How To Handle Too Many Photographers At The Wedding

I received an email from a frustrated photographer this week. This past weekend she photographed a wedding. As she started setting up for the formals, the “paparazzi” started setting up too, with cameras flying out of purses and bags all over the church. She spent several minutes posing the groups, only to step back and have family members actually step into her path trying to get the best shot. Every image took a ton of time, and by the middle of the formals, the bride and groom were looking frustrated. Every image has someone looking away from her camera, confused on where to look.

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How do you handle too many photographers at the wedding?

First and foremost, remember you are the professional. It’s your job to take the situation under control, and make sure you get what you need. Your client is the bride and groom (okay, sometimes it’s the brides mom too). Your goal is to make the bride and groom happy, not the great aunt on the mom’s side.

The problem shouldn’t be solved at the wedding; it should be solved at the time of booking.

Start with your contract. Place a clause specifically dealing with multiple photographers right into your contract. (check with your lawyer to make sure you are covered) Our included:

… will be the sole professional still photographer employed for the wedding day.  Simultaneous photographic coverage by another contracted photographer releases us from this agreement and will cause a forfeit of all paid service fees.  A $250 posing fee will be assessed if we are continually interrupted by other photographers during the formal portraiture sitting.  This fee will be collected before album creation and design is completed within our studio.

Don’t hide the clause hoping they won’t notice; be right up front with it and tell them why. You may even have a sample – we did. Show them a large group photo with people looking in all directions. Having 10 (or 20) photographers is a distraction and will cause them to be late to their own reception. If they want their photographs completed in a timely manner, you need full attention.

This usually stops the problem before the wedding even occurs. You may still have a mom pull out her camera, but she’s off to the side quietly photographing. And if you do have several pull out their cameras, stepping into your line, the bride and groom will be the first to tell them to put the cameras away. You won’t be the bad guy – they will. They will understand the importance of having you work quickly, and will be ready to give you their full attention.

14 thoughts on “How To Handle Too Many Photographers At The Wedding”

  1. Putting that statement in the contract is a bit harsh and may turnoff some potential clients. I would just be upfront with them about it and ask them to inform family and friends ahead of time. Another suggestion is to do the posed portrait photography at a location in which only the wedding party is present. That way you do not have any interference.

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  2. Hi Aaron

    I completely agree – it is a bit harsh. We used that clause after several other top notch wedding photogs told us about it, and it worked. If you face the same situation more than once, you do whatever you have to to avoid it in the future. You just have to explain it to the bride and groom its for their benefit – they don’t want group photos with everyone looking a different way.

    I also agree with your other suggestion. If you meet the wedding party before the ceremony – at a location separate from the church – they get better, more creative photos, and you don’t have to deal with a ton of cameras. Its also easier to do the family photos quickly either at the church or the reception without having all the large groups to do.

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  3. I agree that the might be off putting, and it is probably not the best way to handle this challenge. A photographer (or any wedding vendor) shouldn’t actively seek to potentially position the bride or groom as the bad guy on their wedding day. You are not “handling it” as a professional photographer if you put the onus on them to control the shoot.

    I think a better way to handle it would be to let the B&G know beforehand what your expectations are and, using Aaron’s suggestion, doing the formal portraits in a separate location to the extent that is possible. If it’s not possible to shoot in a semi-secluded location, if I saw several people pull out their cameras and sensed a problem developing, I’d ask for everyone’s attention, explain my request and then get started with the shots. People are usually pretty understanding of a request if it’s explained up front (B&G at contract signing and family and friends on the day of the wedding).

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  4. Agree 100% with Aaron, Something we are seeing a lot more of here is request for private photo shoots the next day which seems to deal with this problem (I am sure this does not suit everyone)

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  5. Trash The Dress photo shoots are definitely growing in popularity, and I love the idea. Anytime you can get a couple, the whole wedding party, family, etc away from the norm, and be able to be creative and have fun without worrying about time or the “dress”, you can do much better.

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  6. I have had the clause in my contract for several years. I explain it and discuss it with each client. I have had a client ask me to ‘foster’ their aunt, sibling, cousin whatever who aspires to be a photographer and as long as people are up front and I can work with that person I do it. I have to be able to talk with the person first and to know he or she can understand me and follow. I have never had a problem with someone who I have worked with like this. Now the guest with a camera? Ugh

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  7. I met a photographer who said he has a 3 strike clause in his contract that allows him to walk out of a wedding if it becomes an issue, and continues to be an issue after warning people.

    Made a mental note to not call him for my wedding.

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  8. I have had that problem, and I have let it run its course, but I have also been told that I can’t use a flash in church and all of the guests are using theirs. I thank you for the clause and fee assessment. It was something I should have thought of but didn’t. I will start to include that in my contracts. Thank you.

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  9. Since the start of the post the problem has worsened. iphone cameras are everywhere and all they want is a facebook image. Shooting formals before the ceremony helps. Also helps get rid of distracting hecklers. it’s absolutely important to discuss the issue up front and show proof.

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  10. Although this problem of too many photographers seems to be reaching new heights, it is not a new problem. It started in the late 1980s when disposable cameras made it possible for almost anyone to have a camera with them. It was exacerbated when wedding planners began to supply weddings with multiple cameras for placement on each table for use by the guests, who would then leave the cameras on tha table for the B&G. When I did weddings my contract stated something to the effect that if any other person used a camera then I would be not be responsible if my photos had shadows or were over exposed or flared. I simply explained what might happen if they allowed others to use cameras, but it is their decision. This always prompted them to ask their guests not to intefere with the photographer.

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  11. This past weekend we shot a wedding in Seattle, and had a girl there with a Rebel shooting. I didn’t mind, in fact, I got her involved instead of her stuffing herself in a corner and avoiding eye contact with me at all costs (because she knew what she was doing was incredibly disrespectful.) But that all changed when I jumped on to facebook to upload some sneak peeks for the bride and groom, only to find pictures already up…..and logo’d…..with the name of her photography business.

    And the bride and groom signed a contract stating we would be the only photographers at the wedding.

    Half of me wants to send a legalistic letter saying take em down right now, or die a legal death. The other half wants to take this poor, misguided stay-at-home part-time photographer with a kit lens to the side and explain having a Rebel doesn’t make you a business. Snipping someone’s wedding doesn’t make you a photographer. And if you’re willing to put a shot that you snuck of the first look up on facebook that you took through a window with glare and reflections….then….well….I feel bad for you.

    *rant ended*

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    • Wow Stephanie, rant away. I totally understand. Do you know if this girl is “family”? If not, I really do think I would send her the legal letter for Cease and Desist. If she is trying to get a business off the ground, this would definitely be her first taste at business, and hopefully would motivate her to move forward carefully. If it is family, you might want to tread a bit more carefully, but I would still contact her and “educate” her on the ways of business. Good Luck with this one!
      Lori

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  12. I am not a photographer but a make-up artist, but I also give my clients a contract to sign beforehand.

    My trouble is they sign it without reading it and then come completely unprepared for their trials and unoprepared onthe wedding day too. The contract is too long for me to read it to them, and probably too long for them to read if they are busy as I am.

    However every clause is vitally important so I cannot afford to make the contract any more condensed than it already is without losing its value.

    How do I get all my clients to read the contract before they sign (or at least before the trial)? Only one or two actually read it.

    Dee

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    • Dee

      I would highlight the important facts as you are walking through the contract when they are there to sign it. Just point out the specific clauses that you need them to focus on, and then let them read it further if they desire. I understand, we sign so much today, we tend to not actually “read” anything any more. We just always expect people to tell us the important stuff. So I guess that means an extra five minutes highlighting the important stuff is where its at.
      Lori

      Reply

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