I consider myself a primarily candid wedding photographer who specializes in moments and emotions. I’m not a fashion photographer who poses and controls every shot. Yet, I see a lot of confusion about just what all this actually means.
I’ve seen so many weddings where the couple hired a candid photographer, but then wanted the photographer to set up and pose every shot all day long. Often a couple wants a posed photo to LOOK candid, but that is NOT a true candid photo and it’s not a true moment.
So, I thought it would be a good time to really define the three major kinds of wedding photography that cross my path.
• Candid – Nothing staged, setup, or posed about it at all. The moment would have happened whether a camera was there or not.
• Staged – Activities or locations done with photos in mind, but not directed or posed. For example, we may steal away to a beautiful stairway during the reception to get a few photos. If not to get some photos, the couple would never have been at those stairs at that time. However, when we’re there, I let them do their own thing. I give little or no direction at all except to ignore the camera completely and have some time to themselves. This lets their natural personality, relationship, and body language really shine through.
• Posed – Completely controlled. The photographer directs everything, from the way the couple stands and the direction of their gaze to whether or not they even get to share a kiss! Formals are the quintessential example of posed wedding day photography. Posed photos also include all those glamor shots of the wedding party standing on the rocks with the waterfall in the background. Every time you stop what you are doing and smile at the camera for a photo, that’s a posed image.
A typical wedding day includes all three types of photography. Different photographers put more emphasis on different types. Myself, I put a very strong concentration on true candid photography, and to a lesser extent on staged. I do the required posed formals, but I do everything I possibly can to limit them to the absolute minimum.
Posing holds ZERO interest for me and almost no one in the wedding party likes to do them either. Honestly, a posed photo is not a true story of the day or the people that are a part of it. Instead it is a fiction, a reflection of what the photographer feels the day should be, not what it actually is.
I find true candids to be far more challenging and far better for storytelling. Good candids are NOT random, as so many people seem to think. They take time and an observant eye.
Between the two, staged photos can offer a nice compromise if done with restraint. Yes, it is a scenario that wouldn’t otherwise have happened if not to get photos, and as such I don’t feel it really moves the story forward. But when done with minimal direction it can still offer true insight into the relationship and interactions of the people involved. There is at least an element of truth to be found, if not in the setting then at least in the emotion.
Ask yourself why you want a photographer at your wedding. Is it to feel like a fashion model, or is it to capture real memories and real emotions of a very special moment in your life? If it’s to feel like a fashion model, then there are some amazing photographers out there that do beautiful work.