Ok, if you’re a wedding photographer, you’re likely already familiar with this term: “Uncle Bob” is the generic term given to a person at a wedding whose enthusiasm over taking photographs often makes it difficult for the professional photographer to do their job without interference. They’re the person who shoots over your shoulder during family formals, whose flash has the potential to interfere with yours during the reception, that sort of thing.
It doesn’t happen at every wedding, but when it does, it can be a challenge!
Here’s the thing: photographers, I know it can be frustrating. I know it can be easy to characterize Uncle Bobs as purposefully irritating, but more often than not? It’s just someone who’s really excited about photography! I truly believe that most Uncle Bobs don’t intend to be Uncle Bobs, it’s just a lack of education!
So that’s the first step in handling one– choose to believe they have good intentions.
Step two? Talk to them! Often it’s easy to spot an Uncle Bob before the ceremony, as they’ll make a point to situate themselves on the aisle of a pew to get the best perspective for the processional. Whenever I see that happening, I make a point to go over (well before the ceremony begins) and introduce myself. I let them know that they’re more than welcome to take photos, but just that they’ll need to make sure they’re not leaning into the aisle, as that would obstruct my view of the bride. And no one wants to be the person who ruins that shot, so they’re normally respectful!
I say this all with a SMILE. Because I don’t want it to become a “me vs. you” situation.
Because when it comes down to it, photography has become a way that some folks participate in a celebration. And that’s ok! It shouldn’t annoy us that someone else wants to take photos. We just want to make sure it doesn’t impede our ability to do our job well.
If your Uncle Bob is one who’s hovering behind you, snapping away during family formals, take a deep breath. You know that as the professional, your photos are going to be the ones that end up in the album, or on the mantle of the brides’ parents’ home, which means the issue here is making sure everyone is looking at YOUR camera.
Whenever this happens, I’ll pull my camera away from my face and look toward whomever is also shooting behind me, and wait until they’ve taken their photo. Once they notice my gaze, I’ll say something like “I’ll give you a chance to grab a shot, don’t worry! I just need to you to hold off and wait for me to get mine first, to make sure everyone’s looking at my lens.” Again- all of this is said with a smile.
And then I wait to take my photo until everyone else has put their cameras/phones down. Once people recognize they’re causing a hold-up, they typically quit right away as they don’t want to annoy the bride, groom, or their families!
*I will caveat this with the fact that I do not allow anyone else to follow me with a camera during any other posed photographs (like couple’s portraits). That time with just the bride & groom is private and I’ve worked really hard to earn their trust, so I do [kindly & professionally] put my foot down if anyone looks like they’re making to come along for bridal party or couple’s portraits!*
If a situation has escalated to a point where the Uncle Bob is making it actively difficult for me to shoot unimpeded (i.e. their flash is going off so frequently that it’s destroying my shots of a crucial moment), then either I or my second shooter will go firmly ask them to take their seat/desist [assuming it’s not in the middle of the ceremony] as it’s affecting our ability to do the job we were hired to do. Once someone realizes their pictures are ruining the professional’s photographs, they almost always stop!
I think the most important thing to remember, at the end of the day, is who you’re trying to SERVE. The bride & groom are your clients, but on a wedding day? So are their families, to an extent.
As our world becomes more and more tech-savvy, we’ll encounter this all the more frequently. And if you choose to approach it with irritation and resentment, it’s going to embitter you toward your job.
Choosing to serve with JOY is the thing that results in long-lasting relationships with clients, and that will leave you LOVING your job instead of cursing it!
So, just to summarize:
I realize that every photographer differs in their approach when it comes to this sort of scenario, so take my advice with a grain of salt- this is what works for me, my brand, and the positive relationships I wish to maintain with my clients, their families, and the vendors I work with!
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