cody harris

A Nashville Wedding Photographer’s take on what “Documentary Wedding Photography” is.

A Nashville Wedding Photographer’s take on what “Documentary Wedding Photography” is.

I believe my only job is to document the

Reality of a wedding day.

I believe my only job is to document the

Reality of a wedding day.

WHAT DOES

"Documentary"

MEAN?

In the last few years, the term “Documentary” has become a buzz word in the wedding photography world, leaving many (myself included) to have to define what that even means. Some would define it as being purely “hands off” and a fly on the wall on wedding days while others, such as myself may welcome a more nuanced way of thinking about documentary wedding photography. For me, being a documentary wedding photographer is so much more than just a stylistic preference. I think what’s most important is how I define it for myself and communicate that to the people that I want to work with. All that to say, I wanted to create a resource completely based on my perspective and share my heart + mindset when approaching a wedding day. 

THINGS I DON'T DO

Stage or recreate moments

Stiff or overly directional posing 

Pull you away from your celebration for “photo ops”

Make a photoshoot out of your wedding day

I wanted to lead with the things I don’t do because as you can see, these are essentially my only major boundaries for my style. I like to think of this as my way of saying “If you’re heavily wanting these things, we may not be a good fit.” There’s nothing wrong with these things at all, either. Some people want a highly directive, more artistic/editorial approach at their wedding photos. Some people just want someone to make them look hot. Some want to be pulled away if the photographer has this crazy photo op idea. I actually used to be more of that type of photographer. 

As my values shifted and I felt the ease in the approach I have now, I eventually realized I was more inspired by the moments that naturally happened and wanted to continue to build my sensitivity to the interactions that were happening around me without my intervention. 

The truth is, I believe my style is less about what I do and don’t do and more about the sensibility and mindset that I have coming into a wedding day. I want to co-create with the reality in front me rather than be overly exclusive to any approach. Sometimes that means the wedding party is asking the bride and groom to run through a human tunnel while they cheer. Sure, that’s as staged as it gets technically. But if they ask for it, that also means it happened and that’s just as real as anything else I could capture. 

The difference is, I don’t come into wedding days with all of these ideas, prompts and things that want to try. My opinion doesn’t really matter. I don’t have to live with these images the rest of my life. 

But you do. 

 

WHAT I BELIEVE A

Documentary Wedding Photographer

DOES

Leaves space for the unexpected
Every wedding day is different. In the past few years, I've found more joy in coming into a wedding day with more curiosity rather than having opinions about how things should feel or go. My favorite wedding days are the ones that leave room for real interactions rather than the entire bit of "free time" being used to get photos. I love when a couple actually has time to mingle with their people and let the reality of that bring the most beautiful and unexpected moments.
Practices nonjudgement
I believe it’s my job as a wedding photographer to look for the beauty in what’s in front of me rather than constantly trying to change, manipulate or create it. I'm not even here to get specific types of moments. I'm just here to live in the reality of your wedding day and find the beauty in all of the moments, both big & small.
Reads the room
Something I like to practice is just simply noticing the energy and interactions around me. I’m constantly evaluating the relationship dynamics around me in an effort to anticipate moments that may happen throughout the day with these people. This is a huge reason why I love being in a getting ready space and documenting an entire wedding day. It gives me access to create trust and get familiar with your people and your most intimate relationship dynamics.
Creates safety
I believe a sense of security and safety are one of the greatest gifts a photographer can brings to their couples & guests. I believe a photographer who takes more of an observational approach to capturing moments is going to carry a natural openness that brings ease to the people around them. I believe the lack of expectations, presence of non judgement and the want to document the day thoughtfully & honestly carries an energy of lightness that naturally creates safety.
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I believe the person you choose has the greatest impact on not only your images but your wedding experience as a whole.

There seems to be a common misconception that everyone that shoots in a documentary style is essentially this fly on the wall that is partially removed from the day in a sense. While I see that’s true for some people, I find that my approach couldn’t be further from that. Sure, there are times in which I’m trying to not be seen or heard, but I also find that it’s just as valuable for me to still be enmeshed in the day at times as well. Being around you and your people, conversing, sharing laughs and hearing stories of you both fuels my ability to create comfort for you and your guests. I never want to feel like the stranger with the camera and want you people to feel the freedom to be themselves around me. 

 

But deeper than all of this, I want a relationship with the people I work with. And in that, I want to define what that relationship looks like and why it’s important. I feel this aspect of what I do is less rooted in the amount of time we spend together and more about the intentionality of the relationship we create. In choosing someone to come closely document your most intimate moments with all of your favorite people, I believe it should be someone you feel deeply comfortable with. You choose your bridesmaids, your guests and the people you want to surround you based on how you want to feel. Why should your vendors be any different? You only have one wedding day and I can’t think of anything better than being able to fully be YOU in every moment without hesitation or concern. 

WHAT IS A

"Candid"

PHOTO?

Often times when I’m going into initial meetings with couples, I find that many of them have no idea what to ask their potential wedding photographers. And in their defense, how would they even know what to ask having never really done this before? However, there’s always one question I encourage couples to ask the photographer. 

 “How were these images created?” 

I always love answering this question even if it’s not asked because I believe the process of creating these images for my couples is just as important if not more important than the final result.

I’d want to know how much direction takes place to achieve the results I’m looking at in someone’s portfolio. Did their photographer prompt their wedding party to laugh five times to get that one photo or what that photo truly “caught in the moment?” Make no mistake, there’s no way that’s “better.” I truly believe this comes down to how you want to experience your wedding day and only you can answer that question. 

Do you want candid images that happened completely naturally or  are you okay with photos that may look candid but could have been artificially influenced?

When your wedding day comes around, are you going to enjoy the process of how the images are created? What’s priority for you when you think about your wedding and how does your wedding photographer aid in helping you have that?

I believe a “candid” photo is a photo taken where there is no outside influence, direction or coercion that leads to the final result. 

I believe candid images are made with the intention of documenting the honesty of a wedding day, in all it’s peaks, valleys and the seemingly mundane in-between. 

I believe these images are created through thoughtful observation  with an intention of my presence not influencing the outcome. 

Give Me

THE REAL STUFF

My life has drastically shifted and changed since I first started photographing weddings in 2014. Being a wedding photographer has taught me more about life and myself than almost anything. The biggest thing being how incredibly special life and the people in our lives are. It’s taught me how perfect the moment right in front of us is, regardless of how it “looks.” It’s also taught me to not take life so seriously and to just enjoy it for what it is.

Hey, I'm Cody!

Hey, I'm Cody!