///by Laura Russo\\\

As an active photographer in the wedding photography industry, I’m aware of a growing and dangerous trend of photographers venting {complaining} about wedding guests, specifically regarding use of their phones & cameras for photographs during weddings. I’m sure most of you have heard about it: Uncle Bob set off his flash and ruined my shot!, Uncle Bob stepped into the aisle holding up a gigantic iPad and blocked my view of the bride & groom!, Uncle Bob leaning over my shoulder and “stealing” my poses of the bridal party!!! Yes, Uncle Bob is the new scape goat for missed shots, lighting screw ups and tons of other excuses.

But that’s just what they are: EXCUSES. Here’s a little tough love {& hopefully, motivation}: If you are going to join in on this wild ride of wedding photography, you must hang on with both hands, be prepared for anything, and COMMIT to it. You have to embrace that you are 100% responsible for creating the photographs that you want to make, and that you need to deliver for your clients. OWN IT. Let any challenges and obstacles that may arise make you a better photographer & a better person.

Move it, shake it, hustle & GET the SHOT. In other words, ADAPT or die. (You hear me, Fight Club fans out there.)

Here is a photo from the wedding that I attended as a guest. I did not bring my camera, but I had my camera phone! and I whipped that sucker out every time I had a chance to capture a quick memory/photo for myself. Keep in mind, I have never seen a single photo from the professional photographers. I’m sure they are great, but they were not shared. I might also mention that this wedding was well over a year ago, so I thought it would be safe to share these camera phone photos at this point. No disrespect intended.

These snapshots though? These were photos for me. Of a beautiful couple that I LOVE. To remember their special day.

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Guests are snapping photos and disturbing the flow of the photographer, but they just want to capture a few memories of their own.

My point is this: The day is all about LOVE. These invited guests are here to support and celebrate a couple that they love. Emotions are at an all time high. Of course, guests are going to want a few pictures of their own to remember the day. We live in a digital world and weddings are a major EVENT! And how could I not capture this beautiful, blushing bride or amazing air guitar solo?! (Even if it’s taken on my cell phone.)


Dad and Bride, me spying on the formal portraits, and dad killing it on the air guitar. (left to right)

But, YOU! You are the hired professional. You have been entrusted to do a professional job. And these guests’ snapshots are no threat to you, no threat to your business or livelihood, I promise. Look at this quality – these shots will never be hanging on a wall over the couch, but your photos will. Everyone knows that you are the professional. So act accordingly.

Below is a little bit of advice and some suggestions that might help dilute your frustration, and help you be more prepared to deal with imposing guests and pop up photographers at a wedding. This is simply my two cents. If you don’t like these suggestions, please stop reading and move on. This post is meant to help, motivate, and encourage other photographers. If you have helpful advice to add, or encouragement on this topic, please comment below.

**HERE ARE A FEW TIPS TO HELP YOU THROUGH when dealing with the Uncle Bob Blues**

SUGGEST an unplugged ceremony. You can put a clause in your contract all day long about how you are the only shooter, etc, but the guests don’t see any of that. Another way to safeguard against tons of camera phones coming out, is to suggest an unplugged wedding ceremony. There are some great signs that can be set up at the entrance asking guests to put away their phones for the ceremony. Some brides and grooms may like your suggestion and do an unplugged wedding ceremony. But if not, you will have to think on your feet and work around it. Some couples encourage guests to post to Instagram with a cute hashtag that they created for their wedding day. My sample photos are pulled from my Instagram feed to illustrate the points in this post.

Here are some examples of “Unplugged Wedding” signs. (Thank you, Pinterest). Also, encourage an unplugged wedding, because you don’t want a bunch of pictures of the guests with cameras blocking their faces! Step one, talk this over BEFORE the wedding, so you don’t get stuck in an awkward situation.

Suggest an Unplugged Wedding. If it really bothers you to have guests taking pictures, suggest an unplugged wedding. Otherwise, work around it!

SCHEDULE. From day one, discuss with your bride and/or wedding planner the importance of TIME for your photography to take place before or after the ceremony. Ask about the important shots, family members, must-have groups shots. Streamline your process beforehand. Calculate how much time you will need. Also, offer a first -look shoot before the ceremony with the bride, groom, and maybe the wedding party. This is a good time for the bride and groom to have a few relaxing minutes together and you can sneak some intimate shots. Your portrait time will be your time to get all of the formal shots, and guests can take their photos later. Designate this as your time ONLY.

DO YOUR HOMEWORK. Scout your wedding location for some landscape backdrops that will photograph well for group shots. Do this before the wedding date. If the wedding is out of town, arrive early enough to do this part of your job before the day gets started. Pay attention to lighting and weather. Have a plan. When the guests head one way to cocktail hour, you will be leading your group the other way, to their photo shoot.

Lead & DIRECT. REMEMBER, the guests are not your enemy. These are potential clients, and ambassadors of your work. Be FIRM, but respectful when you need a guest to please move, back up, or leave the area while you work. Take control of the situation to get the results that you need to. Bring an assistant to block off the area if need be. Designate a person (maid of honor, MOB, etc) to help you identify key family members for photos. Do whatever you need to do to make these photographs work. There are some crazy people out there, I know this. But, remember that the guests are not out to get you or against you, or questioning how you do your job. Most people are simply interested in photography, and want to participate because it’s fun.

SMILE. You are in control. You are the director of this shoot. You’re an artist. Do your job well. Stop making excuses. Just do what it takes to get the shot! Move your body, try a different angle, stand up on a stool, but SMILE while doing it. Smile and be pleasant and it puts everyone at ease. The bride needs to know that you have total control of your job and enjoy it. Your attitude during a shoot is the key to future referrals. Be easy to work with. Some people are just jerks. Don’t be one.

PLAN. For those of you who don’t know my mother, allow me to introduce you to the law of the 5Ps: Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Be adaptable throughout the day, but have a solid plan in mind. The more prepared that you are, the more confidence you will have and the better your results will be. Make a plan of how you will deal with these situations. Be prepared. These situations will surely arise, but you can change how you respond to them and deal with them.

Here is a photo from the bachelorette party and then WEDDING! What a gorgeous bride!

I hope you found this post helpful. I didn’t mean to insult, only inspire. Please share your thoughts in the comments section. This is not an open invitation to insult me or other commenters. Play nice or move along. Also, don’t curse on my page, it’s tacky.

This post is meant to be a list of helpful tips for photographers, to adopt some guest etiquette, educate clients, and prepare ahead of time.

I hope that you feel more CONFIDENT to make suggestions, schedule your portrait time, scout your portrait backdrop locations, lead & direct your photo shoots, SMILE, and create a solid plan for the wedding day.

Have a great day! Laura xoxo

Story by Laura Russo