Photojournalism for Wedding Photographers: How Portraits Can Kill Our Creativity

I stood on a stage, facing 150 of the best wedding photographers in the world. This was the Fearless Conference, and I was speaking to colleagues I have admired for years.

“How many of you go home after a shoot, look through your images, and make yourselves feel terrible about what you shot?” I asked them.

Everyone in the room, it seemed, had a hand in the air.

Our creative world is dominated by storytelling images, moments that become ingrained in our memories and killer portraits. We work hard for 8 or 10 or 15 hours, but portrait hour is still inside our heads. Where will we shoot them, when will we have time to do them and what will the light be like, is a nagging thought while we handle all of the curveballs thrown at us on a wedding day.

I love a great portrait as much as the next creative photographer. Vast landscapes with tiny figures and entwined hands, gritty backdrops with quiet lovers and nighttime scenes with laughing couples, I love them all. But it’s not always guaranteed you’ll get this during a rushed wedding day, which leaves most of us feeling unfulfilled about our storytelling.

Like the other photographers inside this crowded conference room, I would shoot a wedding and silently (or loudly) moan about shots I had missed, moments that weren’t as strong as I had hoped, and portrait sessions that never panned out.

Watching a room full of photographers raise their hands in agreement about feeling negative about their own images made me realize it’s not about the portraits.

“The wedding was great, but we had no time for portraits.” This is a phrase I’ve heard and said countless times.

This only leads me to question, when did capturing moments not be enough?

I’m posting Nicole and Anthony’s wedding at the Bridgeport Arts Center because the wedding was great, but there was no time for portraits. This phrase is something I am happy to let go of in the future.

I actually won two awards from my coverage of this wedding from the Wedding Photojournalists Association. One award-winning photograph was of my clients looking like beautiful china dolls during their reception, and another award was for my photograph of Nicole’s mother’s emotional response to seeing her wedding dress.

Moments should be enough.


Want stronger moments? Let’s work together! My next Moment-Driven Photojournalism Workshop is September 13-14 in downtown Chicago.

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  • Kerry WalshJuly 5, 2016 - 8:30 pm

    Oh, Candice this is so beautiful. What a treat to see the progression of another couple’s day like this. Just gorgeous. Seriously cannot wait until September 10!!!ReplyCancel

  • Daniel MoyerJuly 5, 2016 - 8:49 pm

    It’s like you’re taking the words right from my mind. And I thought I was the only one! Thank you so much for sharing this and for the “permission” to be moment focused!ReplyCancel

  • WPSJuly 6, 2016 - 10:21 am

    Before I even got half way I thought to myself weddings aren’t about portraits but that was your point. Not all couples love that much attention on them, I know I would HATE it but the day to me is all about those moments that the couple didn’t even know you captured.

    When they look back on these memories and see all those fleeting moments that the photographer captured but they weren’t even aware were happening.

    Portraits are great, don’t get me wrong it is a chance for a wedding photographer to become creative, pause and think but these moments for me are what makes a wedding.ReplyCancel

  • Lina Orsino-AllenJuly 6, 2016 - 1:37 pm

    Candice, so much this. Here in the UK we don’t have cocktail hour as such, and taking your clients off for an hour just isn’t the done thing when they have guests to greet, and to be honest, I wouldn’t want to, they have drinking and chatting and laughing to be getting on with. Our standard now is two 10-15 minute sessions during the day if it allows – hey, if we can’t capture them looking in love in ten minutes aren’t there bigger problems here? Sometimes I’m guilty at looking at those epic couple shots and thinking, we never have time for that, and begrudging it, but you are so right, I LOVE shooting moments and that’s ok! Funnily enough, all my favourites from our own wedding are also naturally captured too. Thank you xReplyCancel

  • Erik ShenkoJuly 19, 2016 - 6:14 pm

    I’m totally agree, thanks for sharing. If we give more importance to moments every thing goes well and we will cover best weddings each time. 🙂ReplyCancel

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