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What is Documentary Photography?

So, you're planning the big day in Kansas City, looking for that elusive blend of documentary photography and those posed moments. It's a tale as old as time, or at least as old as the last wave of wedding trends. Everyone says they want documentary shots, but ask what that really means, and you'll get as many answers as there are grains of sand on a Missouri riverbank.

For us pros, documentary isn't just a fancy word—it's about capturing the real deal, unfiltered and unposed. It's like the photojournalism of old, where the camera tells the story without interference. No staging, no cheesy grins on command—just raw, authentic moments frozen in time.

But here's the rub: many couples want that authentic vibe without fully grasping what goes into it. They crave the candid shots, the ones where love and laughter flow naturally, but often forget their own role in the mix. Let's face it, not everyone's a natural in front of the lens, effortlessly smooching and cuddling for the perfect shot. (Though hey, if you are, kudos to you.)

Take, for instance, a recent soirée at The Corrigan Station rooftop, courtesy of Skyline & Co in downtown Kansas City, MO. Feast your eyes on the snapshots—some pure documentary gold, others technically staged to capture just the right angle. Can you tell which is which?

Whether you're dreaming of a documentary-style affair or aiming for a curated collection of posed perfection, understanding the nuances can make all the difference.

Whether you decide you love the fully unposed and undirected, or know you want a mix, be sure to let your photographer know that's the feel you want. You can tell us more about the vibe you want for your photos, and we will help guide you.


The Unapologetically Different Photographer

The below shot is fully documentary. The photographer did not set this scene, nor was it directed in anyway. The moment is only noted - documented.

In this behind the scenes look, photographer Lauren catches both the couple and photographer Court in laid back, mid discussion candid portrait. This is a documentary image.

The next image is a great candidate for documentary style - and this is often what our clients think of as documentary. However, it is not. This was a set scene with posing, and then instructions and prompts are given to bring out a natural response.

While Erin is looking directly at the camera, this image is actually full documentary. The subject is caught frozen looking dead on, yet the world is still happening around it.

This is absolutely not in anyway documentary photography. This whole scene is carefully produced, down to the furniture arrangements.

This image is beautifually in the documentary photography genre.

Nope, still not documentary. Although the couple is playing in to each other, and not the camera, and a more looky-loo approach is taken, this is a posed shot.

This image was directed by the lead photographer, and captured by the secondary. There's a very natural feel to the image, however it is a posed photo.

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