Asking Guests Not to Take Pictures? Are you Crazy?

by Melissa on July 18, 2011

I’ve seen quite a few mentions on blog posts and on Twitter in the past few months about couples  asking guests not to take photographs at their wedding.  Why?  Well, a few reasons.  First, professional photographers claim they can no longer capture emotion on guests’ faces because guests’ faces are either blankly staring at an LCD screen, or their head is looking down at the LCD screen to inspect the photo they just took.  And the lights from guests’ cameras can affect the photographs that the professional takes.

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Here goes.  Asking guests not to take photographs at your wedding, in my opinion, is not only a terrible idea, but insanely rude.  Did you ever stop to think that guests want to capture their own memories of your day?  From their own perspective?

I mentioned a few months ago that we actually purchased ten digital cameras to have on hand for our guests at the wedding because we want all of them to take pictures.  My fiancé and I are huge photography fans (albeit amateurs), and we love photos.  The more photos, the merrier!  In fact, I get really disappointed when I’m not allowed to take pictures.  I almost walked right out of the Picasso Museum in Barcelona last year  when I found out I couldn’t take pictures inside.  If I can’t take pictures, what’s the point?  So, I would have a similar reaction if someone told me I couldn’t take pictures at their wedding.  (*side note* Of course I did end up going through the Picasso Museum to see the art, but I’m still pissed that I couldn’t take pictures)

Contrary to popular belief, your wedding is not just about you.  It’s also about your guests.  As Meg from A Practical Wedding says “Your wedding day is not just your day, it’s the day of everyone who loves you.”  It’s about thanking them for being there to celebrate your big day.  And, if they bring their camera, it’s because they want memories of being there with you to celebrate!

And no, it’s not the same if you promise your guests that you’ll send them the link to your wedding photos.  For those of us that love taking pictures, we want the photos to be from our perspectives, not someone else’s perspective.  How we experienced the wedding, or whatever event, not how someone else experienced or viewed it.

So, you don’t want your wedding photos to be full of your guests taking their own wedding photos?  Get over it!  Photography evolves continuously.  If you got married 75 years ago, you maybe would have one formal wedding portrait, if you were lucky.  If you got married 40 years ago, your wedding photos would probably be yellowed and discolored from age and the poor color processing that was used at the time.  Until very recently “photojournalistic” style wedding photography was rare, so your pictures would have consisted of formal, posed photos.  So, with a few exceptions, there wasn’t much “capturing emotion” in those photos either.  During your father daughter dance, you were told to turn and smile for the camera during the dance.  Not much emotion in that!

And until very recently, you were lucky to end up with any more than, say, 100 or so photos (like from my sister’s wedding in 1997), because professional photographers were much more careful and selective about the shots they took because film and was very expensive.  And getting prints of your wedding was also very expensive.  Be thankful, not resentful, that you have so many people taking photos on your wedding day!

So, what I have to say is, get over it.  You should feel lucky that you have so many people who want  to capture memories of your big day.  Professionals and non-professionals.

As a final anecdotal note, I question how much of a problem this really is.  At the last two weddings I attended, sure, there were folks taking pictures.  But maybe only about 10% of the guests.  There are plenty of others who will be there for your professional photographer to capture their emotions.

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Seshu July 18, 2011 at 10:19 am

“And, if they bring their camera, it’s because they want memories of being there with you to celebrate!”

If your guests are busy taking pictures, they aren’t “being with you” in mind or body. They are distracted. Plain and simple. At a recent wedding I photographed, I saw nearly every guest with some sort of a camera (phone or compact or DSLR). Did these folks come to hang out with the couple or their gear?

Let’s assume that everyone does leave their camera turned off and simply enjoys the moment with the bride and groom; interacts with them in a natural way, like they used to … imagine those images … they are going to be a much richer testament to the relationship the guests have with the couple and vice versa than a bunch of people edging their way in to take a picture of the bride and groom that will sit in those cameras for months on end.

So, I have to politely disagree with your premise.

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Melissa July 18, 2011 at 11:04 am

Thanks for your comment! You definitely have the opportunity to go to more weddings than I do, but I really question how much of an issue it is The way some folks make it sound is that 100% of all guests have a camera glued to their face the entire duration of the wedding. Now, I love taking pictures, but that’s certainly not the case for me. We put our cameras down, wait for something new or interesting to happen and snap another photo. Just like on a vacation. Most people are not going to constantly take photos 100% of the time. But when they see something they want to capture forever, well it’s worth taking yourself out of the moment for an instant to capture it. I’m thankful we can do that to preserve our memories for generations to come!

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Yuliana Tan July 18, 2011 at 10:52 am

In my point of view as a wedding photographer, I am okay with guests who taking a picture during their friend’s wedding, but I really hope they are not block my view/spot but only taking a picture from their spot.

But asking client’s guests to stop taking a picture is ridiculous, I captured 1-2 times the guests taking a picture with their gear and it turn out to be a good candid photos.

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Danielle Rabbat July 18, 2011 at 11:18 am

I’m another photographer chiming in here…

I recently attended a wedding as a guest and I DID bring my camera. However, I only took it out a handful of times. I decided to WATCH the ceremony and did not allow myself to take any images as the bride walked down the aisle or the ceremony was taking place. It was definitely a unique experience for me! I was THERE instead of behind my lens.

I DID want some images as a keepsake for myself though, especially since this wedding was in the US and I live in Canada.

In general, I do take a photojournalistic approach to my weddings and if guests reacting to the images on their LCD screens is part of the action, so be it (just as long as they don’t stand in front of me when I’m trying to capture a moment)!

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Storyboard Life July 18, 2011 at 3:20 pm

I don’t know of any photographers who care about guests taking photos. The only problem is when they forget that the bride and groom have paid money for the photographer to do a job. Most guests are going to be courteous and get out of the way of the photographer and like wise the photographer is the professional who has to work around “obstacles”

Asking guests to not take photos is like asking women to were their “everyday” clothes to insure that the bride is not out-dressed.

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Melissa July 18, 2011 at 3:26 pm

Thanks for your comment. I should point out that it’s not just photogs. The offbeat bride article I link to contains language for couples themselves to use to communicate to their guests that they should not take photos.

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luke July 19, 2011 at 12:42 am

the analogy with the Picasso Museum is a bit inane. one goes to a museum to experience being around the art, to interpret & digest it, to just enjoy BEING with the art. years ago, i was in Paris and visited the Louvre. i brought back ten photos i took of the Mona Lisa that i was so excited about… and they turned out like crap. it looked like a tiny painting in a giant plastic box, and i’d forgotten what it was like to be there, in the same space as the Mona Freakin’ Lisa. my wife visited St. Peter’s Basilica a few years back and was really excited to experience the Pieta. but standing around it were hoards of tourists, all wanting photos of it. ever been to the Basilica? know how dark it is? know how difficult to properly light inside that space is? no one there was concerned with just experiencing BEING near the Pieta, just getting a bloody photo of it to prove they were there.

that seems, in sense, to be the same way it is with many guests bringing their “nice camera” or a P&S or whatever to weddings. they spend so much time glued to the back of it they miss what’s going on, and this includes family members!

the wedding day IS the bride’s (and the groom’s!) day. of course it’s about gathering all these people who love you and want the best for you, but it’s not about them doing the job they’ve paid someone else a healthy chunk of change to do. would you expect it to be ok for a guest to show up with their own grill to the reception? no! a caterer has been paid to take all that work away so everyone can enjoy themselves.

as wedding photographers, we can’t & won’t dictate to a bride what can & can’t be done… for the most part. formal posed shooting is restricted to just us. past that, there are two areas we really wish guests would put their own cameras down, stop, and enjoy the day: the ceremony and the “getting ready” time.

a couple of weeks ago, we photographed a wedding where there was a dude near the front row who had his little camera, videoing the ceremony. he didn’t even stop when it was time to pray; he simply put his head down and continued to hold his arm straight into the air, videoing the entire time. so… that’s ok??

again, it’s not about trying to dictate to a bride and/or groom what they should do. but there are people there (like us) who have been paid to capture an entire day’s worth of memories. the examples you give, 75 years ago, 40 years ago, mid-90s, are all moot at this point. it’s 2011. any wedding photographer worth their salt (and money) have more than enough gracious space to photograph for 12 hours without stopping or worrying about not having resources or room to take another photo.

we love to see guests enjoying themselves at weddings, and that includes taking photos of one another. it’s fun to snag a shot of friends photographing friends. we don’t finding photos once we’ve gotten home of a sanctuary full of guests with arms in the air or the aisle trying to get a shot in some sort of weird one-upmanship. what’s so frustrating is seeing guests who have tasked themselves with (essentially) doing our job and not being a part of the day.

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Melissa July 19, 2011 at 7:17 am

Hi, thanks for your comment. As I pointed out, I did go into the Picasso Museum, because ultimately I did want to experience the Museum, even if I couldn’t take pictures. I have been lucky enough to visit all those places you mentioned (Thanks to my dad working for the airlines and some college scholarship opportunities, I had visited 26 countries by the time I was 22 years old! Including lots of places where it’s acceptable to bribe people to be allowed to take photos). Yes, a lot of those places are quite dark, and when I was in Italy for the first time in 1997, a lot of my pictures did not come out well because I used film and had no idea what I was doing. Now that everything is digital and I have instant feedback and can use a prime lens in those dark places, my photos can come out much better! Either way, our memories are not perfect, and I want to be able to capture details that I can see later, whether it’s while traveling or as a guest at someone’s wedding, even if the photo doesn’t come out perfectly.

Quick question for you, at the weddings you photograph, is it mostly younger folks with their cameras, or is it people of all ages?

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luke July 19, 2011 at 10:43 am

it’s never really been weighted to one demographic or another as far as who all brings cameras, but if there’s ever one distinction, it’s this: younger people (typically friends from college or cousins) bring the point & shoots, maybe a decent DSLR. inevitably, it’s the “older” (and i use that word loosely because, well… i’m 30 now and i have to be careful how i use it) who bring the entire shebang along: the DSLR body, the extra zoom lens to supplement their kit lens, a tripod or monopod, etc.; the ones often referred to as “Uncle Bobs” within the industry.

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Darlene - TaylorMade Weddings August 20, 2011 at 9:24 am

What I see at weddings is that younger people tend to tweet and post to Facebook during the wedding. The..ahem… “older ones” are using their phone cameras to record parts of the ceremony and take pictures. So what I see is a whole lot of phones popping up in the air above people’s heads capturing parts of the ceremony. Or I see people’s heads buried in their LCD screens watching the ceremony or tweeting/texting. Sad. Do we have to watch life happen through an LCD screen? Is life real only if it’s on Twitter or Facebook? Can’t we just turn off our technology for the short time it takes for the wedding ceremony and be in the moment? Let the photographer do his job and encourage your guests to LIVE in the moment and connect with each other at your wedding. You can’t capture THAT on a camera!

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Elizabeth October 5, 2011 at 8:42 pm

Well, I totally disagree with you. I think the bride and groom have every right to
say who can take photos. It is their prerogative, it is certainly not yours. They are paying mucho bucks for their wedding, not to have it ruined by the likes of inconsiderate people. At your wedding, let all the people take all the pictures they want. It is quite distracting to attend a wedding where there are alot of people holding up cameras during the ceremony. And not to mention, classless. There is a photographer being paid to take the photos. Who is giving permission for their photos to be plastered all over FB????

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Melissa October 7, 2011 at 7:36 pm

Don’t get me wrong, we’re paying big bucks for our photographer. It’s our top priority and our photographer is significantly more than what we’re paying to feed 150 people at our wedding! But when did it become classless to take pictures of close friends and family?

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Caprina March 2, 2012 at 4:07 am

Another photographer here. I can see it being viewed as classless because the flash on most point and shoots, and even some DSLR cameras tend to overexpose the faces of those being photographed–if the photographer at the time is also trying to do their job at the same time the guests are popping out their cameras, that can ruin the professional photographer’s photos that the bride and groom paid a lot of money for. Not to mention if cellphones are being held over peoples’ heads to try and capture the moment, the photographer is going to have a lot of LCDs from cameras and phones in the photo, which distract from the bride and groom, and the environment/overall feeling of the event.

I think the best solution for both photographer and bride/groom, is to kindly ask that guests stay behind/ out of the way of the professional photographer’s shooting, and to restrict “flash” photography from guests. This would let guests still take their photos, and still have their own perspectives of the day, but the flash won’t interrupt a photographer’s careful planning of light and posing, and everyone will get their photos.

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Allison November 13, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Bride and Groom’s choice for sure. It shouldn’t be a big deal. Not everyone is the same. In some cases, the bride and groom might be very private, and having a wedding is more public than they would normally be. In my case, I would ask to not have the guests take photos mainly because the sound of all the digital cameras clicking and beeping would drive me crazy while standing up there. Sure, people could mute their cameras/camera phones, but would they?
If you’re going to go to a wedding and become so offended about a simple request that may just make the couple more comfortable, then maybe you shouldn’t be there in the first place. To call them ridiculous and insanely rude? I think that’s rude.

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Kevin December 7, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Hi – Thank you for your great articles – they’re very helpful. A constructive comment I have, though relates to where you say “If I can’t take pictures, what’s the point?” Kindly, I think this misses the point of marriage altogether and actually suggests that you and your memories are the center of the marriage, not the couple, not God, and not the community. While I agree entirely that the wedding isn’t all about the bride and the groom, it’s also not entirely about the guests. It’s a sacred moment, crafted by God, bringing together two people whose union is also sacred. The sacred nature of the moment should be honored and shared by all who are present. It should be without distraction, so it’s perfectly reasonable to politely request at the top of the program that guests “Please join us in the moment of our marriage and refrain from photography.” It’s about creating a sense of reverence, and the memory of the wedding for those attending should be lived out in knowing and loving the newlyweds for the rest of their lives. Kevin

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Shayleah February 7, 2012 at 3:53 am

I want everyone to take photos of my wedding this August! The upside about being the photographer, is you get freedom of movement that the guests (hopefully) won’t have. What I don’t want are loud camera phones that could distract, in fact, we’re asking people to turn off their phones BEFORE the ceremony (and if they don’t, well, we’re getting married in a fire hall, so it’s metal clad in the middle of the country-side, there’s no reception). As long as they’re quiet, and hopefully not distracting they’re fine. Unless they’re present when the professional is doing the posed pictures, that’s a big no-no. You don’t want anyone looking at the wrong camera, or getting in the prof’s way!

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Kelley February 21, 2012 at 1:15 pm

Taking photos of paintings with the flash on inside a museum can cause damage to the paintings when several hundred people do it for several years continuously… granted museums dont want you taking pictures of paintings and then selling those photos also, which people do and is more than likely their primary reason for not allowing photography; taking photos with the flash on is really bad for the art… and people are quite dumb and will take photos with the flash on all day if someone didn’t stop them… whatever happened to just enjoying moments instead of collecting memories? Like not taking a photo means the memory is lost forever? I agree, people should be allowed to take their photos, professional photographers should be good enough at their jobs to avoid those taking photos and the bride and groom should know who the photo-bombers are and ask them to chill out… but I also think it’s really sad when people come to a wedding and watch the ceremony through an LCD, like their video or photo is more important to capture than just listening and watching… there’s selfishness there, a need to put stuff on Facebook… I think taking a photo or two is reasonable, but these people invited you to watch their vows not to film them…

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Jessica April 5, 2012 at 10:47 am

I understand your opinion on it being rude asking guests not to take picutres at your wedding, but I have a scenario for you. I am getting married in October and obviously my father will be there, but there is a catch, he has epilepsy and camera flashes cause him to have seizures. Now this is something I really need to avoid on my wedding day for obvious reasons. Our photographer isn’t even going to use flash when she takes our pictures, it is all going to be done in editing.(Thank God for computers). And I realize that I can ask people to turn the flashes off, but honestly I have even had my camera flash go off when I thought that I had turned it off…

In my situation it would ruin my day to have people bring their digital cameras or whatnot to my wedding.So what should I do??

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