Unplugged Weddings & Uncle Bobs: How To Handle Fauxtographers

From simple backyard ceremonies to lavish multi-day affairs, all weddings share common threads. Woven into every celebration, photographers find deep love, wicked humor, intense emotion – and usually one or two Uncle Bobs.

Uncle Bobs come sporting 10-year-old point-and-shoots, the latest iPhones, or their own full kit of high-end professional gear. (Whether or not they know how to use it is another story.) Uncle Bobs can be found crouched in the aisle as the ceremony begins, or front-and-center during the cake cutting. Uncle Bobs are men and women, young and old – and they’re the over-the-shoulder shooters driving the professional photographer batty.

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Photo by: JESSICA ROBERTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Uncle Bobs don’t mean to be disruptive. They just can’t help it.

If you haven’t yet encountered an Uncle Bob, count yourself among the lucky few. If you have, we’re here to help you overcome your Uncle Bob woes!


During Family Portraits

Wrangling dozens of family members can be like herding squirrels across a highway.

You’ve finally located Cousin Sasha, Baby Joey is smiling (or at least not crying), and Grandma is finally looking at the camera. You’re about to click the shutter when –

*snap* *snapsnapsnap* *snapsnap*

Over your shoulder, you hear not one, not two, but three Uncle Bobs clicking away with their various picture-taking devices.

Now your carefully-arranged family members don’t know where to look, and Baby Joey has started to whimper.

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Photo by: JESSICA ROBERTS PHOTOGRAPHY

We know you’d like to slap those cameras out of the Uncle Bobs’ hands, but remember:

Uncle Bobs are friends and family members of the couple who hired you. They love the carefully-posed people in front of your camera. They love them so much, in fact, they can’t help clicking away over your shoulder.

Solution #1: Accommodate

Take charge by stepping to one side and clearly instructing the posed group, “Everyone look at their cameras first!”

Pause for clicks.

“Now everyone look at my camera!” And you photograph away.

Now you’ve established that you’re in charge, while still showing respect for the Uncle Bobs behind you.

Do this before every portrait. It will only add 5 seconds to each portrait grouping, but it will make everyone very, very happy.

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Photo by: JESSICA ROBERTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Solution #2: Lay Down the Law

In very rare occasions, there is truly no time for even a few extra seconds to accommodate the Uncle Bobs. Or perhaps your clients have asked that you not accommodate them.

In either case, it’s perfectly okay for you to smile and very kindly, very calmly say, “We’re crunched for time, so please feel free to make photographs over my shoulder; but I do need everyone’s eyes on me! This photo may end up hanging on the couple’s wall, and I want it to be perfect!”


Pro Tip: It’s not a competition!

Don’t feel threatened by over-the-shoulder shooters. It’s unlikely that their photographs will be as good as yours. And even if they are: you’ve been paid. Do your job. Remain calm. Be professional.

Be remembered as the photographer who was incredibly sweet to even a challenging Uncle Bob, not as the photographer who snapped at an invited guest with a camera.


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Photo by: JESSICA ROBERTS PHOTOGRAPHY


During Creative Portraits

Wedding party portraits, individual portraits, and portraits of the couple: these are your portfolio pieces. You throw all your creative energy into these portraits, and your signature style is represented in the way these images are posed, lit, and directed.

When Uncle Bobs pop up during creative portraits, it’s exceptionally infuriating. (And, let’s face it, also a bit weird. But who are we to judge?)

Solution #1: Shoot Like Superman

Whoa now, put away your cape! We’re talking speed, not costumes! (Although we’re sure your buns would look great in tights!)

Keep the portraits moving along, quickly and efficiently, and Uncle Bob won’t have time for too much copycatting. Plan each shot in your head before you pose your subjects, then work like Wonder Woman when you’re ready to go!

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Photo by: JESSICA ROBERTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Solution #2: Say It Straight

Confrontation and weddings rarely pair well; but if you have cause for concern, sometimes honesty is the best policy.

“These portraits are being submitted for publication, so while I’m happy you’re here making photographs for the couple, I’ll need to ask you not to shoot during the posed portraits. It could jeopardize their chances of being featured. Thank you so much for understanding!”

This only makes sense to say if:

  • you truly expect this wedding to be picked up for publication
  • and the Uncle Bob is using professional equipment.

Otherwise, you’re probably causing a scene for no reason, other than to soothe your own ego. (Down, Ego! Sit! Stay!)


Pro Tip: That Uncle Bob won’t be at every wedding.

Yes: it will suck if Uncle Bob jumps on Facebook the day after the wedding and posts hundreds of gorgeous portraits essentially stolen from your creative mind. But remember: this is just one wedding. This particular Uncle Bob won’t be at your next wedding. Or the next. (Unless you’re exceptionally unlucky!) Your portfolio will continue to be unique. And your creative reputation will not be sullied by one odd Uncle.


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Photo by: JESSICA ROBERTS PHOTOGRAPHY


During Candid Moments

You’re in a beautiful chapel. The pianist has just begun the Wedding March. The chapel doors swing open, and the bride and her father take their first steps into the sun-filled space. From your unobtrusive corner, you quietly raise your camera to your face, and –

*THUD* *snapsnapsnap*

An Uncle Bob literally rolls into the aisle, mere feet in front of the bride, firing a stream of shutter clicks in their direction.

You’re horrified, not only on behalf of the bride, but also because you know: the guests think Uncle Bob is with you. They think Uncle Bob is one of the professional photographers.

While Uncle Bob’s bad behavior may tempt you to stand up and yell, “NOT WITH ME! NOT WITH ME!” there is a better way.

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Photo by: JESSICA ROBERTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Solution #1: Dress to impress.

Your attire will set you apart from the Uncle Bobs more than any fancy camera ever could. Make sure your clothing defines you as THE professional photographer. Keep these guidelines in mind:

  • Yoga pants are NOT pants! If you’re wearing leggings, make sure your tush is well-covered and your shoes are appropriate. You should never look like you came from the gym.
  • All black is a-okay! If you’re exhausted thinking about your wedding wardrobe, a nice pair of black pants, a black shirt, and black shoes will look put-together. (Just make sure your blacks are all the same shade!)
  • You’re not the star of this show! Color and patterns are fine, but consider how much your chosen outfit will make you stand out. If you’re photographing a staid, classy event, that red-and-leopard-print ensemble may be the wrong choice, no matter how expensive it was.

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Photo by: JESSICA ROBERTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Solution #2: Photograph the Faux Pas

Bizarre Bob behavior may make for a memorable moment for the wedding couple. The Uncle Bob is a friend or family member, after all! Take advantage of the unexpected outburst and snap a photo or two. Your clients should get a good chuckle out of the situation once the chaos has died down.

Photographs can also protect you in the event that an Uncle Bob has inadvertently blocked your shot. If you missed the First Kiss because an Uncle Bob leapt in front of you just as the smooch took place, a photo of the back of Uncle Bob’s head might be a good bit of reassurance should a client worry you weren’t doing your job.


Pro Tip: Check your stress at the door.

You can’t control everything. You can have the right gear, the right outfit, and the right contract, and still an Uncle Bob could dive in and disrupt the peace. Take a tip from Taylor and shake it off. There’s nothing to gain by stewing – and everything to gain by being an all-around chill photographer who knows how to handle a bit of chaos.


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Photo by: JESSICA ROBERTS PHOTOGRAPHY


Prep Like A Pro

By far, the best Uncle Bob deflection is discussing options with your clients in advance of their wedding day. Most couples aren’t even aware of the Uncle Bob phenomenon – let alone the impact over-the-shoulder shooters can have on their wedding photographs. Discuss these concerns with your clients, and help ensure a smooth celebration for everyone involved!

Solution #1: Identify the Uncle Bobs

If you ask, your couple may know who their Uncle Bobs will be before the wedding day even arrives! “Oh, yes,” they’ll say, “My friend Samantha will likely be there with her camera, and she’ll probably follow you around all day taking pictures, too!”

Find out how your clients feel about their friend’s over-the-shoulder habit, and prepare yourself to interact with that friend accordingly.

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Photo by: JESSICA ROBERTS PHOTOGRAPHY

Solution #2: Who’s the Boss?

Ask your clients, “Who makes the final call?” This may seem like a no-brainer, but you’ll be surprised to hear that some couples don’t see themselves as the ultimate decision-makers at their own wedding. “Our parents are paying for this, so we want whatever they want,” they may say. Know who the VIPs are, and you’ll know who to look to if things take a strange turn with an intrusive Uncle Bob. Should you find your photography-space inappropriately invaded, the person at the top is the person with whom you’ll want to have a quick, thoughtful chat.

Solution #3: Encourage An Unplugged Wedding

Though the idea has gained popularity, your couple may not know that an Unplugged Wedding is a viable option! From sweetly-decorated chalkboards at the venue entrance, to handwritten notecards at each ceremony seat, more and more couples are asking their guests to keep the phones and recording devices off and put away, reminding their friends and family that a professional is on-hand to document the celebration.


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Photo by: JESSICA ROBERTS PHOTOGRAPHY | Shoes: Anthropologie | Ring Designer: Bay Street Jewelers | Veils and headpieces: BHLDN | Dress Store: BlueBelle Bridal | Beauty: Hairplay Salon and Color Bar | Bridesmaid Store: ModCloth | Event Venue: Red Gate Farms | Submitted via Two Bright Lights


You’re not an Uncle Bob – even if your name is Bob!

You’re a true professional. Interact with your clients and their friends and family with the same care and concern you’d show your own loved ones. Give your ego a back seat, and remember: the wedding day is all about the lovebirds in front of you. As long as they’re smiling, you’ve done your job.

 


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