As much as photographing social issues can be a fulfilling component of documentary photography, don’t forget, it is only one aspect. Documentary photography can also capture happy events like weddings and family events. If you’re having difficulty finding those bolder and more provocative subjects, rather than forcing it, allow for natural inspiration. In other words, let the subjects come to you, and you’ll likely find those dream projects come up when you’re not expecting them.
No matter what your subject, when photographing documentary style, your goal should always be to let events play out as if you were not there. You don’t want subjects acting differently because they see you with a camera. You want to capture the natural essence of what would happen, whether you were present with your camera or not.
With all styles of photography, as a photographer, your goal is always to tell a story. This notion is especially true with documentary photography, which makes it the perfect opportunity to turn a singular project into an entire series. Whether it be similar subjects, ideas, or events, you can turn one project into a whole series that produces an entire story, or “documentary.”
Whether it be getting to a scene quickly, being able to navigate through crowds, or making yourself as invisible as impossible, you want to be as mobile as possible when shooting documentary style. Of course, you still want to use the highest quality equipment possible, but you need to balance this with mobility. Doing so will allow you to get the amazing shots that you might have otherwise missed.
As much as you are the storyteller as a documentary photographer, when you’re working in weddings, you have clients, and ensuring they are happy should be your number one priority. In order to do this, get to know your couple, so that you’re able to capture candid, special moments that they’ll cherish for a lifetime. For example, if you know the bride is particularly close with her grandmother, seek to capture moments between the pair.
Again, your job as a documentary photographer is to make yourself as invisible as possible. With family photography, one of the best ways to do this is to ensure that the family you are working with is comfortable with your presence. Take the time to get to know the family, make sure they are a good fit for you, and try your best to blend into the background as much as possible.
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