My first wedding and Uncle Tony (a short story)


TPF Noob!
May 25, 2006
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Well, I shot my first wedding Saturday, and I did it for free because I didn't have any experience to sell myself with. I will be posting some of my favorites from the wedding on here in the next 2 - 3 days, but I wanted to just share a little about the experience and see if you guys have any valuable feedback.

I arrived at the wedding about 3 hours early because I wanted to walk around and get a feel for the place and I was nervous because this was my first wedding as "the photographer". I started out just snapping photos of everyone doing the decorations and getting ready and trying to get a feel for the inside and outside lighting at the small church, and trying to find good backgrounds for my posed shots.

After being there about 30 minutes some guy just showed up with a bunch of cameras around his neck and tried to hire himself to the family as the photographer - I didn't run into him until he was leaving. It was interesting because I couldn't imagine trying to last minute solicit people to be their wedding photographer.

Anyway, shortly after this "Uncle Tony" showed up. I don't know whose uncle he was, just that he introduced himself to me as Uncle Tony. I didn't really see him talk to any of the family before during or after the ceremony, but he brought a Nikon d70 with him. He started a conversation with me about how he had bought his camera a year or two ago and had taken it out of the box yesterday and went up to the shop and bought a lens and flash for it on the way to the wedding. The lens looked like a (17 - 50 Wide Angle?) and the flash was maybe a SB-600...I am not familiar enough with the equipment to be anywhere close to sure. Anyway, he tells me how he wanted to try out his camera during the wedding and would be taking pictures too. I'm not getting paid and just doing the wedding for the experience and the right to keep the photos for my portfolio so I say okay, that's fine.

Immediately Uncle Tony starts using direct flash indoors. I go up to him and explain to him what I know about bouncing flash and about the idea of purchasing some type of diffuser. I let him know that his direct flash is creating strong shadows on my pictures and messing up the lighting in some of them. He thanks me for letting him know and says he will be more careful. This was the beginning of my misery. I guess out of some kind of photog rage he begins to snap pictures pretty much in sync with me. He starts calling the subjects of the poses towards his camera while I am shooting...I have several photos with multiple subjects where half are looking at me and half are looking at him...

He begins to actually physically stand up against me trying to take the same shots from the same angles as me, etc. - I have some photos of him where he jumped in front of my camera. Overall, he drove me slowly insane.

I made it to the reception avoiding him and losing him as best I could. He was eating while I was trying to get shots of the cake cutting, but of course he runs over at the last minute and I don't see him and he flashes just as I take my shot of the bride and groom feeding each other cake and casts a strong shadow on the bride's arm from the cake decoration. I managed to photoshop the shadow out without completely ruining the integrity of the shot, but I hate the idea of heavy duty editing like this.

So, I leave shortly after the cake cutting because there is an argument going on between the bride and her sister that is getting pretty nasty and driving home I am starting to feel pretty good because I made it through the event. I get home and start looking through my pictures and I'm happy because not as many are damaged by Uncle Tony's flash as I first thought. (Of course, I still have to worry about the ones I ruined through my own ignorance). I begin to feel pretty good about it....and then Uncle Tony calls. Uncle Tony asks me if he can have a disk of all the pictures I took. I advised Uncle Tony that I took pictures for the bride and groom and he could contact them after I deliver to them. I am still fuming that he had the nerve to ask me for my photos....

Anyway, I know standard contracts protect against this type of stuff in theory, but what do you do to prevent it from happening if you have people like Uncle Tony who won't cooperate? I didn't want to be rude to the groom/bride's family and I couldn't just leave the wedding because I needed the experience. If this happened to you, what would you do? Would you leave the wedding and keep the security deposit? Or most of you collect full payment before or on the day of the wedding, right? Do you refund the customer? Do you get rude with Uncle Tony? Please give me some advice because I'm not sure how I will handle this if a similar situation comes up again.
Holy crap - how painful!!!!!! I'm no wedding photographer (yet!) but must SAY congrats for restraining yourself* - must have been hard! xx look forward to seeing some shots ( minus uncle pain in the ar*#!!)
What a story.
Sorry, I am no wedding photographer at all, not even an aspiring one, but I have read your story with greatest interest and must say hats-off for your self-restraint, that Uncle Tony would have driven me up the wall!
And to have the cheek to ask your for a disc of all your pics! I mean... hallo!?!?
By the way, when you do weddings or other events ... do you sell your entire discs or only prints?
And those who shoot film: does the couple also get the negatives later?

Sorry to be derailing your thread here, Grym, just wondering out loud in connection with "your" Uncle Tony even daring to ask you for the disc (which is like handing out the negatives, I should say - you seem to lose every right to your photos...)
WOW I cant believe you went through that.. He was VERY rude and not *Professional* at all.. You did the right thing by staying calm and doing what you could to get some good photos... I cant wait to see your photos..
After being there about 30 minutes some guy just showed up with a bunch of cameras around his neck and tried to hire himself to the family as the photographer - I didn't run into him until he was leaving. It was interesting because I couldn't imagine trying to last minute solicit people to be their wedding photographer.

I was about to do the same thing this saturday. I was shooting a festival and my friends for fun and a wedding party was making pictures in the park.

They didn't seem to have a "serious photographer" - the bride was posed by a bridesmaid with a miniature point and shoot. I was about to approach, but in all probability they had some photo coverage during the ceremony.

BTT: As to the whole story - you're a much nicer person I am.
I was reading a thread (on another forum) about a similar situation.

A lot of pro wedding photographers put a clause in their contract that says something to the effect that...they are the official photographer. Some even reserve the right to pack up and leave if other shooters are interfering.

The best thing to do (IMHO) is to discuss this with the client before hand. It might be the Bride and/or groom, the bride's parents, the wedding coordinator etc. If you are to be the official photographer, then they should acknowledge your authority as such. If you have to ask/tell someone to back off...then the clients should (hopefully) back you up. Especially if the other shooter is causing your shots to be less than they could be.

When taking the formals need to confident and in charge. You have to command the attention of your subjects. As you have found's no good if the subjects are looking every which way.

You don't want to be a jerk if there are family members present who want to take may be in your best interests to allow them some time to do long as they do not interfere with your job.

You are in kind of a tough situation here...because you were doing this for free. You tend to get less respect and it makes it harder to be in charge. If, on the other hand, they had paid you $2000...they would probably be more inclined to listen to you when you tell them that "uncle Tony" is ruining your shots.
Big Mike said:
You don't want to be a jerk if there are family members present who want to take may be in your best interests to allow them some time to do long as they do not interfere with your job.

Mike, as usuall, you've said it well. When this begins to happen, I ask everyone to wait until I finish. I WILL NOT continue until all cameras are holstered. After getting my shot, I ask if anyone else would like to do one and I wait a brief moment for them to finish. If I'm feeling really charitable, I might even make a few photos with Mom's camera for her.

I don't think you'll very often come across someone as rude as this guy. I think the Bride and her sis having a spat at the rececption is a good indicator that you're in for some other worries anyway.

I agree... you did well to keep your cool. You're a better man than me.

The most effective thing I've learned (works with vidiots as well) is to stand VERY close, and point your flash into their face, then blast away. They will move, I promise.
You could try "accidently" bouncing the flash off Uncle Tony's cornea. That should keep him busy for a while. :lol:
I thought this idea was funny for when you have people shooting over your shoulder. Put an extra flash on an optical slave and point it back at them...that way, when their flash fires, all they will get is a blown out image.
LOL. I never use direct flash exept for in major sunlight, so this works REALLY well. I've done it a few times and it works great. You can't believe how fast Uncle Bob and the Vidiots will move.
Either that or I start screaming. I mean bigtime screaming that I can't do my job. I'll tell Uncle Bob that the bride doesn't give a rats if he doesn't get the shot, but I will surely get a call if I don't. Between the two things, that normally works.
I'm pretty dang defensive about it, and I don't mind being an a$$ because I'm the one who has not only the contract, but the responsibility. No one is gonna get ****ed if Uncle Bob misses the shot. No one is gonna get ticked off when Uncle Bob's exposure is screwed up by some point and shoot flash. I go crazy when this happens, and I am VERY vocal about it.
Vidiots are a whole different story. I've worked with some FANTASTIC videographers....joys to work with. But I've also worked with consumer handheld kids who have no idea. These people feel my full brunt. I will elbow them out of the way, stand my ground, blast them with flash, and if worst comes to worst have the bride take a stance. I'ts a last ditch effort, but it works. Nowadays, I have the couple sign a contract giving presidence over uncle bob and the occassional vidiot. All I have to do is whip out the contract and they usually give me leeway.....and I don't have to bother the happy couple.
But as said earlier, I don't have a problem being totally pushy when I need to.
Just talking about vidiots, this doesn't quite fit in but is a short story. My friend does wedding video (check him out at and he was shooting a wedding and the bride was driving up to the chapel and he is videotaping it and the photographer comes up and he asks her if he needs to move so she can get her shot and that if she gets in front of his camera he can always edit it later. She replies "Honey, I have 8 hours of editing just like you." and then proceeded I guess to be generally rude to him the remainder of the event...but the biggest thing is that she puts video editing on the same time frame as photo editing....when it is a huge difference. And personally, I'm spending a lot more than 8 hours editing...but that may just be because I didn't take the shots as good as I should have initially....

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