Bride And Dad Walking Down Aisle Y Documentary Wedding Photography Examples By Charles Moll Photography

Why Documentary Wedding Photography Could Be Your Perfect Match

Last updated on May 28th, 2024 at 02:46 pm

As couples search for the right photographer for their wedding photographer you might begin to wonder. Why does it all look the same? The people. The poses. Heck, even the “authentic moments”. It all feels like something you have seen before. Trust me, I see it too, and over the years, out of a desire to create images that carry with them the meaning of a wedding day, I have been captivated by documentary wedding photography. A truly authentic approach.

What is documentary wedding photography?

Picture this: You’re at your wedding reception, and everyone’s laughing, dancing, and having a good time. Among the crowd is your photographer, seamlessly blending in and capturing genuine smiles, teary eyes, and hands held tight. No fake poses, no forced smiles, just real moments. That’s the heart of documentary wedding photography.

Groom Being Carriedndocumentary Wedding Photography Examples By Charles Moll Photography

Now, how does it differ from, let’s say, traditional photography? Well, the latter often involves posed photos, like that one perfect family picture where even your normally unruly cousin manages to look angelic. On the other hand, documentary wedding photography is like your invisible best friend who captures the essence of your day without asking anyone to stop and say “cheese.”

Key Components of Documentary Wedding Photography


It’s not just about isolated snapshots; it’s a narrative of your day. From the jittery pre-ceremony moments to the last dance, it’s all woven together into a story you’ll want to revisit.

Observational Skills

Your photographer is almost like a journalist, with an eye for detail and the ability to anticipate those ‘blink and you miss it’ moments.

Timing and Anticipation

Ah, the first look, the exchange of rings, the surprise flash mob your friends planned—it takes impeccable timing to capture these irreplaceable moments.


When you Google early 2000’s wedding photos you’ll often see a lot of selective color (black and white photos with only the bride’s eyes in color) or distressed filters put over the image. At the time these were really cool, but the reality is, that trends don’t last, and in hindsight, they look really cheesy. With Documentary wedding photography your photos will look just as good 20 years from now.

True to life tones:

When you choose a photographer, one thing you will want to pay attention to is how they edit the photos. One of the key advantages of the documentary style is that all the tones and colors will be true to life. Your skin will look like your skin. 20 years from now your photos won’t be colored to reflect a passing trend. They will look like your wedding day\

Moments & Memories

A lot of really important memories will happen on your wedding day. Things you will treasure for a life time. Your photos should reflect that rather than just a bunch of posed shots.

Why would you want a documentary wedding photographer?

Remember your childhood birthday parties? The spontaneous joy, the random candid moments caught on a disposable camera? That’s the feel documentary wedding photography aims for. You can focus on living the moments, relishing your day, and knowing someone is capturing it all, raw and unfiltered.

Kids In Rain Y Documentary Wedding Photography Examples By Charles Moll Photography

Often when couples choose me as their photographer it will come down to 1 of 3 things. They don’t like having their picture taken, they want to be fully present on their wedding day/don’t want to be stressed, or they hate all the wedding gimmicks.

You don’t like having your picture taken

“WHAT DO I DO WITH MY HANDS?!?!?!” Is this you? As soon as a camera comes up you panic, get a little sweaty, and forget what you are supposed to do. Or maybe you’re self-conscious of your smile and don’t love the idea of having to cheese all day.

When you go the documentary wedding photography route, you aren’t standing in a line all day pretending like you are happy. You are living your wedding day with your loved ones while the photographer captures your actual joy and your real smile. Your images are tied to real memories, making them carry more weight.

You want to be fully present/not stressed

When you choose a documentary wedding photographer we are all about letting you live your wedding day rather than directing it. We aren’t going to stop you and ask you to redo something because we missed the photo. Your day will not be taken over for our agenda. Simply put live your wedding and we will document it in the most authentic way possible.

You hate wedding gimmicks

When you see a bridal inspo in magazines is it hard to find yourself or your partner in those images? Sure they are beautiful, but you think I would never do that. Feel the freedom to do your day your way. it doesn’t need to look like someone else’s. You do you and we will get photos that reflect that.

How to Find the Right Documentary Wedding Photographer

When you land on a photographer’s website you will often see a lot of words like candid, authentic, real. Unfortunately just because a photographer says these things that doesn’t mean they are a documentary wedding photographer. Check out their portfolio. What kind of photos are they featuring? If you see lots of portraits and details, this photograph might not be a documentary wedding photographer. On the other hand if you see moments emphasized you are on the right track!

You’ll want to ask the right questions to better understand their style:

  • “How would you describe your style?”
  • “Can we see 3 full wedding galleries?”
  • “What’s your approach to candids versus posed shots?”

Also, trust your gut feeling. If you feel comfortable with them, chances are you’ll feel comfortable in front of their lens too.

The Dos and Don’ts


Trust Your Photographer

You’ve done your homework and picked a professional. Now, let them work their magic. A little trust goes a long way in allowing the photographer the creative freedom to capture your day as it unfolds. I once attended a wedding where the couple was so in sync with their photographer that they didn’t even notice him half the time, and the photos were just breathtaking.

Let the Day Unfold Naturally

Let’s be honest; not everything will go as planned. The flower girl might decide she’s too shy to walk down the aisle, or perhaps Uncle Bob turns out to be a fantastic break-dancer. Embrace the unexpected! It’s these spontaneous elements that often make for the most memorable snapshots.

Create a Rough Timeline

Yes, documentary wedding photography is all about capturing the day naturally, but a general timeline helps the photographer anticipate key moments and lets you feel a bit more relaxed knowing how the day will unfold! For instance, knowing that you’re planning a grand exit with sparklers can help them set up in advance for the perfect shot.


Don’t Micromanage the Process

Imagine you’re painting a picture. How would you feel if someone stood over your shoulder, scrutinizing every stroke? Kinda stifling, right? The same goes for your photographer. Directing each shot or frequently checking the camera hampers their flow and could affect the quality of your photos.

Avoid Staged or Forced Situations

Documentary photography thrives on authenticity. Forcing moments or poses can feel disingenuous and will likely show in the pictures. Remember, your wedding is not a theatrical performance; it’s a celebration of genuine love and partnership.

Don’t Underestimate the Value of a Good Rapport

Your comfort level with the photographer can make or break the intimacy and candidness in your photos. It’s not just about skill; it’s about the vibe. Take some time before the big day to connect with your photographer, perhaps through a casual coffee meeting or a pre-wedding shoot.

Don’t Skip the Pre-Wedding Consultation

This is the ideal time to discuss any specifics, such as must-have shots or any family dynamics the photographer should be aware of. But after that, allow them to take the reins.


Is Documentary Wedding Photography More Expensive?

Ah, the budget—an unavoidable topic. Well, the answer varies. Some photographers may charge a premium for their storytelling skills, while others have rates comparable to more traditional wedding photography styles. Always remember to ask what’s included in the package to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples.

Will There Be Group or Posed Shots?

Yes, documentary wedding photographers usually include a few group or posed shots. These photographs are often treasured by parents and grandparents. I tend to make quick work of these so you can get back to living your wedding day.

How Much Planning Is Required?

Less is more, but that doesn’t mean no planning at all. For every wedding I photograph we work together to create a timeline to keep the day as stress free as possible. That being said, if nothing is on schedule that is ok!

Do I Need to Provide a Shot List?

While some photographers appreciate a short list of key moments or people you definitely want captured a long, detailed shot list could be counterproductive. Documentary wedding photography thrives on spontaneity, so the shorter the list, the better. Before your wedding, we will talk through what your priority photos are to make sure we can get them.

Can Documentary Wedding Photography Capture All the Details?

Yes, indeed! Just because the focus is on candid moments doesn’t mean the small things get overlooked. Your photographer will still capture those intricate details like the rings, decorations, and even your carefully chosen table settings.

Is This Style Suitable for All Wedding Types?

Whether you’re having a large ceremony or a more intimate affair, documentary wedding photography can adapt. However, the style particularly shines in settings where emotions and expressions flow naturally.

What If We’re Camera Shy?

Ah, the age-old concern. Here’s the beauty of this style: because your photographer is capturing the day as it naturally unfolds, you may even forget they’re there. The focus is on interactions and genuine emotions, so you won’t feel the pressure of the lens constantly on you.


Documentary wedding photography is not just a trend; it’s an experience. It lets you live your wedding day in the most real way possible while still having memories that are honest and touching. If this sounds like you, let’s talk! I would love the opportunity to be a part of your wedding day!

Additional Resources

For more inspiration check out our portfolio!

Documentary Wedding Photography Examples

The Ponds at Dry Creek-weddings | Real Weddings

Haley & Dan Wedding Sneak Peek

Haley & Dan’s wedding at The Ponds at Dry Creek was such a blast! It featured the first ceremony I have ever seen preached from a Honda dirtbike manual..Venue: The Ponds @thepondsatdrycreek Second Photographer: @hannahbagleyphoto Florist: @Costco Dress Shop / Designer: Plume – @plumebridal Hair: @studiokonceal Makeup: @whitehorseesthetics DJ: Party People MT @partypeoplemt Catering: @kick_back_bbq @outofboundscatering

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