In cases where throngs of snapping cameras are pretty much unavoidable (ie. family formals), I steal a page from Jasmine Star’s figurative book of tips & tricks and allow the guests to take their photos first. This accomplishes a few things: (1) I’ve given them permission publicly, in front of the bride and groom. (2) Everyone’s eyes will be looking at the same camera (theirs or mine, it doesn’t matter). While it’s true that we spend lots of time scouting the location, styling and posing the couple, we’re not threatened by the fact that guests are reaping all the rewards of our hard work. If Grandma Molly’s photos come out “better” than mine, then I’d seriously have to reconsider my career choices :). During moments where we’re unable to make those public announcements (ie. during the ceremony), a gentle tap on the guest’s shoulders usually does the trick to get them to return to their seats. Most folks are pretty respectful and know that they shouldn’t be standing in front of the hired photographer anyway. We know this with a good degree of certainty because they’ll knowingly nod when we give them “The Tap” (I’ve only gotten a stink-eye once, but my feelings are pretty much stink-eye proof). As far as the trend of Unplugged Weddings go, while it’s something that I can support because it makes my job easier, I don’t believe it’s something that will make-or-break my images. I will always have free reign of perspective and a right-of-way that’s absolutely unquestionable. Whether or not guests should be “in the moment” during the ceremony is a decision best left with the bride and groom, and not with the photographer. For me, I absolutely appreciate the passion of our fellow shutterbugs, and I know that they’re enjoying the festivities in a way that best suits them. They don’t mean any harm, and I know they just want to be able to relive the moments they’ve captured through their own eyes. In the end, I’ve got nothing but love for them …as long as they don’t upset our bride and groom :).
Here’s to always looking for the silver lining :). Ben