What is Documentary Wedding Photography?

Documentary Wedding Photography - Explained!

If you’ve been searching for a photographer for your upcoming wedding, I’m almost certain you’ve come across ‘documentary wedding photography’.  But do you know what that means specifically?

What is a documentary wedding photographer?

My Interpretation of a documentary wedding photographer is one who takes photos of the events exactly as they happen, to remind you about those candid, real life moments that took place.

Think of the word documentary on its own. Most people would probably immediately think of an event on the news that’s worthy of being told. Or something that is captured in order to memorize a special event or a special person. It defines significant events.

As a documentary wedding photographer, I catch the moments as they happen, I don’t intervene, I don’t pose, I only give gentle direction some of the time.

I’m just there to show your story in the best way that I can, authentically.

Adding to those core memories

I’ll never forget one wedding that I did back in the UK. The couple were exchanging vows at the altar. I noticed out of the corner of my eye one of the moms in the front row wipe a single tear away from her eye. I immediately knew that needed to be included as part of their storytelling of the day. So many people commented on that shot. It was one of the best of the day, and the couple weren’t even in it!

I’m always looking around me, in my surroundings, to see what else is happening that would be true to capture for your story. I like to find things that nobody else sees on the day that you’ll look back on and know happened.

Can I still get group pictures with you as my documentary wedding photographer?


This is probably one of the only times where you will have all of your family in one place at one time, that definitely needs to be captured. This is the one time throughout the wedding day that you’ll be getting as much direction as possible. It takes some coordination to get large family groups together and I would will be there to help guide them.

The same goes for your couples portraits. While I like the movements and natural connection between you and I will be there to document that, I do give some gentle direction if I feel that you need it.

What is ‘storytelling’ when it comes to wedding photography?

For me, it’s reporting the events from the very start to the very end of a wedding day. 

I like to get there before everybody else does to catch a shots of the venue, the path leading up to the building, the trees blowing in the breeze, the sun peeking from behind the bushes.

I like to get shots of the decor that you’ve spent so long perfecting. I’ll arrive as you are getting ready and hang out with you to watch the morning unfold. I’ll be there giggling with the jokes like the rest of you.

When you put your wedding dress on, I’ll just be in the doorway not getting involved but feeling present while I document your bridesmaids helping you into that dress and capturing their reactions as they see you in it for the first time.

How does a documentary wedding photographer work a ceremony?

When it comes to the ceremony I get there before you and work out a plan of where I’m going to stand so that I can be in a position where I can see as much as possible of all the guests and your partner.

Once the ceremony begins and you see each other for the first time, you’ll see all the reactions of all of the guests and emotions are there. You won’t even notice me in the background capturing all of the details.

I will get that shot of your grandma beaming with excitement, or the children running around and enjoying themselves being kids, blissfully unaware that they are at a wedding.

I’ll be there shooting the picture of your friends enjoying a selfie all dressed up for the ‘gram.

What about the wedding reception?

When it comes to the wedding reception the same applies. I’ll be there to photograph the speeches but I will also be looking for the reactions of your guests.

I’ll be wandering around the room to feel and see the laughter and tears and emotions on everyone’s faces.

Then while everyone’s dancing around- you guessed it. I’ll be dancing with them, camera in hand!

Funny enough, I’m quite an introverted person. I don’t like being the centre of attention and I’m quite happy to just blend into the background.

This is exactly my ethos of my business.

I want to blend into the day to document everything that happens so that the day after, the week after, the month after, the year after- you look back and you remember exactly what happened on your wedding day and be able to feel those moments as well as see them.

"Documentary wedding photography is great for couples who don’t like to be posed or forced into posing. It’s great for couples who want to simply enjoy being completely themselves on their wedding day with no interruptions or worries."

- Sam Wild

This is why I love being a documentary wedding photographer.

If you think this style sounds like a great fit for you as a couple, then check out my portfolio or schedule a call so I can hear about your wedding plans!




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If you like unconventional, honest, friendly and real photos, I’m your person.

Sam Wildridge is a candid + lifestyle photographer / filmmaker based in Wainwright, Alberta. Sam has been capturing wedding, family + corporate photos for 9 years and defines her style as "organic storytelling".


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