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Posed vs. Documentary Wedding Photos

Tips and Advice

Posed vs. Documentary wedding photos – which one is right for you?

When it comes to wedding photography, there are two main approaches: posed and documentary. There’s also a LOT of photographers, myself included, that like to offer a mix of both! Posed photos are those that are set up and directed by the photographer, while documentary photos can be candid moments that are captured naturally throughout the day. Key word is naturally, though! (More on that later…)

Both posed and documentary wedding photos have their own unique benefits, but candid and documentary moments have a special power that can’t be replicated with posed photos.

Candid or Documentary?

Documentary moments are those that are captured naturally, without any interference from the photographer. They are the moments that happen in between the posed shots – the laughter, the tears, the stolen glances. These moments are raw, unfiltered, and genuine. They capture the true essence of the day. And the emotions that come with it! They are the photos that you’ll look back on and remember exactly how you felt in that moment. Documentary photography is about the STORY. Photographers feel the feelings, then shoot the shot. Petapixel has a great article on this, too!

Couples today are often seeking out more personalized and meaningful experiences, and they want their wedding photos to reflect that. They want photos that capture the real moments and emotions of the day, rather than simply creating a beautiful, staged scene. And with the rise of AI, or artificial intelligence, real moment driven photography is more important than ever.

A lot of photographers call themselves “documentary style photographers” because they’re moment driven. But it’s important to remember the term “documentary” means that there’s no direction from the photographer at all.

So while I may place a bride near the window and then photograph her putting on her jewelry, it’s not truly documentary, but candid. Get it?

Any time I’ve given direction to the subject, whether it’s where to stand, a suggestion for a pose (even prompts that create movement) I’m making a candid photograph.

Posed Photos

Posed photos, on the other hand, can be beautiful and timeless, but they can sometimes feel forced and unnatural. Truth is, they don’t always capture the true essence of the day. And they can sometimes be more about the photographer’s vision than the couple’s. That being said, posed photos have their own unique benefits, such as creating a more polished look and allowing the photographer to control the lighting and composition.

Newlywed couple poses on top of a hill with palm trees at the Westchester Country Club

When it comes to choosing a wedding photographer, it’s important to find someone who can balance both posed and candid moments. Whether a couple prefers candid moments or posed shots, a skilled photographer should be able to capture the essence of the day in a way that feels true to the couple’s vision. It’s also important to communicate your preferences with your photographer – if you want more candid moments, make sure they know that. If you want more posed shots, make sure to communicate that as well. This is why I send a detailed “discovery questionnaire” so I know what my couple’s expect and want from their wedding gallery.

Ultimately, your wedding day is about you and your partner, and the photos should reflect that. Whether you prefer candid moments or posed shots, make sure to choose a photographer who can capture the essence of your day in a way that feels true to you.

Planning a South Florida wedding? Looking for a wedding photographer with a great mix of documentary, candid, and posed photos? I’d love to chat! Click here to get in touch.