I have been to 5 weddings in my life, all of which have occurred in the last four years. One of these was before I discovered my interest in photography, one of them I was a bridesmaid for and two of them I photographed. Since becoming a photographer, I have only been to one wedding where I was not hired or part of the ceremony, and that wedding took place last week.
As a photographer, I hardly ever go anywhere without my camera with me. And when I travel halfway across the country to go to a wedding, you can bet that my camera is going to be by my side. It is an extension of who I am, after all, and it is what I do wherever I go. I know that sometimes it can get annoying, that sometimes I get in peoples faces, but I do try to be respectful as much as possible, and never intend to get in the way. But, when you are not the paid photographer for an event, you need to know that there are lines that you shouldn't overstep. So I thought that I would write a quite post about my experience of unofficially photographing a wedding.
- Remember that this is not your show.The bride and groom have specifically chosen a photographer that they want, whose work they like and who will have an idea of how they want to photograph the wedding. Your own view might clash with theirs, but do remember at all times that you are not the one in charge. As much as you may want to, you shouldn't interfere with anything. If the couple are posed in a particular way, do not ask them to move or look at you, even for a minute. This is something that guests with their point and shoots often do, and is something that I have experienced. And as the hired photographer, it gets very annoying. By all means, take your shots, but don't get in the way while doing so. It just means that the photographer has to spend more time trying to get the shots that he/she planned for the occasion.
- Be respectful.
The photographer for the event is likely experienced and knows what he/she is doing. You may not know them, but treat them with respect and do not try to compete with them in terms of gear or experience. This is not a competition. They have been chosen and are being paid to photograph the event, you have not. They have a job to do, and you are a guest. Bear that in mind.
- Stand back. It is very tempting to jump into the role of photographer on occasions like these. You want to grab the shots that you are seeing pass you by. You want to jump into the middle of the aisle when you see the bride walking down it. Don't. Once again, someone is being paid to do that. It is someone's job. You are there as a guest, and it is not your place to be interfering with the proceedings. It will only annoy the bridal party and the hired photographer. By all means, shoot what you see. But don't interfere, don't interrupt and, especially during the ceremony, just stay in your seat. I, myself, didn't actually bring my camera into the ceremony but brought it out during the reception. Of course, I missed some of the shots from the ceremony which is disappointing, but I am sure that the bride and groom are grateful that they couldn't hear me snapping away throughout their vows.
- Have fun.
This is my last piece of advice, but it is important. You are there as a guest, and you should act like one. Enjoy the food, enjoy the company, laugh, dance and just have a good time. It is something that you seldom get to do as the hired photographer, and if you have your camera on you, you will still get fun shots that show the feeling of the day, something that hired photographers often miss out on. Plus, it opens up possibilities for taking photos that you wouldn't have been able to take otherwise - seeing the wedding from a whole new perspective.
And so, I want to say thank you to Andrew and Nikita for inviting me to their amazing wedding. It was the best time that I have had in a long time, and definitely worth the trip. I hope that I stuck to my guidelines and didn't get in the way too much, and I hope that you two enjoy a most wonderful life together.