On your wedding day you’ll probably feel like a celebrity with all the attention, adoration and fine clothes. You may expect fawning and flattery, but are you prepared for multiple cameras following your every move? More than any other event, weddings bring out the paparazzi in people. So when you walk down the aisle or cut the cake, be prepared to face a bank of cameras.
Thanks to the digital revolution, many cameras now are lighter, smaller, relatively inexpensive, and they’re showing up everywhere, especially at weddings. “For a number of guests, the way to experience a wedding is to take their digital cameras,” says Robert Mirani, a Lexington, MA, USA-based WPJA photographer. “Instant feedback is part of their experience.”
“I embrace guests with cameras,” says Matt Kim, a WPJA member in Oakland, CA, USA, “and incorporate them as part of the story of the wedding day. These guests are happy to be part of the wedding and want to remember it.”
Both Mirani and Kim say they typically see as many as 20 cameras at a wedding. In fact, Kim says at most weddings digital cameras have usurped disposable cameras.
Some brides even pack their own cameras in their purses, according to Britta Trygstad, a West Fargo, ND, USA, WPJA photographer. “They hand it to their friends so they’ll take snapshots of them,” she says. “Their friends usually yell at them for having cameras, but some people feel they have to document everything.”
With all the shutterbugs snapping pictures at the bride and groom, how does the hired professional photographer get a lens in edgewise? For the most part, wedding photojournalists say they work around the amateurs and are sanguine about them. “[People with cameras] are in my way because they love the couple,” says Kim. “It’s all good.”
Mirani adds that he sometimes works with the camera-bearing guests to make sure he and they don’t trip over one another. “It doesn’t bother me,” he states. “I just try to incorporate it in my coverage.”
“People are going to take photos and I don’t mind,” says Trygstad. “Many times a relative will stand in the middle of the aisle and I always shoot that. I think it’s hilarious to see someone shooting away during the ceremony. At a wedding I recently photographed, a four-year-old stood up on a stool during the ceremony and took pictures, with a flash! It was a very small wedding—only about 20 people—and everyone was amused.”
All three photographers say that people taking pictures of people often make for funny, wonderful images. “For me, it’s what’s happening during the day so it’s part of the story,” Trygstad maintains. During a recent wedding at a resort near Otter Tail, MN, she took an awarding-winning photo of a little girl angling for a shot of the cake cutting. “She was so excited that she was taking pictures all day long,” Trygstad remembers. “So when she popped into the photo it seemed natural to take a picture of her taking a photo.” That image won second place in a recent WPJA competition in the Cake Cutting category.
At a wedding, Matt Kim spotted a grandfather trying to photograph his wife holding their grandbaby during the reception, which was held in a Sausalito, CA, USA restaurant. “He was working hard to find a good angle so he could get the San Francisco skyline in the background.” Bemused by the scene, Kim captured the moment in a WPJA award-winning photo. After all, weddings offer a myriad of moments, too many for the wedding photographer to capture alone. Therefore, guests with cameras, who are on a mission of their own to record the things most important to them, should be encouraged.
Sometimes amateur photographers birddog good photo ops for the professionals, who keep an eye peeled for picture-taking activity. During the reception of a Chelmsford, MA wedding Robert Mirani photographed, the groom took the mic in a karaoke moment to sing to his bride. “He was very animated and really singing it from the bottom of his heart,” says Mirani. “His passion was such that people wanted to almost form a circle around him. That’s when guests and bridesmaids started taking pictures. I wanted not only to capture him singing to his bride, but also to capture the feeling that everyone else was enjoying it too.”
There are times, however, when an amateur’s timing is bad. Mirani gives one example. “I was photographing from behind a bride and groom walking to their reception with everyone in the distance watching them. It was a nice moment. Then someone ran up and asked them to stop so he could take their picture. It wasn’t actually disrespectful towards the bride and groom, nor was it a violation of their space, but it did break the mood. Guests mean well, but they don’t always have a sense of what’s good for the pace and mood of a wedding.”
Should bridal couples try to control all the picture taking? “Even if a couple really wanted to control other photographers at their wedding, I don't think they could fully do so,” says Kim. “I would discourage them from even trying because it would introduce a sour note to the day. I think guests with cameras are here to stay and will probably grow in numbers.”
However, it is important for the couple to understand the dynamics surrounding a free-for-all when it comes to photography on wedding day. Kim adds, “I tell my clients my approach is documentary, so if Uncle Joe jumps in front of me during the first kiss, they’ll receive a nice photo of the back of his head!”
—by Lorna Gentry for the Wedding Photojournalist Association