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Photojournalism vs. Fashion - do we have to choose? - part 1 of 1

Published 01/04/2007

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By Jennifer Bebb

In the world of wedding photographers, there are few issues more divisive than that of photojournalism versus fashion. Each side of the debate has strong arguments for their way of approaching weddings, but do we really need to choose one way over the other? Can't we do both?

In the strictest sense, photojournalistic (PJ) wedding photographers document the day as it happens. They don't move people or items to better locations or light. The certainly don't pose a bride or groom. And they don't want to be noticed. Things happen as they happen and the photographer is there to document that.

I think it's fair to say that for most of the wedding day the photographer takes on the role of the photojournalist. There are varying degrees of this, but the nature of the event dictates a more PJ approach. There are very few photographers that would stop the ceremony, for example, to have the couple re-do the kiss in better light. Moments happen and we serve our clients best when we stand back and let those moments unfold.

But, when the time comes to document the details, can we not move the dress to a location more suitable? Or must we leave it in the dark closetJennifer Bebb where we find it hanging? Can we not suggest the bride step into better light to put her dress on? Or must we make do with whatever happens?


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It is my sense, that we better serve our clients by adjusting details and making suggestions, even during those more PJ times. Moving the bride towards the window as she puts on her dress, doesn't compromise our ability to photograph moments unfolding, but rather gives us more opportunities to catch those moments with the benefit of good light.

During the formal photo session, we see photographers posing, guiding and directing their clients. They choose the location, the light and work within parameters they can control. The level of control can vary from gentle suggestions to outright posing. Is this kind of direction something we should avoid if we're photojournalistic photographers? My feeling is of course not! Couples will very rarely move themselves into a flattering position in the best light. That is why they hire us - for our expertise and ability. They want us to make them look beautiful and happy and glorious. And that takes work.

Yervant and Jerry Ghionis are great examples of this. When you watch them work with a couple, you see the interaction, direction, and guidance. You see the location and light choices they make - and they are deliberate choices. They get involved with their couples, making beautiful images as a result. But, I wonder how interactive they are during the ceremony or reception. I would argue that these two 'fashion' style photographers also provide photojournalistic coverage on the wedding day.

There are, and always will be, purists on both sides. Some photographers will always pose and direct like crazy and some will always stand back and observe. But, the majority of us do a little bit of both. As I watch both sides debate the merits of their position, I can't help but think that a couple deserves more from us. They deserve both the PJ coverage and the fashion coverage. They want to remember the moments, but also look beautiful. What we call ourselves while we're giving our clients the best work possible really doesn't matter. So why choose?


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1st Published 01/04/2007
last update 06/11/2019 11:07:43

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