Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Self-appointed wedding photographers—what a menace!

“When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts?” (Isaiah 1:12)

Conrad & Felistas on 2nd January 1988
Felistas and I got married in an era when photography was expensive business. You had to pay a studio for your film to be processed and printed before you could see your photographs. Everyone thought twice about pulling out their cameras to take shots at any event. Hence, many people left their cameras at home when they went for weddings.

Those days are long gone and the age of digital photography is now upon us. It costs nothing to take photos today because you simply download them on your computer and do with them whatsoever you please. Also, the prices of cameras have drastically reduced. Everyone and anyone can now own a camera—especially the point-and-shoot versions. Add to this the fact that even cell phones now have camera functionality, then you can well understand why digital photography is everyone’s business today. It is photography galore!

Sadly, what ought to be a blessing has become a curse—especially at weddings. When photography was expensive business, there would be one or at the most two individuals hanging around the couple saying their wedding vows, capturing every precious moment. Today, the “altar” is swarmed with so many camera men and women that those in the pews can hardly see the couple getting married. I mean, it is ridiculous! Even little boys and girls get cell phones from their parents and clog the front as they try their hand at amateur photography. Surely, this is not right!
Typical scenes today with the pulpit area swarmed by unofficial photographers

To begin with, everyone who has come for the wedding is entitled to see what is happening in front as the couple exchange their wedding vows and their rings. So, why should some people become “more equal than others” and obstruct other invitees from viewing the proceedings because they have taken on themselves a role no one has given them? Let everyone stay in the pews and enjoy the same privilege. It is only fair.

Having too many photographers also makes life difficult for the official photographer. There are very few positions for that perfect shot. And often the moment for the perfect shot passes very quickly. When everyone is clamouring for such positions at just the right moment you find that no one really gets that perfect shot, which is very unfair for the couple getting married. They have paid the official photographer a lot of money but they are not getting the quality of photos they are paying for simply because of the obstruction of those who have no business being in front in the first place. As one newly married couple complained, “At least if they sent you the photos they take, you would not mind. But you never see their photos!”

The perfect moment that must not be missed
Also, in photography, background matters. Hence, you find that decorators are paid handsome amounts to make the front of the wedding hall look beautiful. Sadly, when you have droves of photographers around the “altar” they destroy this beautiful background. They are rarely in suits and beautiful dresses, like the bridal party, but they appear on the photos—thus spoiling the beauty. Again, that is not fair. You may say that even the official photographers are rarely in suits. That’s true but remember they do not appear on their own photos because they stand behind their cameras!

Whereas I think it is impossible to prohibit the smuggling of cameras into the venues where the wedding ceremony is taking place, I think that we the invitees should respect the weddings of others and not go to the front—to the “altar” or pulpit area—unless we are part of the wedding procession. As God challenged the Israelites in Isaiah 1:12 to think hard about what they were going to do in the Temple (lest their going there becomes a curse instead of a blessing) we too need to give careful thought to what is required of us when we go for other people's weddings. If we want to take photos, let us not trample everywhere and spoil the event for others. Let us take photos from the pews. Instead of pushing one another for the perfect shot and thus obstructing others who have come for the wedding and frustrate even the official photographer, let us go early for the wedding ceremony and position ourselves in those pews that will give us the best vantage point when it comes to taking photos.
A perfect opportunity to take a photo--outside after the wedding
If you are late and the front pews are already taken up by others, there are three other chances which you cannot miss, even if you are seated towards the back. The first is at the start of the wedding as the bride is being brought in by her father, the second is at the end of the wedding when she is being taken out by her new husband, and the third is when the entire bridal party is lined up outside greeting friends and relatives before disappearing in their “just married” vehicles. For any unofficial photographer, surely that should be enough. After all, what you need is just a photo or two to prove that you were an eye-witness of the wonderful event!


  1. A simple answer: No photography during the service. After all, we are primarily there to worship God and celebrate His bringing these two together.

  2. Thank you Pastor Mbewe for speaking on my behalf too! You have thoroughly expressed the many frustrations that most people go through at some weddings when they can't even see the bride and groom that have made them gather. Some official photographers have ended up feeling discouraged with all the frenzy that goes on in the front. This is a serious distraction and unacceptable especially in the sanctuary.Without saying much; since you have already said it all, I would just encourage people to respect such worshipful events and not spoil the occasion, later on the memorable pictures.

  3. I think there is need for the Master of Ceremonies to announce at each wedding that only official photographers can come to the pulpit area to take photos. In addition large notices can be placed outsidde the church entrances informing everyone that the pulpit area is a no go area for unofficial photographers.

  4. Yes, your article is right on the money. I wonder how the couple themselves feel about all these 'professionals' swarming around their hallowed space, and the official photographers finding themselves swamped by 'unlicensed' competitors. To my relief, I have heard at least one pastor control the situation quite firmly. I also feel uneasy about the photographing or video-ing of our departed ones in their coffins during body viewing, but that is another matter altogether!