Ask the Experts: What If My Photographers Can’t Shoot the Ceremony? With James and Lianne

This afternoon we have another edition of Ask the Experts and James & Lianne are here as resident photography experts to discuss being banished from the ceremony room, taking photos of the back of your head and what to discuss with your celebrant. Have you been told your photographer’s can’t shoot the ceremony? James & Lianne have lots of advice for you on the subject and I hope you find it useful in your planning.


Ask the Experts: What If My Photographers Can't Shoot the Ceremony? WithJames and Lianne Ask the Experts: What If My Photographers Can't Shoot the Ceremony? With James and Lianne

There are two things that really vex wedding photographers the world over: not getting fed (that’s another story in itself) and being told they’re not allowed to shoot the ceremony. Wait, what!? For what possible reason wouldn’t your photographer be permitted to capture the pivotal point of your wedding day? Well, it perplexes and disheartens us in equal amounts too but, it happens all to often.

For most people, we suspect that the moment you see each other at the end of the aisle for the first time, regardless of whether your ceremony is religious, humanist or civil, is one of the most memorable moments of your wedding day. It would be a shame to miss those reactions. Likewise, that first kiss at the very moment you are declared married, equally a memorable moment you’d like capturing for posterity. Yet, many celebrants, religious and non-religious have in our experience put an out-right ban on us as photographers being able to capture those moments. The reasons are broad, I’ll list a few that are the most common:

  • “The photographer distracts the couple”
  • “The photographer distracts everyone”
  • It’s a data-protection infringement”
  • “It’s about the marriage/a higher being/the couple, not the photographs”
Ask the Experts: What If My Photographers Can't Shoot the Ceremony? With James and Lianne

Okay, ignoring the completely ridiculous 3rd one, these reasons all stem from the celebrant and not the couple themselves. Any photographer worth their money is going to be 100% discrete, isn’t going to be moving around and is going to simply get on with their job whilst the celebrant gets on with theirs. After all, your celebrant is paid to do a job just as much as the photographer is, so why should the celebrant be able to tell the photographer what and what not to do?

Ask the Experts: What If My Photographers Can't Shoot the Ceremony? With James and Lianne

Unfortunately, there’s little we as the photographers can do faced with this last minute information on the day. And if you weren’t prepared for it, you may end up wondering why your photographer is sat at the back of the congregation as you pass them as you head down the aisle. If we’re lucky, we’re banished to the back of the room/building and allowed to take some photos of the back of your heads. Hardly the dynamic, emotional photographs you were hoping for, ‘ey? If we’re less lucky, we can be banished literally to the outside, often with someone to babysit us to make sure we don’t try anything sneaky like trying to do the job we’ve been paid to do! (Yes, this really happens).

Ask the Experts: What If My Photographers Can't Shoot the Ceremony? With James and Lianne

If we do get banished, in our personal experience, we’ve been approached every time by the celebrant after the ceremony and told ‘we were brilliant’ and ‘were so unobtrusive’. Every time! So, why couldn’t we be brilliant up front, being unobtrusive and actually doing what we’ve been paid to do? Well, a lot of celebrants have had bad experiences with bad photographers of yesteryear and that doesn’t help. So, to combat this, we get to the point of this post and how you can ensure this doesn’t happen to you and your photographer and actually get the photos you want… not just the back of your heads.

Here’s a checklist for you:

  • Ask your venue / vicar / registrar office if photography is allowed, and crucially is it allowed throughout the ceremony. (No photographs during the exchange of vows and signing of the register is, however, common and perfectly acceptable).
  • If not, why not? (They’d better have a good reason!)
  • If the answer is yes, you’re golden. Confirm where your photographer(s) will be permitted to stand and ensure that you’re happy with what they’ll be able to see of your wedding ceremony.
  • If your celebrant is adamant that the answer is no, we would urge you to tell them about your photographer’s, no doubt, unobtrusive style and that the majority of cameras these days have near silent shutters so there’ll be no clicking ‘distracting’ anyone.
  • If you’re told that your photographer is only allowed to shoot from the back, again, go stand there and see what they’ll be able to see. If it’s okay with you, fine. If you’re not happy, voice your opinion.
  • And if he or she is still being a stick in the mud and flat out refuses, tell your photographer. There’s nothing more disheartening than us arriving at a ceremony to be told to twiddle our thumbs at the back. There’s always a chance we might be able to convince them otherwise so that we can capture what’s important to you.
Ask the Experts: What If My Photographers Can't Shoot the Ceremony? With James and Lianne
  1. Of course, your celebrant is allowed their personal space during the ceremony and your photographer should never infringe upon this. No one loves a parrot with a camera on your celebrant’s shoulder! Your photographer needs a level of decorum and sensitivity to the most special day of your life. Pre-empting when to hold off for a few moments, relieving the pressure of the clicking shutter whilst you regain your composure as you read your vows can make a real difference to your day whether you noticed it or not. But assuming you’re confident in your photographers sensibility, there’s no reason for you not to have a beautiful visual record of your ceremony. So ask questions, visualise what you’ll actually be getting and if it’s important to you, make waves to ensure everyone can work together to do what you’ve paid them for.

Hopefully this is helpful!

Big Boho Love,

James and Leanne x




www.jamesandlianne.com / www.jamesandlianne.com/blog/FACEBOOK / PINTEREST / I: @james.lianne / T: @jamesandlianne

james & lianne photoJames & Lianne have been a couple for 14 years and photographers for 6 scooping up awards along the way. They love shooting relaxed, fun weddings and have a penchant for all things analogue, especially film photography.



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    Such good advice here. It’s amazing some of the stories you hear from vicars or registrars about terrible photography etiquette.


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