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  • Writer's pictureVictoria McDonald

Editorial Wedding Photography vs Documentary Wedding Photography | How Your Wedding Story Is Told

So, you’re shopping around for a photographer for your wedding, and you keep seeing terms like ‘editorial’ and ‘documentary,’ but you're not sure what those mean. Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

There are all kinds of photography styles that make up a wedding day, but these are the two that I use to capture all the parts of a wedding day.

A Bride tries to gain control of her emotions while getting ready for her ceremony without ruining her makeup.

Documentary Wedding Photography (Also called Photojournalistic) is something that I particularly love because I started with street photography in college, which is documenting the world around you.

But what is documentary photography, really?

Documentary Wedding Photography is visual storytelling that captures everything as it happens in real time. There is no Intervention, posing, or directing light. The photographer is that fly on the wall while also lurking in the shadows.

Documentary photography is the big and more complex brother of candid photography, although you will find both mixed in a wedding gallery. Candid moments are moments captured that tell less of a story than one that is documented.

The two images below show the small but important difference. The candid image is a reaction that the bride and groom share with the groom's mother, but we don't know what caused the reaction. The second image shows the whole story - The father of the groom is giving a speech while the three watch on and take it in.

How does Documentary photography differ from what we think of as traditional wedding photography?

There is more of an emphasis on storytelling and seeking the moments that are not expected to give that storytelling your personality. Aside from your family portraits, there isn’t a focus on formal posed photos. There is more emotion, more environment of the day, and more connections between you, your guests, and key members of your life.

What are the benefits of choosing documentary photography as the primary style for your wedding day? 

Documentary photography allows you to relive your day through the moments captured in your images with more genuine emotion and creative POV. These images will also be timeless because there is no trend followed when documenting life as it happens in front of us.

a Black and white image of a bride getting prepared to get dressed with the view through the window of the yard beyond.

OK. So, What is Editorial Wedding Photography?

Editorial Wedding Photography is ambiguous, in my opinion. I say this because they can be moments caught as they happen, or they can be posed and planned. The main theme is that they are 'magazine-worthy' images that still tell parts of your story, not unlike the images that you see on professional blogs or in the magazines that you definitely picked up right after you got engaged.

How does that work on my wedding day?

Your wedding day has phases or chapters. Editorial images are intertwined within each of those phases. They are the moments that you are having but slightly directed for better light, better backgrounds, or you looking your absolute freaking best.

Most notably, editorial style is utilized for the portrait portion of the day. The guidance and planning that goes into that small part of your story is inspired by magazines, art, and life, giving your gallery an end result that rivals what you see in 'Brides' magazine.

What are the benefits of the editorial images in a wedding photo gallery?

Variety. Adding art in with the moments, these are the images that are most likely to end up on your wall. Editorial images also showcase the environment of the day. All those details that you took time to piece together get a chance to glow. This starts at the beginning of the day with the stationary, florals, dress, and jewelry but continues throughout the day as details from the ceremony and reception come into play.

A detail images of a bouquet of flowers that I bride is holding her lap. The flowers are made up of unique flowers that you usually do not see in a bridal bouquet.

When you see weddings on Pinterest, in blogs, or in magazines, they are mostly editorial images. Occasionally, and more frequently as of recently, you see those documentary images mixed in, but those things are selling you on the idea of the curated ideas that inspired the things you chose in your planning.

I hope this helps you visualize the things that will make your wedding gallery. I enjoy all of these things and how I can creatively include them in each wedding celebration.

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