The Fallacy of Uncle Bob


Stop. Just stop. I am so tired of wedding photographers whining about GWCs (Guys or Girls With Cameras) and “Uncle Bob” getting in the way of their photos. There aren’t many things that will prompt me to enter an internet argument, and there certainly aren’t many things that will prompt me to take it even further and to blog about it, but this is one. I just can’t help myself, I need to say something, both to my fellow wedding photographers and to grooms and brides that are shopping said photographers.



You see, I keep coming across these posts from wedding photographers complaining about how “Uncle Bob” and other family members are stepping in front of them and either partially or completely blocking their shots so that they can take their own snapshots. A lot of these posts seem more hypothetical paranoia than actually demonstrated evidence, but maybe that’s taking them too seriously. There is a fear, it seems, among wedding photographers that invited guests who are part of one of the bride’s and groom’s most important days, ever, might step in front of their camera and “ruin” a “critical” moment. If it seems as though that last sentence is dripping with malice and sarcasm, it is. These writers are almost always condescending, implying that the photographer is part of “The Show.” Indeed, one went so far as to suggest that they WERE AS IMPORTANT AS THE BRIDE AND GROOM AT THE WEDDING. Brides and grooms that are reading this: would you agree with that?



Yes, yes, wedding photographers are an important part of a wedding day–they have been hired, after all, to record the events for posterity, to preserve precious memories of a very special day. And as wedding photographers, we spend A LOT of time fussing over gear, pre-visualizing light and compositions, walking through itineraries, meeting with clients, fussing more over gear, worrying over light, double-checking angles, double-checking itineraries, and fussing over gear. We are getting PAID real money to memorialize a VERY IMPORTANT EVENT. I get it. It’s a big deal. But this obsessive paranoia over folks that bring their cameras with them needs to stop. Photographs are very important to us because we are photographers, but put yourself in the guest’s shoes, or the bride and groom’s shoes–is getting the shot more important than the memories and experience of the family and friends who have gathered, sometimes at some difficulty, to celebrate? And if it IS more important, then shouldn’t you have maybe ironed that sort of stuff out with the bride and groom before wedding day?



I have been shooting weddings for about eight years now, both as a secondary and primary photographer. I have shot dozens of weddings. I am probably closing in on a hundred. I am not the best wedding photographer, nor the most sought after, nor particularly well known. And that’s important, because not once, not a single, solitary time, have I ever had a critical shot ruined by someone with an iPhone, an iPad, a compact camera or a DSLR stepping in front of me. Not ever. I am a regular guy, photographing regular weddings, and my experience is probably pretty typical. I have had shots ruined by flash, I have shots ruined by my poor technique, I have had shots ruined because the equipment that I fussed over so much failed me in some way. But there’s not a single frame–not ONE. SINGLE. FRAME.–that I can pin on Uncle Bob or Aunt Sue. Nothing I can shrug my shoulders about and say, “Well, maybe you should talk to Grandma Agnes! Not my bad!”


You are hired, presumably, because you have a talent and experience as a photographer. You have shown that you have an eye for special moments, that you can consistently maneuver to be in the right place at the right time. Your images capture time, place, emotion, light. Your compositions make someone feel something. You are paid because you have proven an ability to get the shot, whatever the circumstances. You are paid because you know where to be so that when the mythical “Uncle Bob” steps into the aisle, you are two steps ahead and are already out of the way and have a better angle, anyway, thankyouverymuch.



There also seems to be some tacit understanding by these complaining photographers-cum-writers that guests are out to get them. That Uncle Bob isn’t just accidentally stepping out in front of you with his massive tablet, but that he’s doing it on purpose, to foil you and make you look foolish!  This is, perhaps, the part that gets me the most riled up. Not only are you presuming to be more important than friends and family, but you are essentially suggesting that they are stupid, foolish, unaware, uncourteous, and rude. To be sure, sometimes you encounter folks at weddings that aren’t models of kindness and generosity–that’s just life, folks. But as I’ve mentioned before, I’ve NEVER HAD SOMEONE RUIN A SHOT IN THIS WAY. Believe it or not, even if they don’t particularly care, folks understand that the bride and groom have paid you money to photograph their wedding, and usually get out of your way. If, along the way, you have shown that you are courteous, professional, and friendly (or at least focused), more often than not they will give you right-of-way and watch out for you. For those times that they don’t, you adjust accordingly and move on.



So to all those whiny wedding photographers out there, just please give it up. I know it won’t change anything for me to say this, but it’s a plea I’m throwing out there, just in case. And to brides and grooms: when you are shopping, beware of wedding photographers who are so self-important that they think they are somehow as important as the bride, the groom, or the proceedings of the day. Even if you have a love of great photography, there is so, so much more to a wedding day than the photographs. As precious as these little two-dimensional time portals are to me, I understand that there are moments and things… that there are experiences that are more critical, and to which these photographs help to take you years later. Without the experience, the photographs are just photographs, but without the photographs, the memories and the experiences persist.



Make no mistake–wedding photographers are charged with a very important and difficult task that carries a lot of weight. There are no do-overs, and the margin for error is slim. There are so many things to worry about, in fact, that I don’t really understand why some folks spend so much time worrying about Uncle Frank, Aunt Rhea, Cousin Todd and Grandpa Jeremiah. I think that time could be better spent fussing over gear, thinking about light, practicing photography, and otherwise preparing for those precious moments in a young couple’s life that you have been charged with documenting.



And yes, I realize I should know better than to argue with people on the internet. For the most part, I haven’t. Instead I’ve written this blog post, to illustrate my opinion on this, and to generate a more positive and thoughtful dialogue than what I’ve received so far.


  1. Jessica on Oct 28, 2014 at 8:38 am

    It’s not paranoia. Just this weekend I had a guest literally JUMP in front of me as I was in the isle, with focus locked and camera up, ready to catch the kiss.

    I did not mind that he shot over my shoulder all day up until that point – I’m confident enough in my work to not be shaken up by someone else with a camera. I was irritated when he inhibited my ability to do the job I was hired for.

    My 2 cents, your mileage may vary.

  2. mschueler on Oct 28, 2014 at 8:46 am

    Yes my mileage may vary–that is practically the ENTIRE point of my post.

    So are you trying to tell me that you failed to do your job because of that one, brief (albeit important moment?) That the only thing you bring to the table is that one photo of the kiss, and not getting that negates all the other time and effort you put into the day?

    Didn’t think so.

    And that is still the mindset that the photographer somehow trumps everyone else’s experience at the wedding, which I still don’t believe. Photographers may gasp in horror, but I’m sure there are many, many weddings that occur with NO. PHOTOGRAPHER. AT. ALL.

    I’m not arguing against photography at weddings obviously, but I am railing against this whole deification of wedding photography wedding photographers.

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