Solid Advice for Wedding Guests: Put the Smartphone Away and Sit Down!

You’ve probably seen it, we’ve written about it, and wedding photographers in particular loathe it, but for some reason people can’t stop doing it: getting in the way at weddings to get the perfect smartphone shot of the happy couple.

And although many of us photographic types have taken the time to explain to our friends why they should sit down, enjoy the wedding and not get in the photographer’s way, the video above just maybe gets the point across better.

The video was shot for a segment on Sacramento’s Fox 40 called “Don’t Be That Guy,” and it hits the proverbial nail on the proverbial head with a proverbial hammer… proverbially.


Producer Sabrina Rodriguez explains in no uncertain terms why it’s best for guests to stay out of the way, and shows myriad examples of what happens when they don’t.

And when we say no uncertain terms, we mean it. “Thanks to cell phones, just about everyone and their mother thinks they’re a professional photographer,” narrates Rodriguez. “You’re not!… Stay in your seat and watch, not like this woman who’s circling the couple like a hungry shark trying to get a good angle.”

Needless to say, she pulls no punches, and we see no reason why every wedding photographer shouldn’t share this with their friends and clients. Who knows, maybe they’ll pass it on to their guests-to-be and save you a headache down the road.

(via Fstoppers)

  • jrconner

    It’s up to the bride and groom to set limits on photography by guests. If no limits are set, then the hired photographers must do their best under the circumstances. I’ve never been at a wedding where only the hired photographers took photographs. There’s probably no way to prevent guests from shooting short of confiscating their cell phones and cameras, something that few happy couples would have the gall to do. I have to wonder whether some professionals complaining about amateurs snapping photos at weddings are worried that amateurs with their own images will not purchase the professionals’ work.

  • justin

    yup, you’re that guy!

  • Joe Barnas

    Please, don’t even try to defend “those guys”.

  • Anonymous

    I was at a wedding last Saturday, my boyfriend’s sister’s.

    I told her I’d do the photos, and I stayed in my chair and still got some awesome shots. How? I just sat in the aisle, and stayed out of the way of the photographers. The aunt did go up with her cameraphone and got behind the wedding party, but whatever.

    They didn’t have a photographer for the reception, so I did all those, and they saw them and actually asked why they didn’t just use me.

  • Kat

    Wow. Where to even begin?? Let’s just keep it simple: you are a guest at a wedding. Feel free to take photos and enjoy yourself. Getting in the way of the professional who is hired and PAID by the couple to capture their day is incredibly disrespectful to not only the professional photographer, but to the couple who chose to make the investment in hiring them. Stop being selfish. Sit down. A professional photographer would NEVER circle the couple that way during a ceremony.

  • MikaelGramont

    Can we please let go of the wedding photographer pet peeves? This must be the 15th post on the subject this year.

  • David Portass

    Because what if things had messed up, your camera died, lens broke, memory card corrupted? Do you have spare lenses, cameras, batteries and memory cards?

    What if someone damaged your equipment, you hurt someone accidentally while getting a photo or they trip over your camera bag or even do something that damages a venue in some way? Do you have public liability and professional indemnity insurance to cover you?

    What if something really went wrong? Friendships have been broken in the past because of things like these when bad photos get delivered or worst none at all.

    I don’t mean that to sound bad in any way, I’ve taken photos at friends weddings, it’s one of the things that got me into photography but I’ve never taken a photo from where I would interfere with a photographer or get in a photographers shot, that includes the aisle. I have never done a wedding professionally for a close friend or family member and even with other friends I write out contracts to protect everyone.

  • geeves

    This past year I’ve started asking the bride and groom to consider asking guests not to photograph during the ceremony and other key times. It’s been met with many a “why?” On one occasion the bride responded, “I was going to ask if you could photoshop out those people! It’s like an iPhone advertisement!”

    As for the “Why” crowd, once I showed them past instances of photos that just look horrible because of extra flash or that 5 people are looking through their phones (printing them and circling them with red marker for emphasis) and not enjoying the moment most agreed. Didn’t it stop it from happening? No. But there was much less of it happening while the bride walked the aisle.

  • David Portass

    No because most professionals have taken at least half if not the full payment for their service before the wedding so it’s not a case of worrying about not being paid. It’s purely a case of they have been paid to be there to capture the special day by the couple and the last thing the couple will want to see are photos that are ruined by mobile phones and event tablets being shoved in the middle of the isle while they are walking down it

  • Nico in China

    I don’t like selling wedding photos pic by pic, I’d rather cover the event and be free to give the pictures that people will enjoy (according to my own judgement), so once i’m hired I don’t worry about these things.

    This being said, I don’t see guests as concurrence, and they don’t bother me nearly as much as the video team (with LED mounted on their cameras) / other pro photographer(s) / colored-LED lightning / LED screen in the background with low refreshment rate.

  • StrangeVista

    At the last wedding I attended, our view was blocked the entire time–by the wedding photographers! Beyond obnoxious…

  • radiancedeluxe

    this is the new normal, and it’s only going to get worse. complaining about it is pointless. adapt or fade away.

  • Kat

    Did you complain to the bride and groom, and tell them how obnoxious it was that the hired professionals, the people who are recording this special day for them to remember for the rest of their lives, the people they invested their money in, blocked YOUR view the ENTIRE time? The same bride and groom who likely spent well over $100 for just YOU to be there to partake, eat, drink, dance and celebrate THEIR wedding day? I dare you. How selfish of you.

  • Anshel Sag

    I disagree, its a level of etiquette…

  • Anshel Sag

    A person that also probably came and set aside an entire afternoon for a friend or family member and probably spent a lot of money on the gift only not to see any of the wedding because the photographers didn’t know how to move around and get different shots?

  • jrconner

    I agree. Never work for family or friends, neither pro bono nor for pay.

  • Lou Reed

    have you been to a wedding recently? i was at an easily 500+ person valet parking-only wedding at the W in chicago, and guests acted the same way. people want to brag about what they are doing on facebook. def the new normal.

  • jrconner

    A professional would never circle the couple? That’s not a supportable statement. Getting behind the padre to get a shot of the couple and the crowd behind them is perfectly acceptable as long as the couple and padre agree. A better method, of course, is a remotely controlled camera mounted behind the altar (the church could install the camera and rent access to the hired photographer, a winning deal for everyone).

  • StevenRosas

    At the end of the day, if you’re being paid to do a job, do it to the best
    of your ability with what you can work with. Complaining about people
    taking pictures on their cell phone and blocking your shots is like
    saying you can’t take good pictures because the hall or venue has bad
    light and my be ugly. Learn to adapt, if you’re good you will find the
    shots. But if you have that let me stay put in one place because someone
    is blocking me attitude, you’ll get ugly pictures. Less complaining,
    and more adapting. We all can make the best out of a situation that
    isn’t in our favor.

  • Wilfred Lim

    Kat is right…that is not “not a supportable statement”
    A professional photog would never….
    question is…is all hired photog works in professional manner?
    hired != professional
    professional also != hired
    good photoshooting ethics is not related to whether you are a hired photog or a snapping guest…

  • Wilfred Lim

    the thing is that’s what you get today…
    after through so many, i m more than fine with guest shooting with own devices, whether a phone or a pad or another SLR…
    real headache when there is not just one or two, but 7 or 10 people all get in the way to grab the shot as well…with majority taking a tablet and hold up high to catch it… ****….i am completely blocked!!!
    that’s not the worst yet….its most saddening when you got the angle n position ready n about to get the right shot….then a kid or who would nudge ya and say “hey, you blocking my way, can you move away?”, then he gonna hold up his iPad to try to take photo too….*facepalm*

  • John Taylor Quattlebaum

    When you pull out the big white zoom lens you establish dominance, and suddenly their new toy is less impressive!

  • Wilfred Lim

    dominant or not, one big iPad infront of your lens hood can K.O. hehe

  • cbreeze

    I recently did a small wedding in Hawaii where all the people had cell phones or ipads up. All the ceremony shots of the couple had iphones and ipads up in the air. Just awful photographs with those distractions in them. :(

  • gly

    This is not YOUR day. It’s the couples day. If you’re close enough to the couple that they saw it fit to invited you, I’m sure they would hope that you would understand or at the very least take a different seat one way or another.
    If you really wanted some ‘you time’, you should have gotten drunk and passed out in the washroom during the reception. That can be all you…

  • eric

    I don’t get why people try to get pics at a wedding anyway. There’s a paid photographer there who’s going to get better angles and shots than you sitting in your seat. Let them worry about the pics, and you as a guest just enjoy the day. What do you think the bride and groom is going to do with your sh**ty cell phone pic anyway?

  • Lynda Bowyer

    I’m a professional commercial and press photographer who is getting married this coming Winter. I don’t want this at my wedding and, whilst not meaning to be “snooty” have also asked that my wedding is unplugged so that the professional wedding photographer that I’ve hired to shoot the day can work freely. The bonus is that our images are not spoiled by guests’ insistence on getting “their” shot.

  • dannybuoy

    I’ve shot about 10 weddings now and each one is different on this front. It’s tricky, taking photos is so in everyone’s psyche now it’s impossible not to face a few challenges with over zealous guests. I’m not an overly assertive guy and I have struggled with people getting all over the couple during specific formal portrait sessions. BUT. I’m not going to rant about it. Sometimes the people taking the photos right in front of you have a much better rapport with the couple, being good friends and family etc, sometimes they can actually create a more relaxed situation and the couple smile/pose in a different way. You just need to know how to work around this and make sure you get the better shot than the camera phone wielding great Aunt.

  • Richard Ford

    Solid advice for little Eichmanns. Keep your nose out of others business and let people do as they wish. It is not your wedding, it is the wedding of the friends and family members that you are so quick to chaste.

  • Angie Mac

    The best time to stand up and take a photo with your smart phone is when they say, “If anyone has any objections, speak now or forever hold your peace.” That should go over well.

  • fdeserres

    I think you are confused: etiquette/good manners are NOT AT ALL linked to wealth. Far from it. A bling wedding at the W does not indicate anything regarding the personal qualities of the persons attending. Or the bride and groom for that matter.

    As a photojournalist, I can’t tell how many times I’ve witnessed rude rich people and the most well-mannered and generous poor people.

    Now to get back to the point, I understand the guests’ behavior ; but a simple message from the couple, or an extra line/card in the invitation stating that they would like to avoid nuisance during the ceremony would be enough to deter most iPad-toting old uncles and wannabe-photographers.

  • DiScire

    last time I checked wedding photographers / videographers were not making feature films, but are documenting the event. it is not a controlled environment ever, the wedding guests and their cameras are all part of the event, and as such part of the document.

    if you have people blocking your view most of the time, then maybe you are not in the right spot, and there are many creative ways to deal with people in the shot. a compilation video of people walking into the frame is one of them, it will get you a laugh instead of only oooh’s and aaaah’s. or you can overlay still photos that your assistant took from the other angle when somebody happens to wander into the frame. just don’t stop filming so that the audio keeps running.

    you are getting paid a lot to be prepared for any situation, so be prepared and don’t complain (unless they are holding up their iPad to film the event).

    and having said that: I do agree that people should just pocket their camera phones at events, it being a wedding or a rock concert: be in the moment, enjoy what is happening right now, and don’t worry about having a crappy video or photo to look at later.

  • yopyop

    “Never work for family or friends”

    That’s not a supportable statement ;-) You would never do this (for free or not) for your family ?

  • philiplemoine

    yup. Its not about the money. We have been paid a week prior.. Its about capturing the moment that cannot be posed or asked to have them do it over… Its once in a lifetime..

  • philiplemoine

    those arent professional videographers. A professional videographer would NEVER have a light on their camera… honestly… i dont think a professional photographer should have a flash on their camera… thats super basic..

  • Gergo Vamosi

    Another approach: A friend of mine didn’t hire a professional cameraman or photographer to capture the event, just collected the best shots from friends and family. This way they have a community photo album from the guests.

  • Ghill Tochon

    A couple of months ago i was hired to photograph a small weeding ceremony and a decent reception, all seemed to be easy from here. But in fact, at the ‘small’ ceremony, almost everyone, including the padre who was marrying the couple, had their phones and ipads and were taking dozens of pictures, and even getting on my way and making the life impossible to my assistant when we were doing our job.

    i told that to the bride and the groom and; in the party aftewards, noone, and i mean noone, pull their cams up or cellphones, so that made my work easier.

    what i meant to say, is that communication between those who hire you and the people invited is more effective than trying to tell the guest to stay out of your way or even ‘try’ to avoid them while you are trying to do your job.

  • John Taylor Quattlebaum

    This is soo true!!

  • WillMonson

    No joke – I was just a groomsman in a wedding two weeks ago, and the mother of the groom recorded the entire wedding WITH AN IPAD. She even walked down the aisle while recording with it, and kept it right at chest level when all the parents stood up in the middle of the ceremony to give their official blessing.

  • just-married

    I just got married and had an uncle leave his camcording on a tripod in the middle of the aisle for the entire wedding. So many potentially awesome pictures ruined. SMH.

  • lidocaineus

    No flash? There are no words to describe the ignorance of this statement. You *clearly* have never shot a wedding. I haven’t either, but I know enough about photography to know that doing it without flash through the entire thing is impossible if you want to get good shots.

  • Stefano Druetta

    both of you are wrong. it’s a matter of creative and narrative choices, and it shouldn’t be judged that way.
    you definitely can go thru a wedding without flash, as you definitely can get great pictures with on-camera-flash. it only matters WHY you’re going one way or another.

  • lidocaineus

    I suppose you want to be pedantic, so here we go. It’s not impossible to do a wedding without flash. It’s also not impossible to shoot in dark areas without flash.

    However, if you want what most wedding couple consider “good shots”, for photos in the reception hall and dark areas, which are usually far too dark for even the most wide-open lens you have to stop movement, require flash, or at the very least, light modification (more often that not, both). If you want non-flat subjects with backlit highlights, you use flash (even during the middle of the day). If you want contrast in flat light, you use flash. All of these things are in the standard wedding photographer’s repertoire.

    So no, you don’t need flash. You never need flash for any photography, as it’s just another way of interpreting a creative vision. But if you want what wedding couples want (which is usually within a very small latitude to creativity), you use flash when it’s appropriate.

  • Stefano Druetta

    you haven’t shoot a single wedding in your life and want to be pedantic? be my guest :D but please don’t repeat what I just said, try your own words and thoughts.

    sorry dude, everything you said is neither right or wrong. as I said before, and you probably didn’t read carefully [or my english is so bad I can’t make myself clear, not my mother tongue, sorry :) ] you have to choose. I hope my clients hire me for MY vision, not for the pictures they think are “good shots”. right? : )

  • Matt

    Well, like it’s been said before: People are sharing their experiences on social sites in real time. They are celebrating your wedding in their way. Unplugged sounds good, but it does not help you guests to celebrate. Maybe see if the wedding photographer can have a social media update/stream or something in near real time that your guests can share on their social media. That could help solve the issue; it would give your guests a way to celebrate with you but in a way that they are not interfering with the wedding photographer.
    Maybe that is a service that wedding photographers could provide to help with the issue. An opportunity to make more money, instead of just complaining.
    Or it could be a new service provider, a social media streamer LOL.

  • Matt

    A little harsh. But, I kind of lean your direction. I think there are solutions that could help out guests as well as the photographer…

  • earl jules

    read Lou again. . .
    you’re both on the same side of the argument. . . (wink)
    * * * * *
    manners are NOT linked to money, wealth, or social standing…

    bad manners appear everywhere. . .
    * * * * *

    unless I missed something. . . ?
    * * * * *
    then again,
    perhaps you were responding to Anshel’s comment. . .?

  • Zzz

    Ah, just another preacher wannabe who thinks he/she can tell people what to do. “I’m a pro, bro, listen to me. I know better”

  • Lynda Bowyer

    Without being all “Bridezilla”, I’d ask “Who’s wedding is it anyway?”

    Surely in the first instance, if guests still whip out their cameras, iPads, iPhones and devices to take photographs despite the couple kindly requesting they don’t, then it is wholly disrespectful to the couple?

    Since when did shoving images on social media and Instagram take precedence over a couple’s desire to have privacy and discretion during what is, in essence, THEIR wedding.

  • lidocaineus

    I’m going to chalk up this rambling to the english as a second language reason.