Are you getting married? Are you a person with a nice camera who has a mate getting married? Great, I have some tips on how to navigate taking photos at weddings.
When I was first asked to shoot a friend's wedding 7 years ago, I was ecstatic. I felt lucky but nervous, and in the year and a half I had to plan, aside from research, I took pictures at other friends' weddings where I was a guest. Looking back now, I absolutely crossed the lines of what I would now consider good photography etiquette; but frankly no-one had told me otherwise, so how would I know?
At the most basic level, photographers will usually include terms in their contract expressing that they are to be the only professional photographer shooting the wedding, aside from their own second shooter they might bring along. Other people with good cameras and are more of a grey area, but still worth chatting about.
So what IS there to know about having good camera etiquette at weddings? What does it matter if there are a few more good photos being taken?
Personally, I shoot fluidly and creatively on wedding days. Aside from the requested group photos and timings, I don't plan anything out. I want to be immersed in the moment, capturing everything based on that couple, their friends and family, the light and location. I think on the spot and make decisions based on the interactions I see. If there's another person snapping away behind you during the couple's shoot, it can throw you off your course and potentially the couple as well. It's not always easy for people to relax in front of a camera, even more so if there are spectators.
Beep beep, you’re in my shot!
This is probably the biggest obstacle photographers might face with others taking photos. Because people are excited to be getting some lovely photos of the day, they'll be there at the big moments, leaning into the aisle or the confetti tunnel. The difficulty you have as the professional is making sure your photographic view isn't compromised; they won't realise, but if they're in front of your their lens or flash could be blocking you from an amazing shot you have one chance to get.
Full disclosure: neither a wedding couple or any guest will probably care about this one; it’s totally a photographer’s issue. But essentially, if we're there because you like our style, every shot will have a personal creative vision. Setting up a shot for the couple’s portraits means using techniques and experience that have probably taken some years to nail, and it’s often what will make a photographer’s work their own. So ideally, it’s preferable that you don’t have someone snapping the shot you’ve arranged from over your shoulder (and I have had someone actually lean on my shoulder to do this before!).
This is important, especially if the person with the camera is a close friend or family member. If they’re shooting all day, they won't be experiencing or enjoying your wedding day to the full capacity. Trust me, I can promise it's a wholly different experience when you put your phone and camera down and get involved. I'm the first to admit how much I enjoyed taking pictures at weddings before I was a professional (as a I do now, but obviously in a different way!), but even so, I know I missed out on fun because of it. Couples have (probably) paid a fair whack for guests to be there, and for a wedding photographer, so I would encourage leaving the camera alone for at least some of the day and letting the photographer do the hard work.
Hey killjoy, I want to take photos and the couple want me to as well!
I’m not telling anyone to not bring their camera to a wedding, or for a couple to tell all their guests not to either. I’m not even doing that for my own wedding! I know most couples out there love the extra photos from their mates and funny outtakes, as will I, but next time you’re at a wedding and you want to take pictures, just think about the best times to do it.
Here are some tips on what you can do:
- Give the ceremony a miss. The pro will have this covered, so just sit back and enjoy it.
- Be aware of where the photographer is and try not to get in the way for ‘one chance moments’ (aisle, confetti, first dance)
- Leave them to it for portraits. Go and get a drink, I know you want to.
- Snap away with your friends, especially when the photographer is off doing something else
- Zoom in: shoot from far away for some lovely candid moments without getting in important shots.
- Remember to have some time without your camera and enjoy the day.