Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Wedding Guest Photography Etiquette

It bothers me. I'm not really sure why, but it does. Not that something bothering me changes things for the rest of the world, but I'm going to air a continuing frustration that will soon directly impact me.

Wedding guests should not be allowed to take photographs during wedding ceremonies. I'd prefer guests not be allowed to take pictures at all, but that's an impossibility these days with everyone possessing a digital camera. Why is this such a big deal?

The bride and groom typically spend huge amounts of money on a photographer. They've looked at portfolios, reviewed prices, and selected one individual to photograph the entire day. They're resting their faith and trust in this person, and they expect great photographs. The photographer has been briefed about the rules the church or other locations may have regarding photography (something guests wouldn't know).

When guests try to take pictures at weddings, they can slow down the ceremony, create lighting disturbances that affect the professional photography, and may even get in the way entirely. No one wants to have flash bulbs going off everywhere, especially on the most important day of their life. Plus, as the couple walks down the aisle, instead of seeing their loved ones' faces and smiles, they see cameras and flashes. Not cool!

The wedding reception is typically less formal and structured, so people get up and stick their cameras in the happy couple's faces the rest of the evening. Can you imagine how tiring it is to stand through the professional photographs and then have to struggle through even more photography from amateur photographers who often take several minutes to construct the "perfect" shot? The couple often provides disposable cameras for the guests to use. The guests should photograph other guests, not the cake or the couple. Get pictures of things the professional photographer is missing, like your son moonwalking or your grandmother snoozing.

I'm not saying don't take pictures ever. I'm saying be discreet and do so from a distance and quickly. Remember: you are not the hired photographer hand-selected by the couple to photograph their occasion. Unless the couple specifically asks you to help with photographs, keep a low profile.

And never, ever, ever post photographs of the wedding on Facebook (or any other social networking site) until after the couple has returned from their honeymoon and have the ability to untag themselves from your pictures. Just because you think their kegstand was awesome doesn't mean they want their boss to see those pictures. Have the courtesy to respect someone else's special day. It's not yours!


Snookie said...

I have to say that I disagree, no strongly disagree, with what you have to say. Some professional photographers can take MONTHS to get your photos back to you for proofs. Also many packages don't include the price per print, or rights to a CD. Having people take snapshots during the ceremony, and the prep stages allows the bride and groom instant access to their photos. I actually took some at my sisters while the professional photographer was, caught some awesome images, and downloaded them on their laptop before they left for their honeymoon. They still have not purchased their CD and until then my photos will be the only ones they have to share with others. Snap shots taken during our wedding were able to be shared the next weekend at our family reunion for many people who couldn't make it, or wanted to see the "professional" line ups. Also one of my favorite shots of us walking out of the ceremony was taking by my husbands co-worker. The only shot we got with bubbles, not to mention during the cake cutting ceremony the same person captured me pretending to cut off the grooms head. All pictures that would have been missed by the professional camera man. And his 3 cameras. I enjoyed taking pictures with several of my young cousins after the ceremony - one who thought I was a fairy princess. Both her and I will treasure that picture. I took the stance that the more pictures I had of the only wedding I will ever have the better.

All of that said, flash photography might be too much, and turn the shutter sound off. Unless you have a real shutter... *stopping to puzzle if those exist anymore*

As for Facebook I was excited to see pictures of the happy day when I got back from my honeymoon. I got to see many events and photos that I missed because I was busy elsewhere.

Brad said...

I will second the post and disagree with Snookie's comment. This will be the most heavily documented day of the bride and groom's life, and likely the only time they will pay a professional photographer thousands to take pictures of them. The chutzpah of guests, family or no, who believe they must step in to capture the perfect moment at the ceremony, is overbearing, to say the least.

Snookie doesn't consider the potential pro photos ruined by eager shutterbugs whose flashes go off just as the pro is metering that once-in-a-lifetime shot. If the pro misses key shots, it's an issue for the bride and groom to handle with their photog, not for guests to pass judgment and take on themselves. Remember, it was the couple's decision--not yours.

The fact that Snookie's sister hasn't bought a CD from the photog yet doesn't change the rules of etiquette. These are photos for posterity, not immediate gratification. A lot of this probably comes from guests' fear that the only photos they'll ever see from the wedding are the ones they take. A good remedy for couples who can afford it is to buy all rights to their photos and promise guests in advance and in writing that they'll receive copies, and then to make sure they do. My fiancee and I plan to do just that, and to request that guests not take pictures before, during, or immediately after the ceremony.

§arah said...

I agree. And telling the photographers to get out of your way so you can take a pic is beyond rude. Lining up behind the photographer and taking their shots. Also disrespectful and rude.