Unplugged Weddings, Uncle Bobs and Other Things

Dear Ben, 

What do you do with wedding guests with cameras who are constantly in the shot and/or shooting over your shoulder? Additionally, what are you thoughts on “Unplugged Weddings”? 

– Exasperated in Ohio

Dear Exasperated in Ohio,

This is a reality that most couples will experience on their wedding day. While it can get challenging at times for the hired photographer, this is precisely why our clients hire us in the first place: to be able to take control of any situation in order to create spectacular images. Generally speaking, I specifically request 15 minutes of alone time with my couples to do their portraits. This can take place immediately after their first looks, or anytime throughout the course of the day. This mostly takes care of a scenario where the bride and groom’s attention is divided and they’re looking at 10 different cameras. For those 15 minutes of alone time, our couples can decompress a little bit while hanging out with their favorite photographer…ME! (insert evil laugh here)

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 :).



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Northern NJ, NYC documentary Wedding Photographer, Educator & All-Around Nice Guy

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