. It was popularized and defined by the French street photographer, Henri Cartier-Bresson, in his book, The Decisive Moment: “To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression.” This is what photojournalistic wedding photographers strive for and what candid wedding photography does not deliver.
TL;DR: Whereas all photojournalistic wedding photography qualifies as candid, not all candid wedding photography is photojournalistic. The ability to tell a story using photography is what promotes candid pictures to true photojournalistic wedding photography.