Ask The Experts: The Shutter-Bug

Overly posed photos are as outdated as whalebone corsets. A former shooter for newspapers and magazines explains the reporter's approach.

wedding photographer

Photograph by David Yellen

BROWSING PHOTOGRAPHERS’ WEBSITES AND ONLINE BIOS, you’d think everyone was a “photojournalist.” But while many claim to do this style of photography, not all deliver. Eric Barry, a Wellesley-based wedding shooter with professional news and editorial chops, is the real McCoy. We asked him to dish on the trend’s appeal — and offer hints to help you distinguish the pro from the faux.

Everyone seems to say their approach is photojournalistic. What’s the real deal?
In short, it’s getting shots as they happen instead of making people pose. I don’t know why, but it’s become a catchword these past few years. The majority of wedding photographers may not have real news experience, but many of them now say they shoot that way.

[sidebar]You’ve actually earned a living as a freelance photojournalist. What did that teach you?
It taught me to capture emotion in pictures: If I couldn’t do that, my images wouldn’t make the newspapers. Now when I shoot weddings, I approach them more as a documentarian. It’s my job to record those tiny, poignant moments that would have been lost otherwise.

Why did you switch from journalism to shooting weddings?
As an event photographer, I can do a little of everything. When I’m shooting with just the bride and groom, there’s a touch of fashion photography. When the bride and groom are having their first dance, I get to act as a sports photographer. Then when I’m shooting bouquets or rings, I’m doing a still life. If we’re at a golf course, I even get to do a little landscape photography.

Does having a news background affect your wedding-day manner?
When I worked for newspapers, I couldn’t interact with or influence my subjects, which made my work appear more spontaneous and natural. So on the big day, I try to remain anonymous, shoot from a distance, and let the couple enjoy their time without harassing them for smile after fake smile.

If the shooter is taking a more journalistic approach, then the bride won’t have time to, say, suck in her tummy, right?
Generally, I like to get to know my couples as models beforehand. That way, I understand how to photograph them when we get to the wedding. One of the ways I do this is by offering an engagement session. We usually do an environmental shoot, maybe in Beacon Hill or the Back Bay. I see it as a trial run — but the whole time, I’m noticing whether someone has a double chin, or whether the groom tends to squint when he smiles.

So are the requisite family portraits a thing of the past?
Not at all, but with a little planning, we can get the results you want. For starters, what style do you like? Do you want your portraits to be very formal, or do you want something a bit more fun? So we’ll look at samples. We’ll outline the shots the couple wants. And on game day, we’ll stick to the list we’ve prepared together.