Michael Caswell Photography

Other Wedding Vendors Taking Photos

As is common among wedding photographers, my contract has an exclusivity clause that designates that I am the sole vendor authorized to take photographs during your wedding. This does not apply to a photobooth, nor to other vendors such as planners, DJs, florists, videographers, decorators, lighting, and venue management who are photographing their setups prior to the start of the event, and it's no big deal if they are grabbing a quick shot or two during the ceremony or reception to post their involvement to social media for promotion. I may occasionally have to ask them to not obstruct my shots, but with the great wedding professionals we have in the New Orleans area and the relationship we all have from working together on a regular basis, this is rarely even needed. And, of course, I am always willing to share my images with other vendors if they ask.

Why is This a Problem?

Years ago, a big part of the reason for wedding photographers including an exclusivity clause in their contracts was money. The business model at that time consisted of a creative fee for shooting the event, and then print sales afterward, which made up a substantial portion of their revenue. Having another photographer present could mean these print sales would not be as high as expected, making it unprofitable for them to have shot the event.

While print sales are still a meaningful portion of a photographer's income, the business model has shifted to charge more up front, and provide the image files to the married couple (which they can use to print images on their own). So, protecting print sales is not as big of a concern as it once was.

The primary reason for the exclusivity provision now is to protect the couple against certain vendors who stray from the service they were hired for, and either themselves or with the help of an assistant, actively engage in photographing all or significant portions of the wedding day, to the detriment of the photographs the couple has paid a substantial amount of money for their real professional photographer to capture.

"I'll Stay Out of the Photographer's Way"

Most often, it's the DJ who engages in this, as a supplemental service offered for free or for a small charge. While the prospect of more photos at little or no cost might be appealing, more is not necessarily better, in and this case may actually be quite worse because of how it affects your real wedding photography.
There's the direct issue of another photographer being visible in the pictures I capture for you. Even though they may promise, "I'll stay out of your photographer's way", chances are this will not be the case, as I move around quite a bit during the ceremony to capture a variety of angles, sometimes shooting tight and other times wide. During the reception, while shooting the action on the dance floor it's almost a guarantee that the other photographer will be in some of these shots, and it's very noticeable when a fantastic shot of a group of guests dancing has another photographer with a big camera right in the middle of it.
Additionally, having another photographer who is actively trying to photograph the event means there's a good chance that at times we'll be competing for the same vantage points from which to shoot. I can promise you that the pictures I capture will be FAR better, and it's simply not a worthwhile tradeoff to allow these images to be compromised for the sake of letting the DJ (or another vendor) shoot as well.

In short, it's a bad idea for numerous reasons, which can be concisely summarized with one simple statement: the potential for your professional wedding photos to be adversely affected, with very little to gain in return.

Why Do Photographers Care?

If a photographer has already been paid, and the adverse effects of another vendor taking pictures will have no substantial effect on revenue, why do photographers even care about it? The reason is, most professional wedding photographers are not in this craft solely for the money. Yes, we do make our living this way, but we also get personal enjoyment and artistic satisfaction creating beautiful wedding photographs for our clients.

During the course of a dynamic, unpredictable event, there are many things totally outside our control that can adversely affect the images we are able to capture. But obstruction and disruption from other vendors attempting to photograph the wedding is something that can easily be prevented.

Mistaken Identity

Then there's the effect that this practice can have on interactions with guests, primarily during the reception. In some cases this other vendor taking pictures may behave in a manner that is inappropriate or unprofessional, and doesn't fit the level of friendly service and unobtrusiveness that I strive so hard to provide, and because guests will likely assume that we are working together, this reflects very poorly on my professional image.

Additionally, this mistaken identity can cause another type of confusion. As an example, perhaps the groom's mother wants an informal group picture with her siblings and cousins during the reception, and not realizing he is not the actual professional photographer, asks the DJ (or his assistant) to get the shot. This is an easy mistake to make, as it's a person (who is not a guest) walking around with a camera taking many pictures. When she is later looking through my wedding gallery, she'll be confused as to why she cannot find this image. Even if she does later realize that it was in fact the DJ who took this picture, and locates the image, she will be likely disappointed with the poor quality.

Discuss This With Your DJ

If your DJ (or other vendor) mentions taking pictures as a supplement to their regular service, or if you see other indications (such as prior Facebook posts with hundreds of wedding photographs) that this may be something they'll do, please stress to them that aside from a couple of shots for social media promotion (which is perfectly fine), you would like them to concentrate exclusively on their role of providing entertainment which you have hired them for, and refrain from actively photographing your event. Feel free to make me the bad guy by pointing out to them that the contract you have with your photographer forbids this.

Guest Photography

Much of the above also applies to a friend or family member who may be an aspiring wedding photographer or perhaps just an enthusiastic amateur, and asks if you'd mind them shooting during your wedding for practice and as a portfolio-building opportunity. While this may seem harmless, it can similarly interfere with my ability to produce the level of work that my couples expect, so I strongly recommend just saying no to this. Again, if you don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, you can blame this restriction on me.

Does that mean guests are not allowed to take pictures during your wedding? Absolutely not! Though I urge you to read and consider my article on unplugged weddings, in general guests casually taking occasional pictures isn't an issue during the reception. But if you observe (or if I point out) a person who appears to be focused primarily on actively documenting the event rather than participating as a guest, it's advisable to ask them to put their camera away and instead just enjoy the party as a guest!