NYC documentary wedding photographer. Serving USA & worldwide.

The Documentary Wedding Photography Approach

Documentary style wedding photography is here to stay. We live in in a time where trends are quick to come and go. However, through all that the principle of documentary photography has proved its power as an art form, time and time again. 

So what is documentary wedding photography? And why are modern day couples increasingly seeking out photographers who specialize in this particular style of photography?

In this post, I’m excited to discuss my take and approach to documentary photography in the wedding arena. 

Documentary photography definition: photographic documentation of events that are considered significant. 

In the past, documentary photography was mostly reserved for serious subjects such as record keeping for historical records, news and dedicated and informative educational materials. Since then it has evolved and found new meaning as an art form that people can use to tell their personal stories and preserve family legacies.

When I look back on my journey in wedding photography, I realize my approach and style are a result of attending vibrant, loud and technicolor weddings in Pakistan and of course, moving to New York in my teens and indulging in the practice of people watching. My culture instilled in me the importance of family and carrying tradition while New York taught me how to think quickly on my feet and be always alert.

This diverse background has not only informed my style but solidified my philosophy in the genre.

Here are my four pillars of documentary wedding photography:

Trust and authenticity 

My promise to couples is always to honor your story with honesty and sincerity. And authenticity is at the heart of that. It’s a two-way street. Couples need to feel comfortable with their chosen wedding photographer to be their authentic selves. Photographers need that trust and allowance from their couples to do their job to the best of their ability. Your relationship is sacred. Your loved ones are sacred. This event you’re putting together is a celebration of all those sacred things. Therefore, as your documentary wedding photographer I absolutely hold these truths in the highest regard. 

Access

Well-rounded coverage of your wedding event doesn’t simply rely on hiring a large team of photographers (although it can certainly help) but allowing your photographer access to intimate and vulnerable spaces and moments throughout the wedding day. As mentioned before in terms of building trust, a huge part of this is trusting that your photographer will know when to act as an observer or a participant in situations. Some purists may only adopt a ‘fly on the wall’ approach, but I prefer a healthy blend of fly on the wall and gentle guidance.

Does posing really have any place in documentary wedding photography?

Sure, why not? It’s your day. Anything goes! There are definitely some ‘safe shots’ that we capture but overall, in terms of gentle guidance it’s more about giving couples or their loved ones prompts to photograph the in between moments that often result in some wonderful and candid imagery.

I say this because most people aren’t used to having a stranger in the room recording their movements. It can feel a bit nerve wracking. I’ll be honest, I’m awkward in front of the camera so I understand that sometimes a bit of reassurance and guidance can calm the nerves. 

Think of it this way: it may not be our everyday routine to dress up to the nines and go out for fancy dinners. However, on occasions like weddings, we go all out and because it’s special and we may want something a little different and elevated. Weddings are momentous occasions. You can still have authenticity in guided moments. After all, isn’t that what we see in the movies? Don’t the real and raw emotions of that art form still translate?

Presence

We’re living in a fast paced and curated world that’s ruled by a digital one. I get it. Gotta do it for the gram. However, I’d argue that the digital world demands perfection and it’s easy to get caught up in that. Which is why I always ask my couples to focus on the present moment as much as possible. This is to ensure authenticity and create room for those golden moments to happen and be captured.

Time and space

This is an amalgamation of all that’s been mentioned above but I would further distill it to it’s absolute definitions. Allowing time between different programs of the day helps everyone appreciate the emotion and significance of what’s happening around them. Space is equally important for facilitating that. By providing more space, I can create distance to illustrate our context. And sometimes, the confines of a small space (like dance floor close-ups) illustrate the energy and intimacy of a moment. The key component of all this is movement both emotionally and physically. Emotions move through us and by using photography, physical movement can help shape moments and tell stories. 

As a documentary wedding photographer, my goal isn’t just to capture your day as authentically as possible and give you images that will always stand the test of time, but provide you with a client experience that goes beyond a transactional approach. 

All of us are storytellers. We just use different mediums. I remember growing up, people said wedding photography wasn’t an art form. However, to say that is to say people aren’t art personified. Petroglyphs prove humans have been telling their stories since the dawn of time. Even in silence we tell a story through our body language, our eyes, our hands, our food, our music–we know how to immortalize our feelings and our history. That for me is the essence of documentary photography.

Being able to realize my passion early on and make it such an integral part of my life has been a great privilege for me. Weddings are momentous occasions where I get to be a part of people’s lives and honor them by doing what I love.

If you resonate with my philosophy and feel that this style of photography best aligns with your wedding vision, let’s talk

I want to know everything.

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Natasha Jahangir is a New York based documentary wedding photographer. Her work is an expression of what she's most passionate about: finding beauty in the little things, boisterous laughter, scorching dance moves and most of all, the power of creating family and community through shared experiences. She is easily bribed with sour patch kids, the promise of fries, ice-cream and a mean dance playlist.

Natasha Jahangir is a New York based documentary wedding photographer. Her work is an expression of what she's most passionate about: finding beauty in the little things, boisterous laughter, scorching dance moves and most of all, the power of creating family and community through shared experiences. She is easily bribed with sour patch kids, the promise of fries and a mean dance playlist.

HONORING YOUR STORY WITH HONESTY AND SINCERITY

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