This is a topic that has irked me for some time, so I’m going to vent and express my opinions…
Several years ago, we were invited to a wedding where I was asked to take some candids. I mentioned this to one of my mentors who asked if a wedding photographer had been hired. When I said yes, he cautioned me to be careful as there are any number of wedding photographers who have been known to walk out if they see others coming with “serious” gear. I initially had mixed feelings about such a reaction. As it turned out, the couple hadn’t engaged anyone to video the actual ceremony, so I volunteered.
When we got to the venue, I introduced myself to the “official” photographers. I also explained that I would be shooting video during the ceremony and told them if I was in their way for a shot to tell me and I’d move. They seemed to appreciate it. We are very old friends with one side of the wedding, so on a couple of occasions, when I saw what was a must get shot, I would point it out to one of the working photographers. I always got a thank you, and made a conscious effort not to be a know it all or a pest.
A year or two later, we were at another wedding where we knew one side for a long time. One of the groom’s relatives is an amateur photographer who believes in the big numbers theory of photography. If you’re not familiar with this theory, it goes like this…don’t worry about the rules of composition, exposure, etc. Take enough pictures and you’ll get a few good ones. So this person proceeded to shove their way into every possible scenario, including getting in the way when the pros were setting up the standard wedding party shots. I have to give the pros a lot of credit for dealing with it very diplomatically.
More recently, I was asked to shoot a bridal shower. The bride and one of my daughters have been best friends since they were little girls. Of course I said yes, and it was done gratis. I got hit with the same silliness. One or two of the guests had their cameras and were just about throwing elbows to get me out of the way for their shots. Fortunately, I have strong ribs.
I’ve even heard of weddings, in particular, where they actually had to stop the ceremony and “ask” people to sit down and get their phones out of the way so that the video and still pros could do their jobs. Wouldn’t you just love to have the pictures of you walking down the aisle with your family and friends blocked by people’s phones?
I didn’t make up any of the above! When I go to any event where someone is being paid to shoot the event, I make it a point to stay away from their shots. Further, as an invited guest, I probably have more insight into relationships among the other guests and what might make a good memories type shot of people outside the very immediate family, wedding party, etc. When I can, I get the folks who are working get the shot, but that isn’t always possible. I don’t come away from these events with hundreds of shots. Rather I get those shots that I think will be well received. These shots are often outside of the typical event shots.
At one wedding, part of the ceremony was for the bride and groom to put a lock on a heavy chain. The lock had two keys so they each took one and the tossed them into the pond around the venue. It was a very sweet little part of the ceremony. When everyone had moved away from there, I went back and got some shots of that lock. A few weeks later, the bride and groom got an extra gift…we had that shot put on note cards. We heard that they loved them.
As I recall, this phenomenon of everyone taking pictures at weddings, etc. started in the pre digital days. We would go to an event and there would be disposable cameras on the tables. The guests were encouraged to take pictures with them and turn the cameras in when they left. Remember, in those days we used film and getting the images out of the camera typically cost money.
We have reached a point where we need to set out the etiquette for guests taking pictures. I’d like to propose the following which could be given to guests as they arrive:
We are looking forward to sharing with you. We do ask that you observe these simple requests when taking pictures, video, audio, etc. Please stay in your seat during the ceremony. Please keep any cameras, phones or other recording devices within the confines of your seat during the ceremony. We have hired the services of professional photographers and videographers to record the event for us. Please do not interfere with their work. Let them do their jobs the same way that you would appreciate others letting you do your work. Please respect others’ privacy, if they do not want to be in a picture or video don’t include them. If you decide to post pictures, videos, etc. online, please make sure that those in them agree. As a guest you have no rights to sell any images, videos, etc. for profit without first getting permission of everyone in them!
So what’s your opinion? What are your experiences with shooting at events as either the paid photographer or a guest? I’d love to see a small discussion starting.
(Editorial note: This post is light on images as the shots from events all involve family and friends who are not always big on having more pictures of them posted online)