20th Sep2011

You are NOT the hired photographer!… Part 1

by Christine

Today we’re going to talk about manners and when I say “we” I mean me. You … are going to listen.

So, you’ve got a DSLR and a couple of lenses and a memory card or two. You’re armed with a version of Photoshop Elements or maybe you’ve discovered that god-awful online free editing program that I will not honor with a mention.

You are anxious to make a name for yourself and gain the reputation of being a good photographer.

You take your camera everywhere. And when I say “everywhere” that includes weddings. As in … you received an invitation to be a guest.

Oh, you are SO excited! What an opportunity! You can take your camera and lenses and take some wedding photos while you are there. Oh, what a brilliant thought – you can put the photos on a disk and give them to the bride and groom as a wedding gift!

You prepare carefully for the wedding. You look at the websites of some well-known wedding photographers and see some nice photos. Perhaps you can steal the bride and groom for a few minutes and get some photos just like these!

The wedding day arrives and you go to the church a little early to see the bride. The professional photographer is there and you observe him taking some photos. He leaves for a bit and you try to do some of the same photos he did. It looked pretty easy and you like what you see on the back of your camera and show the bride. She is really excited about them.

It’s time for the ceremony and you get seated early so you can be as close to the front as possible. You take a seat right on the aisle so you have a great viewpoint. When the bridesmaids come down the aisle, you lean out into the aisle to take their pictures. Then you do the same for the bride and her father. You see the professional photographer shooting your way, and you think maybe he got you in his shots, but he should have known better and stood somewhere else. You can’t believe your friend hired this guy. So far he’s just done easy stuff that you have been able to duplicate, no problem.

After the ceremony, it’s time for the formals. You’re not in the family or the bridal party, but you stick around to watch and maybe get a few shots since you are going to give the bride and groom such an awesome gift. The professional is doing a pretty good job of arranging the groups of people (thank goodness he seems good at SOMEthing), so you stand a little behind him and take a few shots while he is shooting too. You check a few on the back of the camera and are really pleased how they look. More excitement!

A couple times you are able to get really close to the photographer so that when the people in the photos are looking at him, it looks like they are looking at you too. But sometimes that doesn’t work and you wave your hand really quick and say “look over here, please” and then you get a REALLY good shot. Wow, that worked great, so you do that for each of the rest of the formal shots.

A couple of other people with cameras start doing the same thing and you smile at them. They thought that was such a good idea that they are doing it, too. They don’t have a pro camera like yours, so your photos will be tons better, but that’s okay, they obviously see that you know what you are doing since they keep letting you go first.

While the photographer is packing up his gear, you hang out to chat and pick his brain a little. He doesn’t seem that friendly and now you REALLY don’t get why the bride hired him. Maybe he was really cheap. Honestly, you start to wonder if he even knows what he’s doing.

At the reception, you’re feeling really positive about how things are going, so you get right in there during the cake-cutting and the dancing and the toasting and the garter-tossing and bouquet-throwing.

By the time the reception is over you are bursting with excitement. You showed some pictures on the back of your camera to a lot of people at the reception and they all asked you for copies of them. This photography stuff is pretty cool.

When you get home, you put the photos on your computer and upload them to Facebook and tag the bride and groom and everyone you know. You have over 500 photos that you put online and you post a message that you will make copies for everyone.

By the next morning you have 16 requests in your inbox for a copy of the photos and there are lots of amazing comments on the photos. You are SO happy!

OK, hang tight while I step up on the soapbox.

If this is you, get as far away from me as you can, because I despise running into people like you when I shoot a wedding.

I am the hired photographer. You are not.

I just spent the last 8-10 hours trying to avoid getting you in my shots. You annoyed the heck out of me with your questions and you delayed the formals with all of your “look over here” pleases until I was 20 minutes behind in releasing the wedding party so they could get to the reception.

At the reception you acted like you worked for me and even WITH me. You jotted your email down for people and promised them copies of the photos.

Within hours you had 500 photos on Facebook so that they could be copied and downloaded and made further promises to put them on CDs for whoever wanted.

You just effectively undermined my authority during the wedding day and stripped me of any possibility of selling any prints.

You also just set a precedent for the price of digital files. I charge 4 figures for a disk of digital wedding files and you just gave them away for free.

So, forgive me if I don’t want to chat with you.

Forgive me for not wanting to let you pick my brain.

Forgive me for not wanting to give you any helping hints.

I’m too busy trying to pull the knife out of my back to be friendly to you.

(To be continued…)

23 Responses to “You are NOT the hired photographer!… Part 1”

  • Robb Simmons

    OOhh, I had worse! I'm 5'9", and shot a weddign with a 6'2" guy literally breathing down my neck, shooting right over my shoulder..so I put my camera down, and motioned him towards me, and gently whispered "if you don't stop doing that, I'm going to take your camera, and shove it up your ass, your breathing down my neck is getting on my nerves".

  • Welcome to the world of digital photography where just good enough is the new norm. Forget mastering the medium just take a picture and let the camera do the work or we will fix it in Photoshop. Just because you have a camera doesn't make you a photographer just like hanging out in a garage doesn't make you a car!

    • What if we're in a world where most photographes simply provide status quo photography, service, and marketing. I fear that if most believe the solution to financial success is in trying to convince the masses our photography is better, the end will arrive sooner than later. Take the fact that having a camera doesn't make you a photographer and apply it to the idea that having a business doesn't make you a great marketer. See the irony?

  • There's no one solution, but I suggest you should expect this to happen and make it a habit to explain to the bride before the wedding that well-intentioned guests could hinder or even ruin the images and schedule she hired you for. She'll probably know who potential people will be and can politely ask them (before the day of the wedding) to wait until the reception to take their photos. I also suggest you ask for the name of a friend or family member other than the bride and groom, who you can have be the 'bad guy' and police such activity. Do these things and your aggravation will magically disappear- most of the time. Let the other times roll off.

  • It is easy enough to say no cameras while posing formals, and no other pro photogs. But how do you keep guests from taking photos? I really don't think you can or need to. A professional photo should be so much better than an amateur that it is apparent. I don't even consider weddings for a variety of reasons and dealing with this is one of them. I have little patients for rude ignorance.

    • I bring an assistant to all my weddings. Every chance we get we walk into all thier photos quietly but very apparent. They eventually get the idea!

    • I have my assistants do EXACTLY the same thing! Also, when we pose formals, we have an extra light set on slave that is pointed in a direction that isn't going to mess up our own photos, but pointed in such a way that it will be triggered by the MWACs and DWACs flashes and it will wash out their photos. After just a few photos, they end up wondering what's wrong with their camera lol!

    • Lol I do the same thing! Its really the ONLY way to get through to them! I go over everything when they book, but you will always have the ones come out of nowhere so its easier to do that worry about arguing! I have had to stop a few times and ask them to stop taking pictures because every time I got ready to shoot they would shoot and trigger my lights! ANNOYING and it takes TIME! I finally had to have a rule that anyone not getting portraits done had to stay within so many feet back because I actually fell over a lady that was squatted down behind me trying to get pictures and when I backed up for a shot whaaaam! Talk about ticked off!

  • Alyson Bandy Merrell

    Guilty. I feel really bad about it too. It was before I knew better a few years back. Though I stayed out of the way and did not interfere with the hired photographers setups, or say "look over here". I stayed in the background just taking pictures for myself. Not to show anyone there or offer them to anyone. I did send them to the bride, because she was a good friend. I will NEVER, EVER, EVER do it again.
    I got paid back with it though when I was shooting a wedding as the hired photographer and the "family" photographer followed me around the whole day. Side by side basically. I was so tempted to just pack up and go home. From now on it will be in my contract that brides sign that I will be the sole photographer.

  • Michelle Rudland


  • I had an engagement portrait session where the couple brought a Grandma and Mother along. The mother was behind me half the time shooting the same shots I was with her daughters camera. These people have no shame.

    I also hate when the mother of the bride or groom hire their own photographer. Who does that? If the couple hires me, it is going to only be me from now on. I’m adding it to the contract.

  • An announcement was supposed to be made before the start of the wedding that there be no flash photography. This did not happen and I could see from the back of the church that my husband’s cousin was up and walking around. I begged the priest to make the announcement we had already discussed and he refused. The guest ended up walking around into places NO ONE was supposed to go because it was a Catholic wedding. At weddings I have done the people who stand out in the aisle annoy me the most and in my wedding pictures my brother (part of my bridal party) is not looking at the photographer. If you don’t have an amazing photographer these people also ruin your pictures. If I had my way, his camera would have been taken away from him.

  • OMG! I just had this happen to me at a wedding I did last Saturday. The girl not only tagged all of her images with her logo but she uploaded them to her personal and business Facebook pages!!! When I asked her to take them down she only removed the ones from her personal site. THEN, she uploaded them to her website and listed them for sale?!!?!? Who thinks that’s an okay business practice? She’s new to town and is already burning bridges!

  • Now I know i’m going to open myself up to some severe criticism, and i’d probably deserve it. I did this at a friends wedding at St. Thomas about 3 years ago. I had no idea it was considered so rude it wasn’t until after I had read a few articles like these, and had it happen to me that I realized what a severe shithead I was that day. Needless to say I felt like a complete dirtbag, and looking back to this day I still feel a tinge of shame. Lesson learned though, i’ll never do anything like that again!

    • Hey James – no criticism from me. You learned your lesson. Thanks for relating your experience here. ‘Been there, done that” stories only help reinforce the message I’m trying to send, so “thank you”.
      You ROCK!

  • Melissa

    It has always baffled me at the number of people that think this is ok. Even trying to pick the photographers brain during the wedding/reception, I find inappropriate. Ummm hello…way busy trying to keep up with the day as it is. I’m grateful I haven’t had these kind of encounters yet. And proud to say that I have some pretty awesome manners :). Thank you, momma!

  • ck layne

    You set to words exactly how I feel. It is now part of the aggreement that no other person will be shooting formal shots and shots with just the bride and groom are done privately. Candid shots at the reception, I figure go for it. It also helps to take an assistant to do crowd control. Thak you!

  • Shocked that anyone would even do that. Horribly shocked.

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