Places & Events

Tips for the guest wedding photographer

Written by Bernard Dery

Weddings are wonderful events, and a guest photographer can contribute greatly by focusing on the things the hired photographer will miss.

Weddings are wonderful events to attend as a photographer. The fancy clothes, the beautiful vistas, the joy of the guests and the love of the bride and groom often make for great pictures.

Still, weddings are often strict regarding protocol. Moreover, they are very emotional events. No one wants to cross a line and spoil the day! This article will discuss some dos and don’ts when attending weddings as a guest photographer.

Work around the hired photographer

Almost all weddings have a hired photographer, or at least a designated relative in charge of taking the official pictures. Your first job as a guest is to respect that person: he or she was selected by the bride and groom, and the happy couple entrusted that person with a heavy responsibility. They are also paying a lot of money for the services of that pro photographer.

Pictures (and memories) are what remains of that special day. Moreover, a hired photographer has a responsibility to deliver pictures of that day; don’t try to compete with him and don’t make that job more difficult than it already is!

Keep out of the way of the hired photographer

Keeping out of the way of the hired photographer actually offers new possibilities. Why not shoot pictures of the bride and groom from another angle? You might capture something the pro is missing! Take a few steps back and include guests in the frame, move to the side to capture the scene from a different angle, be creative!

Focus on different things

Chances are the main photographer will take a hundred shots of “the kiss”. However, chances are the parents, best men and maids of honour will be completely ignored during that time. Why not take pictures of these people while the pro is busy shooting the couple?

Focusing on the guests will yield many beautiful candid shots. The bride and groom will probably have little time to care for their guests during the ceremony, but will be happy afterwards to share the emotions and happiness of their guests. This will shed a different light on the wedding than what the hired photographer usually focuses on.

Photos during the wedding reception

During the reception, why not take pictures of the various tables? A hired photographer rarely photographs guests: his job is to photograph the couple. Similarly, you could look at details in the decoration, photograph the cake, anything the bride and groom might remember fondly a few months later.

Some things to avoid as guest wedding photographer

Some things are to be avoided unless you want to create a diplomatic incident!

  • Flash during the ceremony: most times, flashes are not allowed inside churches, and in any case it’s better to be safe than sorry! You may have to raise the ISO but not too high if your camera produces a large amount of digital noise.
  • Bossing the hired photographer: as surprising as it might seem, every wedding photographer has a story about “Uncle Joe” trying to take control of the group photos. The bride and groom rarely look kindly to Uncle Joe taking the stage.
  • Tagging along during the romantic session: this session, usually taking place just after the ceremony, is often the only time the newlyweds have to themselves during the whole day. Focus on the remaining guests instead; the bride and groom will be thankful.

Weddings are wonderful events, and a guest photographer can contribute greatly by focusing on the things the hired photographer will miss. This creates an opportunity for beautiful and unique pictures. The bride and groom will thank you for shedding a different light on their special day.

Article and photos by Bernard Dery

About the author

Bernard Dery

Bernard was born and still lives in Quebec City, Canada. A doctorate candidate in Physics, Bernard works full-time as an optical designer at EXFO, a world leader in telecom tests and measurements tools. His professional interests go from fiber optics to atmospheric data collection and lasers.

His first contact with photography was a Vivitar fixed lens camera that he had purchased at age eight. His interest developed slowly, and for many years Bernard limited himself to family and travel pictures.

Bernard discovered the world of digital photography in February 2004, when he purchased his first digital camera. Developing an interest for composition, he experimented with many subjects: landscapes, nature, cities and architecture.

soon began to invest more time and energy into his new found hobby, finding new and beautiful subjects to capture everyday. His challenge is to capture the mood and emotion carried by a scene as it presents itself to him.

A trip to Italy in
September 2004 fueled his growing interest with numerous magical photography opportunities.

Bernard and his wife like to spend free time near a lake at his family's summer house, where he finds new subjects to capture every day. His interests are varied and include hiking, camping, swimming, boating and reading, as well as most winter

Bernard, known as bdery on forums, uses a Pentax K20D and W80, Canon S2 and a Nikon SQ as a backup.

Thumbnails are of photos by Bernard Dery - used with permission
Copyright Bernard Dery All rights reserved


  • John, on behalf of the professional photographers at the weddings you’ve attended and shot at as a guest, I thank you for being so conscientious about watching where the pro is shooting and not interposing yourself. Both the pro and the clients appreciate your efforts to get good images that supplement those of the pro while letting the pro do his or her job. And getting the couple a set of great images quickly is a great way to tide them over. Cheers!

  • Great tips. I have shot two weddings as guest photographer this year (another next weekend) & had a terrific time. I concentrated on shots the pro wasn’t taking ie other guests and parents of bride & groom during ceromony. I produced a dvd slide show for the family set to classical music (pro show gold software) & they had it in their hands weeks before the pro’s shots were ready to view. One tip, you have to make a really big effort to stay out of the way of the pro, it’s just good manners to do so. I recommend using nikon 70-200 f2.8 lens & a wide angle, 24-70 f2.8 or 20m f2.8.