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Wedding Photojournalism - A Photographers Definition
by Shane Snider


Wedding Photojournalism is here to stay! Stacks of bridal magazines with conflicting information can help to complicate the search for the right wedding photographer.

Brides looking to sort out the confusion over the term photojournalism need only read a newspaper and look at the storytelling images found within.

It was from newspapers that “wedding photojournalists” borrowed the phrase to describe a documentary approach to wedding photography focusing on real moments, instead of staged moments. Remember that picture of dad getting pushed into the church by his groomsmen? While such an images may inspire a chuckle or prompt a sudden gag reflex, it was very common for traditional wedding photographers to direct and stage beyond the standard posed portraits.

In the 1990s a few brave wedding photographers dared to begin marketing with the word “photojournalistic’ to describe their approach to wedding photography. Instead of stopping action to get their shot, they stayed in the background and looked for real interactions and emotions that told the story of the day.

As magazines picked up on the new trend, others hopped on the bandwagon as well, including those that still faked real moments. Adding to the confusion, several other styles developed during the same period – elements of fashion photography, beauty photography, and fine art photography were all being used in wedding photography.

Some of the most successful wedding photographers dabble in several different styles. But some photographers have carved out a niche, focusing on one style in particular. There are photojournalistic purists who will not tamper with any part of a scene, not even to move a beer bottle that may be in the way of their perfect cake shot. Others do not play by the same rules, or any rules.

Some traditional photographers insisted photojournalism was merely a fad or a “buzzword.” But the buzz has persisted and many of the country’s top wedding photographers use a documentary approach. We are now past the point of calling photojournalism a “fad.” It’s simply what many brides want.

Another popular misconception is that this new generation of photojournalists do not understand the equipment because digital photography has made photography so easy.  While it’s true that digital photography has simplified the process somewhat, most experienced wedding photojournalists have a great understanding of their equipment. In fact, many of the top wedding photojournalists have come directly from the newspaper industry, where they were leaders in the photojournalism field.

Others may argue that wedding photojournalists really do stage their moments.

But for a true wedding photojournalist to stage or try to recreate a moment goes against everything the term stands for. While such staged moments could fool the average onlooker, the bride and the photographer will always know it is fake, and the image may not stand the test of time.

Hiring a wedding photojournalist does not mean you’ll be forsaking all portraiture at your wedding. Newspaper photographers have been taking portraits for decades. Many wedding photojournalists focus on relaxed portraiture – a directed image where the subject may or may not be looking at the camera. While such images can give the impression of being candid, a wedding photojournalist would never try to pass off the picture as a real moment.

In the end, the trite arguments of photographers are of no consequence to the discerning bride and groom. They will pick the photographer that is right for them based on style and budget. And if wedding photojournalism is right for them, they will know the difference.


Shane Snider is a professional wedding photographer with a background in newspaper reporting and photojournalism. He worked at various publications in New York and North Carolina before making wedding photography his full-time career. He lives in Raleigh, NC, with his wife and three darling cats.

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