I noticed a thread on a forum today about a wedding photographer getting frustrated with an amateur stealing their set-ups and taking photos behind their shoulder. And these weren't just the group photos, either, but the shoe shot, the individual portraits, the bride-getting-ready shots, etc.
It won't be easy to voice your feelings at first. It takes time. But the more and more you're made to feel uncomfortable by other photographers stealing your work, the more you'll get the sense that you really need to have some lines prepared for the next time that happens. Eventually, you'll get so fed up that you'll just come out and say what needs to be said so you can do your work in peace.
My contract says “there will be no other cameras allowed during the session. If someone whips out a camera during the session, I will have to ask them to put it away and this is an awkward moment that I would love to avoid.” Now, obviously during a one-on-one portrait session, you have every right to ask Grandma to please put her camera away. I would say it like this, “ooh gosh I'm really sorry, but I'm going to have to ask you not to take photographs during the session.” I think it will be obvious why. No need to explain. You'll have asked them in a super sweet way to please put on their thinking cap and not take pictures and they will probably feel a little dumb for even thinking that was ok. But ya know…we're educating people, too, and by showing them that that's not ok, you're setting the precedent that this session is about being hired and paid to take images which are making you money. Hopefully that will carry throughout the whole process and minimise them also thinking that it's ok to scan and reprint the prints they've bought from you. Hopefully. But ya know…probably not.
So as in the first part of this post, the photographer was experiencing a copy cat shooting directly behind her. If this were happening to me, I would have absolutely no problem whatsoever looking back and saying, “excuse me, could you please give me some space? Thanks.” You could even say, “Hi. I can't help but notice that you're very keen to take photos and you're totally welcome to. Just let me get the shots I've been hired to do and then you're welcome to have at it.” And of course, if you feel more comfortable throwing in apologetic lingo like “gosh sorry I'm going to have to ask…” then do that. Don't be rude. They're just excited. But there's no reason you need to hide the fact that you're confused/surprised that someone would think it's ok to do that. Heck, hand them your business card and tell them that you only charge $1,000 a day to shoot along with you as a professional photographer. Lol…that'd go down well!
Now, a wedding IS a free for all and everyone will have a camera. So I wouldn't have any problem with that, only when they try to horn in on my private session with the couple or the shots that I have to use all of my experience ad expertise to set up and execute.
During the group photos, the problem lies in the fact that with so many cameras around, the guests will have trouble knowing where to look. Make sure that everyone knows to look at you and you might need to turn around and say, “hey guys just let me quickly get these shots and then you're totally free to take whatever pictures you want.” This is usually a pretty jovial and joyful moment for everyone so you can say it with a laugh and it will be received well.
I have a go-to guy who has been appointed by the couple to hold the groups list and gather auntie and uncle so-and-so when it's time. He might just be the bossy, booming voice you need to get the whole thing over and done in a decent amount of time with little interference from other photographers.
What's your approach to others taking shots during your sessions? We'd love to hear your thoughts below in comments!