Wedding photographers make the worst wedding guests. I know that when I’m at a friend’s wedding, I have a hard time turning it off. And no one should make me - least of all the hired guns photographing the bride and groom for the day. If that sounds blasphemous, let me explain.
I’ve been a hired gun and I’ve been the guest - and there are some general rules of the road that wedding photographers and guests should follow to ensure that everyone gets along, enjoys the day, and produces the best photos possible.
If You're the Photographer, Let the Guests Shoot
There’s no reason to ever ask a guest to leave your vicinity if all they are doing is simply taking photos. They are the friends and family of the people paying you to be there - what is it going to look like if you’re asking them to leave? As long as they’re not jumping in the shot, let them snap away - just make sure that you’re asking the bride and groom to always be looking at your camera. If the crowd is particularly thick during a portrait session, I sometimes ask the guests to let me get the photo first, and then I step aside and let everyone else step in to take their own photos.
I had this situation from the guest’s perspective at my cousin’s wedding last year - during the portrait session in a large courtyard, the photographer noticed me a good distance behind him with my orange Panasonic Lumix GM1 and 14-140mm lens. I was shooting from at least 20 or 30 feet away from the photographer with what is a small-sensor camera and a glorified kit lens. Still, the photographer walked over and explained that he set up these shots and that I could not be there photographing. He mumbled something about copyrights and his poses. This is after the bride and groom clearly indicated it was OK for me to be there, but he continued until he was yelling at me to leave - because he feared that a guest with a tiny camera who was standing a good distance away from him was going to get the same photos he was with his professional lighting setup and full-frame Canon cameras and lenses. It wasn't a good look for him.
If you’re yelling at a guest and you’re the wedding photographer, it’s probably time to find a job where you don’t have to deal with people.
If You're the Wedding Photographer-Turned-Guest, Respect the Photographer
That doesn’t mean blindly follow a wedding photographer’s unreasonable requests to leave, but there are times where it is reasonable. If you’re in the background of the shot and they ask you to move for a short time, or if you’re getting so close that you’re bumping into them, then it’s time to give them some space. If you’re at the ceremony, don’t jump into the aisle. And for the love of all things cameras, don’t pepper the hired photographers with questions about gear the entire wedding.
What you can do, however, is ask politely if you can set up your camera here, or if they’re going to be walking over there - a little communication can go a long way, and will put the photographer at ease if they see you creepin’ in the corner of a portrait session - they’ll know you, they’ve talked to you.
At my brother’s wedding a couple of weeks ago, I wanted to set up a video camera at times to record certain things - and working with the photographers and videographers was easy. They were communicative, friendly, and even, when time allowed, showed me the best spots to set up for a shot that also would not get in the way of their movements. That’s the way it should be. A big shout out to LK Photography for their positive attitude towards the guests. The photographer would even call me over if he knew something was going to happen that could be a good photograph.
Don't Forget, You're Supposed to Have Fun
It’s your family and friends up there getting married. Just remember that there are people paid to take the photographs and so it’s OK to put down the camera and enjoy the moments without looking at them through the viewfinder.