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How to Overcome the Chaos of Wedding Photography (From Two Pros)


Wedding photography is one genre I will personally not touch. It takes a special kind of mind to handle a type of photography that comes with so much pressure. I envy those that do it, especially those that do it well. It must feel amazing to deliver an immortal memory of a couple’s special day. But, again, wedding photography comes with a lot of hurdles. There’s one in particular that pro photographers have to deal with, and I was curious as to how they handled it.

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The Hurdles in Wedding Photography

Back in the pre-smartphone era, cameras were an expensive tool that few people could access. At weddings, photographers could have confidence that they’ll likely be the only person there making photographs. Maybe one or two people had a cheap disposable camera, but for the most part, everyone was there to enjoy, not document.

Credit: Joseph Allen-Keys

Today that’s not true. Everyone has a half-decent camera in their pocket, and everyone loves to use it, especially at weddings. This creates new hurdles for wedding photographers, now navigating around all the would-be photographers while trying to make the best wedding photography possible. If I was a wedding photographer, I thought about what I would do to minimize the chaos. I thought about telling the soon-to-be-married couple to ban cameras at the ceremony. And then, I thought, “would that be an acceptable thing to do?” I quickly reminded myself that I have no clue because I’m not a wedding photographer. But I know two people who are. Follow me.

The Pros of Wedding Photography

Credit: Kari Björn

Kari Björn and Joseph Allen-Keys are two pro wedding photographers with an exceptional body of work. Björn comes from Iceland and is now shooting weddings in and around the U.S. To me, his work has a photojournalistic and editorial feel about it, while still holding that special spark needed to tell a story of romance and bonding. Allen-Keys is based in the UK, and creates a body of work that’s full of energy and passion. He also shoots street photography, and I can see it in his wedding photography; most of his canid wedding photographs prove he’s fully aware of the decisive moment.

Wedding Photography: The Question

I asked Björn and Allen-Keys: “How would you feel about putting in “no smartphones or guest cameras during a wedding” in the contract clause?

Starting with Björn, he said:

“I doubt that I would ever put such a clause in my agreement. It just wouldn’t feel right, given that in 99.9% of instances, smartphones and guests with cameras are easy to work with and around. I have interacted with guests with cameras that want to get the best angle on numerous occasions and a simple ‘pardon me’ is always enough to make sure I am getting the shot I want every time. I do see quite a lot of smartphones during wedding ceremonies and receptions, and just as with guest cameras, this is easy to work around in almost all cases.

This is why I carry two camera bodies with medium and telephoto lenses to make sure I am capturing a range of images to present to my clients. Some wide-angle shots that include the whole scene in addition to tighter shots of just the bride and groom. Ultimately, I feel it is up to the couple to decide.

Credit: Kari Björn

On the topic of how his clients would feel about such a clause, Björn added, “I have a feeling that it wouldn’t sit right with many of my potential clients. My approach to wedding photography is pretty free-flowing. I like to capture moments and not set up too many shots, and having a clause such as this doesn’t make sense to me or my approach.”

Allen-Keys had this to say on the topic:

“I wouldn’t personally want to add a clause like this. I think first and foremost, it would be very hard to enforce and also invasive to do so. But I feel the issue isn’t necessarily that people are taking pictures. As photographers and professionals, we need to be confident that what we produce will outshine the majority of other photos taken. Of course, I’ve encountered problems such as half of a group photo looking at Uncle Tony and his point and shoot instead of me, but this just takes a little patience.

We’re also, often, already protected during ceremonies by the Registrar or Vicar, and when it comes to the rest of the day, we shouldn’t expect people to not be doing the normal social media things like stories or selfies, etc. So ultimately, I can understand where frustrations can come from – but I’m of the school of being an observer and not dictating how a wedding should go. I’m just there to capture it, and if others do that too, that’s fine by me.”

Credit: Joseph Allen-Keys

Final Thought

It’s clear that instead of enforcing rules and restrictions, the pros have found a way to work and create that keeps everyone happy. That’s why they do what they do, and why I’m just thinking about doing it! If you’re new to wedding photography and concerned about what it may be like working in an intense environment, take note of what Björn and Allen-Keys had to say. Their work and wisdom speak for themselves, and they’re dropping little nuggets of valuable knowledge with what they had to say.

What do you think? Is a smartphone ban at weddings a good idea? How would you handle the situation? Let us know in the comments below. Thanks for reading.

Links: Kari Björn: website and Instagram. Joseph Allen-Keys: website and Instagram.

All images used with permission. Lead photo by Joseph Allen-Keys.


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