Styles 101: What is Documentary Photography?

Clients often aren’t aware of the intricacies of photography, especially when it comes to the multitude of styles out there that some professional photographers offer. To help them better understand the types of photography that can be illustrated in their carefully created images, this series of posts provides explanations and examples of every photography style listed in Photographer Central.

Documentary photography is used to chronicle events that can be historically significant or even part of a mundane routine. As a true representation of real life, photos are taken candidly and unprepared or unrehearsed. They often capture unexpected moments and actions of the subject matter in an unobtrusive manner.

Documentary photography is similar to photojournalism but doesn’t require the ethical framework necessary for news media. It’s also similar to reportage photography, which also captures events candidly from unobtrusive viewpoints, but within a planned framework. This type of photography has gained popularity as a style used in event photography.




Photo Credits: Red Bird Hills, Ryan Grae Photography, Craig Allyn Rose Photography, Redwall Photo, TJD Imaging


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