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Do wedding photographers need to be photojournalists?

Do wedding photographers need to be photojournalists? - Should all wedding photographs be posed? Michael Alan Bielat shares his opinion.

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Portraits and People

To pose, or not to pose: That is the question. A question all modern day wedding photographers have to face. Today’s bride is all about “photo journalism.” It’s getting to the point where they turn their head anytime someone mentions the word “pose”. However, do they really know what this term means or did they just see that buzz word in a bridal magazine?
Photojournalism, documentary, and lifestyle photography are all synonyms. They all mean that the photographer will be unobtrusive and capture those special, candid moments as they unfold. But what does a photographer do when these special moments are few and far between? What do you do when the story unfolding in front of you is the bride’s father not approving of his future son-in-law, or when the groom is having second thoughts or when the couple is getting married for all the wrong reasons? This may seem far fetched but I can guarantee that it’s happened before.
A true “photo journalistic” photographer should be capturing these fights and lack of love in each other’s eyes the same way true photo journalists do when in the heart of war zones. However, do you think the bride will be happy to see these moments in her wedding album? Me neither. So what do we do as photo journalistic, wedding photographers? We’re damned if we do and we’re damned if we don’t.
If we don’t hang that sign out there saying we shoot in a photo journalistic style then we won’t get many bookings. Brides want what the magazines tell them because posed photos are old fashioned and dated. However, if they see their true wedding then they may not like what they see. No one wants a wedding album with a spread of the groom sweating bullets and getting ready to flee to Mexico minutes before the ceremony or the couple just going through the motions without any love in either of their eyes.
My solution is to create a happy medium between the two.
First, I think it is absolutely essential to educate the couple when you meet with them. All of this can be very new to them and most of their information comes from recently married friends of theirs or from magazines. I’ve seen brides asking for photo journalism one minute, yet taking out their plan book and showing me a handful of images that are nothing of the sort. The photos she takes out have been posed shots brides on gondolas in Venice or on a secluded beach in Hawaii. Yes they look amazing but they were most likely taken by a fashion photographer and are very farfetched from the norm. This just goes to show you how no matter what, every bride wants to look like a princess and they want their day to be like it was out of a fairy tale. Educating the bride will let them know how weddings typically run and to let them know that powerful images like the one’s she is showing require a large amount of pre-planning. It probably isn’t in their budget to fly everyone down to Venice or Hawaii but amazing photos can be taken really quite anywhere. It just takes a lot of grunt work, scouting and planning to find a place that is elegant and unique.

Secondly, I tell them how I photograph a wedding. This is where I mention how I “coach” the couples to create these memorable photos. I tell the couple how I offer them tips and pointers throughout the day to make the best images possible. This could mean telling them to sit by a tree together and just talk and be cuddly or even to just tell them to keep doing what they are doing, just a couple steps over so they can be in better light.
Lastly, I strongly recommend that they book an engagement portrait session. Here, I explain that it is a learning experience for both of us. I am seeing what works and what doesn’t and I get to know the best ways to photograph the two of them. On the same token, they get a chance to warm up in front of the camera and to get comfortable with it so that it will all be second nature on their big day.
This coaching technique can lead one to “machine gun shooting” if you aren’t careful. Over time however, you begin to hone in on your technique and you begin to anticipate the moment easily .
 Visit Michael Alan Bielat's website for more details.
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pafusion 10 1
2 Nov 2009 3:20AM
An interesting sequel would be satisfying the father/mother-of-the-bride.

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