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Candid Wedding Photographer | Sonoma, Ca

A good candid wedding photographer will capture authentic emotion and tell a story with the images. The authenticity is why most couples tell me that they love this style of wedding photography most.

Although photojournalism is a critical method for getting a great set of wedding photos, it’s not the best way to capture ALL aspects of a wedding.

This post explains when a candid / documentary approach is best for different segments of your wedding, and when other methods might yield superior results. Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of candid wedding photography will help you get better wedding photos and design your wedding day timeline more efficiently.

What is Candid Wedding Photography?

Candid wedding photography is the method of capturing events as they naturally occur without any outside influence. Also referred to as documentary wedding photography or photojournalistic wedding photography, this approach is ideal to capture segments like the ceremony and reception.

When Candid Wedding Photographers Are Most Effective

Segments of the wedding like the ceremony, speeches and dancing are where a candid wedding photographer is most effective. The reason for this is obvious in that any interruption during these segments would detract from the event.

Despite capturing photos only as they naturally occur, not all aspects of candid photos are completely left to chance. By planning ahead, you can actually help your photographer capture significantly better candid photos.

Most of how you can help is by selecting a flattering venue for your ceremony and reception. Also having it well decorated will help tremendously for pleasing foregrounds and backgrounds. Timing outdoor ceremonies to happen 45min – 1 hour before sunset can also greatly improve lighting conditions.

Table arrangement by Pedy's Petals

A good tip when decorating is to include lots of things that emit light. This will dramatically boost the visual appeal of your photos especially after the sun goes down. Candles, tea lights and string lights on the tables naturally make a huge difference as do up-lights on the surrounding walls.

Another good idea is to spend extra time decorating the areas where the two of you will be. Decorating the alter is an obvious example that will go a long way as most of the photo journalism will happen around that area for the ceremony. The couples table is another good area to focus on as this is where your reactions will be captured during speeches.

When I capture weddings, I find it’s best to get all of the posed portraits captured before guests arrive and then switch to a mostly photojournalistic approach from the ceremony forward. This ensures that the bride and groom get great solo and family portraits with minimal interruption later as the events are captured candidly.

Where Documentary Wedding Photography Falls Short

Although photojournalism is crucial for getting the best wedding coverage overall, it also has its limitations. Good formal wedding portraits for instance are generally not captured using a documentary approach. This is especially true for people who feel shy or awkward in front of the camera as perfect conditions rarely happen on their own.

Although the “perfect” conditions for a portrait are infinite, there are 5 core elements all great portraits have. It’s possible for all 5 of these elements to get captured photojournalisticly, but it’s also highly improbable.

With good light and a photographer that knows how to direct a person into it, great formal portraits are easier to direct towards than capture candidly.

The important thing to understand is that when posed wedding portraits are done well, the posing is invisible. The benefit is that the pose, light and background are usually significantly better.

Many people hate the idea of posed portraits because when it’s done poorly the photos look awkward and stiff. Posed portraits well directed by a good photographer look candid and natural. It’s for these reasons that setting up formal portraits make more sense. This is especially true when they need to be captured in a timely manner, like on your wedding day.

Hybrid Posed Candid Photos

As with everything else in life there’s also a grey area where a photographer can actually set up “candid” photos. This might sound like an unholy paradox, however it’s a very effective technique that often yields superior results to pure photojournalism. The final result of a hybrid approach looks candid even though the moment is partially planned.

Using the first look as an ideal example for hybrid capture, I generally set the groom up in a location with pleasing light and a good background. Next I’ll cue the bride to come in behind the groom and go tap him on the shoulder.

From this point forward I’ll capture the expressions of both of them naturally as the groom see’s the bride for the first time.

In this example the moment isn’t truly staged, it’s just captured at a specific location to allow for the best lighting and background. Capturing the moment under higher quality conditions naturally allows the photographer to capture better photos.

Candid Wedding Photos - Conclusion

In conclusion, a skilled candid wedding photographer is a critical for capturing authentic wedding images you’ll love. That said, photojournalism alone won’t yield the best set of wedding images. A balance of documentary and posed portraits are necessary for the most compelling set of wedding images.

If you found this article helpful, share it using the orange button in the lower left corner. If you think I missed something, please share your thoughts in the comments below so I can improve this post and make it better for everyone.

Jason Guy

I am a portrait photographer based out of Sonoma, California. I create portraits for people of all ages with the goal of making images that are timeless. Portraits you will look back on decades from now, and still love them just as much then as you do today. While flattering lighting and pose are important, capturing how others see you is what I ultimately strive for.

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