I have touched on this topic briefly in the past but after this (almost finished) busy season of weddings, I feel that I am going to need to make this a full post on its own. **I have added onto this in 2009 after more experiences with guest photographers**
When it comes to your wedding, the only people more excited about that day is your guests. Your friends, family and loved ones have watched you both fall in love, get engaged and now they are getting to see the end of your fairytale – your marriage. As a photographer, I completely understand their zest for wanting to get a million pictures of the two of you throughout the day and capturing your moments so they can cherish them forever. However, sometimes that guest gets a bit overzealous in their quest for images and I am seeing that this can often compromise the end result in images for the couple from me. As my priority is getting the best images possible every day that I shoot – I feel that I am going to have to become a bit meaner when it comes to your guests shooting alongside of me.
I am not saying that I will not allow other cameras to be present when I am shooting. I know and completely understand that your guests will want to bring their cameras to the event and shoot at will! Up until this point I have never asked a guest to put away a camera because they are invited guests and that isn’t my place. However, I may have to start requesting that they stop when it impedes on my work and I want my couples to be informed as to why I would do this. It isn’t my intention to offend anyone, but I also want to make sure that you get what you paid for and that someone didn’t spoil the end result for you. Being a professional means that I know how to work around many situations – but as you will read – sometimes there is only so much that I can do to work around the guest photographer. If you know that one of your guests tends to be a bit overzealous when it comes to their camera and events – perhaps you can ask them to take the night off and enjoy the day. Not only will it help me out – it may let them actually enjoy the wedding instead of feeling like at the end of the day they just worked for free!
These is all true stories from either an event of mine or another photographer that I am friends with. It sounds absurd but it does happen, a LOT.
The Ceremony I absolutely do not mind when guest photographers take shots from the aisle or stand up every now and again to get their shot. The problem starts when the guest photographer gets up, leaves their seat (or never takes one) and runs around the event area taking shots at will. There are just a few problems that occur…
- Since the guest photographer hasn’t spoken with the officiant, they may not know the rules of the church (some do/don’t allow flash photography, or photographers to be in certain areas of the church). Officiants have and will stop ceremonies to point out when photographers are in the wrong – even if they aren’t the paid photographers.
- The first place that guest photographers go is the altar. I don’t know why that is or why anyone would ever dream of going up there, but they do. This is a ‘no fly zone’ for me and unless there is an unobtrusive way of me to be there and out of sight (typically outdoors far behind with a zoom lens) I do not go on the altar. When a guest photographer gets on the altar, not only is it disruptive to you, your officiant and the guests – it also becomes virtually impossible for me to shoot an image without that person in it. I have had guests literally stand at the altar behind the couple and in front of the couple right on the altar. Since I do not have go-go-Gadget Legs, I cannot shoot around them without getting them in the picture.
- When it comes to shooting a ceremony, I have a method to my madness. Although it may appear to those watching that I am running around like a chicken with its head cut off, I really do know what I’m after. For certain parts of the ceremony, I know what angles look best and where I need to be to get those shots. The ‘big kahuna’ of these shots is ‘The Kiss’ which every bride wants the standard shot straight up the aisle. If there is a guest standing in front of them at the altar or in the aisle ahead of me, that shot is NOT going to be one they are going to be able to place on their mantle (unless they understand Aunt Sally and can laugh at it with a good sense of humor!). However from any other angle than straight on, that shot looses something because you can’t see either the bride or groom’s face.
- If the guest photographer is part of your bridal party, I beg of you to ask them to at least wait until the ceremony is over. I have had weddings where a bridesmaid and/or groomsman has shot pictures during the ceremony and I can’t really begin to describe how hard it is to shoot around that.
The Formals This is about the only time where I really prefer that guests do not bring out their cameras for the reasons below. If there is a lot of guest photographers I will ask them to at least hold their shots until I am finished but this is rarely paid attention to when I request it.
- The first major issue with the guest photographer at formals is the eyes. You are naturally going to tend to want to look at your friends and loved ones rather than me when I am taking your picture for the pure familiarity factor of things. This leads to people looking in many different directions and the picture then doesn’t quite look right in the end. Heads follow the eyes so this also ends up with not only eyes looking everywhere, but heads turned and tilted different ways.
- It takes up a LOT of time when I have to wait on other guests to get their shots. If we are in any sort of time crunch, this is going to end up costing you posed shots and it usually is the bride and groom that do not end up getting as many shots together as they would have originally liked.
- Micro-managing also becomes a factor. When other guest photographers get into the picture, they start directing you to do shots they would like to see. While sometimes this can be a great thing, sometimes it becomes a burden because they get overzealous and start to try and run the show. Many times when they start directing they will go as far as stepping in front of me and basically not allowing me to get any shots so it then becomes lost time to me. I have also had guest photographers take people and leave with them for their shots while I was working with a different group (i.e. taking the bride off for some bridals while I am working with the groom). This then leads to me waiting for the person to get back so I can finish the shoot.
- When there are multiple cameras, there are multiple flashes. If we are in a darker area that needs some flash, this leads to problems when I have other guest photographers shooting with me. When more than one flash goes off at once at full power, the image becomes blown out and unuseable. Sometimes I can ‘get it back’ but it’s rare when it’s due to two flashes going off at once. Everyone in the picture looks like ghosts. I do always take multiple images at once – but sometimes that may be the one shot where Aunt Sally wasn’t looking at Uncle Robert shooting the picture and I’m forced to use another shot from the series where she’s not looking at me because the exposure at least is right.
The Reception This is the part of the day that it’s pretty much OK for guest photographers to go crazy. While during the events at a reception where they are still somewhat hard to work around, there is typically a bit more space to work with and it is a less formal setting than the ceremony.
- During the first dance I have seen guest photographers literally stand about 2 feet (or closer!) from the bride and groom getting their shots. For me, this is an intimate moment and I utilize my zoom lenses to give you guys some space and time to giggle to yourselves. When the guest photographer is up in your face like that, it becomes virtually impossible to get a clear shot of you (especially if they are circling you) without them in the picture.
- The cake cutting is the only other time that I’ve had an issue and this is when the guest photographer literally stood at the cake table next to the bride and groom. It sure made for a cozy threesome 😉 but I don’t think that was the original intention of the bride for her cake pictures. While I was able to use my zoom again to eliminate the photographer from most of the pictures, I know that the wide angle shots would have been a nice addition had there not of been a guest photographer at the table with the couple.
Hopefully this helps you understand where I am coming from if it ever comes to pass that I need to ask your guest photographer if they can move aside or step away for a moment. I do not want to hurt feelings or be the reason that someone is upset the day of the wedding but my loyalites are to you and if your pictures are possibly going to be compromised due to a guest photographer, I feel that I am going to have to say something to ensure the quality of your images. This also isn’t saying ALL guest photographers act this way. I’ve had quite a few be absolutely wonderful to work with and respectful of me as the photographer and not made an iota of problems. They can be a great addition to your day – just sometimes there is the one that spoils the whole thing!