Photography Etiquette – Uncle Bob

Every photographer knows who Uncle Bob is. It’s that one relative at every wedding with a great camera and no clue. The one that butts in and ruins your shot, or distracts the wedding party so half of them are looking away from you, the paid professional. But I’m not going to limit this blog post to the Uncle Bob’s. I want to talk about a couple situations where I have encountered intruders with a cameras, and one where I was the potential intruder.

Uncle Bob

The situation I encountered was more of an Aunt Betty. But not really. Ok. Here’s what happened. I was the second shooter at a beautiful beach wedding. Everything was going along great. The bride and groom were exchanging their vows when, all of a sudden, some random lady in a bathing suit popped up right behind the minister. The worst possible place!!! The lead photographer looked at me with horror. I motioned to her that I would take care of it. I ran through the sand, nearly falling on my face, and shout-whispered to the lady, “You’re in the way! Move!” Not very nice, I know. But I was panicked and didn’t have time to come up with something polite. The fact was, she was in the way and she needed to move.

It worked. She left and we never saw her again. But what do you do about the friend or family member who’s all up in your shiz ruining your shots? You can’t shout at them or tell them they are being incredibly annoying. Well, maybe you can, but you probably shouldn’t. Here are a couple of things that have worked for me in the past:

1 – Ignore them. They will probably be standing right behind you, trying to get the shot over your shoulder. If you just ignore them and pretend like they aren’t there, you will end up backing into them. After all, this is your show. Once they have been trampled a few times, they will probably back down. But if this passive-aggressive ploy doesn’t work, what next?

2 – Take turns. If pummeling them with your backside hasn’t discouraged them, or if they are one of those super determined people who jump up and down shouting, “Look over here!”, then you may have to be a little more direct. Here’s what I usually say: “I think they are getting confused by so many photographers. What if I let you snap a couple photos when I’m finished?” This does a couple of things. First, it displays your dominance. Second, it lets them know they are bothering you. And it’s up to you if you actually let them take any photos when you’re finished. I usually don’t. I just move on to the next group or pose and never give them another thought.

3 – Put it in your contract. The previous two examples are things I resort to when I’m in the moment. But there’s something you can do before you encounter these situations. You can write it into your contract with the bride and groom. In my experience, they will read over the agreement word by word. They want to know every detail. So it might help, and it certainly won’t hurt. Most non-photographers never have cause to think about our process, so putting it into the contract just makes them aware. Here’s what my contract says:

It is understood that Rebel Youth Photography LLC will act as the sole and exclusive wedding photographer. Rebel Youth Photography LLC reserves the right to bring one assistant at their discretion. Since flashes from guests’ cameras may ruin shots taken by Rebel Youth Photography LLC, the client(s) acknowledge(s) that they are responsible for notifying all of their guests that guest photography shall be limited and not at the expense of the professional photographer’s work

Uncle Bob - Over The Shoulder Shot

Creepy Guy With A Camera

This is what Uncle Bob is when he’s not at a wedding. I had an uncomfortable episode with one of these guys when I was shooting a print ad for a local car dealership. We staged the car on a walking path at the edge of a lake. We were definitely in the way of the morning joggers, but most of them acted as if they were in our way and avoided getting into the shot. As I was setting up my fill light, a guy came walking down the path with his two dogs. And, oh hey, he just happened to have his super awesome DSLR camera with him. He tied his dogs to a tree (in my shot, btw) and talked shop with me for a few minutes. It was a little weird, but I had some time to kill while the model was off changing her clothes. When she returned, we got set to shoot. I thought he would get the hint, remove his dogs from my shot and scram. But, no. He wanted to get a few shots for himself, then show them to me so I could ooh and ahh about how amazing his camera was. (And it was amazing. Waaaayyy better than mine.) The model was fidgeting and looking uncomfortable. Fortunately, I happened to have an art director there with me. She took charge and told the guy that having two photographers there was making the model uncomfortable, but that we would be out of his way in a few minutes so he could get on with his walk in peace and quiet. That did the trick! But not without some backlash. As he walked away, he shouted back to us that the car we had was crappy and he had more money than we would ever dream of having so he could buy himself a real car. A BMW. Seriously. Only losers would want to buy a Lexus. (Yes. We were shooting a Lexus convertible.) We smiled and waved.

Hendrick Lexus of the Carolinas

Too Many Cooks In The Kitchen

I search the local Craigslist ads for jobs every day. I recently came across an ad looking for wedding photographers. I eagerly clicked on it. But the details blew my mind. It was a bride that was looking to hire a couple extra photographers for her upcoming wedding. A wedding that was to take place in just two weeks. She explained that she already had a photographer booked, but that she was worried that the photographer would not be able to capture all the action. She didn’t want one second to go undocumented. So she needed two more photographers to show up on the day of her wedding to ensure that she got everything she wanted. Are. You. Kidding? Before I comment any further on this baffling scenario, I have one more story for you.

My husband and I were the track photographers for a drag strip. Everyone that saw our photos loved us and wanted us to go to other tracks to take pictures of them racing. At first we were really excited when we got an email from a race organizer asking us to work a race at a track we had never been to. We replied that we would love to go and asked if we should contact the track owner to introduce ourselves and make the necessary arrangements. The race organizer said that he would take care of all of it and told us we would be working for him and not the track. That seemed a little odd to us, but, hey, what do we know? After a few more emails, it was revealed that the track already had an official photographer. Um. What? Then why did he need us? He said he wanted us there because he liked our work better. We thought a long time over this one, but finally decided that, no matter how much money we were losing out on, it would not be professional to invade another photographer’s turf.

These two situations present a unique problem. What if you turn out to be the Uncle Bob? I would hope that most photographers would dismiss the anal retentive bride from my first example. The second one, however, seemed a bit more complicated to me at the time. I mean, a drag race isn’t a wedding. There are always family members and teammates standing in the pits taking photos with their iPads and cell phones. It’s a huge space and there’s plenty of room for more photographers. Then I thought, how would we feel if some random photographer showed up at our track? I can tell you, because it happened. We were pissed. And we didn’t want to be “that guy.” So we didn’t shoot the race.


I hope this post has been helpful and informative (and maybe a little funny). If so, please click the “Like” button below. Also, leave me some feedback. Have you had similar experiences? Do you have something to add that I forgot? Tell me what you think.

Here are some links on the subject that I found interesting:

Photo Etiquette Cards

Wedding Guest Photo Etiquette

Get Better Pictures At Your Wedding

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