How I help with Uncle Bob and Aunty Mildred
We all have someone in our family who is a little bit photograph mad and wants to take photos at every opportunity. In the photography industry, we refer to these people as Uncle Bob and Aunty Mildred.
Often, a wedding day is a perfect way for them to test their skills and see what they can achieve.
However, as a professional photographer, it is very important that we are not impeded in what we are trying to do, with Uncle Bob and Aunty Mildred trying to dominate proceedings and unintentionally affecting the quality of your wedding photographs.
It is certainly true that the majority of professional photographers will simply tell Uncle Bob and Aunty Mildred in rather harsh terms to put the camera away and get out their way.
That’s not me! I might be slightly mad, but frankly based on the contents of this web site you probably already know that I am!
My approach is very different from most. At the end of the day, I have a certain skill with photography. This is why you are considering me to be your wedding photographer! It seems rather obtuse to me that I shouldn’t be able to help and guide others that care about photography and want to make compelling and gorgeous photographs.
It certainly does me no harm for them to shadow me and see what I’m doing and why. The important thing however, is that they know who is the primary, and they do not attempt to distract people. Firstly, this completely undoes the documentary approach where I am photographing without people knowing I am there. Secondly, with photographs where my presence is known and obvious, I don’t want eyes looking in different directions, let alone directly at the camera.
That is why as part of our planning process, I will ask you who in your family is likely to be that relative with a camera who wants to snap away all day. I would also suggest that you interface your Uncle Bob and Aunty Mildred with me prior to the wedding day. This is so that I can give them a little bit of guidance about what I will be doing and why.
I honestly feel that this way is a lot better than simply telling them “NO!”. I want everybody to be able to be part of your wedding day and feel comfortable in doing what makes them happy. There will of course be occasions when I do need them to not be taking photographs, but I am always sympathetic in explaining this and helping them understand why this might be.
This method also pays dividends in terms of the photos that are part of your final collection. It can make for some interesting and slightly different photographs that wouldn’t normally be expected. You want your wedding photographs to be reflective of the people that you have chosen to be at your wedding. I can get some great photographs of Uncle Bob and Aunty Mildred taking photographs of you, and also rather interesting photos from the back of someone’s smartphone. It is also not uncommon for Uncle Bob or Aunty Mildred to steal my step ladder when I’m setting up the next photograph.
I will also ask you as a couple your permission to politely ask people not to take photographs if it does directly impeed what I’m doing for you as a couple. This is not something I will do like me, and it is by definition a very last resort.
In all the years that I’ve been photographing weddings, this has only had to happen once. On virtually all occasions, the person who is wishing to up their skillset and photography game has understood why I have asked what I have and had been kind enough to pause what they were doing for a short while.
There is only one exception where unfortunately I did have to get tough. At this wedding, Uncle Bob wasn’t fortunately somewhat intoxicated. My need to get tough was during the first dance. This is a critical moment in the wedding day, and one where the photographs really do need to sing. Unfortunately, Uncle Bob was unaware that he was continuously firing his onboard camera flash and in the process ghosting in my images. This meant that I had no control over how the light was balanced, and made the photographs look less than perfect.
Unfortunately due to his intoxication, he was unable to turn his flash off permanently. As soon as he took another photo, the camera decided it needed flash power and so would override what he thought he had done. It was for this reason that I asked him if I could help him by turning his flash off for him. Unfortunately, he declined this offer on five occasions, and so on the sixth time of asking I had to be somewhat forceful and ask him to put the camera away.
I was of course concerned as to whether this was the right thing to do, however afterwards the couple in question reassured me that they were very happy with what I had done. They were also frankly surprised I was as calm and patient as I was at that it took me six attempts to get tough.
The simple bottom line for me here is that if someone has an interest in their photography and wishes to up their game, it would be both foolish and selfish of me not to try to assist them. As a result I will always help them where I can, and will always ask them to engage with me so that I can help them.
There will of course be moments where it is not appropriate for them to be shooting as well. I find that this approach of engaging with them and letting them shoot when they can means that they are a lot more willing not to shoot photographs when it is not appropriate for them to do so.
So, whilst many photographers will ban Uncle Bob and Aunty Mildred from taking any photographs, I’m more than happy to let them work with me, not against me. If they are willing to understand why I need to do what I do, then I am more than willing to help them along the way. I can help show them how they can make more visually compelling photographs and make special precious memories for the years ahead.
Uncle Bob needs to be helped, not hindered
No, I’m not there to teach Uncle Bob and Aunty Mildred all day long. But if I can help them with little bits, and they’re willing to not dominate proceedings, then I’m game to do what I can to help them grow!