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How to be a Gracious Guest at a Wedding AND Take Great Photos

I was recently at a friend’s wedding and took photographs as a guest. I admit, there were times it was difficult to resist laying down in the aisle, climbing up on something, and pulling the bride and groom aside to get “the shot”. It went against my instincts as a photographer to see a shot and not take it. How did I do it? I created some rules for myself to tame the [photography] beast within, so I could be respectful to the hired photographer.

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Then one of my blog readers submitted some questions that positioned this topic perfectly:

How do we, the aficionado or professional photographer, act when we attend an event, such as a wedding? I want to be the grateful and graceful guest and get great pix. How can I do both during the ceremony? I always try to stay out of the official photographer’s frame, and not distract my fellow guests, but what else might be appropriate?

Let’s be frank. If you were invited to a photography-worthy event, like a wedding, you are most likely good friends with or a relative of someone in the wedding. So bringing a camera – whether a professional-grade camera, compact camera or smart phone – is to be expected.

The one complication is that digital cameras are so affordable nowadays that it seems like everyone owns a camera. Or two. Getting in the way of the hired wedding photographer is an obvious no-no, but can be easy to do when you’re trying to get good shots.

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Here are a few tips:

  1. During the ceremony, stay at your seat. Only the wedding party and vendors (ie, the hired photographer and videographer) should be the ones moving around.
  2. Bring a zoom lens or a compact camera that has optical zoom. That way, you can get close without distracting the other guests or photographer.
  3. Accept that you will have a limited variety of shooting points. Instead, get creative with your angles, focal points, and camera settings.
  4. Don’t follow or shadow the wedding photographer. If the photographer is shooting the wedding party or anyone for that matter, go to a different area. Feel free to watch in awe of the beauty that is being captured, but don’t try to squeeze in your own shot. Not only can it be distracting to the hired photographer to have other people photographing her (or his) subjects, but also, it can impact the images! The images could end up with individuals looking in different directions or having more canned smiles, rather than genuine ones, because it takes longer to get the shot when the subjects don’t know who to listen to or look at.
  5. Don’t pull aside the bride and groom to take your own portraits of them. Know that the hired photographer will take those, so take shots that are particular to you (ie, you and your childhood friend, the bride) and do it when the bride and groom aren’t busy with the hired photographer, like during the reception.

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If you are a guest at a wedding, then be just that: a guest!

The images you capture should be from a guest’s point-of-view, which can be a wonderful supplement to the hired photographer’s images.

Read more from our Tips & Tutorials category

Annie Tao

Annie Tao is a Professional Lifestyle Photographer in the San Francisco Bay Area who is best known for capturing genuine smiles, emotions and stories of her subjects. You can visit Annie Tao Photography for more tips or inspiration. Stay connected with her on her Facebook page

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