How to get along with guests with cameras

Without fail, every wedding I am hired to shoot is going to have at least one self proclaimed unofficial photographer. In the business we have names for these people like “Uncle Bob’s,” “Fauxtopgraphers,” and a laundry list of names I dare not mention.

The wedding photography blogosphere is filled with bile towards the well meaning but all too often in the way Uncle Bob’s, but rather than add to that, I am here to defend every wedding guest with a camera.

There are many photographers that have contracts specifically barring wedding guests from shooting with “professional cameras.”  I have two problems with this:

  1. What is a “professional” camera?  To me that is any camera in the hands of a professional.
  2. Second, does that mean the photographer is expecting the bride and groom to police the wedding?  Do they need to set up a security checkpoint to prevent unauthorized cameras from entering the wedding?

To me, that entire concept is just ridiculous for so many reasons.  Yes, I know that eventually every professional wedding photographer has an image ruined when an “Uncle Bob” dives in front of us to get the same shot, and instead of a shot of the couple kissing, we have a shot of Uncle Bob’s bald spot.  But that does not mean we need to be alarmists and add items to our contracts that in all likelihood aren’t even enforceable.  Could you imagine if a DJ had a contract that said, “No other professional singers?”

Next, I understand why people want to bring their cameras. For a lot of people, myself included, life is more enjoyable when seen through a viewfinder. Photography makes the wedding more fun for some guests, and I can’t imagine how some professionals have the gall to tell guests at other people’s weddings that they can’t use their cameras.  Some of these guests might be budding pro’s themselves, and those of us who have been doing this for a while should be better mentors.

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Tips for guests with cameras

As much as I enjoy having guests with cameras at a wedding, there are some things for the Uncle Bobs (You know who you are,) can do to help us get a long.

  1. First and foremost, realize that the couple paid me a lot of money to photograph their wedding. They didn’t pay me that much for photos of the back of your head so look before you leap.
  2. When I am doing group formals, and you are standing next to me shooting away, there will be at least one person looking at your camera instead of mine.  That will not look good in the final photo. Instead, let me know that you want to get a shot.  Then leave your camera at the side, and when I get what I need, I will let you take a photo too.  As a result, both of our photos will look better.
  3. We may be on a time crunch.  Sometimes I have 15 minutes to get 30 or more formal portraits done.  We might not have time for you to get photos too. If that is the case, pick one or two shots that you really need and leave your camera down the rest of the time.
  4. If you have a website or Facebook page, and you want to stick your logo on the images and post them on your page, I am 100% OK with that. However, if I spent 15 minutes setting up the lighting and pose, why not give me a some credit by linking back to my website or page.
  5. Most of all let’s respect each other.  I will respect your eagerness to photograph, and all I ask in return is that you respect my need to deliver to the client.


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