Problem Photographer Guest at Weddings.
(The Amateur Photographer)
I have found myself having to write this blog post as a priority because this issue is now quickly becoming a major problem at weddings.
Who am I referring to? Guests who arrive at weddings with their own Photography agenda.
Qualification before I begin.
I have no issue with guests coming to weddings with cameras and taking photographs. No professional photographer that I know would. This happens at all weddings and is perfectly natural and acceptable part of the fun and activity of the day. The wedding is an important event and everyone wants to capture their own memories.
When does it become a problem?
Guests whose primary intention is to photograph the wedding as comprehensively as possible. Often for their own selfish ends, or in the mistaken belief that they are doing a good service to the bride and groom.
I do understand that for amateur photographers, everyday life doesn’t always provide exciting photographic opportunities and therefore all of a sudden a wedding with everyone in their finery, at lovely locations provides something quite special. Hey I understand that, which is why I decided to become a professional full time wedding photographer. However please ensure your enthusiasm doesn’t have a negative impact on the wedding itself.
How does this manifest itself?
These guests typically hang around on or near to my shoulder and photograph most if not all of what I am setting up, groups etc.
They try to occupy areas of the wedding not usually typical for a guest. For example, they try to stand at the front of the church or venue and avoid sitting down with other guests.
Just prior to the ceremony they wait outside with the bride instead of going inside the room or church with other guests.
They leave their seats and stand in the aisle to either capture the bride walking in along the aisle or both the bride and groom leaving after the ceremony.
They go into the reception room and instead of holding their camera up and taking a photograph of the room in its entirety or of the cake as guests typically do, they start to photograph in a more detailed and comprehensive way, looking for creative shots or details etc and taking a long time.
They stand up and move around taking photographs during the speeches instead of sitting as a guest and listening and enjoying them.
Your wedding is not a photo training opportunity for your guests. If you have hired a professional wedding photographer then you do not need your guests to ‘second shoot’ the wedding alongside me and my team or alongside whoever your chosen professional wedding photographer is. If you feel you need a guest to do that or to act in that way then I strongly suggest that you have hired the wrong photographer.
Consequences. These guests get in the way and can spoil your official photography.
They cause a tension and a stressful relationship with your photographer. This can become quite a diversion when your photographer should be concentrating on you and your wishes as discussed during the pre wedding meeting.
It is easy to say that the official photographer should just focus on their job and forget what is happening. But these issues tend to present confrontational situations and your photographer would not have the time or inclination to deal with this guest in what can develop into a confrontational situation.
Believe me I have tried to do this in polite ways on several occasions during weddings and sometimes these guests do not want to listen or co operate. They argue and moan and cause a bad atmosphere. They are actually quite selfish in their approach and should really behave. They think that they are being prevented from taking photographs. That is never the case. They just need to be a guest and take their photographs as a guest, not as someone trying to document the entire day as you would expect your official photographer to do.
I do not want to have a confrontation with anyone on your wedding day. I am there to concentrate on the job in hand which is to capture your day as we discussed and to provide you with the best photography possible. Taking time out of a busy schedule to try to debate and explain to a guest who feels they are being somehow oppressed just isn’t practicable.
I have experienced these situations on several occasions over the years but I have certainly noticed a recent upsurge in occurrences where ‘Amateur photographer’ or keen hobbyist guests are becoming an issue.
When the guests constantly stand near to me during group photographs, some people in the groups can’t help looking at them. Believe me I have tried everything to prevent people from looking at the others but those in the group just can’t help themselves. Therefore your photographs are poorer as guests in groups are looking in different directions.
They take up my time having to think about them and what they are doing, meaning I could miss something. This has happened on several occasions, for example when a guest came to stand at the front of a Church with me and was in the aisle blocking my view. By the time I had got him out of the way the bride was just about completely down the aisle. In the end the only way I could get them out of the way was by shouting at them literally to get out of the way. That was not what I wanted to do during such an important event.
In situations like these I just don’t have the time for niceties. I just have to be assertive to safeguard your wedding photography or I may as well not be there and you have wasted your investment.
Usually just prior to the bride arriving, all the guests have gone in to the room or church to take their seats. It is very distracting when one or more of the guests refuse to go in and instead wait for the bride to arrive. This doesn’t just have an impact on me, it impacts venue wedding organisers and officials at churches. There is really no reason for these guests to wait outside the room or venue.
These guests are also quite ignorant of the pressures of the timetable of your day. For example, recently at a wedding, after the ceremony, the confetti had been thrown, all the guests had congratulated the couple and it was time for them to leave in their car for photographs at a nearby location they had chosen for their bride and groom portraits. I informed all of the guests what was happening and said we would meet them at the venue for the group photographs.
Aware of the time constraints I had asked the couple if they were ready to go and they said they were and started walking to their car. One of the guests stopped them and told them to wait as they wanted to set up a shot with two young children who were present. I explained to the guest that they were welcome to do this later but we were on a tight schedule and had to go. At this the guest proceeded to argue with me in front of everyone. They insisted that they were going to organise the photograph no matter what. Quite often I will step aside and let the photo happen, no problem and I have often been complimented on how patient and accommodating I am. However on this occasion as we were already in the process of leaving and with having to go to another location and aware of the time constraints and the opportunity available to the guest to get the photo later, I stuck to my guns and told them they were welcome to do the photograph later in the day, once there was less pressure on time.
Remember that the official photographer usually has a list of objectives and photographs to achieve on your behalf as planned prior to your wedding day. I acknowledge that the guest isn’t always aware of this but when it is explained they should really put their own interests aside and allow the day to progress as planned.
When we later returned to the venue I went to speak to the guest in question as a matter of courtesy and tried to politely explain that time was quite tight and I didn’t have time to debate the issue back at the church. However now I was taking the time to explain to them and to reiterate that they could do their photograph at any time during the day.
This guest was just not having any of it. They asked for my name (For whatever reason!), stated that they were also a wedding photographer and had never experienced such behaviour in another photographer. They then informed me that they were intending to take the groom off for a private photo session.
I was left with no option but to explain that this would be a breach of the terms and conditions of my photographing the wedding and that they really were jeopardising the couple’s wedding photography.
As you can imagine, this is a completely outrageous situation during what should be a happy lovely occasion for the bride and groom and all of the guests. They took their greivance to the Groom who surely should not be having to deal with such an issue on his wedding day.
The problem on the day is that there is never a right way, or time to explain or debate the issues. This guest had tried to interfere with a pre planned timetable and plan made by the bride and groom and their chosen photographer.
They can have an adverse affect on the timetable of the day.
You will have discussed at the pre wedding meeting an agenda for your professional photographer, timings etc. How long is available for bride and groom photos or for groups, how long is available before the wedding breakfast is served. You will have asked your photographer to achieve certain objectives on your behalf with regards to the photography.
Lessons to be learnt. Where do we go from here?
My message to couples is that prior to your wedding day, if you have any idea that there are keen amateur photographers amongst your invited guests who may intend coming to your wedding intending to photograph the entire day or to photograph your wedding in a way that goes beyond what you normally expect a guest to do then please speak to them and advise them to be a guest, not a photographer and to enjoy the day as a guest. Your wedding is not a photo opportunity for their benefit.
If you have done your research and you are confident in your chosen wedding photographer then let them do their job and have your guests relax and have fun.
My message to Problem Photographer Guest at Weddings. You may not agree with my sentiments in this blog post. Actually your wishes and feelings are not of any real relevance. Myself and other professional wedding photographers have only one priority and that is the Bride and Groom.
It is with great pride that a part of my reputation is that I never have any negative impact on a couples day. My presence there must only enhance their day. Any photograph connected with a bad memory will only ever bring back that bad memory and so in effect is useless. That said I would be remiss if I allowed the behaviour of others at a wedding who have a photographic agenda which could compromise my product to the couple who have hired me to continue unchallenged.
If the couple had wanted you to photograph their wedding, they would have asked you. If they didn’t and you are invited as a guest. Please have a great time, have no negative impact on the day and have fun as a guest.