The Big Day

I’ve lost count of how many wedding albums I have had to sit and look at where the photographs are bland, predictable and dull. Why is it so many that decide to tie the knot make this mistake again and again. It seems anyone with little more than a rudimentary hold on photography can set themselves up as a ‘professional wedding photographer’, turn on the charm and churn out the dross week after week, and still clients keep on coming.

Well things are changing, there’s a new breed of wedding photographer out there, and perhaps, if not more importantly a new breed of client. A more demanding client, visually aware and willing to embrace a new style, a style which steps outside the boundaries of traditional formal wedding photography.

That style will be familiar to anyone who reads newspapers or magazines, it’s the reportage style, the traditional style of the photojournalist. The dictionary meaning of photojournalism is ‘journalism which places more emphasis on photographs than on written material’. This means it’s the pictures that need to tell the story, not the words. Is this not what a wedding album should do, should it not tell the story of the wedding using the images within its pages. With the use of photographs alone a wedding album should convey a wonderful memory for the owner and be a pleasure to peruse for any other viewer, who perhaps may not have even been at the wedding. It should really capture the excitement, the anticipation, the warmth and the the joy, the unexpected and sometimes even the tears of the day. It should be something to cherish and be proud of, not something to lock away in a cupboard only to see the light of day when the grand children are born. Well to get a wedding album that does this takes more than gathering a few people together for a group shot. It takes a skilled photographer who can spot those little things that make the difference, very often even before they happen, and crucially, capture them on camera at the right moment. In short it takes a skilled photographer working in the reportage style.

Do a Google search for wedding photography and you will get more than a handful ‘photojournalists’ who will be only too willing to fade into the background and snap away on the day. A number of these of course have just jumped on the band wagon and gone from shooting tired and conventional wedding shots, to shooting tired and conventional reportage style wedding shots. To these few it often just means printing the job in black and white, or perhaps with a light sepia tone. Added to this they often do not know how to properly edit the images they have taken, they leave in weak images to make up the numbers not realizing what this is actually doing is diluting the few great images they might have taken by accident.

Then there are the true masters of their art, the photographers who really know and understand what makes a great picture, a picture that really conveys more than can often be said with words, the photographers who tell the story with images and who document life as their everyday passion. These professionals also know which images to use and which to discard, very often discarding a great image in favour of a really great image for the benefit of the project as a collective piece of work. I spoke to a couple of them in the course of writing this article.

According to Spencer Cartright of Repartage, a wedding photography company based in Hertfordshire, there has always been a demand for the reportage approach to wedding photography, but this style of shoot requires a particular approach from the photographer in order to be successful. That approach basically means very little or even no interference with what happens during the day, just shooting what is. Although Spencer is often asked to shoot ‘staged’ group shots, which he is always happy to do, together with fashion style portraiture this makes up only a small proportion of the overall shoot both in time and prints produced. Spencer likes to really get to know the client before the day of the wedding, explaining to the client what they can expect to get in terms of a finished ‘album’. It is equally important to get to know the venue and look out in advance for suitable places to shoot where it is known the light will be good and there will be space and texture to achieve the desired shot.

Randolph Quan is another photographer working in the reportage style. Randolph suggests that the reportage style of wedding photography appeals particularly to younger couples, he thinks this might be because this generation don’t want their wedding albums to look like their mum and dad’s photos from the 60’s and 70’s, these days they are more visually stimulated and understand the difference between good and bad images. He is certainly experiencing a move away from the traditional rigid posed shots to clients wanting more of a mini documentary of the day which always evokes more emotion than any of the staged shots ever do. Often however he says that many clients don’t really know what they are going to get from this style of shoot, but he loves presenting the finished product and seeing them relive their day. More often than not clients cry with joy when they see the final selection of shots.

So it seems the reportage style wedding shoot is here to stay and can only increase in popularity as the younger, more visually aware generation tie the knot.

Thank you to Spencer Cartright who supplied the images used in this feature. All images copyright Spencer Cartright, Repartage.

More details and a selection of other images by both Spencer and Randolph can be found at

Repartage – www.repartage.co.uk
Randolph Quan – www.randolphquan.com

Written by Andrew Turner.

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