Someone pokes their hand out at the exact wrong moment, guest photography at its finest.

Should You Allow Guest Photography During Wedding Ceremony

Filed in Articles Longform Wedding Advice on August 8th 2017

When it comes to the actual wedding ceremony, brides to be have a tough decision to make: whether or not to allow guest photography during their ceremony.

As a photographer tasked with capturing the once in a lifetime memories of a happy couple on their wedding day many would assume that I strongly discourage couples from allowing their guests to snap pictures during their ceremony and you’re probably thinking the same right now.

But you would be wrong.

First A History Lesson

A long time ago, in the dark days of film photography, poor wedding photographers were under enormous amounts of stress to perfectly capture every single moment, and let me tell you, being flawless with film is no easy task.

so long as it’s done respectfully, I’m actually all about people taking photos during your ceremony or any other part of the day for that matter.

When it comes to having guests taking pictures around a professional the problem is twofold. The first element is that even though the pro may be highly aware of the positions of everyone else, the guests pay absolutely no mind to where the professional photographer is shooting from and suddenly you’ve got a head or arm sticking out in the middle of your picture.

Secondly, though they could fire at high frame rates, that is to say, shooting multiple photos in quick succession, they could not make this a habit because: film, and there being just 24/36 frames on a roll.

As example, as the bride came down the aisle with her father, film photogs would snap a few pictures, using every ounce of skill and ability they had to get the timing just right to capture open eyes and big smiles, all in focus with great lighting. Of those four pictures, only a single picture might be a keeper and if that keeper also features a guests arm holding a camera out in front of the brides face or body, the shot was blown.

Contrasting to the present, digital photographers have two amazing luxuries: virtually endless supply of storage for pictures and being able to quickly view your results as you’re shooting.

Way back when you’d generally have no idea if in one of your few snaps someone had stuck out their arm front of you or if you’d caught the flash of another camera thereby overexposing your own picture. That is, till a week later when you got your shots back from the developer and you discovered you had no decent picture of the bride coming down the aisle with her dad.

This isn’t the only concern, there are others which I’m about to get into, but this is the origin of the “No Guest Photography Please” during the ceremony and other important moments of the wedding day.

Thankfully, the age of digital arrived and most photographers are now firing 20-30 and even 50+ pictures in quick succession (depending on the length of the aisle, church restrictions and type of camera) of the bride and her father as they proceed down the aisle. If she blinks or your angle is blocked for a few snaps it’s no big deal because you have 20 others to pick and choose from.

Fast-Forward to Today

A woman leans out over the pews to capture a snap of two kids walking up the aisle

This became an unprocessed throwaway because guest photography! Mom had to grab a snap… in portrait mode no less.

Generally, if your wedding photographer is worth the money you’re paying them, they shouldn’t be concerned about people taking photos during your ceremony. They should fight you if you want to promote guests photography at your ceremony. Any wedding photographer who puts the kibosh on any guest photography should be questioned, as a bride and groom, it is — to some degree — your decision to make.

I say “to some degree” because there are many churches and officiants who will make their own decision regardless of your opinion, making their own announcement before the ceremony.

These restrictions range from minimal and/or encouraging:

“the bride and groom have asked me to advise you that they want as many pictures as possible, so if you have a camera and want to take a picture, do not hesitate.”

To downright being banned:

“this ceremony is a private moment to be shared between the bride and groom and you’re here to share that with them. This means you remember the moment in your minds and not your cell phones.”

Furthermore some churches will ban any and all photography, professional included, during any portion of the service aside from the processional, signing of the registry and recessional. This can mean all those moments like the exchange of rings, laughs, smiles, and other photo worthy moments are not allowed to be photographed.

As a bride, groom, or photographer there isn’t much you can do about this. Different churches have different policies that pertain to both the professional and guest photography. However, many churches, if you’re nice, will bend just a little to allow the professional photographer to quietly and respectfully snap off a couple frames during the ring exchange or first kiss.

Having multiple people trying to snap a picture can cause a commotion

It should be said that not everyone values photography during the ceremony the same way. In fact from what I’ve seen most people are more focused on having a good video of their ceremony versus still photographs. This is something to remember if you’re a photographer, actually ask your clients what are their expectations for the photography during ceremony. Do not make assumptions, one way or the other.

One More Reason

There’s one other very important reason why a bride and groom may want to ban guest photography during their ceremony. Having multiple people trying to snap a picture can cause a commotion, with overeager guests clamoring to grab a snap as the bride comes down the aisle. I’ve literally seen people not just leaning over the pews into the aisle but actually step out of their row and stand smack dab in the middle of the aisle between the bride and her waiting groom, which is possibly the biggest faux pas you can commit during a wedding ceremony.

Never-mind that you probably stepped in front of my photograph but you’ve also now pissed off whoever is officiating the service, the bride, the groom, and the family too.

If you, as a bride and groom are okay with guest photography the safest bet is to have the officiant remind your guests of the weight of the moment and how much you’d value their respect on your big day, kindly asking those with cameras to be conservative with their camera. This tends to have the desired effect wherein it won’t become a free-for-all, with the majority of your guests keeping cameras tucked away, leaving just two or three guests to snap a few pictures.

The only downside, aside from any commotion is that may be caused, is that there’s a chance of pictures with your guests in the background holding up their phones and tablets snapping pictures, which can kind of take away from the moment of your ceremony entrance.

Final Thought

Here’s the crazy part. From my point of view, I don’t care if you allow guest photography or not.

Yep!

In fact, so long as it’s done respectfully, I’m actually all about people taking photos during your ceremony or any other part of the day for that matter. My feeling is that I can’t be everywhere, I have tasks and goals I’m being paid to achieve and sometimes photo-worthy moments occur while we’re together ticking a box of a picture on our list.

Even with two photographers snapping away, there’s going to be angles and moments that could slip through the cracks and I’ve seen plenty of great iPhone photography from randomly well positioned guests who happen to capture a candid picture as the bride and groom exit the church.

Who am I to dictate that those pictures shouldn’t have been taken?

My professional opinion is that you should tactfully find a way to advise guests to respect your wedding day, leave the pictures to a pro but if you do happen to take a picture, remember to share it with the bride and groom. This can be done with a small piece of find print on the invitations or from the officiant as the ceremony is about to begin.

That’s it, now go get married already!

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