What Exactly is Photojournalistic Photography?

When the term “wedding photography” is mentioned, the idea many automatically revert to is of posed formal shots, studio lights, and everyone looking at the camera. This (fairly outdated) format became popular mainly because the first cameras and lighting equipment were bulky and cumbersome, and the only way to take higher-quality photos was to do it in a properly controlled environment, like a studio. And tradition stuck for decades.

(Courtesy cheezburger.com)

After the invention of 35mm camera, roll film and on camera flash, people start taking these evolving gadgets to places, like the battlefield of the Second World War. What emerged was what we now call ‘photojournalism’– candid shots that capture unplanned moments- think of the famous photo of the American soldier kissing the nurse in Times Square, post WWII. Photojournalism is, in other words, exactly what it sounds like- a visual form of journalism; that is, recording the unpremediated, naturally occuring moments in our lives.

After the war ended, military-trained photographers turn their talent to shooting for the press. News coverage of celebrities’ and royalties’ weddings probably triggered the interests of the general public, and a new style of wedding photography slowly developed.

Why photojournalistic wedding photography?

People today want something better than their parent’s wedding photos: pictures that depict intimate and real moments – a tearful mother sending off her daughter, the first kiss as husband and wife, moments that are frozen in time, telling the story, something that the couple can look back in 20 years and relive the moment.

What happens before, during, and after the wedding?

Just like booking a traditional wedding photographer, clients would have arranged a meeting with the photojournalist, looked at his/her work, get to know him/her and the way he/she works. Photojournalistic pictures vary greatly in style, and therefore it is important to pick something you like. Equally important is the chemistry between the client and the wedding photographer, which can affect the photo quality immensely.

There’s no set agenda for the photographer. Because clients are already familiar with the styles of photos they will be receiving, wedding photojournalists are often just told to “do their magic”. Photographs are captured spontaneously as the moments unfold, with an emphasis on emotions. The people will not be directed on how to pose and what to do. Some wedding photojournalist will also take formal posed photos in between wedding proceedings, so you can have the best of both worlds.

Because photographs were shot on the fly, exposures probably weren’t optimum. They often required post processing, and it is common for photographs to be delivered more than a week after the wedding.

So if it’s all candid, do we even need to hire a professional?

By simply taking photographs of ‘whatever is going on’ is not photojournalism, as it does not tell a story. Photojournalistic wedding photos should be a cohesive collection of images that are not only a record of the day’s events but are also images that capture as many “decisive moments” as possible.

A trained, experienced photojournalist will know to how to anticipate moments, record, and present them in the highest technical excellence possible, to really capture the essence of the wedding and be able to tell the complete story in pictures so others viewing those photos will be able to relive the event.

Teddy Tan is a Melbourne- based wedding photographer,  and is proficient in both traditional and photojournalistic style wedding photography. He can be contacted through his website www.teddytan.com.au