What is Documentary Style Photography?
- Documentary means to document what happens naturally.
- We do not change or alter the environment. It is embraced as part of the story.
- Consider what the story is all about. The people, the place or both.
- Remember to set the scene with details of the place. This could mean a tree, a bookshelf or the hem of a dress.
- By the same token, don’t forget to zoom out. Establishing shots are both detailed and wide.
- Think about things that are less obvious: people walking, the backs, the body language.
#1 DOCUMENTARY MEANS TO DOCUMENT
#2 EMBRACE THE ENVIRONMENT
#3 KNOW THY CLIENT
I am a professional noticer. I notice everything. That doesn’t mean I have to shoot everything. Irrelevant details will slow me down. Furthermore, remember who the job is for. If you get bamboozled by a bunch of drunk weirdos at a wedding that the couple doesn’t even know, then skip it. However, if these are the grooms roommates from boarding school and he is paying then shoot the heck out of it. Moreover, if you love the way it looks then shoot it anyway.
You have to be yourself. But don’t be bullied by guests who think you work for them. You don’t. You work for whoever is paying you. Your job performance is judged by them. Be polite and move on. This especially applies to media outlets. When I was sent to 10 nail salons across the country for a story on nail salon culture, I went without the writer so I had to rely on myself to figure it out. I was there to supply content to my editor, not the salon owners. My clients’ needs always come first.