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How I Handled Aunt Harriet’s Cake Shot as a Wedding Photographer



It was a wedding like many others. The bride and groom were all smiles the entire day and excited for the ceremony. That semi-chaotic buzz of electricity was in the air as tasked bridesmaids went from place to place working on a variety of details before the ceremony. And after a brief portrait session, the bride was ready to take her father’s arm in their walk down the aisle.

And then it happened. In an all too familiar scenario, Aunt Harriet emerged in the back of the church with camera in hand. While not ideal, the resolution to this was to move over to the other side of the aisle as well as using the bridal party walking down to cover her up. With no signs of anyone with an iPad getting ready to lean into the aisle we were ready to rock and roll!

I can’t lie and say that I wasn’t mildly frustrated at this point, but I simply told myself that at the end of the day it’s not my wedding nor my memories. So I relaxed and was right back into the swing of things.

It was much later at the reception that I saw Aunt Harriet again. She made her way into the room before the guests were to be let in and I saw her trying to work around the cake to capture a photo of it. It was pretty dark in the room and not the ideal conditions to handhold a cake photo using nothing but ambient light.

I watched as she attempted to hold very steady while keeping her finger over the pop-up flash to keep off the harsh light in photo after photo, but clearly she wasn’t getting the shot. After a minute or so, I made my way over and asked “Working on shooting the cake?” She said “Yes, but it just keeps coming out blurry!” I told her “Yea this is a tough one in this light. Let’s see what we can do here.”

While this could be a fun moment to watch as someone who had earlier interrupted my flow flounders in trying to capture a photo, I decided to approach it differently. I called out to my assistant and asked her to bring me two lights, softbox, warm gel and a couple Pocket Wizards. As we set up the lights around the cake, I explained a bit about what we were doing and why. Once set, I removed the trigger from my own camera and had Aunt Harriet put it on hers.

We only had a few minutes so I told her the settings to use. She focused, captured the photo and said “holy cow what a difference!” I smiled and said “Yup, sadly no one told me when buying a camera that most of the work happens outside of the camera.” She thanked me and was on her way.

This wasn’t the first time I helped out a guest when I had a moment free, and I thought nothing of it.

Fast forward a few months later. I’m now sitting in my studio with a couple and discussing their wedding plans. One of my usual questions is “How did you hear about us?” The groom responds “You were working a wedding a few months ago and my mom was there. You helped her take a photo of the cake or something like that and she was thrilled about it, so we got your name from the couple and here we are.”

I’ve got to say that I certainly wasn’t expecting anything from the two minutes I spent helping someone capture a standard wedding image nor has anything like this happened before. But I guess the reaffirming lesson to myself is that it doesn’t hurt to be nice. An extra wedding booked for two minutes of my time is a great thing. It’s so easy for us to get mad, frustrated or even ask a guest to get out of the way, but it can be much more rewarding to help them out.

About the author: Michael Novo is a Wedding and Portrait photographer in Chicago. His love of chess has taught him the patience of customer service. He can be reached at michaelnovophotography.com or on Instagram at @michaelnovo9