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What is Wedding Photojournalism - A Photographers Opinion
by Howard Kier

What is Photojournalism when applied to wedding photography?  Even wedding photographers can't agree!  So if we photographers can't decide for ourselves, then how can we expect you, the consumer to know what to expect?

So what is Photojournalism?   The strict interpretation of the word means "news told via imagery".  We see photojournalism in our newspapers.  While there are times the newspaper photographer does photograph exactly what is happening (like a crime scene), there are times when the photographer DOES stage the dignitary’s walk down the red carpet. But no matter what, those news photographers do know photography, lighting and how to compose a photo.

To understand how PJ became a wedding photography style, we need to go back in time.  Years ago, the happy couple would stop at the photography studio between the church and the reception to have some portraits made using standard poses which might have also included the bride with mom or dad.  Today, this is known as the traditional style. Time marches on and along came the photographer who applied the newspaper photojournalism approach to wedding photography.  A new style is born!

As Photojournalism was becoming a popular wedding photography style, digital cameras were becoming less expensive and more technically advanced.  The photographer’s cost to learn the craft and click the shutter was significantly reduced.  The photographer no longer had to purchase a roll of film, take the photos, develop the film and then print the proofs in order to see the photo.  All of which cost actually money which was a barrier to learning the craft of photography. 

Unfortunately, for the wedding photography industry, some wedding photographers seem to have forgotten or never knew that news photographers might actually stage the photo.  Thus grew the “rules” of PJ Wedding photography.  The subjects could not be aware of the camera.   The photographer was not to influence any of the photos.  Nothing could be staged.  Some even believe that only natural or existing light could be used. All of the old rules went out the window. 

Yet there are still no standards for what makes a photojournalist style.  There is no international standards committee which sets the rules.  The only true non-profit professional photographer association, Professional Photographers of America (and its local chapters), is silent on Photojournalism standards (all other photographer organizations and associations are for profit entities).  Yet PPA does have strict standards for traditional photography.  All these factors have led to confusion as to what is meant by Photojournalism.

So in the end, what is Wedding Photojournalism?  It is just a marketing buzz word without any definition.  PJ is a style without rules or standards and is more marketing than anything else.  It is up to you to determine if your vision of PJ wedding photography is the same the photographer’s vision and style.  No matter how good the photographer, if your visions don’t match, then you need to keep looking until you find a photographer whose vision of PJ matches yours.  The best way for you to actually see what a photographer is delivering to their clients and ultimately to you, is to view a recent event via the on-line gallery or in person.  After all, PJ is just a buzz word!


A Chicago Illinois professional wedding photographer and owner of Magical Moments Photography, Howard's honors and achievements include becoming one of the first local Certified Professional Wedding Photographers. His work has been published in "Chicago Style Weddings," "Wedding Guide Chicago," "The Perfect Wedding Guide,"  and the "Daily Herald." 

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