Ask a wedding photojournalist or documentary wedding photographer what their perfect assignment would be, and I’m pretty sure it would involve no, or very few posed, wedding group photos. There’s a number of reasons for this.
Firstly, it’s quite a specialism to do high quality, well lit, perfectly posed group photographs. It takes time to arrange and set up, and often takes an assistant or two to help out. All of this goes against the very nature of unobtrusive documentary wedding photography. Most quality wedding photojournalists would rather put their time and efforts into their specialism – watching people and composing beautiful candid photographs.
Secondly, the more time a photographer spends shooting those formal photographs, the less time they have to look for the interesting images that drew the couple to that photographer in the first place. And the usual time for those formal pictures is right after the ceremony, when the best reportage photography can be done.
And thirdly, if everyone at the wedding sees the photographer taking a lot of posed group photographs, they are encouraged to seek some posed pictures from the photographer themselves. This can be a nightmare situation for a wedding photojournalist – to be stopped every 30 seconds during the reception and asked to take a quick picture of a group of friends.
But the best documentary wedding photographers can cleverly look for the kind of wedding group photos that work within the story telling aspect of the photography, as well as show the relationships and friendships between the guests. By watching the interactions and waiting for the right moment you can still get beautiful photographs of groups of people which will have more meaning to the bride and groom than the same group standing together looking at the camera. Like this photograph from a beautiful Sauternes destination wedding in France. The bride is having her hair finished, with four bridesmaids all in the same frame, all doing something different. Years later, this photograph will be much more effective at evoking the feelings of the day for the bride than a formal group photograph would.