The New Wedding Guest

This guest blog is by a good friend and fellow Connecticut wedding photographer, Richard Esposito. In addition to being a photographer, RE as he is known, is also called upon to teach efficient workflow systems to other photography studios. To some lucky ones, he plays mentor. His Emmy (yes, that EMMY) not withstanding, RE is starting to reconnect with his video side and bringing true fusion to discerning clients getting married all over the world.

Needless to say, a lot has changed in the world of photography over the last 5 or so years. Remember film? Using the same camera for more than 3 years? Just about every professional photographer is using a digital camera that gets replaced with a newer, better, version after one year of use. It’s become a rather expensive hobby for amateur’s and a financial burden for some professionals. With technology getting better and especially cheaper, we’ve all seen a new type of photographer emerge. Call them what you will, uncle Bob, cousin Carl, or “I have a friend that took a photography class in college.” This is the new competition. And they are getting cheaper than the cost of the camera. I’ve heard of a number of professionals that have sold everything they had and closed their doors for good. We can’t compete with free, or “I’ll shoot your wedding and hand you a disc for $500. I know I seem to be getting off topic, but it’s leading to our newest issue. You are not the only photographer at a wedding anymore.

© Photographer RE

Gone are the days of capturing a sea of guests with genuine emotion on their faces. Now you have to give an elbow to Aunt Clair who’s blocking the aisle with her Digital Rebel in hand as the bride makes her grand entrance. I used to love capturing guests emotion during the first dance, parent dance, even the toasts. But now my subjects are a handful of guests with point and shoots held up blocking their faces, or the tops of everyones head because they are looking down at the back of the camera to check the photo they just took. My favorite moment so far was a photo of the bride going down the aisle from behind. Everyone in front of the bride has their cameras up, everyone that the bride has past is still facing the back of the church with the heads down looking at the back of their camera. Very few people stopped to enjoy the moment of a father walking his daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. I did have a beautiful photo of a bride coming down the aisle with great emotion on her fathers face. However there were hues of red and green across them both thanks to all of the focusing beams from guests cameras. That’s an instant black and white! The cake cutting has become my favorite time now that I have no room to move around thanks to the crowd of people and cameras. It’s amateur suffocation.

You are not the only photographer at a wedding anymore.

Just when you feel good that you are getting the job done, you’re in the zone, there’s a tap tap tap on your shoulder. It’s Aunt Clair again, Rebel in hand, suggesting “that’s a nice photo of the flower girl over there. Look she’s spinning around! Hey girls look over here!” Well Claire, if you didn’t just interrupt me I would be photographing that, but now i missed it so you can talk to me about it. While trying to capture an emotional father daughter dance, someone will walk up close to them and say “Hey, over here!”, completely interrupting the moment just so they can get a photo with their faces smiling at their camera. They completely missed the point. Welcome to a world where lighting, composition, creativity, and emotion don’t matter to a wedding guest. All you need is a persons face looking at the camera.

© Photographer RE

© Photographer RE

© Photographer RE

© Photographer RE

© Photographer RE

© Photographer RE

© Photographer RE

© Photographer RE

© Photographer RE

Many of us put out a little slideshow of images at the wedding reception. It’s been a great way to show guests your work and generate some business, especially with the reception venue. It also satisfies the instant gratification generation of guests. I’ve gotten home from a wedding and checked a clients Facebook page to see that she has already been tagged in photos that Uncle Bob took at the wedding. I can’t compete with that. I hand out event cards at the reception with the website and password to see the photos “approximately 8 weeks after the wedding.” One night, after seeing the slideshow at the reception, the grooms step father comes up to me with his iPhone and has my online viewing website loaded. He said he couldn’t get the wedding. Hello! I’m still photographing it! Really?! Many times I have guests say “Great! I’ll check them out tomorrow.” Tomorrow? Let me hand you a few thousand photos, have you review and edit them and see how fast you get them all up. Let’s factor in that it’s the end of the wedding season and you’ve just done 2 weddings per weekend for the last 8 weeks.

It’s no wonder that professional Photographers are having a hard time competing with amateurs. We get in their way, we don’t know what we’re doing, it takes forever to get your images, and we really expensive! If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional photographer for one day, the emotional cost of hiring an amateur lasts forever.

The Price We Pay

So how do we convince an engaged couple to spend $3-10k with a professional? According to Market Watch, wedding photographers are the most overpaid jobs in America, saying “Total work for each wedding is generally a sit-down consultation combined with a single day spent following the happy couple. While equipment costs and film development must be covered, thanks to digital technology such costs have been heavily reduced. Unfortunately for the consumer, photographers do not offer any reduction in price for missed photos, amateur shots, or other mediocre work product.”

So let’s talk briefly about what it costs to be a professional wedding photographer. My second photographer here was looking to buy his own equipment. Just to start off with the basics he was up to $8,000. Imagine the cost of what I carry. Oh, and I have to insure all of it. Then there’s vehicle expenses, commissions for running credit cards, equipment repairs, I spent $1200 on postage this year (postage!!!), continuing education, computer and software upgrades, hard drives, hard drives, hard drives, it costs to make albums, some of us pay staff… I really could go on. Oh wait! providing for my family? Putting food on our table and the discount outlet clothes on our back? A professional photographer doesn’t have a “real job” during the week so we have to pay our own health care for our family, save for retirement, and hope for a weeks vacation that comes out of our pocket. I did 25 weddings this year and my expenses were double the average 2 person family income in Connecticut (according to census.gov).

For the other side of the story, the International Society of Professional Wedding Photographers did an awesome survey of photographers recently. I know when I started my business, everyone I knew thought I just worked weekends and did nothing during the week. We have a great lifestyle of taking photos, traveling, and partying.

The Perception Of A Working Photographer

Here’s reality: 70 hours a week through our 6-7 month season and 40 hours a week off season. There is no mention in here regarding time with family, charity work, and taking any time off. Only 12.2% off our time during business hours is spent taking pictures.

The Reality Of  a Working Photographer

If I didn’t have the expenses that I have, or spend this much time getting everything done, I’d be out of business. I’d have to get a full time job and just do photography on the weekend. I’d be your Uncle Bob.

Update from Seshu: Since publishing this blog post above, there have been other similar posts out in the interwebs:

Richard Esposito

Latest posts by Richard Esposito (see all)

  • Brian

    Awesome post. Should be a must read for all potential brides.

  • Takeeia

    I will make sure to put a slip in my invites that say no picture taking by the isles or in veiw of the photographer

  • Brent

    This a great read, I have tons of images like the ones above. I’m more optimistic I guess. There are droves of crappy $500 shooters out there, no processing, nothing original. I believe that now is a fantastic time to differentiate yourself from budget craiglisters and novice weekend warriors.

  • Jason Groupp

    Stuff like this is always a fun read, and I like your perspective, making suggestions like suggesting your to your bride to encourage no picture taking during ceremony is a proactive approach. As you know we’ve always had to battle against stuff like this, each year it gets harder and harder to not get totally deflated by the obstacles.

    That said, as professionals we’ve always had to be savvy in ways to make us stand out from the rest. Now more than ever is the time to prove that. :)

  • Shootinsista

    FYI – its “aisle” and “isle” is a small island. Great read though!

  • Muyiwa

    We would LOVE that.

  • cheezewhiz

    Quit crying photographers. Do your job! It’s not always going to be easy money…distractions are only going to get worse. Get creative – photoshop in a glass of champagne….or a hammer….or the finger… :)

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  • Amiefedora

    GREAT post!

  • http://www.steelcityphotography.com Ed

    When I look at these images my heart sinks. I have taken many of these images and it is sad. great post.

  • http://www.steelcityphotography.com Ed

    When I look at these images my heart sinks. I have taken many of these images and it is sad. great post.

  • Anonyme

    What I find more upsetting than the flocks of cheap cameras showing up in the aisles is how often I see professional photographers disparaging amateurs online. Some people are going to go with amateur photographers for their wedding, and some have good reasons (cost may be a real issue, in some areas it’s hard to find a professional willing to work with same-sex couples, etc.). But I’m dismayed to see so many pros voicing their distaste for anyone who dares take photos as a hobby. “Jeez, is *everyone* a photographer these days?” is a common sentiment on the Twitter feeds of many professionals–is this what you really want your potential clients to see? Enough of the holier-than-thou attitude–promote yourself and what you can offer and save the snarky comments for your friends.

  • jon r.

    Thank you for this.

  • Jason Groupp

    Yes thank you for your anonymous comments! While I agree with you to some extent, have the courage to voice your opinion with your name.

  • http://twitter.com/Photographer_RE Richard Esposito

    I agree. But that’s not what this is about. It’s about our job to get the photos that the client expects us to get. And we are supposed to make these images exceed our clients expectations. But guests do not understand how they interfere with this when they think they are as important as the photographer that the bride and groom asked to take their photos. I’m talking about guests and client expectations. And a lot of photographers are struggling right now because new photographers are lowering the price bar. No industry wants to see this. And I think couples should know the difference between paying $500 and $5000. It’s not just about the photographers work.

  • George

    What was Bob singing back in the 60’s? “The times, they are a changing…..” the last wedding I attended the ONLY guest there without a camera stuffed in their face was the kids!

    “The Knot” says that most people spend an average $1800-2400 on their wedding photographer. Look at their numbers a bit closer and you’ll find that their clients fall into the upper %20 of income, its their 1st wedding and the average age is 29-32!

    Truth is, out of the few dozen weddings I’ve attended (since the 70’s) I’ve always had a camera with me. Not once did myself or any others that I talked to even considered paying for images. (outside of our own costs.)

    The 2nd wedding I shot as Primary as the bride and groom liked the images I got from his 1st wedding (with my 110mm) more than what the pro delivered.

    The entire cost of the last three weddings I attended was less than $1000 each! The last 5 weddings I attended did not have a paid photographer.

    There are some pro’s out there that turn out some very very very amazing work and are worth every penny and are sought out by those that can afford them. The rest are simply grasping at smaller and smaller slices of the ‘high end’ market which in itself is shrinking every year.

    What else would we expect? Fast food, downloaded .MP3’s and cell phone images are ‘good enough’. The upper class is shrinking and the middle class has less income.

    The 1st wedding I attended in the 70’s the pro charged by the ROLL of 35mm film. I remember my friend was IRATE when they could not get the shots they wanted on TWO rolls. (they had to pay for a 3rd roll of 24!) Contrast that with the “spray and pray” coverage of today where many respected pros often shoot over 2000 images and attempt to deliver 2/3 of that.

    Think of the good side: more images ruined means less to take or deliver.

  • Pfisher101

    Wow, it’s time for you to retire. blah, blah, blah, glory days…blah. It’s 2011 adjust or quit whining.

  • lacy

    This is a great article. Brides-to-be … do not put a note in your invites though saying “don’t take pictures” … Word of mouth is the best way to let your guests know this. :)

  • Lane

    I think guests are as important as the photographer, if not more. I understand they are interfering with your job, but a lot of bigger weddings happen because brides and grooms want their friends and family there. They might think their guests having a good time is more important than photographs, even when photographs ARE a higher priority.

    Also, by having photos that guests shoot, people have their own pictures. Maybe the composition will be off, and they won’t be art. But they will be readily available, without copyright restrictions for sharing, and truth be told….while I’ve seen lovely pro photographs, the group and guest shots they take as the go around the room are often unflattering and rushed at best…and the point and shoots do a fine job for that.

  • Nick

    But that is a lot of what this post is about: the competition from amateurs. And during a recession especially, lots of folks can’t afford to drop $5k on a photographer. They may even be hoping that they can use some of those photos their guests are taking with the point and shoots. Pros can still set themselves apart from the ammies with their experience, equipment, and (maybe most importantly) editing/post-production skills. This isn’t going to change the fact that it’s a tough market for everyone out there right now, regardless of your field. The most successful pros will be the ones who can find a way to gracefully deal with the distractions and deliver anyway.

  • Steve

    I agree with some of this, but I think it is a little extreme. Us “pros” need to roll with the times.

  • Steve

    I agree with some of this, but I think it is a little extreme. Us “pros” need to roll with the times.

  • AnotherAnonymous

    I sense frustration and I understand but I agree with anonymous to some extent. There is an air of superiority within the community and it is discouraging to those, like me, who would like to be like you. I also think that sometime some people want way too much and think their profession is worth more than it is given a certain climate and market. Houses, cars, etc. and yes, photography prices are inflated. Have respect for the $500 photographer and just maybe they’ll have a little respect for you.

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  • rach

    This is an awesome perspective since I am soon to get married. I’ll put in my invites about taking photos during the ceremony and dances… but i have to say I am guilty of taking HEAPS of wedding photos too…

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_2QN62MPYSHOKHIS2D5M4GMXSX4 Anonymous

    I’m one of those cheap (i.e. free) amateur photographers that people ask to photograph their weddings. The expectation of the wedding couple is that they will get the great photos that the pro promised them. I can understand the photographer’s frustration, knowing that the wedding couple would have had many additional fantastic shots, had not wedding guests imposed their presence in order to “get the moment” themselves.

    I’ve seen the photos most wedding guests make: important for their own memories, but lacking in most other aspects.

  • Wayne Carroll

    Extreme? I think he nailed right on the head – pie charts & all. And, if anything, he is rolling with the times. On another note: All these snarky & insensitive comments just got to show the caliber of many of the very people he’s talking about – insensitive, arrogant & obnoxious. That’s not whining – it’s a fact!

    BTW – I don’t shoot weddings as a career [I work in other areas of the business – commercial, editorial, etc.] but when I do its only for friends or friends of friends, but I still charge way more than $500. If it’s for family I do it as a gift. Over a 25+ year career I figure I’ve given away 10’s of 1000’s dollars worth of photography this way. Any of you “amateurs” out there doing that?

  • http://www.seshu.net PicSeshu

    Thank you, Jason for voicing your opinion on this. It’s much too easy for “anonymous” posters to do what they do – hit and run and hide. This is an open forum. Got an opinion, voice it … but use your real name. As the publisher of this blog, I will exercise my right to pull incendiary remarks against the original poster. This isn’t some attempt to curb your “right” to speak openly or to “protect” the guest blogger, but to retain a sense of civility here. I want intelligent dialogue here, not diatribe. If you aren’t going to be civil with your remarks, you may return to your cave.

  • http://www.seshu.net PicSeshu

    “Have respect for the $500 photographer and just maybe they’ll have a little respect for you.” I agree. I have all the respect for a $500 Craigslist photographer because I was one of them back in the day. For the record, the first wedding I photographed I charged the lovely couple $300, which included my time, prints, travel, my album, film processing AND the negatives. Did I make any money on that gig. No freakin’ way! I lost my shirt. But the experience was valuable. Did the couple receive everything they expected. Yes. But it could have been a lot better. I see that now. Was I undercutting a “pro” at that time. Probably I was, but the couple wasn’t considering a professional photographer at that time. There are many couples in this economy who have made that choice and this blog post isn’t belittling that choice or making any sort of judgment about couples who chose to work with a non-professional. Please read the post again. And do use your real name. You know mine. I would love to know yours. Let’s truly connect.

  • http://www.glkcreative.com George L. Koroneos

    I think the key is to work with the guests and not against them. At every wedding I shoot, I set up the portraits and let the guests have first crack at the photos. During processionals, I set my lens wide open to blur out the paparazzi or tighten up the shot to crop them out. It doesn’t seem to be that big of a problem.

    The Facebook situation is a different deal all together. It’s a travesty when a bride gets tagged in a guest photo, then posts it as her profile and goes on her honeymoon for two weeks. That’s where the pros have to step up their game. I take the same day slideshow that I make during the reception, and immediately watermark the shots and upload them to my facebook fan page and tag the bride and groom. And I do it the same night as the wedding. It takes about 15 minutes and it makes you look like a magician.

    Finally, I think worrying about the $500 wedding photographer cutting into revenue is silly. The clients I’m going after appreciate good photography and are willing to pay for it. The cheap bride is also tends to be more difficult or critical. They are also less likely to get you referrals. Cheap begets cheap.

    The goal is to go after the right clients, and set yourself apart from the amateurs. The guests are potential clients, not competition, and the only concern should be to document the day as the bride and groom remember it. Even if it means cloning out a few point and shoots.

  • Anthonym

    As the husband of a professional photographer in Australia all I can say is this is the singly most complete and articulate reflection of reality I have ever heard. As the spouse of a photographer I am sick of hearing about how expensive they are in comparison to Aunty Claire who has splurged on a Cannon 1D. You know what don’t whinge to me when the shot is missed by Uncle Bob, don’t complain when the light is not the way you expected, don’t complain when your CF card is full and you don’t have a spare. I surrender my wife to people I don’t know but my children are truly proud that their Mum provides memories and art not just a photo that is on facebook in an hour and then forgotten. Professional photographers are drawn to the art, anyone can take a photo and many do, but if you don’t want the picture that ends up on some comic website in a year or two, use a professional. You wouldn’t use a finger painter to paint your house, so use a person who has a flash camera at your own peril. The digital darkroom is the new frontier and many do and can take photos but few possess the skills or knowledge to create art.

  • http://profiles.google.com/gloria.litt Gloria Litt

    Good article. But it’s annoying when I can’t get past the image of you photographing brides walking on small islands. The word is “aisles”, not “isles.

  • http://twitter.com/SherriPaxton Sherri Paxton

    Great read, I’ve posted a link to it via my facebook page. I don’t shoot a lot of weddings on purpose, I find it stressful and in the end I think I make about $4/hr after all the time and editing, etc. (OK, maybe an exaggeration but I feel that way sometimes). At my last wedding I was standing in the middle of the room on a chair to try to shoot the couple through the crowd, while frantically trying to wave my assistant down to get her to move Uncle Bob out of my shot. I finally bent down and tapped the shoulder of a lady standing next to me and asked her to go ask him to move. There were so many cameras pointed at them from the crowd that at one point the bride actually said to the wedding party “look at Sherri, she’s the one I’m paying!”

  • http://twitter.com/SherriPaxton Sherri Paxton

    Great read, I’ve posted a link to it via my facebook page. I don’t shoot a lot of weddings on purpose, I find it stressful and in the end I think I make about $4/hr after all the time and editing, etc. (OK, maybe an exaggeration but I feel that way sometimes). At my last wedding I was standing in the middle of the room on a chair to try to shoot the couple through the crowd, while frantically trying to wave my assistant down to get her to move Uncle Bob out of my shot. I finally bent down and tapped the shoulder of a lady standing next to me and asked her to go ask him to move. There were so many cameras pointed at them from the crowd that at one point the bride actually said to the wedding party “look at Sherri, she’s the one I’m paying!”

  • http://twitter.com/JasonKeefer Jason Keefer

    I am a professional wedding photographer. The way I see it, numerous guests with cameras is a sign of our times… digital technology, it’s a part of our culture. Embrace it. The only time during the wedding day that I might request to have no one behind me taking pictures is during formal family portraits. I explain to the bride and groom months in advance about the importance of ensuring that everyone in the photo is looking at me and not getting distracted by someone else’s camera or flash. My clients are always happy to comply, as it makes the formal portrait session flow by with ease and they can have more time to enjoy cocktail hour with the rest of the guests.

  • Anonymous

    Woah! I’ll be sure and change that asap! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_25GJOGB4GXYMUDWYKBCNGMOIXQ live_laugh_love

    I appreciate the perspective. I’m in the process of building a photography business (still learning, a lot, and have a long way to go), so right now I’m one of “those $500 photographers”. Honestly, it stings a little bit to read things like that from those who’ve been around longer. I admire the pros’ work, and I aspire to be that good. But how can I get there without first paying my proverbial dues? I’m shooting a vow renewal in September for $100. One hundred dollars. Plus whatever prints/albums/etc the couple decides to purchase. I’m SO not making money on it. But I’m getting experience, which is basically the only way to get better.
    On the flip side, I’ve also been a guest at more than a few weddings. I always take my camera with me, but I make a concerted effort to stay out of the pro’s way, and to not be “that guest” who can’t focus on anything but the photo ops. I’m there to watch my friends get married, and to help them celebrate one of the happiest days of their lives. It’s SO hard not to glue the camera to my face, but I try. Cut the guests a little slack, too – the bride and groom obviously mean something to them, and they want a way to remember that happy day.

  • http://twitter.com/halfhighlander Kit Logan

    A number of the churches I’ve been to don’t allow flash photography during the service. But as there has always been a guest who can’t or doesn’t know how to switch off their flash, the use of cameras were banned from the actual service, except for the professional. They have the skills and the right kit to not require flash… The image may not be what they regard as technically perfect, but it’s usually great and better than no images from the service.

  • Jointhechorus

    Recently in a news story, it was reported that “Wedding Photographers” are one of the most overpaid professions in the world. Now let’s break this down and see if we’re overpaid.

    – We can’t call out sick.
    – We can’t “have a bad day” and try again tomorrow

    After all the hoopla is over, after the dress has been stuffed in a box in the closet never to see the light of day again….LONG after the cameras cluttering the dance floor have been tossed into the children’s toybox…. there are the images. OUR images.

    So I don’t care if you charge want to work 10 hours and only charge $500 (we all have to start somewhere, but you are only hurting yourself in the long run by doing it this way) or charge $10k because you fancy yourself as one of these new “Rock Star” photographers that are really just ripping shtick off other “Rock Star” photographers. If you’re nice to the guests, they’re nice to you. I even bring an old Rebel (with broken flash) that i’ll give one of the gazillion kids who inevitably are biting at my ankles to help me shoot the portraits. Most of the time they understand you have a job to do and are willing to step aside for a moment.

    …and for the ones that don’t….strap on your 70-200 and stand in front of them :-D

  • Part-timer

    I never get tired of this topic :-)

    It is generally easier for people to complain than do something about it. I am a part-time wedding photographer, I charge about $3000 for the full day (without any printed products) and I have an unrelated full time “regular job” (which happens to be IT) which I have no intention on quitting. Why? Because times are different, life is expensive, and one really does not prevent me from doing the other. So I’ll do 10-20 weddings per season, nicely supplement by regular pay, and get a creative break from the daily grind. But I’m just one of many. This is a new breed wedding photographers and I’m sorry to tell you, they are here to stay, and this is why:

    – Equipment is so accessible these days, there are very few obstacles to gaining entry to the market. There was a number of $8000 mentioned in the article for a starting kit, but this is just nonsense. You can get Canon 7D + 35mm f/1.4 + 85mm f/1.8 + 580EX flash for less than $4000 and you’re more than ready to hit the entry level (i.e. craigslist) market. Not to mention that you can RENT everything if you need to and for $150 you’ll have a great kit to shoot the wedding with.

    – If you think about it, wedding photography is a perfect part-time gig. Shooting takes place on the weekends (when you’re off work) and you can work on the post processing in the evenings after work in the comfort of your home. You can answer emails throughout the day from your smart phone, and you can meet clients in coffee shops without having to blow rent money on a “studio” that sits empty most of the time anyway.

    – Financially, it is extremely hard to turn it into a full-time business. So I have the option of say keeping my 60K day job and making another 30K doing a selected number of weddings during the summer, or I can break my back trying to earn 50K by doing it “full-time” (whatever that means anyway). To start making decent money you’ll probably have to take the route of big studios and start hiring contract photographers. You will most likely always be struggling as a single full-time guy unless you’re amazing (i.e. Sean Flanigan caliber). I know that hiring contractors is not “creatively satisfying” but don’t forget that it’s a business first, art second (as much as you hate that fact).

    – By taking the part-time approach people have nothing to lose because they can never really go “out of business”. If year 1 is slow, that’s ok, they have their full time job to fall back on and work on the marketing/portfolio to prepare for year 2. Eventually, if they keep it up, they will become your worst enemy unless you’re better.

    But I went off topic, I just wanted to make a few points related to the article:

    1. Instead of blaming the $500 guy – get good. Actually scratch out good, become excellent. Look at trends, see what other cool kids are doing, don’t stick to the same old stuff and wonder why you can’t make a living. So let’s stop whining about not being able to sell $20 prints. Here is a reality check – everyone has access to professional labs these days, so charge for your time instead. And If you can’t become better than others, then do something else. I think the fact that photography became so accessible is a wonderful thing – it created a ton of competition, and as a result, improved the overall quality of the market. Those who were really great succeeded, those who weren’t had to pack up.

    Besides, the $500 guy is not stealing your business. Those clients weren’t gonna pay 4K for the pictures anyway. The real challenge is to be sufficiently better than the $2500 guy so that people can justify spending $3500 on you.

    2. If you find that you’re not making enough money despite everything, get a second job (or third) like everyone else.
    3. Why do you care about guests posting pictures on facebook before you do? It simply DOESN’T MATTER. Do your own thing, be excellent at it, and no way is the guest with the Rebel going to make you look bad (if they do, then you shouldn’t be taking pictures)
    4. Your job should be to tell the story (whatever that story may be). If that story happens to include a bunch of guests taking pictures, then so be it. It makes no sense to whine over the “good old times” when guests were more interesting subjects. How is that different than saying “I really wish this wedding was taking place somewhere else with bigger windows and nicer lighting and prettier bride so my portfolio can look awesome”? You are capturing THEIR day, and THEIR guests so to really be genuine, shoot it the way it is.

    Just my 2 cents.

  • Life with Kaishon

    The thing is…people are going to bring their cameras. It is just a way of life. We need to get over it as the professionals of the day. There is no way people are not going to take pictures. It is just impossible. Great post though! I am totally tweeting it.

  • http://profiles.google.com/karynbird Karyn O’Dell

    “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional photographer for one day, the emotional cost of hiring an amateur lasts forever.” Absolutely. We made this mistake, and though our entire wedding was pretty low-budget, the amateur photographer is the one thing we regret about that. We tell EVERYONE now to be sure to get a good, professional photographer. Our photos were just terrible, and since the photographer was a friend of my husband’s dad, he sat down and ate during the reception instead of taking photos. We never even got the prints we asked for — just printed them ourselves, as he had given us digital proofs. But I guess we got what we paid for…

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  • http://twitter.com/kristaphoto Krista Photography

    I agree that this is something that can be frustrating at weddings – the focusing beams in particular. But, honestly, what good does it do to complain about it, really? It’s not going to help or change anything.

    The truth is, we’re not there to create moments – we’re there to capture them. People taking pictures of what’s happening IS what’s happening. If we’re getting paid $5000 to shoot a wedding, we should suck it up and work around it. If the camera & the armpit never go down – well, move and get her out of the shot. If cameras are all over the place – find a way to make them part of the photo, use them as your own off-camera flashes. If the whole crowd is looking at the back of the camera after she walks down the aisle – either make that a comical shot of what’s happening, or crop it out of your frame and don’t focus on the guests. We as photographers need to manage our expectations. It’s sad that in our current culture people don’t enjoy themselves at weddings as much as they photograph them. But that’s the reality. We can’t have a shot list in our heads of these emotional reactions we plan to get if they’re not there – or we have to be more patient and wait for them.

  • http://twitter.com/kristaphoto Krista Photography

    I agree that this is something that can be frustrating at weddings – the focusing beams in particular. But, honestly, what good does it do to complain about it, really? It’s not going to help or change anything.

    The truth is, we’re not there to create moments – we’re there to capture them. People taking pictures of what’s happening IS what’s happening. If we’re getting paid $5000 to shoot a wedding, we should suck it up and work around it. If the camera & the armpit never go down – well, move and get her out of the shot. If cameras are all over the place – find a way to make them part of the photo, use them as your own off-camera flashes. If the whole crowd is looking at the back of the camera after she walks down the aisle – either make that a comical shot of what’s happening, or crop it out of your frame and don’t focus on the guests. We as photographers need to manage our expectations. It’s sad that in our current culture people don’t enjoy themselves at weddings as much as they photograph them. But that’s the reality. We can’t have a shot list in our heads of these emotional reactions we plan to get if they’re not there – or we have to be more patient and wait for them.

  • http://twitter.com/kristinlukow Kristin Lukow

    I have seen amateur pictures that are far better than some “professional” photos. It depends on the amateur. Amateur doesn’t mean poor. I’m so grateful for options. I would never spend thousands of dollars on weddings photos when they can be had so much more reasonably. This is a different age.

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  • preston barrows

    Photographing weddings is what got my photography studio started.

  • Weddingcrasher

    you get what you pay for

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  • UmmNope

    Oyy. Thats rough. No dinner for your photogs?

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  • http://www.facebook.com/AlexGia10 Algia Photos

    @ Part Timer…You think the equipment does everything? Sooner than later you will end up with a fat law suit for ruining someone’s wedding. What about post processing? you are probably single, some of us don’t have the luxury of “evenings” for work! No way in HELL I would pick someone off Craigslist to photograph my wedding! You cannot repeat a wedding, people need to learn to RESPECT others special moments. It is really insulting to the wedding couple to turn their wedding into a paparazzo fest. It is also insulting to us photographers in general to have this idiotic disrespectful mentality of “I have an IT job by day, and do weddings on the weekends cause I’m bored”, because we don’t have day jobs; THIS IS our day job, this IS what we went to school for, and we don’t go around offering “accounting services”, or “dental services” to other people. Of course it is “cheap” to YOU if you make $100,000 per year, $4000 sounds like cheap change, we don’t make that, and have all sorts of other business related expenses to care for as well. If you paid some of these expenses too, you wouldn’t talk like this right now. Your post is VERY uneducated, insulting to this profession, and ignorant. You cannot pass as a professional UNLESS you pay all of your bills out of what you make with your photography job. Eventually you will get sued because couples are looking to hire a “professional”, you don’t go around advertising yourself as an “amateur”, right? because a couple would NEVER choose someone that advertises themselves as “amateurs” they have Uncle Bob for that. They hired you, they “think” you are a professional, but you’re not, so you are LYING, and deceiving a couple that didn’t do anything to you to deserve this, and take their money without having ANY credentials what so ever. That’s like stealing. I don’t let other people fix my teeth, I go to a professional, someone who went to school and got educated in that profession, etc.

    It is truly disappointing to read how ignorant people have become.

  • http://twitter.com/Darkphotography Mark Dub

    One of the biggest I think you missed in your “the price we pay” section is.. EXPERIENCE!! You dont get do overs. You don’t get second chances. You have to get it right. And THAT is what people are paying for.

  • itinko

    With PS 6 content aware fill you might be able to fix some of the most important shots, like that armpit ;)

  • Vin Weathermon

    Anywhere else BUT a wedding, I enjoy seeing photography by amateurs. This article is spot on. I almost think that it would be great to have a “no camera audience”…then they can pay attention to what they were there for in the first place. In the days of film, my contract says “you agree that there will be no other photographers at this wedding”. It was bad enough to have your slaves fired off by other people’s flash, or the uncle’s videography smack in the middle of the spot where I’d need to be.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/igoddess Anita Revel

    It’s for all the reasons outlined above, that a bride has instructed me, as her Celebrant, to ask all guests to put their cameras away during the Ceremony. She wants them to “be in the moment, during her biggest moment.” I love it!

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  • http://www.facebook.com/kristopher.clewell Kristopher Clewell

    I love you.

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  • MisterMartin

    I think the people commenting should shut up unless they’re actually wedding photographers and understand the work, skill, and responsibility that are necessary to succeed. It’s easy to say that wedding photographers should “do their job” or just put up with the bullshit, but you’re not going to understand what goes into it unless you actually photograph weddings for a living. It’s not arrogance that causes professional wedding photographers to get pissed off at amateurs or people undercutting their prices. It’s the fact that if the amateurs had to depend solely on photography to make a living and feed their families it would be a whole different story and probably less $500 weddings, free discs of images, portrait sessions, etc… Walk a mile in my shoes before you spew your ignorance online.

  • Abigail

    A photography friend share this on facebook and, no, I am not getting married in the foreseeable future. Your article lmost had me rethink my idea about not hiring a photographer at my wedding and actually banning cameras all together. (I’m not that sentimental.) Price would hold me back, especially seeing that it could be as much as 10K. Then again, when/if I ever get married, I don’t want to spend more than 1K. (I’m kinda against throwing a bunch of money into a big fancy party and would rather spend it on a nice vacation.)

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  • http://profiles.google.com/carlos.g.benjamin Carlos Benjamin

    “So let’s stop whining about not being able to sell $20 prints. Here is a reality check – everyone has access to professional labs these days, so charge for your time instead. ”

    That totally flies in the face of your “be excellent” advice. An excellent photographer’s images are their art. If they’re only selling them for $20.00 they don’t understand their own worth in the equation. Some of what you say makes sense, but some of it sounds like a person who doesn’t know what they’re doing. There’s a huge difference between value and cost, but you’re “cost” mentality won’t easily wrap around that concept. If you’re selling paper (cost based mentality) then $20.00 is crazy high. If you’re selling your art and you’re putting yourself into the process and getting every image that goes to print just exactly right, then $20.00 is crazy low….

  • http://profiles.google.com/carlos.g.benjamin Carlos Benjamin

    “Its a very sustainable business model and better money than most part time jobs.”

    Well, it may seem that way until you run the numbers. Most part-timers are making less than minimum wage when you remove all their costs and account for all the time spent. On top of that, they’re not paying taxes or using attorneys to check their contracts or buying errors and omissions insurance, etc….

    A lot of part timers will also look at their gear and count it as income rather than a business expense. “Look, I earned enough to buy the new 5D Mk XVI and some radio poppers!”

  • http://profiles.google.com/carlos.g.benjamin Carlos Benjamin

    I’d have to disagree. We hired a pro and my wife’s uncle jumped out in front of him during the kiss. The pro has a great shot of his backside and he got a blurry, underexposed shot of what may or may not have been the kiss…. And this was in the 70’s!

  • http://profiles.google.com/carlos.g.benjamin Carlos Benjamin

    “use them as your own off-camera flashes.”

    Hahahahaha! How do I trigger them? I’ve had just a handful of other people’s flashes during my shots over the years. Generally they ruin the image. The light isn’t where it should be and is less than flattering.

    I don’t think it’s a matter of complaining as much as this is an attempt to educate. If people could see what their attempts to get the shot were doing to the paid photographer’s images, maybe they’d stop.

  • http://profiles.google.com/carlos.g.benjamin Carlos Benjamin

    “Use the flash of an amateur photographer to back light your subject during the cake cutting.”

    Again, how do you trigger their flash? How do you get a guest to stand behind the action for you? Most guests get in front for the cake cutting, not in back. Heck, a lot of them tried to get in front of me!

    I understand you’re trying to put a positive spin on the guest with camera aspect of the job, but every time I see this suggestion I wonder if the person has actually done a lot of weddings or if they did a couple and got an awesome rim light from some point and shoot at one of them.

  • http://profiles.google.com/carlos.g.benjamin Carlos Benjamin

    Walking down the isle with her vail…. a couple of my pet peeves….

  • Vin Weathermon

    Just a thought: I’ll bet the trend could be to actually take all those thousands of point and shoot pictures and turn them into something creative (along the lines of retouching) and merge them into the final product. Actually setup key guests with preset camera settings and “cheat sheet” card to shoot as the pleased, collect them all wirelessly and have them processed and let the guests vote on the best to include in the wedding album.

    If you can’t beat them, join them.

  • http://2dhouse.com/ David Dvir

    This is just a fantastic reply. Dude you nailed it on the head!!!!

  • Ed

    It’s great that you can make an extra $3K on the weekend, but I’m not sure you’re seeing the whole picture. When you speak of excellence I don’t believe you truly know what that’s about. People who are the best at what they do are talented to begin with and then spend almost every waking moment thinking about or practicing their craft. Are you the type of IT guy that knows UNIX inside and out or someone who would rather spend nights and weekends doing something else? Wedding photography perhaps. You could certainly be that odd photo genius whose friends have you convinced that you’re the sh!t but the reality is that few people are actually that special, and they probably aren’t part-time. What do you know about printing anyway except that the printer needs a driver?

    At the end of the day you make some valid points on the financial and practical side, but because artists don’t simply operate in terms of finance, you completely miss the point on many levels. Technology has made everyone average and convinced them that they are talented at the same time. Something for you to think about because cheap IT is coming in the very near future to your company.

  • Ed

    It would have to be a combination of luck and shutter drag

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  • Diane Harvey

    I am a weeding photographer and I do work with guests taking pictures. Sometimes I make it my picture—th bride and groom posing for silly pictures for their friend or one of the kids with a camera phone. I take pictures of what is really happening, so 20 years later, the pictures trigger real memories of the day. I also do formals. But, I know that at my own wedding I am not going to allow photos or cell phones. No photos other than the professional photographer. That way guests will actually ‘be’at the wedding! I might do it without photography altogether! :)

  • Floofy

    So, you’re telling me I need to spend 3k-8k to have decent wedding photos? Are you downright mad? I treasure art, including photography, but do you realize how much money that really is? A customer doesn’t understand the cost of your equipment, the cost of your upkeep or knows your living expenses. They see a huge number and look elsewhere. This is why you are stuck battling with $500 rate photographers. People are looking to capture a memory, not be celebrities for a day. Those people outside of your price range deserve to have nice photos just like everyone else. I truly wish photographers would understand that and be more flexible.

    You would be surprised how many couples would work around your schedule so they could afford your work. Weddings would be held on a Wednesday and photos would be taken for a mere two hours IF it meant they could have something beautiful.
    Unfortunately, so many professionals see those piddly dollar signs and feel it’s not worth their time. I understand, they’re trying to make a living…but then they wonder why they go out of business as they wait for their next big ticket client. Meanwhile, that $500 photographer you downright scoff at is still in business. It’s because even if their photos are not nearly as nice as yours, they’re flexible. You’re in the business of working with people, not just shooting a camera.

    As for rude guests taking photos. A lot of couples are taking a stand and asking their guests to unplug their devices because they value this special moment just as you value a clean shot. I truly don’t believe a client with those rude guests even thinks about these things, what with being caught up in the moment with everything else on their plate. Maybe you could politely address this problem so they’re aware of it before the big day. If the client lashes out at you for it, then would you really want to work for such a horrendous person anyway?

  • tom from jersey

    …..yawn….
    Heard it all the first time around
    like 30 years ago

    (ex) professional musician
    Broadway, cruise ships, weddings with a college degree & all

    I guess I was ahead of my time & didn’t know it
    Welcome to the new world order
    Can’t wait for digital lawyers

  • Erica Owens

    Are you serious? A lot of people commenting could be perspective clients! WOuld you tell your possible clients to “shut up?” NO WAY. How about being a bit more professional & acknowledge the fact that they have brains as well. Also, I’m one of those so called “amateurs” (I, however, refer to myself as an up & coming aspiring photographer!) I get the clients I get, through word of mouth & referrals. (& honestly, I charged $1000 at my last wedding, so I’m not one of those $500 wedding shooters) Not all of us are actively out stealing other’s business. Maybe if you weren’t so arrogant, & were a bit more humble, people would be more willing to spend that kind of money on you. Saying that they’ll never understand, is just saying they’re stupid. Also, maybe if more “pros” did apprenticeships or shadowing work with aspiring photographers, then maybe you’d have less of those so called amateurs! But instead of embracing the young, up & coming artists, & helping to mold them, most of you are online, complaining about their existence & saying they’re (I.E. I am) stealing your business. That is not the case. At All. I don’t market the way you do. I only get work through referrals & facebook. Everybody deserves beautiful photography, but not everybody can afford it. You expect those struggling already to shell out a couple thousand just on photos for their big day, just because you think people shouldn’t hire amateurs, & should hire a “real” photographer? Who are you to judge? We may be learning, but I’ve seen a lot of aspiring photographers that have AMAZING talents, & can shoot just as great as any “Pro.” You really need to humble yourself up, & maybe then, you’ll keep your clients. We aren’t stealing them, you all are just pushing people away, with your arrogance, & your quickness to blame.