Friday, February 15, 2013

Guest Photographers

If you are with a group of wedding photographers and mention the term "Uncle Bob" you are almost certain to get at least a dozen stories about crazy guests with their cameras and what they did to get that great shot - and screw you out of it.  In the past 5 years I have seen everything and anything from these Uncle Bobs and I'm sure you have too.  What I hoped would be a dying fad much like spot coloring has actually gained more and more popularity as the years go by.  So what can you do to protect yourself from being Uncle Bob'd and from potential images they may ruin?

1.  The Contract.  Make sure that your contract not only states you are the only professional photographer hired for the day (personally I exclude photo booths from this clause as I do not offer them) but that you also cover yourself in case a guest ruins any photograph.

2.  The Wedding Day.  I've found the best way to nip Uncle Bobs in the bud is to approach them and be friendly.  Often they will approach you and assure you that they won't mess with you at all and promise to stay out of the way.  Once you are buds they tend to make sure to steer clear of you but it isn't always the case.  If they continue to be a problem, take the time - no matter what the excuse - to stop and educate them regarding your contract and about how they are compromising the couples photos.

3.  CYA.  During the wedding day if there are photographers that are being overly zealous with their cameras and nothing you do changes their behavior DOCUMENT IT!  Do not delete the images that they ruin but instead save them to a separate folder when editing.  Trust me.  I once had a bride get upset with coverage during her ceremony which I was limited with due to an abundance of guest photographers (10+).  Once I showed her the image my second shooter took of me surrounded and blocked in every direction by her guests, she apologized and understood why I was restricted during the ceremony.  Another time I had a particular moment a bride was looking for ruined by a guest photographer's flash, blowing the image completely out and was able to show her what happened and she understood why that moment was missing.  I can't stress this enough, don't delete images that they interfere with!

4.  Give a Little.   Sometimes there is just no way out of being Uncle Bob'd.  Last year I had a wedding where the brother of the groom was an up-and-coming photographer and I was informed by the Mother of the Groom to allow him to do whatever he wanted.  To maintain my creative freedom while trying to keep the MOG happy, I ultimately negotiated a deal to allow her son to photograph the couple/bridal party for 15 minutes the day of (he would put down the camera for the rest of the portrait session) and the reception at will so long as he didn't get between me and the couple.  I knew, from past experiences, that if he had his camera with him at the altar it would end badly so I fought for exclusive rights where it mattered most to me (the ceremony) and gave some leeway where I could work around him (portraits and reception).  In the end I think we were both content with the outcome and if I hadn't given them a little bit then I fear that he would have been everywhere and anywhere with his camera and I couldn't do much about it given his relationship and position in the wedding.

5.  Facebook.  Here's a new slant on the guest photographers.  They are so excited that they tag the couple in images and everyone's sharing these and changing their profile pictures over and when your images finally make their debut people aren't as excited and the reception is a bit lackluster.  Sadly there isn't a LOT you can do about this but make sure that you get your images out there first.  Even if you just edit one image from the wedding and pop it on Facebook the day after the wedding, it's a plus for you.  I don't typically address the problem if the guest photographer sticks to posting it to their personal page but I have sent kind emails to guests who post it on their business page.  Here's what that email looks like:

Dear Photographer:

It was really great to meet you at Bride & Groom's wedding!  It was such a fun day and I'm still smiling thinking of it.  Thank you for allowing me to do my job without getting in the way.

I noticed that you had tagged Bride & Groom in your photos and I'll admit I'm a bit nosy so I went to have a look.  The images are lovely and they are so lucky that you were there to capture extra moments for them, I'm sure they will be elated with them!  However, I would really appreciate it if you would put these images up on your personal page rather than your business page with your logo removed from them.  I know you are just getting your start in weddings and are super excited to have such a gorgeous wedding to show but it's actually a bit of a problem on my end.  So often brides will Google "such and such venue" or "such and such wedding colors" and will happen upon BOTH of our pages, resulting in confusion as to whom was the hired photographer.  This can - and in my case HAS - resulted in a Google-r inferring this means that one photographer stole from the other and makes her case known everywhere. Trust me when I say you never want to go through with this and I am not eager to repeat this.  I also request that these images remain off of your website.  This is to protect not only myself but you as well.   You are welcome to show them in a private setting to any potential client however. 

I hope that you understand my position on this!  

Thank you,

 Have you been Uncle Bob'd?  What did you do that you think worked out to your advantage?  What do you think you could do better next time?  Have any advice?
Corey Ann is a wedding & lifestyle photographer from North Canton, OH. She is a mix of everything - fashionista, travel nut, deal hound, photo theft evangelist (she runs Photo Stealers) and geek rolled into one. She's had a website online since 1997 and a blog since 1999. When not plotting world domination or her next trip, she can be found reading one of the 100+ books she reads a year. Follow her on Twitter.


  1. This is a fantastic post. I've often wondered the best way to deal with Uncle Bobs, but I really feel like these strategies will work with 90 percent of the folks pros come up against.

  2. Great article again CA, you cover many points. I have a question for you :-) In number one you mention the contract. What do you do if guests ignore your requests, or an Uncle Bob (or maybe a photographer there as a guest) refuses to stop? Even if its in your contract, what would you do?

    I've heard other professionals say there isn't really anything you CAN do as you don't want to make a bad name for yourself/business by up and leaving. So is this just in a contract but enforceable?

    Just wondering. I had a professional wedding photographer as a guest at a wedding recently and it was a nightmare and I didn't really want to cause a scene so just had to let him do his - irritating - thing and get on with my job. It put me in a terrible mood and was hard to 'get over'.

    *apologies for any typos as I'm on my phone :-)

    1. To be honest, it's more of a scare tactic for the Uncle Bob. I've said to one, "you do realize the B&G signed a contract stating that if another photographer was here working in a professional capacity I could leave, right? I am sure your contract has it in is as well?" He got WHITE and put the camera down. Ha. Honestly though, that clause is more to protect me from videographers, DJ's and any other vendor that decides they are going to be a photographer too. I had one DJ shoving me all day to get "the" shot and then sold the pictures on his site afterwards!


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