Wedding Photography and “Uncle Bob”

This picture has nothing to do with "Uncle Bob." I just feel bad when I write a long post and don't have any pictures..

There are so many issues that wedding photographers can argue about:   light, composition, equipment, price, style and so on. I think it’s a hoot that the one issue that always seems to get the most varied and heated opinions has nothing to do with the actual art of wedding photography (I’m a wedding photographer in Tampa, FL).

I’m talking about “Uncle Bob.”

If you’re a wedding photographer  then you know exactly who I’m talking about. For those of you who don’t know, “Uncle Bob” is the guest at the wedding with an expensive camera who has decided to become an un-official wedding photographer for the day. Every time you pose someone for a shot, Uncle Bob is right there snapping away. If someone steps in front of you at an important moment during the reception, it’s Uncle Bob. Uncle Bob means well, but he’s oblivious to the fact that you’re doing a job and he’s interfering (I once had Uncle Bob get mad at me because I wouldn’t “wait my turn” to take a picture of the Bride and Groom during an emotional moment at the reception.)

The Uncle Bob “issue” gets a lot of debate among wedding photographers. I have seen my fellow photogs rain down their wrath upon me with unholy vengeance for voicing my own opinion on the subject and so, with that memory still fresh in my mind, I’m going to do it again.   Call me crazy…

(BTW, if you aren’t a wedding photographer, welcome to our world…)

I’ve been pondering how to write about Uncle Bob without getting flamed and I really don’t think it’s possible. So, I think what I want to do is simply define Uncle Bob, break him down so-to-speak, to his essence. His Bob-ness.

Uncle Bob exists sometimes as a person who is shooting just for himself and constantly getting in the way, but those “Bobs” can be forgiven. They know not what they do. They are caught up in their own world of “trying to get the shot”… a world we pro’s are all too familiar with. They don’t realize they are in the way because they don’t even register that  we exist. These “Bobs” are annoying but unavoidable. It’s just a part of the job and the best thing to do is laugh about it and try to get the shot. It’s a wedding, not a model shoot. Try to be accommodating and friendly with everyone. If you are this sort of Uncle Bob then I don’t have a problem with you. In fact, I don’t even consider you an Uncle Bob. You’re just a typical guest with a passion for photography.

Then there’s the other Uncle Bob. The real Uncle Bob. This Uncle Bob can be defined by many factors but there is one clear and concise characteristic:   He takes pictures of people he doesn’t personally know.

Just a random wedding image..

And so, with that in mind, I want to talk to you, Uncle Bob.

If you are bringing pro level gear to a wedding for the express purpose of taking pictures that will then be gifted to the Bride and Groom then you are a pure Uncle Bob and you are wrong to do so.

There, I said it.

First, there’s the obvious reason that it’s hard for me to sell pictures if someone else is giving them away for free. Yes, it’s true that anyone can take pictures at a wedding (and everyone does) but that’s not what you’re doing and you know it. If you want to bring a flask to the wedding so you can avoid tipping the bartender, that’s your decision. But, if you want to set up a bar at the reception and give away drinks for free, that’s rude.

But it’s not really about the money. It doesn’t matter if the photographer is providing the images on CD or doesn’t sell prints after the fact. Even if you can justify that you aren’t cutting into the photographer’s profit you still shouldn’t do it. It’s annoying enough to the guests that I appear while they are slow dancing and ask them to smile for a quick picture without Uncle Bob coming right behind me and asking them to do it again. And, since Uncle Bob is taking pictures of people who don’t know him, they probably think he works for me (why else would a stranger be taking their picture?).

Again, totally unrelated...

Let me be perfectly clear: If I look over and you are gathering your family together for a big group shot, you are not Uncle Bob. If you give that image to the Bride and Groom you are not Uncle Bob. In fact, I will probably hustle over and shoot that same group after you finish so the Bride and Groom will have the shot (and thank you for it).

If you are on the dance floor taking pictures of people who you don’t personally know, you are Uncle Bob. If, during a special moment at the reception (first dance, garter toss, etc) you are on the floor taking pictures and you notice that it’s just you, me, and the videographer out there, you are Uncle Bob. (This is a good example of how you can cross-over to Bob-ville even when photographing the Bride and Groom.)

I can’t do anything about the people who stick their arms out into the aisle during the processional so they can get a picture with their camera phone. I can’t get mad at the girl who wants to take a picture of the bridesmaids after I have posed them. These people are just caught up in the day and it’s important to remember that it’s a joyful occasion and just because I’m working doesn’t mean I get to treat it like a workplace. But, if you have spent the money necessary to buy good photography equipment and invested the time necessary to learn how to use it then you are too knowledgeable about the craft to pretend that you are ignorant of the wedding photographer’s job.

The first response I usually get when I bring up Uncle Bob is something along the lines of, “If Uncle Bob is capable of taking pictures that rival yours then you aren’t much of a photographer to begin with.”

That’s a valid point.

I’m not worried that Uncle Bob will take better pictures. I don’t see him as competition. What annoys me about Uncle Bob is that he is in my way when he should know better. I’m not bothered by someone making my job a little harder, I’m bothered when someone knows they are making my job harder and then does it anyway.

Don’t be Uncle Bob.

Let the flaming commence….

This Post Has 47 Comments

  1. I agree with everything you said except the gift of the shots I, as a guest, took to the bride and groom. If I see kids I don’t know acting cutely or a great candid moment I’m going to shoot it and hope they enjoy it. I realize that those shots will likely be nothing more than a 4×6 (10cmx15cm) but that is fine.

    The most recent wedding I was at I was considered for the job as their photog. I had to decline because my mobility and height limitations (from a wheelchair) were going to make it very difficult to get the quality of shots I demand of myself. However, the photog they chose had never shot a wedding and was just getting started. She had much better skill positioning people, but had gear issues I was thankfully able to remedy for her. I was given the unofficial backup photog job. I would say I got the candid shots she did not but, offering my assistance made me feel like an Uncle Bob. At first her reaction was one of me questioning her abilities. I chose my words and tone of voice carefully so that didn’t happen, but I think she felt more awkward than appreciative. Two sets of batteries and a piece of advice later she was glad I was there.

    My point is that I was glad to get those shots she did not, help her out as well as our friends who were married that day, but I did my very best to stay out of the way. That is the problem of most Uncle Bobs. Simply being very inconsiderate. It is not unusual here in Canada to get the minister or official marrying the couple to politely let the guests know who is the pro photog and that it would be appreciated to give them the right of way.

  2. I’m going to go out on a limb here and agree with you. I was at a small music festival recently, and it was obvious that some of the artists had hired photographers and videographers in the crowd and at the sides of the stage. I had brought my DSLR, and took lots of pictures, but i would always give up my front spot when i saw the hired people coming.

    In fact, it forced me to step back and enjoy the show. People (myself included… sometimes) get so worked up about getting the shot that they don’t get the full experience of a once-in-a-lifetime event.

  3. Jay – I hope you don’t think that I frown on someone taking cute candids of the children in the corner. I’m not. My issue is more with the person who comes to the wedding with an agenda. If I had a gear issue and a fellow pro stepped up to help me I’d kiss his feet. Like you said, it’s more about the consideration for a fellow person trying to do a good job, not to mention consideration for the bridal couple who’s footing the bill.

    Jacob – I’m with you on that one. When I attend an event as a guest I don’t even take a camera if I know there will be a hired pro there. If I wanted to shoot something for myself I would be careful to stay clear of the paid guys.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    I agree with all of your points. I think most wedding photogs have stories about “Uncle Bob” that would shock most other photographers. I don’t think (I could be wrong) that there is any other field of photography that has the equivalent as the Uncle Bob is to wedding photography. I think it’s a function of gear (you don’t need much to be a nuisance at a wedding), the combination of many people (ample opportunity), lack of oversight (it’s not like Uncle Bob can wander to the sidelines during a pro football game), and the underlying rationalization (note: rationalize = rational lies) that “I’m doing this as a favor to the bride and groom”.

    I’ve seen guests take the bride and groom somewhere for their own private photo session!

    Many wedding photogs actually have clauses in their contracts to prevent Uncle Bob from interfering.

    Worse than the do-gooder Uncle Bob is the guest that is using the wedding as a portfolio builder so THEY can get into wedding photography. They shoot your poses over your shoulder. They follow you around, peppering you with questions about gear, settings, etc. They act like you are their personally hired tutor/consultant for the day. Uncool.

    I think we need a set of “Guidelines for Uncle Bob”. Booray, are you volunteering? You’ve got most of the rules set out already above. We could just print it as a PDF, laminate it, and if someone starts to get out of line, we give them a copy. With a smile.

  5. Bill wrote: “I think we need a set of “Guidelines for Uncle Bob”. Booray, are you volunteering? You’ve got most of the rules set out already above. We could just print it as a PDF, laminate it, and if someone starts to get out of line, we give them a copy. With a smile.”

    Seriously, I think this would be a great idea. You’ve probably seen “The Photographer’s Right” card that Bert Krages did ( ), one of the things that makes it as useful as it is is that it can be carried around easily at a small size….

    I’d think the surprise would slow down Uncle Bob, if nothing else…

  6. Hi. I’m Uncle Bob. I see you’ve been talking about me.

    Well, okay, really I hope I’m not Uncle Bob. Because I try to maintain enough situational awareness to stay out of your way, and I don’t trail around after you duplicating your pictures (because I’m counting on you to have those covered!). But I certainly do shoot pictures of people I don’t know, if I catch them doing anything interesting.

    I hope I don’t bug you too much! (I doubt we’ve ever actually been at the same wedding, of course.)

  7. Recently I attended a good friend’s son’s wedding and brought along a D200 with a single 18-135 lens. A recent purchase, I mainly took it to gain some shooting experience with this camera.

    I told the head pro (she had three photogs she was running) that I wouldn’t show any of my stuff until she had done her upsell to the families. She couldn’t care less! I was a little taken back by the wholesale rejection of what I thought was a considerate offer.

    In talking to her photogs later at the reception, who were shooting film, I found out that they had a complete disdain for digital media. And this is why they weren’t worried in the least about anything I could produce. I guess the last digital they tried was a 1.3 megapixel. I kept to my offer anyway and still ended up making quite a few prints on demand.

  8. “Uncle Bob Guidlines.” That’s funny. 🙂

    I have a clause in my contract but It’s really more to protect me after-the-fact. I’m not the sort of guy who wants to start a business discussion in the middle of a wedding day. I’m just not comfortable in any situation that I feel might be at all confrontational during the event because I’m a firm believer in isolating the Bride and Groom from additional headaches on their special day. I don’t want to be remembered as “the guy who got al pissy at the wedding” I’m more of the “just roll with it and complain on my blog later” sort of guy. 🙂

    About as far as I will go is to step away during formals if people aren’t honoring my request to not take pictures. I’ve found that the bridal party gets the message when I sit down, smile and say to Uncle Bob, “Let me know when your done.” Uncle Bob will be told to sit down quick once the bridal party realizes that he is keeping them from getting to the bar. 🙂

  9. Well at every wedding today I find at least one “uncle Bob” and 10 to 15 little nephew with compact camera… I’m polite but clear and sometimes I explain that I’m working, I like a lot of people around bride and groom helps me to create the feelin of the party..

  10. Quote: ‘First, there’s the obvious reason that it’s hard for me to sell pictures if someone else is giving them away for free’
    It is your fault for being greedy in the first place. Charge the customer a flat rate only, and make your living from that. Don’t rip them off by charging extortionate additional fees for individual photographs, otherwise they will turn to Uncle Bob.

  11. A very interesting and amusing article – there are certainly more than a few “Uncle Bob’s” out there! I’ve grown used to this character turning up at weddings, and have stopped being angry at them – I’ve found that a simple reminder to the bride & groom that someone might be ruining the photography they are paying good money for usually does the trick for me without making it look like I am trying to defend my territory.

  12. Let me start by pointing out that I sympathise with your position. Having done one or two weddings as an Official Photographer I appreciate how hard you jobs is. I am a magazine photographer. And on occasion, only when asked by the Bride & Groom (your boss) I am one of these ‘Uncle Bobs’ that you mention. And I have absolutely no problem admitting it. I always gift the photos to my friends/family on disk, and they’re always gratefully received. I have always respected the space and the role of the Official Photographer. I have never taken business away from an OP, and I never interfere with the formal photos. I never knowingly step in front of the OP Anyway, I prefer the candid photo-reporter style of photography which requires that you blend in a bit more. In fact, I recently had an OP step in front of me in a shot that I set up and directed, then continued to copy what I had just done! I didn’t say anything, because I was there to enjoy the wedding, and it was no big deal. Generally I stay way fro the OP. Also, once the party starts the camera makes its way into the bag – after all, I’m there to enjoy myself and expensive gear and booze are not a great mix. I am always friendly with the OP and will strike up conversation – early on, when they’re not too busy. I’ll try to gauge their attitude towards me. If they’re friendly and courteous, I’ll show them due respect. If not, screw ’em.

    Bear in mind these points:
    • The Wedding Photography market is flooded with semi-talented ‘professionals’ who only got into the game to make a quick buck, many Uncle Bobs blow them out of the water. There is no other field of photography so populated by chancers and cowboys (with the exception of papparzzi)
    • Any halfway decent photographer should provide a complete service and not just images, and should therefore not feel threatened by the ‘Uncle Bobs’ would generally only give a disk.
    • Just because you’re a ‘professional’ does not give you sole right to take photographs. That would be like taxi drivers claiming have sole right to the road – saying that you’re not allowed to give anyone a lift because that would take away their business. Ridiculous. We have just as much right to shoot as you. But that doesn’t stop taxi driver from behaving like they own the road, and getting annoyed at other drivers. I guess it’s the same attitude that spawned this frankly pointless article.
    • And if an Uncle Bob annoys you, Big deal! Boo-hoo, so what, you’re a professional, just do your job.
    • And if they do get in the way, simply tell them in an assertive but polite/pleasant manner that you’re there to do a job and they can take photos after you. Make the point that the B&G are spending money on you and that wasting your time is wasting their cash.
    • If you’re a professional who has taken the time to learn your craft you should be too knowledgeable to pretend to be ignorant of the fact that you too were once an aspiring amateur. Unless of course you were born with two D3x’s around your neck and a great eye. Get over yourselves.

    Don’t be a crybaby…

  13. There it is!!

    The fact that so many people are willing to stand up and argue for their right to possibly degrade the product that their friends are paying for is what brings me (and so many others) back to this topic again and again. Even if you ignore all the points about money, the product quality, professionalism and courtesy…. why would anyone want to interfere with a paid vendor on someone’s wedding day? The same person who wouldn’t dream of going in the kitchen because they have a great recipe, or bring in a few cases of beer because they think the bartender is no good, or whip out a boombox because they are practicing to be a DJ….. will argue all day about their right to interfere with the photographer. I just don’t understand why photographers are treated so much differently than every other person who is being paid by the Bride and Groom. For me it’s a topic that touches on many levels of behavior and social norms.

    As I made clear in the article, simply taking pictures at a wedding does not make you Uncle Bob. I’ve found that no matter how many times you make that clear you will still be treated as if you despise everyone with a camera. I think I made it clear that “Uncle Bob” is someone who interferes in some way with the professional photographer who is working for the bridal couple. Just in case someone missed that, I’ll say it again: “Uncle Bob” is not any person with a camera. “Uncle Bob” is a person who interferes with the professional photographer. What’s so interesting about this topic is how the very mention of it will bring out such strong opinions when, for me anyway, there really isn’t any question about it. The wedding photographer is as much a part of the event as the DJ, caterer, clergy, musician, bartender, wedding coordinator, etc…. I would never dream of interfering with any of them while they worked. It amazes me that their are people who do…

  14. Climb down off your high horse and consider this:

    Uncle Bob was invited. You were hired.
    That means he’s a guest. You’re a tradesman.

    Suppose a friend invited you to dinner at a restaurant, and during the meal the waiter told you to leave the table because you were interfering with the work he was being paid to do. Wouldn’t you think he was a bit out of line? Wouldn’t you figure it was HIS problem to figure out how to work around his customer’s guests?

    Yeah, it’s tough to suck it up and deal. But that’s why it’s called a “job,” remember?

  15. I could not have asked for a better example of exactly what I was talking about in my previous comment.

  16. Your response shows that you didn’t actually think about the implications what I wrote. You’re just repeating the same self-absorbed spew over and over.

    You really do believe it’s your privilege to boss around the friends and loved ones of your customer if they commit the offense of “interfering with a professional photographer.” You really do think you’re entitled to control the activities of the people your customer chose to invite. You really do think the whole thing is about maximizing your personal opportunity to make a buck.

    I didn’t actually believe it at first. Now I get it.

  17. @ Ranger 9: Would that friend be picking up food and drinks at the kitchen/bar and serve it to the wrong people?

  18. I’m sorry if you think I didn’t consider the implications of what you wrote. I did. However, I didn’t think that there was anything in your comment that wasn’t already addressed in the original post or my comments.

    If, after reading my post and comments, you think that my definition of “Uncle Bob” is analogous to a person sitting at a table in a restaurant, (not interfering with the waiter at all) then I don’t think there is anything else I can write which will make it more clear. With writing you can only hope that you are able to get your point across to a majority of readers. With you it’s obvious I have failed.

    I think that perhaps the biggest mis-understanding in this issue is that no matter how many times I say, “You are hurting your friends, the bride and groom, by interfering with their photographer,” there will always be a group of people who only hear, “You’re making my job harder.” My hope with the post was to help some people see that putting their wants above the wants of the bride and groom might not be the best way to show your appreciation at having been invited to the wedding.

  19. I’ll speak of my own experience with these “Uncle Bob”s. On one occasion, there was one wedding guest who was constantly trying to ‘get the shot’, but obviously failing. He was starting to become a bit of a nuisance (more for everyone, not just me) that at one point (luckily, fairly early on) the mother or father of the bride (I can’t remember the exact authoritative relative) when over and told “Bob” to go sit down.

    My method of dealing with someone shooting over my shoulder is to just put my camera down. I’ve had enough of my shots lost because someone wasn’t looking at me, and was looking at someone else’s camera over my shoulder.

    I’ve had a minister announce (at his request – very considerate I might add) that only the official photographers are permitted to move around the church – everyone else is to remain in their seats and photograph from there.

    I think Booray got it right on with the last words: “You are hurting your friends, the bridge and groom, by interfering with their photographer.”

  20. *embarrassing look* (where is the edit post button?)

    “..exact authoritative relative) went* over and told..”
    “..the bride* and groom..”

  21. I shot a wedding last Saturday, and there was an Uncle Bob there. As I’m shooting the formals, I see two problems occurring:
    1) eyeballs of the people in the picture are rotating towards him, not staying with me. I just KNOW that some shots are going to be ruined because he was dancing beside me and I didn’t notice that people were looking at him.
    2) one of my flashes was optically slaved, and his on-camera flash was causing it to go off. As a result, when I pushed the trigger, sometimes it wasn’t charged, I get an underexposed picture, so I had to ask the group to “smile again, sorry” several times.

    That’s interference, which ultimately hurts the quality of the product delivered to the bride and groom.

    I told him, “Wait until I get the shot, then you can take yours.” After that, things got smoother, but impatience is still a powerful beast.

    Ranger9 – your analogy only works if I, as a guest at the table, stood up and started delivering food from the kitchen to the table – delivering the wrong plates to the table!

    Personally, I have structured my packages such that I make very little on post-wedding print sales – I already have the fee in my pocket before the wedding day. My only concern is maximizing the results for the customers.

    One more thing that hasn’t been mentioned – most venues do not allow the photographers to use strobes during the ceremony. That does not deter Uncle Bob, however, who lights up the church like a disco with his on-camera flash. The officiant then becomes frustrated at the official photographers… (To offset this, I typically approach the officiant before the ceremony, ask if strobes are permitted; when he says “No!” – I say, “Then if you see any strobes, they are not mine.” Any subsequent wrath is then not directed at me or my second shooter.)

  22. I love reading emotive posts like these. I’m new to digital dslr photography and was recently asked to taked the ‘candid’ shots at a friends wedding.

    I was very nervous about interferring with the OP and did not want to be ‘Uncle Bob’. I learnt more in those few hours about my camera and lighting then I had in weeks of going out and shooting everything and anything.

    The B&G loved the photos as they compliment the OP photos very well.

    I would like to know how the article writer got into wedding photography? I think that without being an ‘Uncle Bob’ and getting a little experience then it would be very difficult to offer to shoot any weddings in an official capacity.

    Surely if everyone approaches things in an adult manner, the OP and Uncle Bob can get along just fine. If I was earning a fee as an OP and had to deal with an Uncle Bob, maybe a quick chat and a few shooting tip and ideas may gain more respect and admiriation than being all mightier than thou, especially when ‘Uncle Bob’ has had a fair bit to drink.


  23. Scott-
    Most wedding photographers get their start by assisting an established pro. I get a few calls a year from folks who are thinking bout wedding photography as a career and offer to assist me for free just so they can learn. It’s a great way to get full access to a wedding without the pressure of being the OP.

    There are two schools of thought on entering into the “paid” realm of wedding photography. Many say that you should never consider it until you have worked for a year or more under a pro. Other’s say there are plenty of people getting married with very small budgets who will gladly overlook your lack of experience if the price is right. I can only say that if you go that route be up-front with your clients about your experience.

  24. Let me give some of you a different perspective. When I got married, I hired a pro for his eye. As it happens, however, most of my relatives have really expensive camera gear without necessarily the eye to go with them.

    You can then imagine how many Uncle Bobs there were at my wedding, and how some of them got in the way of our photographer. Unfortunately, being the prime subjects of the photos as well as the recipients of the gifts giving makes it hard for my bride and I to get confrontational with the Uncle Bobs about getting out of our pro’s way.

    At some point in the day, our pro looked around at the spendy gear being toted around and asked me “wow, what do you need me here for?” To that, I simply replied that “all the most expensive gear in the world won’t make up for not having a good eye. I hired you for your artistry, not your equipment.” In the end, I was right. I got some crisper, more colorful photos from relatives, but all the absolutely best composed shots came from my pro.

    If you’ve been asked by the bride and groom to be a second shooter, great, but be polite _and_ deferential to the primary shooter. But if you haven’t, I don’t care that you’re a better photographer than the one I hired… PLEASE stay out of my pro’s way. Better yet, shoot something that my photographer isn’t. There are millions of interesting moments to capture at a wedding, you don’t have to ape my photographer’s. We did not spend our hard earned money to have Uncle Bob disrupt my photographer, no matter how noble your intentions may be.

    A lot of Uncle Bobs think they have approval from the bride and groom, but really don’t. Uncle Bobs, ask yourself this, haven’t you often said something to a close friend or relative just to be nice and avoid confrontation? Really, we just want our guests to enjoy the party, not to “work it”. Remember, the wedding is the bride’s (and the groom’s) day. It’s not really for you to second guess their choice on the photographer.

  25. Booray: That is one of my favorite photo captions ever. 🙂

  26. I think Jeff Ascough is the one who put this in proper perspective – No other photographers, period. That settles all the above mentioned issues. That and getting paid IN FULL – BEFORE – the gig.

    1. I think people just need to act like the professionals they are supposed to be and communicate with the “Uncle Bob’s” and remember they weren’t born professional themselves and quit getting their panties in a bind. Family and close friends have a right to take photos, they’re connected whereas for you it’s just a job. I doubt with rules like that, people would be recommending you, I wouldn’t that’s for sure. I would hope my Professional has enough sense to be a Professional.

  27. I had an “Aunt Bobbi” at a wedding. Pro gear and she knew the bride and groom. She was very disconcerting and didn’t think it inappropriate to organize her own group shots while I was trying to do the same. However, her friendship with the bridal couple (who, let’s face it, did not hire her for the wedding) made it a bit awkward so I just soldiered on. I guess it comes with the territory.

  28. I think you got the exact point by saying:

    “I don’t see him as competition”

    Because thats the way to “act” with him. Just don’t consider him and even avoid him (except if he pop right in front of you). Just ask him like a gentleman to don’t pop in front of a photographer (something he probably don’t know). Avoiding most of the guests is probably the most important thing when you don’t want to fall to the level of Uncle Bob. I don’t say to be cold but just act as someone who is there to accomplish his job.

  29. I’ve found that the key for me is good communication with my B&G before the event so that they understand what will produce the best results and can choose for themselves how situations should be handled.

    A good example of this happenned last weekend when I had to repeatedly remind people to stay out of my shot during formals. I was shooting in the main aisle with the altar as a background and I had to ask people to move no less than five times. That’s five times that I raised my voice and addressed the whole church to say please don’t walk in front of the altar.

    Later, at the reception, the bride told me that after the third time I had asked everyone to please move and keep the altar clear, her friend asked, “Why is he being such and a**hole?”

    The bride replied, “Because I told him to be…”

    Later at the reception, both sets of parents told me that they had never seen a photographer works as hard as me and that they were very impressed.

    You just never know. All you can do is try to do your best, be as friendly as you can and hope for the best. One person will think you’re the consumate pro, the other will think you’re and a**hole. Such is life.

    I got a good laugh this weekend. I was shooting the pastor (a very nice woman) and twice had to stop and address the room to get people out of the shot. I said (with a smile), “I’m going to send you a print of this shot as an apology for yelling at people in your church.”
    She replied, “I don’t care if you yell at people in my church.”
    I said, “Sometimes people just don’t want to listen to me.”
    “Welcome to my world,” she replied.

  30. It all boils down to this: when Uncle Bob becomes such an issue that he prevents me from doing the job that I was PAID TO DO, it’s not being a “crybaby”…in the end, the bride and groom are the ones who are going to suffer when Uncle Bob’s flash has destroyed what may be a great shot.

    It’s just plain rude, plain and simple. The analogy of setting up shop next to the bar and handing out free drinks because…hey..ANYONE can be a bartender, is right on.

    Having an overzealous Uncle Bob stepping into every shot hinders my ability to give great service. And of course the bride and groom are going to receive images this guy has shot “gratefully”….are they honestly going to use their wedding day to tell you that, in all honesty, you’re annoying and overstepping your bounds? Probably not. Believe me, even if you think you’re being respectful to the pro, you’re not. You’re in the way, plain and simple. And if you’re taking pictures of people you don’t know without a model release and without being the paid professional, you’re also crossing the line into creepy territory.

  31. Ranger 9 Says:
    September 22nd, 2009 at 8:59 pm
    Climb down off your high horse and consider this:

    Uncle Bob was invited. You were hired.
    That means he’s a guest. You’re a tradesman.

    i have a problem with that sentance, you see although the uncle bob has been invited and i am hired……..are the bride and groom going to complain to the uncle bob if his photographs are not up to standard? probably not,
    but they will definately have something to say to me, if uncle bob is in the frame every time i try to take. as i am being paid for it, they will EXPECT perfection.

    i dont think the original poster is saying NOT to take the photographs, its just that they think its THEIR wedding shoot, and i for one have been pushed to the side by uncle bobs, so that they can get their pictures.
    they wait until i pose a group, and then shove me out of the way while they take their shot………ive even had an uncle bob dismiss a group i hadnt shot yet, because he had taken his and needed ANOTHER group line-up.

    yes i am pretty forthright in saying what i do and dont want, and will approach the uncle bob , but why should it always be a fight for us to get our job done. at the end of the day, its about manners and respect. they have no respect for us at all. and half of the time the bride and groom know whats happening too, they just want the cheaper re-prints, rather than order them from us. its not about us being greedy either. if i have spent a lot of time and money on my equipment and training, then took a considerable amount of time getting a group shot to look just right, why the hell should some uncle bob take a snap of it, and sell it? so then i wasted MY time getting them all lined up? its a group shot on a list that the B&G gave me to take, yet they dont order it, because its already in the bag, courtesy of bob.
    i sometimes have a list from the B&G with 10-15 groups on it……….why bother? if when i pose them and take them, they are just for the benefit for bob to take his shots.

    no-one is suggesting they cannot go to the wedding as a guest with a camera, but when they are sporting a bag full of lenses, tripods, lighting, they are not just guests, they are on ‘possible pay’. thinking ”IF i get these shots that that good old photographer has posed for me, i could sell a few pictures. ”………………not good enough. its MY job that day, so why should i lose money to these people?

  32. Booray, I have to confess I was a little worried when I first read this post as I thought I might have been Uncle Bob! However, on reflection, and having read the comments, I’m hoping that I’m not…

    I think what gave me greatest concern was your view about not taking photos of people I don’t know. I have unashamedly done this, but only as candid reportage shots – I’d never in a million years think of asking strangers to pose, unless specifically requested to by the B&G. I’d also never dream of getting up and walking around when all the other guests are seated – during the ceremony, or at the after-dinner speeches, for example. If I can’t get good shots from where I’m seated, then the camera gets put away.

    At other times – first dance, cutting of the cake and so on – I try to blend in with all the other guests taking pictures – there’s normally lots of compact digitals out then! I must admit I hadn’t previously considered the effect my on-camera speedlite could have on any slaved strobes, largely because no pros at any weddings I’ve attended have used them. I’ll certainly bear it in mind for the future though.

    I think the most important point for me is the reasons why I’m taking pictures at a wedding. As a guest, I want to save some special memories of the day, and as a photographer I want to get great pictures. But more importantly as a guest, I want the B&G to have a perfect day – and that’s best served by not getting in the pro’s way, and not confusing or annoying other guests!

    I’d also mention I’d never take pictures at a wedding with the intention of gifting – or, god forbid, selling – them to the B&G or other guests. I take pictures for the same reason any guest would, to preserve the memories of the day – and yes, as a fairly novice photographer I do use the opportunity as training in technique. If I happen to get some good shots I certainly do offer them to the B&G, but it’s not the reason I’m taking them!

    Anyway, I hope my approach is keeping me from being uncle Bob – but maybe not… Would be interested to hear what you think!

  33. You are not Uncle Bob. You didn’t mention a single thing in your post that would affect a wedding photographer in a negative way.

  34. There is a special hell reserved for the Uncle Bobs of this world,

    Imagine 4 Uncle Bob’s “working together”.

    Imagine the bride and groom walking down the aisle…
    Then one bob jumping infront of another Bob who is clearly in position and yelling, “that’s my shot!” in front of everyone. Totally blocking another Bob intentionally. Being the “blocked” Bob I turn red and shrank to about 6 inches tall.

    Imagine the priest saying too the four of us, no photos during the service…
    Click.. Click.. click.. Flash.. pause… The priest stopping the service… till behaviour was restored by the third Bob ten feet from the priest during the service. Honestly I thought lightning would strike..

    Imagine the 3rd bob not bring fast film…
    And me the “blocked bob” giving half my film to him. My shots where okay with the same film. All his were under exposed, my fault for some reason… Personally I thought it was the wrath of God that effected is exposure.

    Imagine the brides mother… announcing enough bride and groom photos after six photos after the service. That was less then two minutes work… and two poses..

    I have seen enough… to think there should be an apprenticeship for wedding photographers.
    Behaviour, quality of work, and commitment being key themes. Maybe not government government regulated. Maybe self regulated… I see alot of below average work by Bob and the pros.

    Lasty I love B&W neopan 1600 and the feel of my FE2 with my 105mm f1.8. It goes everywhere with me. I mean everywhere. If you see me at your wedding job, you have my respect. My 36 frames and should be no threat unless you don’t know what white balance is. I promise to say out of your way.


  35. When I wanted to get into wedding photography, I asked every wedding photog in my area to take me on for work experience.. All of them said no to me! After speaking too one of there assistaists in confidence. I found out why, my portfolio was too good. I was seen as a threat!
    So while working 14 hour shifts in a low paying factory job.. I saved all the money I could, while my family went with out the nice things in life.. To buy the best gear I could and learn as much about photograophy I could. (I own all my gear no back loans). At every wedding I would go to I shot as much as I could for my portfolio. If no one is going to give me break, I will just break in.. To hell with the hired pro, didn’t want to help me out. I owed them no favours! I now do this wedding photog job full time. One the establised wedding tog e-mailed me to say thanks for putting him out off business. I just replied with thanks for not taking me on for work experince 4 years ago! So the next time an aspring wedding pro wants some work expercience. Get off your arogant attitude, and let them. Or Uncle BOB will break, I have Uncle BOB’s do work experience with me, who have great talent!

  36. At my wedding last summer my dad was the Uncle Bob. My fiance and I were the only ones supposed to be in the auditorium for our pictures at first and my dad took me to the church and decided to come on in with his camera. Luckily his shots weren’t effected. This article is so dead on. I agree that it’s the same thing if I were to bring speakers and a cd player and started my own dance party at a DJ’d reception just because I thought I could play some different music I knew they would like. It’s funny how so many people on here say they take pictures all the time and they are well received by the bride and groom. I must point out that the bride and groom also wrote a thank you to Aunt Mildred for the re-gifted sheets from 1992 so it doesn’t really say too much if they said thanks.

  37. Wow, this was such an interesting post! I really enjoyed reading everyone’s opinions. I’m not a professional photographer, but it’s neat to read about something I’ve never thought about. I’ll definitely keep it in mind next time I’m at an event with pros!

  38. YOU WERE AN UNCLE BOB ONCE. Give us fellas a go!

    Totally agree with what Unlce Bob in Dublin, Ireland said.

    I was at a wedding just a week ago – took lots of great pics (unlce bob style). And the photographer praised me for giving it a go. I stayed out of his way and he stayed out of mine. That’s the way it should be.

    Get over yourselves.

  39. UNCLE BOB, you don’t get it. It is as if you didn’t read the article. “I stayed out of his way and he stayed out of mine.” You are attacking him because you feel he is attacking you, even though he isn’t.

    I don’t know how much simpler Booray has to make his view on it. Possibly a quiz you fill out to tell you if you are or not an Uncle Bob.

    – Are you oblivious to the hired photographer?
    – Do you not wait your turn?
    – Are you distracting the people in the photo?
    – Are you in frame during crucial one time moments?

  40. As a working professional wedding photographer, one of the trends lately that really, REALLY irks me is the videographer taking photographs to bridge video segments. They’re Uncle Bobs that are getting paid to be there too! So, to combat that problem, I have reworded my weddding contracts to state that I am the exclusive photographer hired by the bride and groom to capture still images and that includes the videographer. If the videographer wishes to purchase images from me to use in the production of the wedding video, then arrangements will be made to accomodate him or her. I make this very clear to my B & G’s before we sign the contract. I even go as far to tell them that if they want my services then they cannot hire a videographer that takes photographs as well. So far, so good!

  41. Solution I use at weddings;

    When the myriad of Uncle Bob’s and Aunt Bobbi’s gather like vultures, I let them all know, in a loud voice, that they are more than welcome to take their own photos AFTER I’ve gotten mine. Sometimes, if they’re considerate, I just let them shoot over my shoulder provided they aren’t interfering. I make almost nothing from prints, so there is no competition between Uncle Bob and I. It’s the Bride and Grooms day. If their family shares pictures of the special moment with them then that’s awesome. I don’t ask people to smile when they’re celebrating. If fact, I prefer it if they don’t even know I’m there. Since I’m constantly moving and looking for the perfect light and angles, Uncle Bob is never in my way. I will even take some photos of HIM taking photos of guests. The B&G usually get a kick out of that 🙂

  42. I had an “Uncle Bob” at a recent wedding I was the OP at. Except for the fact that my “Uncle Bob” was told by the mother of the bride to be a second photographer without even discussing it with me. Normally, it never bothers me if people take pictures at weddings, other than I ask the officiant to announce “no flash” so it won’t mess up my shots. People will do as they please at weddings, I have learned. Still, I have never had a person get in my way like this person. I didn’t know about this “Uncle Bob” arrrangement until the middle of the ceremony when I am photography the candle lighting ceremony when I see her out of the corner of my eye. Of course I can’t say anything because it’s the middle of the wedding. This “Uncle Bob” then follows me around for the formal shots and procedes to position other family members while I’m getting shots of the bride and groom. Now, I wasn’t upset about that (she was actually keeping them occupied for me), until I started asking those same family member to take a picture with me. They looked confused and told me they already took the pictures with the other photographer. Talk about stressful and confusing, not to mention the bride and groom had no idea what was going on. At the reception, her flash kept going off and messing up tons of my shots. I finally asked her at one point to please hold off on the flash until I could get the shot. I asked the mother of the groom exactly why this person was following me around and that’s when I learned my I “hired” a second shooter to help me. (Didn’t need the help, it was a small wedding) This Uncle bob was doing it for free as a favor to the mother. I was so upset, but it wasn’t the time or the place to say anything. I politely asked the mother of the bride to tell the “uncle bob” not post any pictures or do anythign with the pictures until I gave them the professional set. I do charge a flat rate, but only take a deposit at the wedding and the other half is given to me after they receive the pictures. Everything was fine until I get online and see all of my “Uncle Bob’s” pictures posted on Facebook with everyone tagged and (she is by no means professional, she doens’t know how to take a single picture without flash) everyone in the family is commenting on what an awesome job she did as the photographer at the wedding. She didn’t even let them know she wasn’t the op. She simply stated, “I had fun shooting this wedding. thanks for allowing me the opportunity.” . This whole situation made me very angry to the point I contacted “Uncle Bob” and demanded she credit me as the op or take the pictures down. Of course, they are already on the web; I couldn’t make her do anything. But the whole problem with this situation is this was a wedding for a family friend and I go to church with the “Uncle Bob” who is well aware of my business and the fact that I was hired. She gave her cd of “professional” images to the mother of the bride for free and the mother of the bride saw that as an opportunity to try to get out of not paying me for my work because (as horribly over-exposed and desaturated those pictures were), she felt like she had the pictures she wanted. Luckily, I made her sign the same agreement I make everyone else at weddings. She had to pay. Never doing any photography for that family again. I felt totally disrespected and now despise “Uncle Bobs”. I’m all for people shooting for experience. What better place than at something like a wedding, but not on my time and not while it disrupts my business. This Uncle Bob who knew me could had politely declined the offer by the mother of the bride or offered to take candids of other things and stayed out of my way when it was obvious I was trying to work. It’s hard enough getting everyone at the wedding to pay attention to you when you are trying to get that one formal picture of the family.

  43. In my opinion I think the “Uncle Bob” is a double edge sword in the photography world, I have been there on both sides. I can under stand that if someone with pro gear getting in the way of a hired photographer then that is rude right off and have a family member tell you your the second photographer would insult me right off your paid to document this event, but if they are there to take photos of strangers or family that they know the hired isn’t able to get, I think it is fair game. That is where there needs to be some communication between the “Uncle Bob” and hired photographer and I don’t mean a stand off, telling him off, or ignoring her or him. But guide lines here and to enjoy a conversation. Who knows “Uncle Bob” may have some useful tips or stories he may like to share. The other side of this is where the hired photographer is just not good at what he or she did at the event and every one in the family wants to shank him, this is where I see an ok with the “uncle bob”. I was in the wedding with semi pro gear and the hired photographer was a rude son of a gun, I knew he didn’t want any part in talking with me had to send a person to talk and ask questions about me I felt like I was in preschool when have a kid hating you not wanting to talk but have a middle man sending messages back and forth. Then he made the bride cry 4 times, you can tell in the photos she was not a happy camper or any one else in the photos. So enough of me rambling, really like the post here makes you think how would you handle a “Uncle Bob”, the way I would handle this is to set guide lines, have fun, and capture the moment.

  44. I know this thread is old but I’m researching this topic so I’m jumping in. I sell some photos as art and some product shots in a bona fide, taxpaying business. I am not and don’t want to be a wedding photographer. However, in all my work, I try to conduct myself as a professional and respect other professionals. The big point I don’t see addressed in any of the comments so far is this: many people of varied financial means attend weddings and even travel great distances to attend. The B&G budgeted for a photographer; the guests did not. Notwithstanding the valid concerns of pros, I do think that guests should be allowed to grab their own snapshots or even “real photographs” of the B&G and other friends and family, because these are the only remembrances they will have of the event. Unless the B&G prohibit such, so long as the attendees are not in the way, they should be afforded the courtesy and understanding that taking their own pics are the only way they will get any at all.

    I recently attended a wedding and conscientiously left my gear at home. Still, I was very distracted and dismayed at all the iPhone-filled hands raised high and into the aisle as my fellow guests did their thing. I just recognize that weddings are not the only victims of modern-day boorishness.

  45. Haha. Uncle Bob also shows up to my events and grand openings. 🙂 Great article. Yes, clients really should just ask Uncle Bob to sit down and relax while the professional does his work.

Leave a Reply

Close Menu