Pro Aaron Moore’s Guide to Winning the War of Guests With Cameras

Based in Columbia, South Carolina, pro wedding and headshots photographer Aaron Moore makes up one half of Joshua Aaron Photography and spends many weekends snapping photos at weddings. But sometimes capturing those essential moments from wedding ceremonies is difficult due to guests who want to help document the day with cameras, phones, and iPads. Learn Aaron’s tricks for winning the unwinnable war of guests with cameras to make sure your wedding day photos are nothing less than perfect.

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I’m sure by now we’ve all heard the cries and pleas from photographers around the globe for wedding guests to stop taking the wedding day photography into their own hands and put the phones away. It’s an all too familiar story that we’ve all heard before. An over-zealous guest steps out of bounds and ruins the wedding images. I’ve personally seen it all (I hope!) from guests wandering the outskirts of the ceremony space hunting for a good shot to standing up in the front row to take a photo with their enormous iPad.


No amount of complaining or red-faced arguments will fix the feeling of entitlement and excitement of getting a good photo of the bride walking down the aisle. Instead, here are a few strategies that can help set the stage for a successful wedding day, and what to do when Aunt June decides to take a knee right at the front of the center aisle during the ceremony.


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1. Be open and candid with your clients from the very first meeting.


And I don’t mean paint a picture of doom and gloom suggesting that every wedding has a badly behaved guest that will undoubtedly ruin their wedding photos. Talk with your couples and let them know where you stand with guests taking photos throughout the day. We’ve even gone so far as to put it in our meeting packet literature. We let our brides and grooms know that by no means are we going to pitch a fit if a guest pulls out a camera during the wedding day. We just let them know we expect guests to be guests, at the very least, during the wedding ceremony. This way they are aware of your expectations and can take steps to let certain family members in on the no-no’s of when and where to take photos.


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2. Be straightforward and honest with the families during the formal family photo time.


I’m a loud mouth (in a good way). The very first thing that comes out of my mouth after the ceremony and before we start family photos is something along the lines of, “HELLO EVERYONE! My name is Aaron. This is Josh. We are going to be doing family photos for the bride and groom. I promise we are going to move at lightning speed because we know everyone is anxious to get to the reception. We just ask that everyone pay attention, be ready to go when we call you, and hold off on photos so we can roll through these and get everyone on to the party”.

This lets everyone know you mean business (in a nice way) and gives a strong hint that no, we will not step aside so you can get the same photo with your camera as well. Just be nice about what you expect and everyone generally behaves.


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3. Give an incentive for an unplugged wedding.


Make it easy for your couple to make the choice to openly ask guests to put away their cameras. Money off a package, album, or just something you come up with on your own works well; something to let them know you appreciate them trying to make your job easier. Just be sure to let them know that you understand there still may be guests that do not play by the rules, and that’s okay.


As long as they make the effort to put it in the program, or have it announced at the start of the ceremony, you can keep your end of the deal. You would be surprised how well a simple announcement about cell phones and cameras works. If nothing else, your guests will know that someone is paying attention.


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4.When all else fails, just be nice, but forward.


Even when you do all your homework, talk with the couple, and do everything in your power to make it a iPhone free zone during the ceremony, there may still be the rogue guest snapping away. Just this year we had an outdoor ceremony and it was like vultures circling their prey. No less than three guests were walking the perimeter of the ceremony as the bridesmaids and groomsmen came up the aisle. Then it happened. One of them broke from the edge and took it upon himself to get close up images from the front of the space…in front of the groom.


He actually blocked the view of the groom to his bride walking down the aisle. It was horrifying. I felt so much sadness for the couple. The horror continued when that same guest took a knee front and center blocking my view of the dad giving his daughter away. I was still able to capture the moment but as soon as dad took his seat, I was heading up the aisle.


In a very stern but friendly voice I asked him to take his seat, he was blocking the aisle. Without hesitation, he realized what he was doing and moved from the center. He didn’t take his seat but stayed clear from me from for the rest of the day, which was all I cared about. Friendly, but firm. Don’t be afraid to stick up for yourself, just do it in a professional manner. That’s part of your job too. Just not a very fun one.


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In the end, you can’t control everything that happens at a wedding. The best you can do is prepare your clients and yourself, so you can have the best shot at handling your situation in the best way possible.


Thanks, Aaron! Visit Joshua Aaron’s website here.