What Makes A Wedding Photojournalist Different Than A Wedding Photographer?

What is the difference between wedding photojournalism and wedding photography? As we learned early on in our career, it’s a blurred line.

For many photographers, photojournalism simply means capturing the event as it happens. They pose the formals, and along the way throw in a few candids for good measure. Then they use those candids to promote themselves as a “photojournalist”.

But is that really photojournalism?

Not by my definition. I like how the Wedding Photojournalist Association says it:

What sets our members apart in the industry is their candid, documentary approach – a distinctly artistic vision toward wedding photography.

We offer a new perspective on wedding photography – quietly capturing the real moments as they happen for the bride and groom. It is our goal to use photography to tell the story of your wedding day, not dictate it for you.

Its How You Approach It

A candid is simply a photograph taken without the subject’s knowledge. And while a great deal of wedding images can be classified as candids, a selection of candids doesn’t mean you are a photojournalist.

Instead, a photojournalist prefers to head into a wedding with no expectations. No lists of pictures from the bride and groom. No self imposed lists of things you have to take. Instead, you show up and cover the day, showcasing whatever is presented to you in a unique way.

When you present it to your clients, its not about the individual images. Instead, its about the entire collection of photographs and how they hold together to tell the story of the day. You don’t present a file or a box of photos; instead you use the images to tell the story of the day. Some photos are designed to tell a piece of the story; others are designed to work together to show the idea. As the photojournalist, you are the director. Its up to you to share the “results” with your clients.

Its How You Educate

Your clients are confused by the noise. When they grab a wedding guide, they cruise through it and view page after page of photography ads, all showcasing their “photojournalism”. So the potential clients lose perspective and completely miss understand what photojournalism is.

If you really are a photojournalist, educate your prospects on what true photojournalism is. Create an entire brochure that explains it. When you meet with them, teach them the difference between the two. And when they head to your website, it should be filled with content educating your visitors on the differences.

Not everyone will resonate with it. And not everyone will be sold on the idea of hiring a photojournalist. But the key to your success is finding the right people that are attracted to you and can’t wait to have you shoot their weddings. They are out there. And once they figure out what you do and can put a name to their perfect idea of wedding photography, they will be completely sold on you.

Its How You Promote It

Is the word “photojournalism” overused? Definitely. Many people use it because it’s a buzzword people like. Brides and grooms like the idea of having a photographer on hand to document the day and capture the unique images amateurs can’t.

To me, one of the key details that separates the two types of photographers can be found in their packages. If a wedding package offers you a certain amount of images to select from, its impossible to be a photojournalist. Instead, this type of photographer “counts” the images as they go along. If they promise 250 images and they’ve hit that level at the beginning of the reception, they will tend to hang back in the woodwork and miss important images because they’ve reached their quota.

A package of unlimited photographs promotes photojournalism. How can you know how many images you’ll take before you witness the event? Explain this to a potential customer and they will immediately understand this. You’ll effectively eliminate all the competition that list their packages by image amount.

Okay, your turn. What else separates the two?

3 thoughts on “What Makes A Wedding Photojournalist Different Than A Wedding Photographer?”

  1. When I went to school we did real wedding photography…not this low talent ubsurd horse manore(being nice) nonsense you wedding photojournalists(dont even know where this term was invented in the wedding art world) I dont care but when I booked my daughter’s wedding (Im the dad …cant shoot)…it made me sick what I was paying good money for…..I would be ashamed of myself..(not the money)…. the low talent mockery of NewYork/Philadelphia Style Wedding Professionalsof the prestigious past…you make me sick….oh ..and it only take ONE photographer to do a WHOLE JOB….yes just ONE idiots!

  2. Sir, I believe your bad experience has led you to misinterpret this article. The wonderful thing about photography is that everyone has a different eye. Some clients want traditional wedding photography and some people are only interested in candid shots. I believe they were trying to say the photographers that take purely candid shots are likely to prefer and therefore shine in photojournalism. There is no wrong way or right way to take a photograph. Photography is art, and all art should be unique and appreciated. More thought should go into what people expect from the photographer, so you pick the right one for you.

  3. Wow Richard. Wow. It’s one thing to have an opinion, but to start calling people idiots, and taking a very SUBJECTIVE profession such as photography and reducing it to horse manure… well, I’m sorry. If you are truly a professional, you don’t bash other people’s work simply because it doesn’t fit your personal taste. It reminds me of when my parents complain about the music of today, and how it isn’t as good as the music “back in their day”.
    Styles change. People’s preferences change. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean the vast majority of the world has to hate it too. Why would you (or your daughter) book someone for her wedding that you guys didn’t like? There are plenty of photographers out there that shoot all different styles; not just photojournalistic. That just seems like bad planning to me or a lack of knowledge when it comes to the multitude of other styles of photography available you could have chosen that were more to your liking.
    Regardless, I bid you the best of luck with your more traditional wedding photography business/hobby. I’m sure there are other people that prefer your work over someone more contemporary… just as their are plenty of people who prefer a photojournalistic look more than what you’re in love with.
    All the best!


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