Don’t be a Villain: 7 Things NOT To Do as a Wedding Photographer

Don’t be a Villain: 7 Things NOT To Do as a Wedding Photographer

When wedding photographers get together, we’re known to discuss (or debate) the things that can be a challenge in our line of work. Whether it’s videographers who’ve never met a telephoto lens or an Uncle Bob getting in the way of a shot, rest assured that we’ll be talking about it. 

But what about us? Do we ever stop to think what we might be doing to draw the ire of others in the event industry? I wanted to know when we were playing the role of the villain, so I asked a few prominent wedding planners - two in the U.S. and one from the U.K. - to give me the dirt.

For the sake of getting some honest answers, I agreed to grant them anonymity. Here’s what they had to say.

1. Not reading the timeline

This should go without saying, but our planners had this on their lists. You can’t expect to wing it, dictate the plans or ask for changes on the day of the wedding. Having the day mapped out in advance is critical, regardless of whether your client has a planner or not.

2. Trying to be the expert at everything

Sure, we go to a ton of weddings every year and we might even put in more hours on-site than any other vendor. But try not to correct, redirect or ridicule the other experts. They’re there for a reason too.

3. Messing with dinner

The meal is the biggest production of any wedding day. It has the most moving parts and feeding hundreds of people requires plans to stay in place. Don’t make the bridal party late to the reception if it’s at all within your power. Manipulating events leading up to the dinner (cake cutting, speeches, etc.) is also a big no-no.

4. Giving the video crew a hard time

This is a big one. Yes, it goes both ways, but dictating the pace of day without consulting the videographer is short-sighted and unfair to your clients. You’re both being paid to capture the day, so be sure to respect each other and - for goodness sake - communicate. I know every photographer I’ve ever met has a videographer rant and vice versa. Still, most of the planners I talked to agree we should find a way to always be sharing.

5. Neglecting the details

Forgetting to take detail shots is a huge let-down for all of the planners on my panel. Couples devote endless hours to picking out centerpieces, flowers, candy, favors and more. Don’t let a hectic timeline or a dark room stop you from squeezing these important flourishes into your to-do list. Good detail shots also lead to relationships with other vendors.

6. Being an evil dictator

Planners seem to agree that there’s a fine line between making sure you’re giving your clients a rich collection of portraits and pushing them to exhaustion. It’s a long whirlwind of a day for your bride and groom, and no day ever goes off without some adjustment and improvisation. Try to be in tune with when enough is enough for your couple. Remember, you’re much more acclimated to the grind of a wedding day than anyone in the bridal party.

7. Forcing a first look

One of our planners said some wedding photographers have been pushing couples into a first look before the ceremony when it’s not what the bride and groom really wanted. While it can be convenient, this planner says some clients later express regret about seeing each other before they meet in the aisle.

No doubt, a lot of you are consummate professionals and can justifiably deny being guilty of any of these planners’ pet peeves. Or maybe, you’re shocked by what made my list? What do you think wedding photographers should or shouldn’t be doing? Leave a comment below.

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Lauchlan Toal's picture

Good list, thanks for sleuthing this out Adam. The rivalry between wedding photographers and videographers is always fun to read about, though much less fun for the wedding party if it gets in the way of the big day!

Jon Wolding's picture

#2, 4, and 6 describe 99% of all the wedding photographers I've ever seen at work.

That rare, courteous breed of wedding photographers is a blessing... and hard to identify in advance.

Richard Viehmann's picture

You bring up the wedding planners... talk to them!!! I don't shoot very many weddings but its way easier a week or two before the event to communicate concerns, ideas, etc than the day of. Also it builds a foundation for both of you to work around needs and wants. Also if you shoot from a photo sheet outlined by you and the bridal party... get this to the planner so she can aid in making it happen.

Savi You's picture

I am very guilty of #3.

Justin Haugen's picture

Don't rant about anyone or anything on wedding day. If you're having a problem with a guest or vendor, or something is going awry that is out of your hands, DO NOT complain about it to the couple and give them anything to be worried about. I've seen other vendors stress out brides and it's never a pretty sight.

Tell your bride more than once how beautiful they look (don't be a creep please) and be on top of the schedule in a way that puts them at ease.

Yann Langeard's picture

8. Being rude with anyone raising up a smartphone or a tablet at a key moment.

Dylan Haley's picture

I gotta be honest, the Storm Trooper brought me here:-)

Good list though!

michael buehrle's picture

i think storm troopers are required at weddings now. obama............

Chris Adval's picture

What do you mean "Manipulating events leading up to the dinner (cake cutting, speeches, etc.) is also a big no-no." ? You're saying its a big "no-no" suggest to bride/groom we should place the cutting of the cake at X place for best light and background to the image?

Chris Ingram's picture

No, with item #3 he's talking about timing. Don't cause delays that effect key parts of the timeline, especially dinner, cake cutting, speeches etc. The reception venue (if they're any good) will have meal plans timed to perfection so that the bridal party and guests get the freshest food possible. Stealing the bride and groom for photos outside somewhere right while they're meant to be getting their mains served will delay all other people getting their food, and cause it to come out cold...which reflects poorly on the reception venue. The comment has nothing to do with taking control of things like the cake cutting to get the best photographic results. If you're able to have input into the timeline then even better. Nothing worse that having an MC jam key event right into one-another leaving no time for gear/lighting changes.

VanWeddings Photography's picture

having started as a videographer, I can tell you that #4 is not good for the photographer in the long run. having worked with lots of wedding photographers, the really good ones have no problems working with videographers to provide the best products to the client. it's only the "I think I'm really good" photographers that tend to make the day tough for everybody.

J D's picture

I've 2nd shot at least 15 weddings over the past two years and 100% of 1 and 3 was caused by the wedding party, not the photographers. The worst one made the guests wait nearly 90 minutes for dinner so they could keep getting photos at different locations despite numerous people telling them they had to go.

Anonymous's picture

For most of my wedding photography career wedding planners were very few. People tended to organise their own weddings.In fact as a wedding photographer I often had much input into that process with my customers.It is important to think of all these things Adam has noted, especially the videographer and also the timetable. I always worked out a timetable with my customers (several months in advance) and had it in my top pocket and gave out copies to parents,drivers,videographers and whoever else I thought would benefit.I considered myself an expert on timing up until the reception.I knew from experience exactly how much time I needed to capture the wedding properly. The planning of the reception was not my domain but I always asked for a copy of the master of ceremonies timetable when I arrived if I was staying any length of time.
The point about the meal and all the guests waiting for it was something I discussed at the planning stage with my customers.
Very early in my career,before I started using timetables, I got blamed for being late at the reception when it was actually because the old jalopie wedding cars took abut an hour to get to the reception point when in a normal car it would have taken about 20 minutes.They were so slow.
In later years I was able to factor that in to my timetable.
Another wedding in the country was held up by very slow hair dressers and makeup people.
The wedding started an hour late.
I had to cut short my photos of the girls before the ceremony.
Everyone needs to be on the same page on a wedding day and I used to do everything I could to make that happen.
I found that quite often the wedding photographer was one of the first vendors that couples wanted to contract as photographers were often booked months in advance.
There weren't so many to choose from then.
I sometimes had people book me 18 months ahead which was good to be able to help them with their planning.
I have written extensively about my experiences and practices as a wedding photographer on my blog.Just look up "training in wedding photography" in the archive list.
That is if you want to look at this linked article about fitting in with the video person.

I am mainly retired from weddings now but still like to give some input so I hope you don't mind.
I think I am probably a better wedding photographer now than I ever was but physically it is now too hard.

Thank you Adam for raising an important topic.

ian weldon's picture

I stopped following this nonsense but somehow it still creeps into my newsfeed.
This is how the industry sees, and therefore the public see, and anyone thinking about photographing weddings sees, and all other vendors (I hate that word) see wedding photographers.
Unfortunately, because of what I do, I'm often tarred with the same brush.
The more distance that I can put between myself and this infantile, idiotic, pointless and fruitless attitude, the better.
FStoppers, Petapixel, and the rest of the click bait insidious 'photography news' sites need to take a step back. Take a look at the message that you are spreading, and realise that it's you that is eating away at this industry and it's integrity like a cancer from the inside.
'I am not a wedding photographer'

Michael Steinbach's picture

But this is the only place you can get "What I ate for lunch and how long it took to pass" stories. Oh, and don't forget the Reviews.... "This is the best watchamcallit I've never used and don't have anything to really compare it to"

David Vaughn's picture

Somebody give this man an Oscar for best over-dramatic performance.

Mark Davidson's picture

Sorry, I am puzzled as to the point you are trying to make. Are you saying that all photo blogs are portraying wedding photographers as boors? If so, it seems you have missed the point.
No one is saying all wedding photographers are vile. They are trying to get those few annoying ones to wake up and to prevent newbies from fouling the water.
I am not sure how long you have been working but jerks have been around forever. They are just more obvious because we have more of them and more anecdotes about them.
Like everything in this world if you have good practices your reputation will precede you and you will not be tarred by the same brush. I would also note that the occasional dramatic faux pas on the part of a wedding photographer scarcely encourages the public to hire their pool man for the job.

Graham Marley's picture

I dread making anyone late. I'm also pretty non-confrontational.

I make sure to ask planners, exactly, to the minute, when they need people to be lined up, and I aim for 5-10 minutes before that. That's the best I can do really. If I have to pull the couple during dinner to grab some more shots, with their permission, so be it, but holding up the start of the reception is actually worse photographically in the long run. If my contract ends two hours after announcements, I need things moving on time to avoid a problem and cover enough of the reception.

Which is why my eyeballs almost fly out of my head when I start working with a wedding party during crunch time, and the planner comes out with a fleet of servers with drinks and appetizers. I get it, you want to take care of the clients, but don't eat into the small amount of time that I already have while I'm doing backflips to make sure the schedule stays on track. ALSO, if things are delayed with serving entrees, LET ME KNOW so I can use that time instead of standing around waiting for something to happen other than Uncle Bill to finish his cold soup.

Jimmy Schaefer's picture

first looks happen all the time, weather it be the way you want it or if its at the time of the ceremony you better know how to tell that story.

Trifon Anguelov Photography's picture

Very useful list of things not do to as a wedding photographer. The videographer is one which I have struggled a lot in the past. It seems the video crew is always at the wrong place at the possibly worst time and blocking the shots I need to take. Like a wedding photographer myself, I can understand that every vendor needs to get their job done and get paid, but can we not make at the expense of the others vendors?

Details is my fav. I love to capture these extra details which so much tell the story of the day. Plus make an excellent content for the wedding album later. And speaking of guides, while is easier to get wedding photographers to understand and follow common sense guidelines, the brides and their party are harder nut to crack. Wrote this guide some time back to help brides do their best at their wedding:

Hope it rings the bell for many togs and would help everyone to better educate their brides. The more everyone is informed and knows what to expect, the better the whole wedding industry it will be.


Simon Cornils's picture

why is it called common sense when it´s not common at all?
half of this list can be replaced with: don´t be a dick.that´s it.

John DeFiora's picture

This is great except for #7 - I don't know any couple that has regretted doing a first look, however, i do know many people who wish they did a first look because they missed their entire cocktail hour because pics needed to get done