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Photography Etiquette at Weddings

July 11, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

So, this past weekend I went to a wedding, not as a photographer, but as a guest.  The wedding itself was great, as was the reception.  It got me thinking about etiquette for guests around photographers.  The photographer at this wedding was the mother of a friend of mine, and she was excellent from what I saw.

I've been to a lot of wedding over the past few years with a lot of different photographers with a lot of different philosophies on guests using personal cameras at a wedding.  I have seen photographers who insist on being the only one with a camera, I've seen photographers who welcome other people with cameras, and I've seen every permutation in between.

To be fair usually the photographers who insist on being the only photographers are usually nice enough to tactfully suggest that the guests relax and enjoy the wedding.  I have also seen contracts where the photographer vows to leave if they so much as see another camera.  Personally, I don't get that mentality.  I find it hard to put the camera down myself, and a lot of guests will have cameras.  It's a part of weddings.  As a photographer you have to be secure enough to know that the bride and groom (or whoever is paying for the wedding) hired you to be there.  The quality won't be as good, and even if they're a guest like me who is a professional, the guest won't have the best angles and the best position.

The wedding I went to yesterday I think had the right idea.  They had the professional photographer for the wedding shots.  The staff at the location told all the guests to go relax under the tent and find their seats while the wedding party got the professional photos done. This is a tactful way to make sure that no one was in the photographer's way, and then they had throwaway cameras on each of the tables for more candid shots.  They also asked anyone that did have a camera to post the photos on Facebook and send a link to the bride and groom so that they could see ALL the pictures.  I know some photographers get nervous about this idea because if they have good/decent/any photos up on Facebook, etc. then patrons are less likely to buy their photos.  There was a wedding I went to a couple years ago that had an awesome idea that I loved.  At each setting there was a card with the photographer's information and an access code so that guests could go online once the photos were up and not only see the gallery, but purchase any photos that they wanted for themselves.  I actually purchased an 8x10 of my wifeling and I along with our child (who was about 1 at the time) that I had asked the photographers to take because I knew I could get the photo later on their website.  (If I could remember which photographer it was I would link their site to here, but it's been a few years.)  That photo is the only close to formal photo I have of my family that wasn't taken via remote.

The purpose of this blog is for those in between weddings where people are allowed to take photos "alongside" the paid photographer.  What I want everyone to remember is that there is a reason that there is a hired photographer at a wedding.  They are there for a reason.  They are paid to be there.  Please, please, please do not get into their way when taking your photos.  They may be just as good...in fact depending on what equipment you're using and how much knowledge you have about composition and lighting it probably will be just as good if you're jumping in front of the paid photographer to get it.  In fact, if you're getting in front of the paid photographer it will be better, because the paid photographer's photo will have your head in the shot.  Again, please don't photobomb your friends' weddings.  There is a paid professional there. 

I've seen it happen a few times at weddings where the paid professional is taking photos of the wedding party, and everyone and their Uncle Harry is standing next to/near the photographer getting the same shots that the paid professional has composed.  Only problem is, now the bridal party is confused as to which camera to look at.

If you are ever at a wedding where I am shooting, please, feel free to take as many photos as you want.  All I ask is that you don't stand in front of me.

Update:  Here's the link to that photographer I mentioned from a few years ago. The Creative Photography.  If you're getting married in the WNY area and can book them, do so.  Very friendly staff.


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