The Curse of the Wedding Photography Wrecker

Wedding photography wreckers. You’ve seen them. You might even be one of them. They’re the guests at weddings who spend the whole ceremony and reception moving about snapping pictures of the happy couple with anything from cell phones to point-and-shoots to Go Pros to iPads to DSLRs, meanwhile obstructing the professional photographer’s view. And they’re the subject of this KTXL FOX40 “Don’t Be That Guy” segment:

The job of a wedding photographer or videographer has never been easy. And it’s not getting any easier. In a society where everyone wants to share life as it happens on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media outlets, you can’t go anywhere–especially a wedding–without seeing a sea of phones and cameras held in front of peoples’ faces. Photographers must contend with stray flashes that wash out their shots, guests jumping in front of them during the first kiss, and iPhones creeping into every frame.

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Wedding photographers have to go to extremes to ensure that they can get the photographs their clients have paid for without well-intentioned guests ruining their shots. It’s becoming more and more routine for photographers to write a “no camera” policy into their contracts. Many photographers are asking couples to instruct their guests to please enjoy the festivities and let the professional photographer document the day.

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Have you unknowingly committed this wedding day taboo? Or are you a hired wedding photographer who’s been frustrated by this social pet peeve? Perhaps the “unplugged” wedding–at which no cameras or phones are permitted–is a trend we can all agree upon.

“You might have to get creative, because the back of somebody’s head’s not something you really want to look at…” –Alex Cristescu

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5 Comments

  1. Annie says:

    I, unfortunately, am one of the guests who brings their camera. I’m a retired photographer who still gets asked, but due to health reasons I’m not reliable. So when I get asked, I say get someone else and if I’m well, I will bring mine too, if the person is a friend. A few months ago I attended the wedding of a friend. I had talked to the bride twice about bringing my camera and she was absolutely fine with it. This was before she hired a photographer, someone new who didn’t have a lot of experience yet. The day of the wedding I showed up with my camera. I took shots of the some of the guests, the groom, the decorations and the cake. I then proceeded to the brides dressing room to catch a few of them getting ready. When I got there I snapped one photo and the bride said that she didn’t want anyone to see her before the wedding. It took me aback because we had talked about it and she had made no indication that she didn’t want me to take any photos. I just turned my back on her, put it down to stress and nerves and started back out. On the way out the brides niece ran up to me and I snapped a quick shot of her and went on back out. Her “hired photographer was standing in the corner giving me dirty looks. The next thing I knew the “photographer” was out in front of all the guests telling them that everyone had to put their cameras up. Everyone’s faces told the story and a lot of people were not pleased, including me and some of the bride and grooms family. So, I put my camera up. That evening, the “photographer” put this big post on Facebook about how appalled she was that a “guest” at the wedding she had done that day had the nerve to disrespect her, the bride and her family. She said that the bride had asked me to stop and I had kept on snapping and laughing.She said that guests should leave their “personal” cameras at home and leave the picture taking to the professional. Had the bride told me beforehand that she didn’t want any more cameras I would have left my camera at home, I have always tried to respect people with my camera and have never been intentionally rude or disrespected any one in my life. It hurt me very much and made me very very angry. I found out later that this photographer was charging her an exorbitant fee for her services and that she had told her the day of the wedding that anyone else taking photos would mess her shots up because she was metering. Well I’m perfectly capable of taking photos without flash myself but that’s beside the point. It was very very unprofessional of the photographer to post something like that on Facebook. She was rude herself when she announced that there could be no other photos taken. Personally, I’ve always felt that my client was my employer and I was being paid to do what they wanted and to adapt to the situations put before me and do my best. When the photographer tries to take the place of the client there is something wrong. I know what you are saying though. I’ve been in some of those same situations myself but I didn’t rail against the person with the camera, I just did my best and adapted… My situation was simply a turn of fate, the so called “photographer” was the one who was disrespectful and rude and I think it’s highly unprofessional for a photographer to put more stress on the bride. on the day of her wedding than she already has. She was terrified that after giving her all that money that her photos would be bad because someone else snapped a picture. If this photographer didn’t want anyone else taking pictures then she should have told the bride soon enough for her to add it to the invitations. Personally I would never ask that of a client. I’ve seen some very good pictures taken by “guests” that added to the beautiful memories of the bride and groom. I can only think that this person was very inexperienced and insecure…..

  2. Jennifer says:

    Being a wedding photographer you deal with stress from all angles on a wedding day. Divorced families, family issues, time, weather, wedding party drama and so many other little things. It is hard enough to get a group of 10 or 6 to look at you during photos without them looking at their spouses, parents, friend camera (phone) during mine time. Yes I said it mine…. Guest need to take the back seat and let us get the job done that we are hired for. Enjoy the wedding, take photos but be mindful to the fact that our job is our liveyhood. My reputation, my creative and my hard work during a wedding can be soured by a guest shooting over me or next to me. It is so hard to have the cell phones shooting at all times. It is even harder for me to post a few on Facebook and see that my images has been copied on the wedding day by a guest who shot it on their phone and have it already online. So yes, I would enjoy an unplugged approach on weddings.

  3. Robert says:

    The presence of other cameras needs to be spelled out clearly during the Contract stage. This can eliminate or limit the consternation the day of.

    I am not advocating that all photography should be prohibited during a ceremony but there should be established guidelines and paramaters. Ultimately it is the Bride & Groom that will be pleased or displeased with the finished product that they contracted for.

    The Bride & Groom should program in the time for the “professional” photos and declare that in advance and if necessary again the day of. It is an event that can and should be enjoyed by all.

    Define the Go-No Go Zones during the ceremony. Declare the aisle a No-Go Zone for guests. It can eliminate the back of a head in a shot. Paid professionals should also know how to move their feet or zoom as necessary to adapt to the situation rather than causing a scene.

    Establish that when the “Paid” photographer is grouping everyone up for the post-ceremony session that there not be any photographers standing over his or her shoulder. I have seen second shooters even go as far as to position a Golf umbrella behind the “Paid” photographer. This helped to eliminate the distractions. He got his Money Shot and then down went the umbrella… Then a minute free-for-all of Aunt Gertrudes and Uncle Bobs fighting over eye contact.

    Heaven forbid (but it does happen) if the Pros memory card fails for whatever reason; at least Aunt Gertrude and Uncle Bob had some record of the day.

    Bottom line is the Client calls the shots and can only be advised on what works or doesnt work well.

  4. I started as a wedding photographer in 1990 when there were no cell phones with cameras. And people did not get out of their seats and move around like they do today. I, no longer do wedding photography because I got tired of battling the I phone camera folk who think they have the right to do what they want because they are inconsiderate. That is why I turned to writing and being in health care.

    But those aspiring photographers who want to do wedding photography more power to them and bless their hearts. (I wrote a book about how to make good money at it-the reason I put down my book web site).

    So all you cell phone camera freaks who think they can snap away, sit down, put the camera phone away and watch the ceremony. No one is really interested in your photos anyway. Cocktail anyone?

  5. Paul Gregg says:

    I love the “unplugged” wedding idea and will file that on the back burner of my mind, should I be invited to photograph another wedding. My son’s wedding early this last summer was quite an event. The main photographer was a cousin of the bride’s mother. He did a good job, but was evidently shooting with a wide angle lens and was in the subject’s faces a lot. Tons of point-and-shoots were at a distance, zooming in to take a photo, and his backside would be there most of the time. He should have had a moderate zoom so he could be out of the way. I was asked to take candids and did so, but stayed out of the way as much as I could. My dear love is wildlife and nature photography. Warblers and ospreys cannot sue me for taking a visually unpleasant photo!

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