Since the epidemic seems to be getting worse I wrote this article with another photographer friend of mine, Ryan Phillips. We hope it saves future wedding photos from disaster....
Are guests ruining your wedding photos may sound like an attention grabbing headline but it’s very true. More and more at weddings we encounter guests ruining wedding photos by distracting the subjects, ruining intimate moments, or are constantly in the background of the photographer’s lens just so they can get their shot! It has been on the rise for a few years now but it seems to have peaked in an onslaught between guests with cameras and the professionals you have hired. We were shooting a wedding this weekend and two of the guests were up at the alter, pushing us out of the way or getting in our way just to get their own shots! They also stood up and blocked our view from shooting down the aisle and their heads and bodies are in half of the ceremony shots. Since both of them were doing it all day I had warned them sternly about doing it during the ceremony, yet they did not seem to care. I finally asked them to please find their seats.
There usually isn’t a problem when guests take pictures but when they get in the way of the professionals you hired it becomes a conflict. You hire a professional photographer because they have experience photographing weddings, this is their job. Hopefully your photographer has spent years honing their craft and have photographed many weddings. What makes matters worse is when the over eager guest with a camera starts asking questions about how to use their cameras while we are trying to work. Even a guest with a high end camera, in most cases will still fail to get the same shot as your professional wedding photographer . Knowing how to finesse the wedding day, how to frame, when to shoot, the correct camera settings, how to be invisible, and the hours of post production that go into to making your wedding images amazing. Even with a $5000 camera guests with no experience photographing weddings are just taking snapshots, a professional photographer will give you beautiful images that will last a lifetime.
Your guests might you give you a bunch of images a day after the wedding, then after you look over them you might feel like there we not to many good ones and then you might second guess your professional photographer. Then your eager friend posts their amateur snaps to Facebook and tags you in them and your friends think that that you hired a subpar photographer and that maybe your wedding wasn’t all that great judging by the pictures. A month later that might be rectified by posting the pictures from your wedding photographer, however the damage is already done. If your friends have already seen some mediocre wedding images they might have lost interest. Remember we only get one chance to make a first impression.
In addition, we now have to contend with 50-60 cell phones, even iPads being whipped out while you walk down the aisle and they are all in the shot. People lean in or even step into the aisle to get a “better shot” for themselves and often step right in front of our line of sight to you walking down the aisle. Think about this for a second. Do you want to see a bunch of cell phones in front of the faces of your friends in the background of your wedding pictures or just the faces of your friends taking in the special moments.
So what can you do to avoid the wedding guest flockarazzi from invading your wedding. Well, there is no easy answer. For starters I would tell any known “shutterbugs” attending your wedding, to be respectful of the professional photographers. When you send out email updates or if you have your own wedding site, make an announcement stating that you hired a professional wedding photographer and to please be mindful of your professional. Lastly, if you see one of your guests or family members in the way on wedding day, kindly ask them to refrain from being too obtrusive. They might hear you louder than they do us. Sometimes we say something to them directly and sometimes we just try to work around them but your pictures will suffer for it if they continue to get in the way. You might even add a card to your invitations addressing the subject of photography.
So you can see the other side of the aisle from a professional photographers point of view, here are the top three times during the day when we see guests ruining wedding photographs and special moments:
1. The Ceremony: Guests will step in the aisle or stick their cell phones out into the aisle to photograph you during your trip up the aisle and back down after you are married. Many times stepping right in front of us. The result is a bunch of cell phones in the photos hiding your guests faces or even worse your guests in the foreground blocking your walk down the aisle for our lens.
Also during the ceremony, guests taking their own photos and ending up in the background of your emotional moments. "The shot of your husband crying might have been amazing if Uncle Harry's camera and big noggin wasn't in the way during your vows
Today if you have also hired a videographer for your wedding there will sometimes be up to 4 professionals covering your ceremony. In most cases we do our best to stay out of each other's shots. Add guests with cameras to this scenario and you might just have more cameras then you do people in your bridal party. Extreme I know but I am just trying to get the point across.
2. While the photographer is taking formal and group shots. Guests stand around taking their own snapshots while the photographers shooting. This is a distraction not only for the photographer but when you get your photos back you may have people in your photos not looking into the photographers lens but at someone else's. You want everyone's full attention on the person you are paying or your pictures will have people looking in another direction ruining the image.
3. During the Reception: Guests sometimes feel the need to cover all of the formal events at the reception. IE, first dance, father-daughter dance, cake cutting and toasts. Again the biggest problem here is too many chefs. You end up with cameras, iPads, cell phones, and unwanted people in the background. The simpler the background, the more impact an image will have. All of your guests with camera's and cell phones in the background just looks bad.
Below is a sample of how you might word an email or a card sent in your invitations about guest taking pictures at your wedding.
"Dear friends and family our wedding photography is very important to us, so important that we spent many hours carefully choosing our professional photographer that we trust and have invested in to capture all of our wedding day memories. He/she has given us several useful tips on how we can get the best images from our wedding. One of the tips they offered is to ask you our friends and family to refrain from taking pictures with your own camera or cell phone during the most important part of our wedding day. Since the ceremony is one of the most important parts to us we ask that you don't take any photos during the ceremony. Please engage and share in the moment with us and allow our photographer to capture the ceremony. You are free to take pictures during the reception just make sure to not be in the background of the photographers shots during formal events like first dance, father-daughter dance, cake cutting and toasts. Thank you so much for respecting our wishes and we look forward to sharing our wedding day with all of you!"
The above is there to give you a start and of course you may change the wording to meet your comfort level. This may seem like a harsh request or even taboo but if you do not take action for the sake of your wedding pictures I guarantee at least one of the above mentioned wedding day “photo pas” will take place at your wedding.
Remember we are here to help. We know we cannot photograph everyone’s wedding, (mainly because our feet would really hurt) but we can help educate future brides and grooms and help you get the best wedding images possible. If we don’t tell you who else will.
RE & RP
**Robert Evans and Ryan Phillips together have over 40 years combined experience photographing weddings and have photographed some of the most well known peoples in the world!