By Mike Wilmer
When you're invited to a wedding, do you automatically reach for a camera? If you do, you're clearly not alone. In fact, given so many people have camera phones, it's all but impossible to show up at a wedding these days without some sort of device that takes pictures!
But what if your wedding invitation comes with an insert that asks guests to be sure to turn off their cell phones when they arrive? Could they mean the camera portion, as well?
More and more couples see perpetual picture taking to be one of the major distractions from the real fun of all of the wedding festivities. That's why so many are opting for photojournalistic coverage where a skilled professional is hired to capture the action as it happens. Then it's not necessary to take time to pose and stage photos where everyone stops what they're doing and stares at the camera.
But what if every other guest shows up with a camera expecting the bride and groom to pose for photos? What then? It's pretty hard for the bride and groom to refuse such requests. But think about it. Even if only 1 in 10 guests show up with cameras, at a typical wedding with 200 guests, that could mean 20 people will be asking for a minute here and a minute there of the couple's time. When that's put on top of the time spent on essential family groups taken by a professional, it's easy to see how a large part of the day can be consumed with picture taking.
So what should guests do? Here are some dos and don'ts to keep in mind before pointing a lens at anyone at a wedding:
- Cardinal rule: Do not get in the way! They're paying (usually a lot) for a professional photographer's expertise and time, so let the bride and groom get their money's worth!
- Don't take flash photos during the ceremony. Many churches and ministers have rules against flash photos during the ceremony.
- Don't lean or stand in the aisle. Often pros will shoot down the aisle from the back of the church at various times during the ceremony. If you look out of place, you could ruin the photo.
- Don't focus just on the bride and the groom. The best photos taken by guests will be of those things that the bride and groom couldn't see because they were busy elsewhere.
- If you simply must pose a picture with the bride and the groom, be prepared and do it quickly. Make sure your camera is on, the flash is charged, and you've thought through what you want to do before you engage the busy couple.
- Do take lots of photos at your table during the reception. Professionals seldom shoot traditional table shots these days, so it's a good idea to get snapshots showing the other guests were having a good time. For example, take pictures of people toasting the couple.
- Don't try to photograph everything else-things like the cake cutting, the bouquet toss, and the first dance are best left to the pro. If you're inspired to shoot during those special events, your best bet is to focus on the reactions in the crowd.
- Don't be shy. Do get in close. Close-up photos of guests' smiling faces will always be treasured. Busy photos taken at a distance won't show the expressions that the bride and groom will value the most. So shoot the people close to you or make use of a zoom lens, if your camera has one.
- Do make copies of your best photos for the bride and groom! After the big day passes, it's easy to put off taking the film to the lab or burning that CD containing your digital camera files. Don't procrastinate! Try to get your photos in the mail so they'll be ready for the couple to enjoy when they return from their honeymoon!
Without a doubt, taking photos can add to the fun of attending a wedding. If you get a few good images, they will make a nice bonus gift that will be treasured through the years. Just remember the dos and don'ts so your picture taking won't get in the way of everyone having a good time.
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! Mike Wilmer is a Brooks Institute of Photography graduate, has been a professional photographer for over 3 decades, and established The Photography Forum in 1987 and the Gadgets and Gear Forum in 2005.