My approach: Documentary Style Wedding Photography

April 28, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

My approach: Documentary Style Wedding Photography


Your wedding shouldn’t be about the photos,

your photos should be about the wedding 

♡♡♡

Keep scrolling to see what a decade of wedding photography has taught me about taking memorable wedding day photos ...

Photographer Laura Crouchley against a sunny wall of red autumn leavesBristol Photographer Laura CrouchleyPortrait of photographer Laura Crouchley with her camera

About me: 

A documentary style photographer with over a decade of experience, specialising in fun, authentic and candid wedding photos. 

 

My photojournalistic style consists of 90% unscripted and unstaged photos, complimented by 10% portraits and group photos. To ensure creative and authentic wedding photos, I blend into the background capturing the genuine moments of your day as they naturally unfold.

Although based in the South West, I travel all over the UK and abroad for weddings and relish the variety of style and creativity that each couple brings. The eclectic variety from each wedding is reflected in my portfolio: from country weddings, reflecting my Devon roots, to city weddings (both big and small) from my time living in London, and now my adopted hometown of Bristol.

As a Bristol-based wedding photographer, I always make an effort to ensure my work is inclusive, as well as environmentally conscious. Whether you’re having an inner-city registry office ceremony followed by a pub reception, a country manor ceremony on a sprawling estate, or a fully outdoor service with bare feet and flower garlands, I delight in working with couples that share my values, are organised, relaxed and environmentally conscious. 

Wooden painted wedding sign at Paintworks in BristolWedding sign postPhoto of a wedding arrow sign at Paintworks Event Space in Bristol

Ultimately, the priority is ensuring you and your guests have an unforgettable day.

1. Planning is key🔑 
 

Provide a brief schedule of key events to ensure your photographer will be in the right place at the right time.

Remember to allow time for any couple photos (min. 30 minutes) or group snaps (30 min. for up to 6 shots).

On the day, your timings and essential details will be on my geeky lanyard so nothing is missed – let me know if there's anything else I should include.

  Wedding day blackboard for the order of the dayPhoto of blackboard wedding day order of the dayPhoto of a wedding day itinerary blackboard with the order of the day outside a church

❄️ Winter Weddings: 

Sunset is 3.30pm from November to January, so you will need to consider this when organising your ceremony time. 

🩶 Take a look at Milly & Stuart's elegant winter wedding at The Manor House, Castle Combe.

Bride and Groom laughing exchanging wedding rings during winter wedding ceremony at The Manor House in Castle CombeThe Manor House in Castle Combe couple exchanging wedding ringsBride and Groom exchanging wedding rings at The Manor House in Castle Combe

2. Getting ready photos are for everyone!

Getting ready photos are the opening chapter of the story of your day. They add depth to your wedding album and also allow your partner to see snaps of the day that might otherwise remain secret.

Whether together or separately, with family or friends, or just to take a moment in the limelight all by yourself!

It’s not for everyone, but it’s my favourite time to get authentic emotional photos, capturing the excitement, nerves, joy and anticipation.

It also allows me to meet the key players of the day and for everyone to get used to me being in the background 📷

Set of two images, left showing a bride looking at her reflection in a mirror whilst having her make up done during wedding preparations and one of groomsmen fixing their bow tiesWedding getting ready image setSet of two images. One of a bride's reflection during wedding day make up preparations and one of groomsmen fixing their bow ties

Things to remember:

⭐️ Allow at least two hours for snaps of everyone getting ready

⭐️ Leave enough time for hair and make up, presents, loved ones arriving, bubbly, travel time … and relaxing!

⭐️ Leave anything out that you would like photographed – I’ll spot it and snap it as is:

no moving, no staging, no rearranging.
 

Excited smiley bride getting ready at Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa in ChippenhamExcited Bride getting wedding readyBride getting ready for wedding ceremony at Lucknam Park Hotel & Spa in Chippenham

Consider whether you would like:

⭐️ Photos before your ceremony - dress going on, father of the newlywed's arrival, moments with family or core wedding party members

⭐️ Speech rehearsals 

⭐️ The photographer to travel with one of you to the ceremony / be at the ceremony venue to capture guests arriving

⭐️ Any other important shots (keep scrolling for more ideas!)

Set of two images of a bride with her friend helping her into her wedding dress at The Gothic Mansion in BristolBride getting into her wedding dressSet of two images of a bride getting into her wedding dress at The Gothic Mansion in Bristol

3. First Looks Photos

Whether it’s friends, family or fiancés, this modern wedding tradition offers one of the most impactful and yet intimate moments of the day, allowing you both to connect and savour.

Keep me informed and I'll discreetly capture these important moments for you.

138-Laura Crouchley138-Laura Crouchley

4. Ceremony Photography
There are lots of different ceremony styles, so keep your photographer informed so they can capture your special moments just as you envision them.
Whether and indoor wedding, outdoor wedding or something a little bit different … 

Click the links and pictures below for inspiration:

Bride and groom embracing in excitement during wedding vows at The Paintworks in BristolBride and groom ceremony celebratingBride and groom during wedding vows at The Paintworks in Bristol

🩶  Lucy & Dan 🩶 

Industrial Bristol wedding

 Paintworks Event Space


 

Bride and groom looking at each other during wedding ceremony in the glass conservatory at The Horniman Museum in LondonWedding at The Horniman Museum in LondonWedding ceremony in the glass conservatory at The Horniman Museum in London

🩶 Laura & Darryl 🩶

Elegant Victorian Conservatory wedding

The Horniman Museum and Gardens

Groom wipes a tear during brides words at outdoor wedding ceremony at Sturtlebury Barn in Devon Groom wiping a tear during wedding ceremonyGroom wiping a tear during outdoor wedding ceremony at Sturtlebury Barn in Devon

🩶 Jo & Tom🩶

Devon barn wedding 

Sturtlebury Barn

Keep in mind:

⭐ Some parts of your ceremony might be restricted from photography check the rules and regulations in advance (particularly for church weddings)

⭐ Capturing first looks during the ceremony may not always be feasible from the designated position of the photographer – find out in advance!

⭐ Registry ceremonies: there are often limits on numbers – ensure there is capacity for your photographer

⭐ Make sure readings are photographed by adding them to your schedule 

Image of bride and groom holding up wedding knot during outdoor wedding ceremony and a close up image of a hand fasting wedding ceremony Wedding ceremony set of two imagesTwo images of alternative wedding ceremonies

5. Leaving as newlyweds

If you plan to leave together down the aisle before your guests, this is the perfect time for you both to have a few special moments alone (but subtly papped), while your helpers hand out confetti and everyone else gets ready for the confetti shot.

Two images of newly wed couples. One of a bride and groom kissing in a tree house in Uffington and one of a couple embracing against a sunny yellow wall at the Paintworks in Bristol.Set of two newly wed imagesTwo images, one of a bride and groom kissing in a tree house and one of a couple embracing against a sunny yellow wall

6. Confettiquette / Confetti walk 🎉 

⭐️ If your venue permits confetti: ensure you have plenty of it – the more, the merrier! 

🫧 If your venue doesn't allow confetti: consider using bubbles!

Bubble guns are great for a lot of coverage and kids love it / get the kids to do the hard work!

⭐️ Nominate members of your wedding party to walk around with baskets – two handfuls per guest is best

⭐️ When you walk remember: 💐Heads up, bouquet down, and enjoy the confetti moment!🎉

Biodegradable confetti all the way!

🏆 Paper is #1 here as it’s not only the cheapest, but descends gracefully, provides a variety of colours, is cost-effective and most importantly, looks stunning!

🌸 Take some friends out to collect and dry flowers

🍂 Although not as photo-effective, a hole punch can be your best friend for an eco and economical solution:

try recycled or unwanted coloured paper, dried leaves, old birthday cards or wrapping paper ... 

The possibilities are endless, as well as planet and budget-friendly! Two images, left of wedding day confetti being thrown at a bride and groom at sturtlebury barn in Devon. Right image of bubbles blown at bride and groom outside St Andrew's church in Castle CombeConfetti and bubbles wedding photosTwo images, one of guests throwing confetti at a bride and groom in a field and one of guests blowing bubbles at bride and groom outside a church

🎉 Adamapple Confetti and Flutter Darlings
are a fantastic examples of how beautiful biodegradable confetti can be 🎉

7. (In)Formal Photos 

Whether it’s reception photography or group photos, make the most of everyone being together, but remember:

⭐️ They affect the schedule and timings: allow 30 mins for a maximum of 6 group photo variations (family, in-laws group etc.)

⭐️ This is also the only time you should really notice or look directly at the camera (if you want to)

⭐️ Some prefer a quick and straightforward approach, others want to turn these moments into something more special and personalised – think about what you would like beforehand

⭐️  Formal doesn’t have to mean boring or stiff: they can be fun, playful moments in motion, jumping, laughing, dancing... Bride wearing sunglasses, a sequin shining cape and holding a beer laughing with her bridesmaids being silly behind a brick wallFun bridesmaids wedding group photoBride laughing with bridesmaids being silly behind a wall

Left image of a family of eight people including a bride and groom at a wedding at Clifton collage in Bristol. Right image of a bride and her four bridesmaids laughing whilst walking around Paintworks Event Space in BristolWedding day alternative relaxed style group photosTwo images of wedding day group photos. One a family on a bench at Clifton Collage in Bristol and one of bridemaids having fun at the Paintworks Event Space in Bristol

Top tips for fun "formal" wedding photos:

⭐️ Keep them quick and relaxed so everyone can get back to celebrating

⭐️ After the ceremony and before the meal is the best time for group photos

⭐️ Nominate someone to gather and organise everyone- think about who or what you want to photograph while planning your day

⭐️ Most importantly: Allow enough time!

4 bridesmaids and a bride walking along a windy hill top view of Noss Mayo in Devon at a wurzell wedding Bridesmaids walking on hillside view of Noss Mayo DevonBride and her bridesmaids walking along hill top on wedding day at wurzell weddings in Noss Mayo, Devon

Please note: unless you have given prior instruction for particular groups, individuals or shots, the rest of the day will be documentary style photography to capture warm and natural photos.

Five bridesmaids in coral linen dresses with their bouquets laughing with a bride at a wedding in Coggeshall EssexGroup bride with bridesmaid photoBride and her five bridesmaids laughing

8. Travel

Although it’s ideal to keep travel to a minimum on your big day, if it's unavoidable make it part of the day!

Take the opportunity to capture some intimate photos of you as newlyweds while guests make their way to the reception venue.

If your ceremony and reception venues are at different locations, let me know about any travel moments you would like captured. Guests wave off newly married couple driving away in a blue Bettle car from their wedding ceremony at Ugborough Church in DevonChurch wedding day bride and groom car send off Bride and groom waved off in their blue beetle car on wedding day outside Ugborough Church in Devon

Newly married couple driving through the hills of Uffington in Oxfordshire with a just married sign on the back of their 4 x 4Newly weds in 4 x 4 driving down a country roadNewly married couple driving through the green hills of Uffington in Oxfordshire

9. Time for just the two of you

Set aside some time for a couples portrait session and enjoy a private moment to soak it all in. These moments should be fun photos  — relaxed and as natural as possible — bellies full and bubbles in hand!

Bride and Groom walking hand in hand in the sunset along the Wembury coastline in Devon on the evening of their wedding day at Wurzell Weddings Bride and groom sunset walk along the Devon coast of Wembury BeachBride and groom walking in the sunset along the coast of Wembury in Devon

Tips:

⭐️ Take a walk together, grab a bite, snuggle up …

⭐️ The more time you allocate for couple photos, the better and more relaxed the shots are - I recommend at least 30 minutes (more for a different location)

⭐️ Golden hour can be a magical time for these (about an hour before sunset)

⭐️ Different times of the day give different lighting: consider having couples photos while your guests are being seated for dinner, and then again after food and before sunset

⭐️ Although the style of photography is still documentary, lightly guiding (not posing!) couples makes for incredible photos

Silhouette image of a Bride and Groom walking hand in hand in the sunset along the Wembury coastline in Devon on the evening of their wedding day at Wurzell Weddings Sunset silhouette of Bride and Groom in Wembury DevonBride and Groom walking hand in hand in the sunset along the Wembury coastline in Devon on the evening of their wedding day at Wurzell Weddings

10. In-between moments: an opportunity, not a chore!

Savour these little pockets of free time to mingle with guests, play games, and have heaps of hugs and giggles. 

Allowing time to mingle with your family and friends makes the most of spontaneous interactions that not only make your day, but create cherished memories and authentic photos.

Left image of a bride hugging a guest on her wedding day with the guest shedding a tear. Right image of a bride and a wedding guests arms huggingWedding day In-between moments setSet of two images of wedding day moments of brides embracing wedding guests with hugs

11. Speeches & reception photography 

To get the best of your speech photos, consider a well-lit location for the speakers, preferably with natural light to enhance visibility in your photos.

Keep your wedding photographer up to speed, to allow them to optimise the lighting and composition, resulting in memorable and visually appealing speech photos.

Let me know: 

⭐️ Number of speeches

⭐️ Scheduled timing

⭐️ Chosen location

⭐️ Any other surprises to be ready for! Left image of a bride and groom laughing during speeches at a wedding in Uffington Oxfordshire. Right image of a bride and groom during bridesmaids speeches at a wedding at Manor Farm, Upton Cheyney near BristolWedding day speeches setSet of two images of Bride and grooms during wedding day speeches

For your own sake, get the speeches over and done with!

Give the speakers and yourselves a break by doing them early – if speeches are peppered between courses you may not have a full house for the funniest and most meaningful / emotional moments.

12. Food

Who wants their photo taken while eating? No one. So this is a great time to capture pictures of your cake, venue, and surroundings, before taking a brief pause to put my cameras down and grab a bite myself. I always come prepared with on-the-go snacks, but I genuinely appreciate any food provided by your caterers.

If it's important to you to have food pictures — especially if it's homemade by you, family, or friends — give me a heads up, and I'll make sure to capture some great foodie photos.

Left image of wedding guests sharing tapas at a wedding at the Mud Duck in Bristol. Right image of a plate of canapés at a wedding at the Paintworks in BristolFood at weddings setSet of two images of food at weddings

 

13. Surprises

Keep me up to speed on planned surprises so they don’t get missed - it’s easy to lose track of time on the day!

Ideas:

🎉 Confetti cannons

🎇 Sparklers

🎆 Fireworks

🥸 Special guests

Read my Creating Incredible Wedding Photos blog if you're looking for inspiration for great wedding day surprises.

But ... not all surprises are welcome or planned! 

Yes, we’re talking about rain.

Well, we are in the UK, and it’s particularly relevant if you’re planning an outdoor or country wedding.

If it happens on your day, don't stress … embrace it – it can make for some incredible wedding photos!

Imagine:

🍃 Veils blowing in the wind 

☂️ Cosy group photos under umbrellas   

🌧️Dancing in the rain!

Left image of a bride and groom on their wedding day in the rain under an umbrella by the Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol with a runner passing by congratulating them. Right image of a bride and groom stood in a doorway under an umbrella at Tracey Park in BristolRainy wedding day setSet of two images of bride and grooms on rainy wedding days in Bristol

I'm not afraid to step out and capture those moody rainy moments!

Have umbrellas at the ready and indoor rainy day plans ready (as I will), and just enjoy it.

Left image of a bride being carried in the rain sheltered under an umbrella by groomsmen from a church wedding ceremony in Bristol. Right image of groomsmen making silly faces against a rainy window at Tracey Park wedding venue in Bristol Rainy wedding day fun photosTwo black and white images from a rainy wedding day in Bristol

14. Keeping wedding traditions alive

Cutting of the cake and first dance snaps can sometimes feel a bit outdated, staged, and awkward, but they don’t have to be. If you wish to include these traditional photos in your celebration, consider adding a more relaxed and informal touch:

🍰 Cake cutting:

It can be a tad underwhelming, so if you go for it, make sure it’s well-positioned and amidst a lively group of guests to make it an exciting moment for everyone to take part in! Whether it’s homemade or at the pricier end of the scale, make sure you eat and enjoy it! 

🕺🏼 First dance:

The same applies here, so bring in confetti cannons, get the wedding party to encourage guests to join you on the dance floor, and perhaps even throw in a conga line! 

💐 Bouquet toss:

One tradition that never fails to bring joy and create a captivating photo

These moments don’t have to feel traditional or predictable – mix things up and celebrate in style while leaving a lasting impression! 

Left image of a bride feeding her groom some wedding cake on their wedding day with Wurzel Weddings in Noss Mayo, Devon. Right image of a bride mid throwing her wedding day bouquet with girls scrambling to catch it.Wedding day traditions image Set of two images of wedding day traditions of cake cutting and the bouquet throw

Bride and Groom on wedding day dancing in the barn at the Manor Farm, Upton CheyneyBride and Groom first danceBride and groom during their first dance in the barn at Manor Farm in Upton Cheyney near Bristol

Most important things to remember:

⭐️ A bit of forward planning goes a long way: 

⭐️ Good clear communication with your wedding photographer 

⭐️ Have fun and do it your way! 

The best piece of advice is to keep your day flowing and keep your

photographer in the loop so they never miss a moment!

Working together beforehand creates a smooth day, flowing beautifully, with magical and authentic moments captured. It means you can leave me to it and rest assured that I know exactly what’s happening and when.

The best photos are when you forget I’m there, so as your photographer, my aim is for you to simply forget about me on the day – there’s enough to think about!

 

Love, 

Laura x

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Feel free to get in touch


 


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