3 Rules for Taking Photos at a Wedding

When you attend a wedding, remember that you're a guest, not a professional photographer. Learn the rules of wedding photos before you make a rude mistake.

Richie Frieman
5-minute read
Episode #313

On October 29th, my wife and I will celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary. My wedding was the best day of my life.  We were surrounded by family and friends, my wife looked amazing, and I managed not to trip while walking down the aisle..

Decorating the walls of our house, are many photos of that day, all taken by an incredible photographer who documented the entire day.  Interestingly, I find that wedding photographers are somewhat different now then they were when I got married.

Why is that?

Well, thanks to camera phones and Instagram, many of us consider ourselves professional photographers, who have the right to do whatever it takes to get the perfect shot. Sadly, this isn't the case.

So before you ruin someone’s special day with your improper photography etiquette, check out the 3 rules for taking photos at a wedding. Smile, everyone!

Tip #1: Respect the Professional

In a previous Modern Manners Guy episode called Social Media at Weddings I talked about how thanks to an unsettling combination of social media and camera phones, wedding guests often feel like it's their right (or even their duty) to document the big day and share it with the world.  Granted, I’m all for capturing important moments, however some people take it upon themselves to do whatever necessary, even going so far as to push fellow guests out of the way, to capture the best shot.

OK, I’ll play devil’s advocate. Let’s say you are in fact a professional photographer. Who cares?  If you are not on contract that night, then don’t try to pull rank over other guests and the guy or gal actually hired to document the day.  Do you think using your phone from 10 rows back and 12 seats to the left is really going to capture a “breathtaking moment” better than the professional with the $5,000 camera that can zoom in from 100 yards away? I highly doubt it. In fact, I’m 100% positive it will not.

Don't assume that your photos are more important than the photographer’s mission, simply because you bought an extra filter from Instagram and can't wait to test it out.

When it comes to taking photos at a wedding, the rule is that guests have to cede capturing the important moments to the hired professional.  During the cocktail hour, while dining at your table, or dancing to "We Are Family"- knock yourself out. However, the photographer is the only - and I mean ONLY - person that night who should be directing the couple. It’s wrong to assume that your photos are more important than the photographer’s mission, simply because you bought an extra filter from Instagram and can't wait to test it out.

The couple has trusted - and paid – a professional who takes on that role very seriously.  If they miss an opportunity because you got in the way, then the moment is lost forever. That’s a lot of pressure! The last thing a photographer needs is to compete with your iPhone 6 blocking them from doing their job. 

Tip #2: Timing Is Key

My mom has been a wedding planner for more than 20 years and having watched her at work, I can tell you that when it comes to pulling off the perfect wedding, timing is everything. From when the ceremony begins, to how each person in the bridal party walks out, everything comes down to timing. With that, there is a time and place for the photographs as well. 

One of the most unmannerly things I’ve witnessed at a wedding is when guests get up and step into the aisle to take a picture of the bride - as she makes her entrance. Did I mention this was a guest and not a hired photographer?  This is a case of a guest putting their own needs ahead of everyone else's. The bride only gets to walk down the aisle once and whatshe should see is her future spouse at the end of it, not Aunt Selma weeping into her camera and ruining the photographer's shot..

I know what you're going to say: “So I can’t take any photos of the wedding ceremony?”