The first (& 2nd) Rule of a Documentary Wedding Photographer

The first rule of wedding documentary photography is: Don’t be shy

The second rule of wedding documentary photography is: Don’t be shy

Of course you have to be discreet, courteous, kind and focused. But never shy.

Let me explain. I remember meeting a professional wedding photographer who when he heard that I strive to shoot a wedding as close to 100% candid as possible said to me he felt it was a ‘cop out.’ His idea being that I was shy and unassuming and preferred to stand in corner while I watch the world go by.

Nothing could be further from the truth. You only have to meet me to know. I love people, love talking to them, listening to their unique experiences which in turn give me a better understanding of us all. I’ve never studied psychology of any kind but find us as a race fascinating. I’m outgoing and love kids, old people, sad people, happy people and sometimes even drunk people. You meet all of these people at almost every wedding and in order to capture them being their unique and wonderful selves you have to everything but shy.

I shoot wide. So wide in fact that my fisheye lens finds it’s way out of my bag at every wedding I do. To be able to shoot wide you have to get close to the action and to get close to people means you have to keep everyone at ease with your presence. You won’t get people walking in front and through your images as easily as would be the case if you used a longer lens. Wide, closer, at ease, not shy.

Ok, so we’ve got that clear, don’t be shy. But how about what we should be? I said at the outset that we should all be discreet, courteous, kind and focused as documentary wedding photographers. Discreet in that you don’t want to draw unnecessary attention.

Courteous to those around you as you mingle and search for angles to make images from. Kind, because you want to be aware of peoples emotions and understand that we all experience things differently. Focused, always completely focused on what is going on around you.

The sounds of a door opening, laughter, hushed voices, a boisterous child, music, a car arriving. These are clues as to when the next moment deserving of an image might arrive. You need to be listening, watching how light moves and dances differently from room to room, from shadow to sun, from moment to moment.


Ready to step away from your inconspicuous spot, into a moment, and frame up in the light with the best possible background and make an unforgettable image.

This level of focus requires that you are not a wallflower, a lamp stand, or a ninja. Focus like this requires a human being interested in telling the story of others. A personable photographer, but not a shy one.


  1. Unfortunately missed you at the expo. I’m fascinated by the idea of documentary style wedding photography. Do you plan any further workshops?

    1. Hi Lucette, I’m sorry you missed it! Yes, I plan to do more, watch this space or better yet follow my twitter feed for more info. twitter/timmoolmanphoto

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