Originally I had a big old lengthy video post for this! It was last year and it was ready to roll out, but then the next weekend right before I had planned to post it, I had an uncle Bob situation at a wedding and decided to throw this concept on the back burner. So…it’s coming out today as an actual post instead! 🙂
For those of you who don’t know what the term “Uncle Bob” means…it’s something in the photography world describing a guest at a wedding with a DSLR camera who is very ambitious and may be shooting a little too much to the point of blocking shots or shooting portraits/moments over the shoulder or too close to the hired photographer. The definition isn’t clear obviously because it’s on a case by case basis but I think that’s a fair description.
Over the past six years I’ve had my fair share of “run ins” with the guests at weddings with DSLR cameras. I have an entirely different perspective now than I used to about it but some things remain the same. The more I thought about it the past two years, the more I realized a gentle approach (in most cases) was far more effective than just being annoyed off the bat, like so many of us get when we see another guest shooting behind us or standing up and blocking shots. Here’s how we approach the situation now:
1. If they’re not in the shots or shooting behind shoulder…we leave them alone!!! I never can understand how photographers on busy wedding days when running around shooting thousands of images can take the time to fuss out a guest just for shooting with their own camera. If they go and submit it to be featured and pretended it was their own…sure there’s an issue there but your contract should have a clause that kind of mentions something about that and covers you, plus your bride and groom would have your back on that (or at least mine would!) . If they’re not there for portrait hour and getting ready and all of those shots, what’s the real threat if they’re generally keeping to themselves? They love their camera and photography, and that’s awesome! If they aren’t blocking shots or shooting behind you, try to be a little more humble and remember that you TOO did this just for fun and built on a dream. They’re not hurting you!
2. If they look like they have potential to be blocking the aisle/shooting over your shoulder, introduce yourself…throw in some compliments! So in the past we have had many, many, many guests hang themselves out in the middle of the aisle and start shooting the bride walking down the aisle or during other moments. Or, stand up when everyone is sitting down. No…we can’t just “photoshop that out” (guess what, I DON’T OWN PHOTOSHOP:)) — and on that note it’s just not respectful to the couples. So..we quickly and kindly as a team work to approach the person. If Mike’s closer, Mike does it. Last year…Mike kindly asked a guest to move from the *MIDDLE* of the aisle where the bridesmaids were coming down and the guest dropped an F bomb at him, and you know what Mike did? Just continued to smile through and say okay can you still please move anyway, hahaha 🙂 When the guest later realized that was a little intense of a reaction toward Mike and was rude, he said sorry…but really…we are soooo willing to take it to get the best for our clients. The other thing we do is before we even have an issue with shots being blocked by these guests we’ll see them with their cameras, kind of parked and ready to start shooting with the potential to be in our way, and we’ll introduce ourselves! It’s so small of a gesture and it makes such a difference! When they hear you say you came all the way from the Outer Banks because this couple loves you and hired you specifically, they tend to take the time to see you, notice you and stay out of your line of shooting and it just takes that super small human connection.
I also will compliment their equipment or something about them. Do you see what I’m saying? They are people, too — just connect with them on some level and they will be so much more willing to respect your requests to move out of a shot or listen to you when you kindly ask them to let couples portrait hour be a little more private without them shooting the same poses you are.
If they don’t listen, I don’t think it’s a bad idea to approach your bride and groom and ask them what to do when you have the chance to make sure you don’t have a bigger issue made out of this. My brides are awesome and usually have a “sick ’em” person they can count on..like a sister or badass bridesmaid who is born to “handle it” hahahahah! Seriously..it’s amazing!!!
3. Talk shop, make them feel respected, offer help or advice. One of the things I have loved most about the Uncle Bob situations is when it turns to mentorship or a new blog/work follower! No, it doesn’t always go this way…but when they see the same day slideshow and want to talk about editing or settings I love it! A situation that goes south SO often for wedding photographers turns into something POSITIVE! If they shoot Nikon, I’ll ask them a couple of questions because I know NOTHING about Nikon, lol! If they have Canon, we can pal around about what lenses we love most. And I know I’m making this sound like I sit for an hour and talk about stuff but CLEARLY, I don’t do that because I’m shooting so much…but I can speed talk a convo at a wedding like no one’s business and I talk and shoot reception dancing a lot…so why not? And my favorite thing is getting a shot of them and their date/family so they can have it to remember the positive experience they had where we both had fun, used our cameras and no one was hurt…LOL!!! 🙂
We KNOW all situations aren’t this easy when it comes to “Uncle Bobs” — we know. Ours don’t always turn out so pretty but I will honestly say that they have improved drastically when we had a calmer and more strategic approach to how we are going to handle the situation and remembered that sometimes they truly don’t understand that they’re in the way. If you are personable to begin with, it’ll be a little easier to ask them to scoot over a little, turn that flash off and not shoot portraits over your shoulder most of the time, and if it’s not…you ask the bride who the roughest bridesmaid is and have her handle your business 😉
We love our couples, their families, their wedding parties and guests. Thank you for making it a joy every, single, time to be a part of your days <3 Guests..remember we are approachable! Come and hug me and say hi! If it’s a summer wedding and I’m sweaty though..high fives are probably better 🙂
Want to keep up with the Outer Banks mama of three little girls shooting weddings and small business photography while making time for the things that matter most? Click on the links below!