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Why I Don't Call Myself a Documentary Photographer...

Now before I explain exactly what I mean, I want to note that the term “documentary photographer” has been used in pretty much every photographer Instagram bio and post that I’ve seen in the past few months. It’s used often because it’s an attractive concept, and as a photographer myself, I often am tempted to call myself a documentary photographer, as my photos sometimes seem to best fit that category and I DO use the concepts of documentary photography in my sessions.

One of the greatest skills of a documentary photographer is capturing memories as they happen, organically, and naturally. While this is a big part of my job, and one of my favorite things to photograph, I find that in most scenarios, my clients would actually PREFER a little more direction and clarity as we create these moments.

I can’t tell you how often I hear the words “I am so awkward” or “I don’t know what I’m doing” before a session.

I find that when I mix “documentary” storytelling with a bit of posing, instruction, and direction, it gives my clients the confidence to be at ease in their photos, with each other, knowing that I will guide them when they feel lost. This also allows me to get every type of photo in a session, including the smiling, forward facing photos are often needed for picture frames on walls or “save the dates” while still giving me the creative freedom to capture more “storytelling” photos throughout. Basically, it’s the best of both worlds!!

Especially on a wedding day, there are times that a photographer must take a step back to observe, create, enjoy, capture. There are other times a photographer is called to strong communication and clarity, and this is so important for large family photos, bridal parties, and couples portraits. A photographer who can pick up on those queues actually provides MORE freedom on a wedding day, allowing your time to be spent on the important moments (the sacrament, time with friends and family, etc.) on your wedding day.

What are your thoughts? Photographers, would you consider yourself a documentary photographer, and why?

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