There are so many buzzwords going around that it can be confusing.

Quick disclaimer: this blog is purely my opinion and my experiences as a wedding photographer [since my early beginnings in 1994, with my first studio, and then again from 2003,] with the three successful studios that I continue to run in Florida and globally. Other photographers and couples may have completely different opinions regarding the definitions of these words and that's okay.


What is the difference between documentary, candid, and photojournalism?


A quick lesson about the recent history of wedding photography. Up until the 1990s, wedding photography was pretty much all color film, posed portraits, and was done in about 2 hours; usually, right after the ceremony. Couples stood there with the family & wedding party. Boom, you were done with your wedding photos in 2 hours.


Then around 1994, for me, a lot of us started shooting a couple of rolls of black and white film while the bride was getting into her gown, while the groom was getting his boutonniere, and as the term photojournalism started being passed around. This is because the unposed photos looked like the type of work that you would shoot for the newspapers.


Photojournalism style and documentary style are pure candid. In my opinion they are the same thing. No matter what you call it, this means that no one will stop you during your wedding to pose you [or anyone else]. 


The buzzword right now is “documentary style,” so for the rest of this blog post, I will refer to the "purely candid style" as only documentary.


Benefits to documentary style wedding photography:

  • perfect for people who don't like being posed at all
  • perfect for couples who don't want their day interrupted
  • Perfect for couples having an elopement, extremely small wedding or micro wedding,
  • for couples who have no wedding party, no family in attendance, want to get straight to their reception
  • for couples with no dancing or other events at their reception
  • for couples with a dinner only style of reception
  • For couples who want to hang out with their friends and family versus spending hours doing post pictures that might appear fake or dated


The problems with pure documentary style wedding photography: (this is coming from my couples who may have chosen pure documentary for another event, previous wedding, or a previous wedding in their family):

  •  the bride & groom were missing photographs of certain important relatives
  • did not have photos of some friends,
  • limited photos of them together [as bride and groom!]
  • the couples wrongly assumed that the photographer was taking a photograph of every single person during the wedding, ceremony or reception
  • the bride & groom wrongly assumed that the photographer was taking photos of their details, while they were cutting the cake, while they were dancing, or while they were doing other events at their reception.
  • one bride of mine (upcoming in 2025) told me that her sister had pure documentary style and that there are absolutely no photos of the two of them together - despite being in the wedding party herself, and a 10 hour day.


My final word on documentary style is that it works for the reception. It is something that a second photographer can take care of while the first photographer, or lead photographer is working off of a prearranged list of group photos. 

Our studio works this way: One photographer is always with the bride and is making sure that every family unit gets a lightly posed or prearranged group photo. Meanwhile, the second photographer is watching everybody enjoy the drinks at the cocktail hour, getting the reception details, etc.


Documentary style is very successful capturing all the fun and excitement of proposals, engagement sessions, bachelorette parties, bridal showers, engagement parties etc. You don't need too many post photos during those sessions or events.

Letting the moment happen