Wedding Photojournalism Q&A

An Interview With Wedding Photojournalist Dan Harris

Tell our readers what Wedding Photojournalism is?

DAN: The dictionary defines photojournalism as telling a story with pictures. Today there are more definitions of wedding photojournalism than there are photographers who truly practice it. Wedding photojournalism started when a bride hired a working newspaper photojournalist to cover her wedding and he did it just like he would any photo assignment using black and white film and unobtrusively documenting what really happened.

How is it different than regular wedding photography?

DAN: ‘Regular’ or traditional wedding photography has always involved lots of direction, posing and control by the photographer. The term Wedding Photojournalism was popularized by the Kennedy family photographer Denis Reggie. He categorizes unadulterated wedding photojournalism as photography that is captured without any control, influence or direction by the photographer.

What has made wedding photojournalism so popular today?

DAN: With so many wedding day plans and pressures many brides prefer their wedding day photography to be unobtrusive, spontaneous and natural. They prefer the photographs of the real moments captured that bring back real memories of what really happened rather than the staged or orchestrated ones.

Doesn’t every wedding photographer today offer wedding photojournalism?

DAN: Because of its popularity when asked if they offer photojournalistic photography most every wedding photographer will say yes. But what they offer may not be the same as what the bride had in mind. There is a lot of confusion in the marketplace and photography style terms abound. i.e.: Classical, Contemporary, Natural, Romantic, Photojournalistic, Documentary, Illustrative, Fashionable, Eclectic, Story-Telling, Dramatic, Artistic, Life-stylistic, Environmental, Fantasy, Fine-art, Elegant, Candid, etc. Any two photographers will use the same term to mean two different things.

How does a bride eliminate the confusion between the different styles and terms?

DAN: The bride really only needs to concern herself with two classifications of photography. 1) the staged type that requires pre-planning, setup and time out of your wedding-day schedule and 2) the type that occurs naturally during the course of your event without any interruption to your event timetable. Your preference in regards to these two classifications will determine how much time will be spent ‘posing for pictures’ (time away from your guests) on your wedding day and the type of photographer you should hire.What if a bride wants a mix of styles?

DAN: Every photographer has his own unique style and strengths. Some do a fantastic job of spontaneously capturing the decisive moments at an event, others have the talent to orchestrate a glamorous pose and no two are quite alike. Not many photographers are the best at both. Multiple photographers may help or they may just end up in each others pictures. It is critical to do extensive research into your photographer’s style to insure you know what they are really capable of and to insure you hire the right photographer to match your own style.

Do Wedding Photojournalists take formal group photographs?

DAN: Some will and some won’t. Over Fifty percent of the brides I work with request some type of group photographs. (Some formal and some casual) Our goal is to give our brides the highest quality natural-looking group photos in the least amount of time and have fun while doing it. We never go over the pre-planned time allowed for posed photos.

What are the advantages of Wedding Photojournalism?

DAN: The advantages include natural looking images, unobtrusive photographer, complete coverage, unexpected images and lots of photographs capturing real memories of what really happened. No interruption of your event timetable. ~ Less cheese.

What are the disadvantages of Wedding Photojournalism?

DAN: You won’t know in advance exactly what you are going to get. Not all real images are pretty! You may have some wasted shots.

What should a bride do to find the photographer who is right for her?

DAN: I have written a lengthy pamphlet on this subject. (Available online at: www.FreePhotography.info ) In regards to style, I think it is critical to see lots of images and complete albums from your potential photographer as this will give you a realistic view of what they can really do for you.

What about viewing images on a photographer’s website, literature and in their advertisements?

DAN: That’s a good place to start but you must go deeper than that because too often a photographer’s true capability is masked by the limited number of edited photographs they allow you to see. Ten of a photographer’s best edited photos from the past 10 years may not be a true representation of the type or style of actual images you will receive from your wedding day. You can prevent disappointment if you look at hundreds of images and several albums from your potential photographer as you will have a true and realistic understanding of their style and what they can do for you prior to hiring them.

What about digital wedding photography?

DAN: Professional high-definition digital cameras (DSLR w/10+ megapixels) in the hands of an experienced professional photographer (with extensive computer skills, software training and staff) can make great digital images that far exceed any photographic quality previously achieved from any other equipment or medium. The camera alone doesn’t make the photographer. Today there are a lot of inexperienced people who are experimenting as part-time photographers, although they may call themselves ‘professionals’ I would be cautious.

How can a bride prevent wedding vendor problems?

DAN: A bride should take the same logical steps they would in hiring any wedding-day vendor, check references (both previous clients and other wedding vendors) and verify insurance and licenses, check their Better Business Bureau report, make sure they are upstanding members of local support organizations and read the fine print on their contract and clarify everything in writing. I would pay with a credit card because they will work to insure you get what you pay for and will be your mediator if you have any problems.


Dan Harris is a member of the prestigious Wedding Photojournalist Association (www.wpja.com) a highly screened, critical organization of the world’s most talented wedding photojournalists. Less than 5% of all wedding photographers qualify for membership.( Members of WPJA have the goal of ‘telling the story of your wedding day, not dictating it for you’.) He is also a member of the National Press Photographers Association. For more information, please visit his website at www.GetRealPhotography.com or call Dan at (904) 398-7668 with your photography questions.