Documentary wedding photography is a term too often attached to the work of any photographer who has an informal approach to shooting the big day. However, good documentary photography results from telling a story and not just by recording events as they unfold, but by conveying a sense of how it felt to be there when they happened.


One particular wedding photographer who’s doing this very successfully at the moment is Adam Riley. Adam works in the north west of England and stands out for his ability and consistency in capturing the small moments that tell a huge story.


Adam’s tips for making it as a documentary wedding photographer:

Allow the Bride and Groom to Enjoy the Day

On the wedding day, the bride and groom should be happily oblivious to your presence for the majority of the time. It’s their day, and they’ll know you have a job to do, but don’t be in their face or do anything that encroaches on their, or their guests, enjoyment of the wedding. Being inconspicuous, but in the right place at the right time is a difficult balancing act that you need to get right.

Take a Considered Approach

Shooting a wedding can involve working non-stop for 10 hours or more. Maintaining your creative and mental focus is tough as your mind and body tire. No matter how worn out you get, it is extremely important that you consider every shot you take and have a reason for shooting. Snapping away randomly will result in hundreds of average images that are of little value to you or your clients.


Offer Something Unique for Documentary Wedding Photography

Thousands of photographers would jump at the chance of being paid to shoot a wedding. What do you have that they don’t? Your portfolio needs to strong and consistent so that potential clients can easily understand what they will get from you. Think hard about what it is you offer and why it is unique. Understand that you can’t please everyone, but you can delight a few.

Progress As Quickly As Possible

If you want to shoot high-end clients, you’ll need to display a portfolio of stunning images taken at amazing venues, but you can’t win these clients until you have those images in your portfolio. It’s a chicken and egg situation. Luck, hard work, and perseverance are the ways forward here. Jump at any chance to second shoot at attractive venues and seek out friends and family who may be getting married there. Avoid the temptation to offer cheap pricing. It will attract bargain hunters who don’t value your time and skill and you’ll shoot weddings that won’t give the right impression in your portfolio.

Adam Riley Photography

You can see more of Adam Riley’s work on his website and his wedding photography course at 36exp. He runs a wedding photography course with 36exp.

About the Guest Contributor

Andrew Mason is a professional portrait photographer based out of the UK who runs a website called 36exp.