There has been a few posts going around in regards to wedding guests and their cameras. These posts seem more rampant ever since the introduction of tablets to the scene. (I might also add video to that equation - I'll explain in detail a little later on in a later post) At first glance, you may think this is to complain about such activities but in reality...it is not. I don't have a problem with guests taking photos. (especially not at the ceremony where it's treated as a public event) Guests are invited to show up and enjoy the celebration. If they want to take photos during the event that's their right. If they choose to experience it by looking at their screen by recording the entire ceremony instead of experiencing it with their eyes, that's also their right. That doesn't mean I agree or see the purpose of it, but it's their right and it's not my place to expect everyone to drop their cameras so I can take a few extra photos without the extra little distraction presented. With most of the photos I see being presented as a case against the guests taking photos, I ask myself, didn't you take more than one? I mean, when the bride and her father (most of the time it's with the father) come down the aisle I look for key moments but I definitely take more than one. It's usually a pretty long walk down the last time I checked. And yeah maybe a flash from someone else will ruin an exposure, but you should have a few more to pick from. I'm not saying to burst, but you should have more than just one shot. In all the years I have shot weddings, flashes from other people ruining my exposure in a critical shot is few and far between. People stepping into the aisle... that's a little more common but it's to be expected and you have to plan for it.
The main example most people use is when they are trying to take a photo from far back in the church as the couple starts to make their exit down the aisle. Take one from closer just in case, then work your way back quickly to get one further back...or stay closer to them and document their progress on their way out as they acknowledge guests. It's your job to be ready for anything. You always need to be thinking two moves ahead.
Here's 2 solutions.
Even with all that said...why don't I care if I lose a few shots due to the guests. Because it has very little impact on my final product. Every one of my weddings include an album. It's non negotiable. I would like to think that I have enough substance to build an great book. It's not 2 or 3 missed opportunities that will kibosh an album. Especially not 3 images from the ceremony. Unless you manage to not get a single usable image of the bride coming down the aisle, the first kiss and exchanging rings, then you could say it has impact on the final result. But you would need to work extremely hard and be completely clueless to not have any usable images as such. I don't need 20 pages of ceremony in my albums, 4-6 should suffice (and even that may be too much). and also... you don't need 10 photos per page. (it's not a buffet) An album is substance and style. Not a catalogue! When you shoot with an album in mind, you shoot with a purpose for an end product. My job is to tell a story. So on the wedding day I start to assemble all the pieces I'll need to make that happen. A little from the ceremony, a little from getting ready, the details, the bride, the groom, the emotional moments, the fashion, the laughter, etc. It's not two more or two less images that take a great work of art and render it awful. There should be enough to pick from at the end of the day. The conversation may seem to have gone off track here but not quite...hang in there it will all come together...keep reading...trust me on this. So back to our camera wielding guests....let them take all the photos they want. They are in fact cataloging the ceremony (and the reception) which is great since it might be nice to have some of those. Different angles, different perspectives, funny things happening and so on. 90% of the images won't be amazing (there's only so much a cell phone or point and shoot can do) but there will be a few gems in there that the bride and groom will appreciate very much. Let the guests catalogue, I will choose to storytell. I will create the tangible item that will be enjoyed for years to come. GIven the choice, not many people want to look through a 1000 images (especially not 4 or 5 times) other than maybe the bride. 21 photos of the back of the bride and groom standing in front of the church...that's a lot of the same thing. I tell my brides.. "there will be many people at your wedding with cameras, and they will document/catalogue your wedding day through the thousand and thousands of images they will take, let me focus on creating interesting and artistic images for you. We'll let them take care of the nitty gritty and the obvious, let's call them the backup squad. I can't be everywhere at once and something sudden may happen in an uneventful corner of the church and my back is turned. Maybe I'll miss it, but someone might catch it and you'll still have the memory through their photos. Meanwhile I'll be looking for something different, new or visually appealing to photograph. I'll be thinking outside the box. Something that captures the essence of your wedding, not only the obvious." There was a time when the photographer was pretty much the only guy who had a camera at a wedding. Think about how things changed when he went from being the only guy with access to photos to simply the main guy a camera. Times change. Now... as for guests taking photos during the formals...that's a different story for me...hypocritical on my part? Stay tuned for my thoughts on that and you be the judge.