Save yourself from these 4 common kinds of wedding photobombers

July 29 | Guest post by Erika Hammer
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Thanks to Tanya for uploading this photo to our Flickr pool.

With pretty much every guest bringing some sort of recording device to a wedding nowadays, the odds of running into photobombers is growing increasingly higher. Many couples have avoided this with planning "unplugged" weddings; however, there are still a few types of people who don't like to play by the rules.

After having shot weddings for nearly seven years, I feel like I've seen enough photobombers to be able to not only classify them but have learned a little about how to deal with them. Here are, from my experience, the four categories of photobombers…

1. The camera enthusiast

This is the person who just bought a new dSLR, a new lens, or a new flash. They can't wait to try it out. They are, in fact, so enamored with their new purchase that they have tunnel vision. They are focused only on themselves and their new toy and are completely oblivious to those with whom they may be interfering.

2. The Boomer-with-an-iPad

Why guests think it's okay to shove a giant iPad out into the aisle as the bride is walking down is beyond me. While I've seen younger folk bring iPads, too, they often seem more aware of their mammoth size of the device and keep it closer to their bodies when taking pictures with it. Then there are the older generation of guests holding giant iPads at arm's length away from their bodies, leaning it into aisles, and hovering over other guests with it during a first dance. They truly seem to have no idea of how large their device is and how intrusive it can be.

common wedding photobombers as seen on offbeat bride
Photo by Portland Oregon Photographer Craig Mitchelldyer

3. The "It Doesn't Apply to Me"-er

You've taken the time to talk all about "unplugged weddings" on your invitations, and you've even made signs for your guests as a reminder. Your officiant also made an announcement before the ceremony started. Then someone gets up and goes and stands on the altar during the ceremony, snapping their own images (probably with an iPad). Yes, they saw the invites, they read the sign, and heard the announcement. But they're your uncle/friend/grandma/second-cousin-twice-removed… these "rules" couldn't possibly apply to them.

4. The "I Don't Give a Flying F&*K"-er

Similar to the "It Doesn't Apply to Me"-er, no matter what, this person is hell-bent on getting whatever pictures they want. No amount of signage or announcements will stop them. What sets them apart from any of the others, however, is that even if they are informed by someone (be it wedding party, photographer, or the bride and grooms themselves) that they have blocked a few shots and that it would be awesome if they could chill out… they won't care.

Okay, that's great. You can classify them. But what now? Will knowing what type of photobomber someone is (or may be) help you?

Actually… yes.

Just as there is no one way to have a wedding, there is no one way to deal with a photobomber. Tailoring your approach can help save your wedding photos. I've got some advice for couples and photographers alike on how to handle photobombers.

Dealing with the Camera Enthusiast

The best person to approach this type of person is the photographer. Photographers, you can talk to them like you're on the same level (even if you suspect they may not be) and provide them with the utmost respect. Phrase yourself in such a way where you're assuming that they already know the limits and how not to interfere, and they'll gladly agree with you and respect your boundaries.

Hey, I see you have a nice camera there! Just to keep other shooters in the loop, I shoot not only close-ups but a lot of wider shots too. I'm assuming, since you seem to be more familiar with photography than the average person, you know how to avoid photo-bombing, right?

Dealing with the Baby-Boomer-With-An-iPad

Typically having an unplugged wedding with a few reminders during the day will solve this problem. Couples should make sure, however, to tell the guests that they'll be more than happy to share the professional photos with them once they receive them so that they are aware that they CAN have access to photos. People, especially the Baby-Boomer crowd (to whom photos are super important) will be much more likely to adhere to your request for a camera-free wedding if you can give them reassurance that you WILL provide them pictures afterwards.

Dealing with the "It Doesn't Apply to Me"-er

A little pre-wedding chat from the couple has to happen in order to prevent this scenario. Couples, you need to sit down with whomever you think will have this issue, sincerely express your concerns, and tell them, flat out, that the "no cameras" rule applies to everyone. As above, make sure you reinforce the fact that you WILL provide them with photos after the fact so they don't feel like they're losing out on memories.

Dealing with the "I Don't Give a Flying F&*K"-er

Luckily this type of photobomber is the rarest bird of them all, but this is also the hardest one to deal with. You often don't realize that the photobomber has this attitude until well into the wedding day. When you do encounter this type, it can be pretty intense and result in hurt feelings or ruined photos (as the odds of fixing this situation pleasantly is pretty darn slim). Typically this person is mission-oriented and has been asked by SOMEONE in the family to take pictures for whatever reason. Ultimately it will come down to the couple deciding to either confront the turbo-photobomber OR deciding to make peace with this person being in the background of all their photos.

While it's never fun for the photographer or the couple to have to confront a guest about their behavior, often it's the only way to get your wedding photobombers to politely maintain a safe distance from the action.

Photographers and wedding guests alike: What are YOUR tips for handling all types of photobombers and Uncle Bobs?

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  1. My mom, God love her, will probably be a combination of all four: she's a baby boomer with a DSLR and she's convinced that she will take better pictures than our professional photographer, PLUS as she always documents family gatherings, people in my family are counting on her for same-day pictures. My fianc├ę and I gave her the task of creating a photo slideshow for when people are sitting down in the ceremony to calm her picture-mania. The reassurance that she will have access to the professional photos is also working.

    5 agree
    • You might also consider telling her that you really want her to be there in the moment with you guys, it's a special day for both mother and daughter, and taking pictures might take her out of the day. We explained our unplugged wedding that way to everyone, with special emphasis on my mother-in-law since she was the person we were most worried about. She seemed to get the idea of "being in the moment" with us.

      7 agree
  2. I hope none of these show up at our wedding! We are having an unplugged ceremony and I'm toying with the idea of telling our officiant (a good friend and an improv master) that if he sees a camera/phone/tablet or other photo taking device pop up in the audience he may halt the proceedings and shame the offender without mercy until said device is put away!
    I want people to take pictures and I want them to share them with us via our WedPics account. I just want them to do it in a polite, respectful, and non-intrusive way that doesn't interfere with the professionals we've hired to do the photos / video. I feel like that shouldn't be too much to ask … but I suppose sometimes it is and you have to roll with the punches!

    6 agree
    • I just posted this below, but it bears repeating: let your photographer and coordinator know what the rules are, and then on the wedding day let THEM enforce the rules. We have no problem being the bad guy if it improves your photos and your experience! Any photographer who lets guests with cameras get in the way of photos and doesn't do anything about it – or lets the bride handle it on what should be a joyous, stress-free day – shouldn't be taking wedding photos.

      2 agree
      • I actually shared this article to my photographer's facebook and told her she has my full permission to deal with any guests that fall into one of these categories however she sees fit! She's a good friend of ours so she will have no issues telling people back the eff up!

        1 agrees
  3. I deal with this all the time as a wedding photographer, and I always try to handle it myself before the couple has to get involved. Part of any wedding professional's job is to help ensure that the couple has a great experience at their wedding, and having to confront an aggressive iPadographer (did I just make up a new word?) isn't something you should have to deal with on your wedding day. You probably want to maintain a civil relationship with your family and friends after the wedding – but I'll never see them again and I don't care if I ruffle some feathers. So if you notice one of your guests getting in the way of pictures, point it out to your photographer (or your coordinator, if you have one). We want your pictures to be fabulous as much as you do, and we will not hesitate to be the bad guy if that's what it takes. An experienced photographer knows how to manage guests with cameras (and shoot around them if necessary).

    On the flip side, I've had couples warn me ahead of time that they are having a plugged-in wedding and they have encouraged their family and friends to take lots of pictures and share them on social media. In that case, the photo taking is a big part of the wedding and it's usually included in some of the photos on purpose. I always try to lay down ground rules ahead of time – ask people to stay behind me while I'm shooting, give me plenty of space to move around and, most importantly, stay away while I'm taking the formal portraits so the couple doesn't have the added stress of a crowd of people with camera phones when I want them to be relaxed and comfortable for the photos. Also so they know which camera to look at! Set these rules ahead of time with your guests, make sure your photographer knows exactly what limits you've set on guest photography and then let the professionals enforce the rules while you enjoy your day.

    5 agree
  4. Thank you for posting this. That is me presiding over the May ceremony of McRea and Crawford in the main image at The High Hampton Inn in Cashiers, NC. You know what? I made an announcement at the beginning to please not take photos during the ceremony! Loved the blog post…so true!

    2 agree
  5. We are aiming for an unplugged ceremony. It is NOT mentioned on our invites (because I ran out of space) but it is on our wedding blog and wedsite. However, I made a point of telling my mom on Saturday that we are not allowing photos during the ceremony. I mentioned that it was on the blog and site but I didn't think people were paying attention and she admitted that she had not being paying attention. Baby-Boomer with a smartphone… everything goes on facebook within minutes!
    I asked her to spread the word, and she seems happy to do so. She asked if we were nixing cameras because we wanted people present and focused, and she thinks it's a great idea so at least she's on board!

    I am worried about my FMIL and FGrandMIL… I think the former will be a "Doesn't apply to me"-er. Fingers crossed we can reason with her!

    • We asked the most likely offender to please police everyone else – worked like a charm ­čÖé

      1 agrees
  6. Eep! I didn't even think of this stuff. We have people downloading wedpic for the reception and dancing but yeah, I'd be pissed if someone actually got into the aisle to try and take pictures! Thanks for the reminder, I just added the note to our website and might ask the officiant to make an announcement, though seems ridiculous that you'd have to make it in the first place!

  7. I considered having an unplugged wedding but for all the reasons listed above decided it was too much of a hassle trying to enforce it.

    Then my photographer totally shit the bed and now the only photos I have of my ceremony are from people's cell phones and ipads. Thankful I didn't go unplugged because otherwise I'd have nothing.

    Not saying this is a likely scenario but it's what happened to me

    1 agrees
  8. Went to a friend's small wedding – total of 12 guests – and every single person there (minus myself and my own fiance) had cell phones out and photographing the whole thing, getting in the way of the photographer, and completely blocking the family unity ceremony to the point of it being just a shell of bodies around the couple and their children.

    I didn't dare say aloud that I felt embarrassed for them. I just turned to my fiance and said, "Ours is going to be unplugged." He nodded in agreement.

    2 agree
  9. I honestly didn't mind people taking their own photos at my wedding, and had a preemptive conversation with my mom negotiating when she could take her pictures and when she had to stay out of the way of the photographer. Tip: We gave her 15 minutes of her own to set up her own shots of us.

    (I am the bride who carried a camera in her pocket and have all kinds of fun candids that the official photographers missed/weren't around for.)

    I will never stop someone taking photos because I love them too. It's just not the same getting the official photographs: they are from a different perspective from mine! I want MY memories, not someone else's.

  10. I've already told most people I've invited that it's an unplugged ceremony, and I may have implied that I will stomp on their various picture taking devices if they don't adhere to the request… >_> Reception is open slather, aside from cake cutting and first dance. We both love candids, but when you're paying $$$ for a photographer, you want their shots to be usable!!

    1 agrees
  11. We got married a month ago, and we did have the first three. I think the photo subject was going to be a problem from the start–I am not big into photos, and I didn't want to document the whole day with pictures. The ceremony was unplugged, save for a friend and her husband that are budding photographers that caught lovely moments, but there were at least 5 guests with gigantic expensive looking cameras, all with their own Pinterest ideas. The day was beautiful, I have the BEST memories of it, and my one complaint is the gaggle of cameras.
    My one and only piece of wedding advice is to hire a professional. I didn't want to spend $900 dollars on a professional if we had all these fancy cameras there anyway but if I could do it over again, I would pay twice that to avoid the bossy, intrusive, disruptive photos. We have absolutely lovely pictures from our friend, she did a beautiful job, but it would have helped to have A Photographer there to organize/tell my SIL to go away.

  12. Is it bitchy to want an unplugged ceremony mainly so I won't have to look out and see an iPad or monster phone sticking up? 'cause even if they don't ruin any photos I've had to sit behind people like that and I'm just going to be annoyed on behalf of anyone stuck with that fate at my wedding.

    On the other hand I love looking through different people\es photos of the same event on Facebook or whatever and I'd love to have that option for my wedding. It's neat to see what everyone's priories and perspectives are.

    • That's not bitchy at all! One of my co-workers told me she and her husband got stuck behind a couple who held up iPads through a whole ceremony once and they couldn't see anything. We had a very successful unplugged ceremony this past Saturday and it was so nice to look out and see everyone paying attention, getting the jokes, and just soaking in the moment. Our photographer was clicking away so we'll have plenty of photos. We further requested that people use WedPics instead of splashing our photos all over facebook and that's been a rousing success!

      1 agrees

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