Realizations From the Other Side of the Camera Lens

Realizations From the Other Side of the Camera Lens

A little over a month ago, I got married. Now that the dust has settled, I thought I might share some realizations I had from being on the other side of the camera lens for a change.

Probably the most common question I received leading up to my wedding over the course of the past year was, “who is taking your photos?” As a photographer, people were genuinely curious, I think, about who I had picked to do my photos and why. Of course, the answer to that question, as it is for anyone, was someone who had the right recipe for us — a combination of style, budget, compatibility, and instinct. The one we went with, Novo Studio up in Rogers, Arkansas, is run by Philip Thomas, a great photographer and all-around class act. I’ve seen many of his weddings over the years, and so he was top of the list when we started looking for someone to shoot our own wedding.

Of course, it always feels really, really weird to be on the other side of the lens. And for it to be because it’s my wedding day? Even more odd. 

Here are some observations and advice I’ll share with wedding photographers and their potential clients based on my experiences that day.

People Really Don’t Know What to Do With Their Hands

It’s true. Though I had ideas of what to do regarding posing, it’s so difficult to know how it actually looks from the photographer’s viewpoint. Photographers, your clients aren’t just acting inexperienced in the modeling arena; they really, really don’t know what to do with their hands, or really any other body part, and are relying on your instruction on what to do!

Yes, I did roll up my pants and carry her across the river. No, I didn't drop her.

The Photographers Won’t Get Every Shot You Had Hoped for, but They’ll Also Get Some You Wouldn’t Ever Have Expected

Of course, there were some images that got missed. Some of it was because we were running a bit behind schedule. Some of it was because the weather made it get dark about half-hour earlier than expected. But you know what? That’s ok. Photography clients: realize that your photographers are human, that they won’t get every single shot you had in mind (but probably didn’t vocalize), and in the end, it won’t matter too much. In the end, it won’t be about the images you didn’t get, but the ones that you did get. There were lots of images we received that weren't expected, and that made them even more special. This should be a point of education on the part of photographers. Encourage your clients to tell you images they want (I know checklists are annoying, but they can be useful). 

Allow More Time Than You Think for Photos

Photographers, you should encourage this in case your client forgets to put it in their schedule. We got a late start getting ready, which didn’t allow for much time for photos after the ceremony. Obviously, as a former wedding photographer, I should have known this. It’s easy to forget that things surrounding weddings rarely go as planned, so it’s best to be flexible wherever you can. Make sure there's a good half-hour after the ceremony set aside for photos, so that if you get less time, at least you get something!

Even if the Weather Isn’t Perfect, It Can Still Provide for Some Incredible Shots

Clients, don’t worry if it’s cloudy. Don’t even worry if it’s raining. Your photographer, if competent, will tell the story as it unfolds, and even some raindrops will just add to the story. Photographers, be sure to be prepared.

One of the best quotes of the weekend, to me, was after the ceremony, when Philip came up to us and said, "well, these boots aren't waterproof."  In his defense, they were supposed to be, except that there were some unintentional holes in them.


If you're relaxed on your clients' big day, it will help them relax, too. Even when Philip's camera bag got packed up with the musicians' equipment after the ceremony and taken back to the reception site, he made do with one camera and one lens for the post-ceremony photos. He (and I) knew he was competent enough to make do with one lens, and therefore, it was fine. If he had lost his cool about it, it might not have turned out well.

Overall, it was a great experience. Hiring someone you trust is an essential part of it, of course. Do you have stories of being on the other side of the lens? How did it make you feel, and did you come to any realizations about your work as photographer? I'd love to hear some stories in the comments below.

All photos by Novo Studio.

Stephen Ironside's picture

Stephen Ironside is a commercial photographer with an outdoor twist based in Fayetteville, Arkansas. While attempting to specialize in adventure and travel photography, you can usually find him in the woods, in another country, or oftentimes stuffing his face at an Indian buffet.

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Totally agree about allowing more time. My sister recently got married and she was worried about making guests wait while she had her pictures done, but I pushed her to add more time and just said: "you have an open bar; your guests will be fine." She got some great photos. Congrats to you and your wife!

These are gorgeous images and very helpful observations, I always get super stressed not being able to get some of the exact shots couples want. But you are totally right, the unique shots that do come out are just as good or even better than they expected.

Nice shots. Good choice of photogrpaher. Not as difficult as shooting your own wedding as I had to do as my wife insisted.

Great article! I've second shot a number of weddings and shot 1 in the first position. All that came AFTER getting married myself and being very choosy with our wedding photographer. It's stressful on both sides of the lens, that's for sure, but remaining cool and calm and having realistic expectations help tremendously (again, on both sides of the lens).
Congrats on your nuptials!

I got married on the 2 months ago and my photographer was a good friend of mine.

I was the second shot at his wedding 2 years ago and it was the wedding where i learned the most. So i wanted things to be as smooth as possible for him. To top that, he flew from overseas just 1 day before the wedding

My wife understood how important the photos would be, so we organized our wedding schedule to allow for enough time to shoot before and after the ceremonies (civil and religious ones), and enough time to rest before the afternoon photos (no point in having the newlywed looking tired)
I also included enough time so that even if there were delays, we wouldn't be in a rush, or we wouldn't miss the gold hour

The day before I scouted the possible locations for the photos with my friend , telling him what kind of shots I was thinking and listening to his feedback. In the end he kept some locations, ignored one, but I trusted his judgment.

On the wedding day, I helped him out to direct people for the group photos. I feel that some people listen more to the groom's instructions when told where to stand, not to keep their phones, where to look etc ...

Also, why not ask the clients a few songs for the photo session. I played some music that we both love during the private photo session, and it helped my wife to relax and created some nice memories

Is that Steel Creek at the Buffalo River in Arkansas? I took my wife there for our honeymoon (my family loved camping there in the summer when I was growing up).

It sure is! One of the best places in the world, just over an hour from my doorstep.