Before I start, I want to say this is not aimed at anyone in particular, particularly the more rant-y bits. These are just some observations from someone who falls somewhere in between professional and amateur (hobbyist?) when it comes to photography.
I have been to a few weddings recently, one of which was my own, and on these occasions we of course want to take lots of photographs to remember the day. It is a really special day, one full of joy and happiness and, of course, love and these days in particular are the ones we want to remember the most and taking photographs helps with this.
However, unlike most social gatherings, at a wedding it is very common for the couple to have hired (i.e. PAID) a photographer to be there to take photographs. This could also extend to a videographer as well. Even me and Abi, two people who both carry our cameras around with us almost everywhere, paid for a photographer to be at our wedding and wedding photography is not cheap, but very worth it.
The wedding photographer’s sole aim is to take the best photographs possible of the day, being a mixture of the event as it is happening and some staged ones, often after the ceremony. You, as a guest, have been invited because of what you mean to the couple, not because of your photography skills and, quite frankly, nothing ruins a shot of the bride walking down the aisle with her father/mother/relative, or a shot of the couple saying their vows, than having a dozen cameras/camera phones (or worse, iPads *shudders*) leaning into the shot to take a photo. Imagine that, with every row leaning further into the aisle to get sight of the bride, the photographer who was paid solely to take photographs suddenly can see less and less of the bride and more and more LCD screens aimed back at them.
OK, now that I have got that out the way, I want to also talk about what kind of photographs you, as a guest, should consider taking at a wedding and reception. Firstly, consider the wedding photographer. Are they still there? What are they focused on capturing? Unless the couple have hired two photographers, chances are that the photographer is trying to get nice pictures of the wedding couple or, if they are not really doing anything interesting, pictures of the cake, the table settings, the venue, etc. So, unless you really think you can do better than the photographer, do not make this your priority.
Instead, consider the advantages you have over the photographer. Chances are, you will more familiar to the other guests, or at least some of them. You will likely not have as much camera equipment, meaning you can get around easier and be less conspicuous. This is a huge plus because as soon as you shove a camera in someone’s face, even if you say act natural, they start posing. And whilst posing is fine for some pictures, we want great pictures here, natural ones. Natural reactions to happiest day of someone’s life (after that time you selected a chocolate bar at the vending machine and two came out at once!).
Wedding days are emotional, particularly for the parents and grandparents of the wedding couple. Speeches, first dances, these are brilliant times to be watching for laughter and even tears of happiness from the relatives. I was at a wedding recently, as a guest, and at the reception I took a few photos and by far and away the one that is getting the most ‘likes’ is one of the bride’s mother smiling during one of the speeches. She didn’t know I was taking the photo, I wasn’t intrusive and in her face, I simply tried to capture a moment that I was fortunate enough to witness, as a result of the advantages I, a guest, had over the professional photographer in that instance.
So please, do not take this as me ranting at anyone, particularly those of you that may have taken photographs of the ceremony at a recent wedding. I completely understand the urge to do so. But please do consider the wider scenario, the repercussions you taking a photograph during a ceremony could have, particularly if the bride and groom have asked that no photos be taken during the ceremony. Even if you think you have a perfectly fine angle to take a photograph without disturbing someone’s view, someone else could see you taking a photo and try and take one themselves.
Instead, save it for the less formal parts of the event. Before the ceremony, the gathering afterwards. The reception. And perhaps think less about the wedding couple, and more about the other people in attendance, and let your photos compliment those taken by the official photographer, rather than compete with them.
Thanks for taking the time to read,