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Tips on Successful Documentary Wedding Photography From Adam Riley

By Guest Contributor on July 18th 2014

Documentary-wedding-Photography0100Documentary 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

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.

This site contains affiliate links to products. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links, however, this does not impact accuracy or integrity of our content.

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Q&A Discussions

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  1. Carine Bea

    Bride and groom having fun its the most valuable tip! Thanks for sharing this x

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  2. Maribeth Castaneda

    Great read… Love the pictures too, emotion was really captured, a delight…

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  3. Mi Guel

    Great article, will bookmark for future reference…..

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  4. Austin Swenson

    A happy bride is a happy wedding… an unhappy bride= unhappy groom, parents, wedding party, and a whole lot of awkward posing. Keep her happy and communicate and you won’t have problems.

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  5. Tyler Friesen

    Great tip allowing the bride and groom time to enjoy their day. I have seen way to many photogs push and push to the point they are stressing them out.

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  6. Isaak Kwok

    Great tips!

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    always happy to read these kind of articles

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  8. Ian Moss

    Nice article. :)

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  9. Asad Qayyum

    Very useful article. Thanks

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  10. Greg Faulkner

    An enjoyable little read, thanks Andrew :) Loved the expression on the grooms face in the first image as well!

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  11. Jeff Lopez

    Great article! Thank you

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