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now booking 2025 oahu + destination weddings. inquire for availability

oahu wedding photographer

digital | film

now booking 2025 oahu + destination weddings. inquire for availability

oahu wedding photographer

digital | film

MENTORSHIPS

GUIDES & TEMPLATES

Seeking Documentary-Style Wedding Coverage? Here’s How to Craft Your Ideal Wedding Timeline

Documentary style wedding photography has had a recent strong resurgence in the wedding industry. It’s a style that dates back to the 1800s, but it’s definitely trending, and for good reason. Imagine your wedding day captured in its purest form: your grandma’s tears as she sees you in your dress for the first time, the flower girls eating cake with their hands, the pure joy after your ceremony, and, of course, the barefoot dancing when everyone is buzzing from champagne. Point is, documentary style forgoes the fake and orchestrated, and encourages raw and real. But how can you plan your timeline in the most effective way to make sure no important moments are missed? Let’s find out.

Benefits of Documentary-Style Photos

So what is documentary style photography exactly? Unlike traditional wedding photography, which often relies on staged shots, documentary photography is about capturing the authentic, unscripted moments that tell the true story of your day. It’s about preserving the emotions, the atmosphere, and the tiny details that might otherwise go unnoticed. As a wedding photographer, I have captured some of the most special wedding photos, and I would say the most authentic moments are my favorites. If you are looking into documentary style photos for your big day, here are some great reasons why it might be perfect for you.

Capturing the Details to Tell A Cohesive Story

Documentary wedding photography excels in seizing the spontaneous, heartfelt moments that occur organically. A great documentary wedding photographer knows how to capture the dramatic moments and all of the beautiful things that unfold in between; stolen glances, the nerves and laughter during the ceremony, the soft light playing on your wedding dress, and the ambient flickering of string lights over the reception. Documentary wedding photography is an art form for those who live and breathe it.

Reliving Emotions

Looking back at your wedding gallery, you won’t see perfect poses or curated moments. A documentary wedding photographer will never orchestrate a scene for the sake of the photo. Instead, you’ll find yourself transported back to those exact moments, feeling the same emotions you did on that day. These photos have a timeless quality that traditional wedding photography often cannot achieve.

The Importance of a Well-Planned Wedding Timeline

4.13.24 Stevie + Cody Wedding

4.13.24 Stevie + Cody Wedding
4.13.24 Stevie + Cody Wedding
4.13.24 Stevie + Cody Wedding

A well-structured wedding timeline is crucial, especially when aiming for documentary-style wedding photography. This timeline acts as a backbone for your entire day, ensuring that everything runs smoothly and that there’s enough time to capture each significant moment. Without it, the day can become chaotic, leading to rushed moments, missed photo opportunities, and an overall frazzled photographer and couple.

Crafting the Perfect Timeline

Here’s a sample timeline covering ten hours: from 12 noon to 10:00 pm, with a first-look included. While this is a good example, every wedding day is different, and presents its own unique quirks. It’s essential to review and adjust your schedule with your planner and your photographer according to your specific needs and preferences. Based on my experience from the hundreds of weddings that I have documented, here’s my suggestions on how we can make sure that your documentary-style wedding photos can be captured smoothly.

Preparation (2 hours)

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM: We will start your day with the preparation shots. This is when the excitement builds up. This is typically the time where I will document the details of the venue, the final touches, and the anticipation for what’s to come. This is also usually when the parents stop by and see you for the first time, one of the sweetest moments on a wedding day.

First Look (30 minutes)

2:00 PM – 2:30 PM: A first look is a beautiful, intimate moment where the couple sees each other before the ceremony. It’s a chance to capture the raw emotions of this special encounter, providing some of the most touching photos of the day.

Couple Portraits (1 hour)

2:30 PM – 3:30 PM: With the first look complete, we will move on to couples portraits. Although documentary style focuses on candid moments, this is a good time for some lightly posed shots, ensuring you have a few classic portraits in your collection.

Wedding Party Photos (30 minutes)

3:30 PM – 4:00 PM: This is when I will capture the fun and camaraderie of your wedding party. These photos are often full of laughter and excitement, adding to the joyful narrative of your day.

Ceremony (1 hour)

4:00 PM – 5:00 PM: The ceremony is the heart of your wedding day. During this time, I will document your walk down the aisle, your exchange of vows, and your very first kiss. I know from experience that these moments are packed with emotion and significance and should be captured nicely and treasured forever.

Family Photos (30 minutes)

5:00 PM – 5:30 PM: Post-ceremony, we will take a brief moment for some family photos. While the documentary style is about candid shots, it’s important to include these cherished family moments, because after all, they are a once in a lifetime experience and grandma needs something for her mantle 🙂

Cocktail Hour (1 hour)

5:30 PM – 6:30 PM: During cocktail hour, your guests will mingle and celebrate. This is a great opportunity for me to capture candid interactions and the vibrant atmosphere of your reception. It’s when most special interactions happen between friends and family and I will always be on the lookout for those organic, fun, and emotional moments. This will also be the time when I capture reception details unobstructed by guests.

Reception and Dinner (2 hours)

6:30 PM – 8:30 PM: Your wedding reception is full of many special and memorable moments – your grand entrance as a couple, speeches from friends and family, and your first dance together as a couple. I will make sure that these key highlights are documented to tell the full story of your day. 

Dancing and Celebration (1 hour)

8:30 PM – 9:30 PM: As the night progresses, the dance floor opens up, and the celebration kicks into high gear. During this time, I will capture the joy, the laughter, and the spirited dancing that make the night unforgettable. This is the part of the day where I can immortalize most of the laughs and happy tipsy faces from your family and friends.

Exit (30 minutes)

9:30 PM – 10:00 PM: We will end your coverage with your grand exit. Whether it’s a sparkler send-off, a fireworks display, or a romantic getaway, this final chapter completes your wedding story. Though this is the last part of your special day, I will make sure to keep an eye out (and my camera of course!) on any special interaction that can happen to make sure that nothing is missed!

Tips for Achieving Perfect Documentary-Style Photos

4.13.24 Stevie + Cody Wedding

4.13.24 Stevie + Cody Wedding
Documentary-style wedding photos captured by Masha Sakhno Photo.
4.13.24 Stevie + Cody Wedding

With your documentary-style wedding coverage planned up to the last minute, let’s now take a look at some tips that you can follow to make sure that we will achieve the best shots for your documentary-style wedding photos.

Allow More Coverage

To achieve a comprehensive documentary style engagement photos collection, choose a minimum of 10 hours of photographic coverage. Longer coverage time means I can capture every moment of your special day without feeling rushed, and you don’t feel obligated to “perform” because “the photographer is leaving soon”. This ensures the perfect shot and avoids any sense of being hurried, allowing the day to unfold naturally.

Stay Present

You should focus on enjoying your day rather than worrying about the camera (I will promise to be as discreet as possible!). The best documentary wedding photographer will capture photos where the subjects are fully immersed in the moment, and I can assure you that I will do just that. With you staying present in the events of your wedding, it will help me to capture genuine emotions and avoid awkward posing. This will give us photographs that are honest and authentic.

Communicate with Your Photographer

In order for us to work together effectively, you should share with me any specific details on your timeline and all the special moments that you want to be captured. Of course, we will do a lot of discussions before your big day and this important information can help me to plan accordingly and ensure nothing is missed. Clear communication will greatly help in creating an unforgettable experience, and ensure that every real moment is beautifully documented.

Embrace Spontaneity

Some of the best documentary photos happen when you least expect them. That’s why I would advice you to embrace the spontaneous moments, and don’t be afraid to let your emotions show. This candid approach will allow me to capture the natural – and sometimes unexpected – moments and stunning images that will be cherished forever.

Trust Your Photographer

As your wedding photographer, you should trust me to do my job and allow me to work creatively and capture the most authentic moments of your day. A skilled documentary photographer knows how to blend into the background and capture the essence of the event without interfering, ensuring the most genuine and beautiful moments are preserved.

Crafting an effective wedding timeline tailored to documentary-style wedding photography ensures that every beautiful, genuine moment of your special day is captured. By allowing ample time for each segment of your wedding and focusing on the experience rather than the photos, you’ll create a timeless collection of memories to cherish forever.

How to Choose your Documentary-Style Photographer

You’ll know in an instant if a photographer is right for you. When you look through their portfolio, you’ll have a connection to their style and the way they tell a wedding story. Consider how this fits with your personal style and desire for your wedding.

You need to be confident in who you hire; a documentary photographer should never be over-directed – the result is always a staged picture, which is the exact opposite of the feel we are trying to achieve.

At Masha Sakhno Photo, I specialize in a distinct artistic style that focuses on honest storytelling, with a bit of editorial drama. If you are seeking wedding photography services, I encourage you to take a look through my website and portfolio. If you feel my work and my words align with your vision, I invite you to inquire to see if I am available to tell your wedding story. 

Planning a wedding in Hawaii? Check out my Best Oahu Wedding Venues for the Modern Couple

I’m Masha, a wedding, elopement and couples photographer based in sunny Hawaii, & often found serving couples worldwide.

If you're looking for a meaningful, cinematic and editorial approach to photography-something effortless but still iconic, you're in the right place. I am so excited to hear more about your story and create and collaborate with you.

Let's chat, I can't wait to hear everything you are dreaming up.

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