Wedding Photo Gate, was an online argument between a Wedding DJ, who was thought of by many to be stepping on the toes of the Wedding Photographer. The news story was covered in Forbes and elsewhere on the web. I don't delve too deeply into that row - but here are some of my thoughts on the topic.
In the two years I’ve been bringing my camera along to weddings what I do with it has evolved.
I want to ‘Capture the love’, to coin Ken Rochon’s phrase, but I am always thinking about crossing the line. And pondering where that line is.
Today I’m stricter than I used to be, just because recently I have heard a few stories like #WeddingPhotoGate and I value my reputation. A lot of my work is referral based and I don’t want to harm any part of my sole livelihood.
Essentially, if you are new to DJ’ing, don’t. Just concentrate 100% on DJ’ing. I had been DJ’ing for 11 or 12 years before I learnt there’s a few gaps when I can take my headphones off and pick my camera up. It’s such a steep learning curve when you first start, with so many things you can only learn by watching the dance-floor and the crowd’s reactions. Flicking through your music selection and changing your mind on the next record with only 10 seconds to spare – and changing it back again before the songs runs out. I still do that often.
Also, I learned that the venues that are great to take pictures – when you’re right on top of the dance-floor inches from the dancers – dancing with them as you mix – are best for pictures and my favourite to DJ in. So just enjoy it, next weeks gig might be in a cave.
But in a competitive market place where I feel the role of the Wedding DJ is misunderstood (by clients and other DJ’s) having images of what I do, and what I value, is essential.
And that is what has brought about my rules…
I (now) photograph only what I am involved with. I am, for example, I’m involved with the first dance. Through Wedding Hosting I introduce it, stage it and play the track. If the band are doing it, I still, in most cases, introduce and stage-manage it. I value guests being all around the dance-floor. I get as many people as I can as close as possible. This turns a moment which the bride and groom (generally) dread, into a spotlight moment on their day and a brilliant launch to their night.
I need evidence of this claim and I’m happy to say I have many photograph’s of wonderful first dances. The start of and the end of – surrounded by friends and family. Many of my clients have made them their Facebook profile picture – which I take as a huge compliment. When the pro images arrive a few weeks later mine gets bumped. I’m fine with that, I love great images of great moments. I advise the photographer and video-grapher how I am going to stage it before the first dance. I allow as much time as possible for the photographer to get their shot. I’m on the photographer’s side with this, I have advised many brides and grooms that ten seconds is not enough so I can’t invite everyone to join in that early!
Essentially I’m watching the bride and groom, if it starts to look uncomfortable the photo opportunity is gone anyway – time to ease the pressure and invite guests to join. Each DJ or band will have their own way of transitioning from Grand Entrance, Cake Cut and First Dance. I want the best for my clients in every aspect of their day. And that involves giving their suppliers a heads up as to what is about to happen and how. Most are awesome and can just go with the flow.
I can remember one occasion where I shot wedding details but it was when the bride had made those centre-pieces. If they are super important to my friend, I will take that picture. If you can’t call your clients friends – then you haven’t gotten to know them well enough. Nowadays, I would still take that picture but I wouldn’t share that picture on social media – as it’s not something I’m directly related to.
Speeches Introductions is another thing that I do as a Wedding Host. In a lot of peoples minds the DJ shows up about 20:00. In Ireland people think the DJ shows up at 01:00! The whole day is a totally different time-table to anything I’ve seen in the UK.
As a Wedding Host I’m there from the before the ceremony or before the Wedding Breakfast. When it’s the speeches, if I’m not ‘riding the fader’ (altering the mic level to aid an inexperienced speaker) I feel it’s ok to take a picture of my microphone in use. To showcase that as a service I offer.
I’d love it if more photographers shared their images with me, and many do (thank you) it would reduce the amount of selfies on my Facebook wall. Make me look less narcissistic. But if I was to chase up with every wedding photographer, it would be more emails for me and more for them. We’re already busy enough concentrating respectively on editing (music, video and photos) prepping song lists, equipment lists and so forth. So it’s simply less time consuming if I do it myself.
Also, most of the pictures I take are those moments after the Pro Wedding Photographer has gone home. They are moments that would otherwise go uncaptured. And I feel that would be a tragedy. My clients feel very grateful for the surprise extra. I can’t always provide it, but it gives me a lot of pleasure when I can and comments, likes and memories are preserved. Those end of the night ‘everyone gathered around the bride and groom’ images only really happen on nights when the dance-floor has been relevant for the whole night. Sure the DJ can set them up, but most of the time it’s because the atmosphere has held for a good mixture of people through-out the entire night. And the Wedding Photographer has definitely gone by that time so again I don’t think #WeddingPhotoGate applies to me.
I’d also like to point out that my pictures do not interrupt the dancing. That’s a pet hate of mine. They’re candid’s. I’d love a smartphone free wedding. I think that’s something Wedding Photographers and Wedding DJ’s might agree on.
Also, my brides and groom are now the first to see the images privately. I used to just take pictures and put them on Facebook and tag them. In the context of this debate that seems crazy. But in the context of my style. I haven’t had a single bride or groom complain. I think that’s because all their guests post pictures of favourite moments and tag them. Just like I used to. On the day, Brides and Grooms treat me like a guest. And I treat them like friends. To re-iterate I no longer post pictures without asking first.
I do hope my approach hasn’t offended, you’re welcome to comment, here or privately as I would like more feedback on this topic. Where is that line? I definitely want to play nice but also need to provide evidence of my work.
This post first appeared on my Facebook Page 7th September 2015.