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A Painful Lesson in Symbiosis: What to do when a Wedding Guest is all up in your Grill - PPA Today

A Painful Lesson in Symbiosis: What to do when a Wedding Guest is all up in your Grill

There are three types of symbiotic relationships among organisms. Mutualistic relationships benefit both organisms involved because the two organisms of different species work together.

Bees and flowering plants are a good illustration of a mutualistic relationship. The bees get to eat and the flowering plants get to reproduce, therefore everybody wins.

In commensal relationships one of the organisms benefits while the other organism is unaffected, as in the example of remora fish and sharks. A remora clings to the shark and uses it for transportation. It also eats the little scraps of food that float by as the shark is feeding. In this way the remora benefits from hanging onto the shark but the shark is unaffected by the remora's clingy presence.

Lastly, there are parasitic relationships. Ominous sounding, isn't it? You're right to feel alarmed. In parasitic relationships, one organism (the parasite) lives off another organism (the host) harming it and in some cases even causing its death! A disturbing analogy of a parasitic relationship would be the relation of Camera One and Camera Three.

Nodding your head in agreement? Confused? Allow me to clarify.

When Trish and I are shooting the formal photographs at weddings we refer to each other jokingly as Camera One and Camera Two. I am Camera One because I actually take the photographs during this portion of the day. I am responsible for composition, exposure, and execution of the photographs. Trish (Camera Two) with her shot list, wrangles the families and bridal parties, organizes them into pleasing groupings and takes lovely B-roll candids while the main photographs are being shot. In addition to Camera One and Camera Two, there is ALWAYS a Camera Three.

Camera Three is a wedding guest with a good camera. Camera Three hangs around while we snap our formal portraits, like the aforementioned remora, gobbling up what leftover photo bits they can scavenge. Annoying, but no real harm done to Camera One.

Not this weekend though my friends. This weekend, Camera Three crossed the line from commensal into full-blown parasitic, maiming Camera One and certainly adversely affecting Camera Two. Here's how it went down...

Upon arriving to the ceremony site I immediately spotted Camera Three (and his 70-200mm lens) eyeing me from a distance. Although I did my best to avoid his penetrating gaze, Camera Three made his way across the lawn to position himself just to the left of me. In situations like this I find it's best not to formally acknowledge the presence of Camera Three. I stood fast, my eyes fixed straight ahead, waiting for the bride to emerge at the top of the aisle for her grand entrance.

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My tactic didn't work. As the bride began her procession and I lifted my camera to my face, Camera Three decided to engaged me verbally.

Talking to the side of my head he asked, "Is this where you plan to stand? Really? I would have thought you'd stand at the front of the aisle. Well, just so you know, I plan to stand right here."

I nodded slightly, careful not to break my concentration on the bride but just enough not to be completely rude. I thought, here we go. We've got a live one.

Things went from bad to worse to downright bizarre during the formals. I have been shooting weddings for 19 years. In nearly two decades I have never encountered such a situation. Maybe like viruses, the Camera Three's have developed into a new strain of super bug. The disapproving looks given by Camera One and Camera Two that would have normally driven off Camera Three in the past had absolutely zero effect in deterring him from his single-handed hostile pursuit of hijacking the formal photographs.

As usual, we had a list of shots to get through and not a lot of time to do them. Unfortunately, each time I would shoot a group and Camera Two (Trish) would move in to set up the next group Camera Three would jump in and stop the action so he could get his shot.

"Wait! Just a few more. Move back into position. Oh, straighten that bowtie! Okay, ONE... TWO...," he'd shout. Trish and I stood there mouths hanging open in disbelief while he was shooting.

After a handful of his interruptions I couldn't take it anymore. Acutely aware the eyes of my clients and their families on me I said, "This isn't going to work for me. I don't mind you taking the photos but you can't keep stopping the action. We have time constraints and you are making it difficult to keep on schedule."

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Camera Three was indignant. "Then how am I supposed to get the shots?! The mother of the bride asked me to do this!" he insisted.

Oh great, I worried. Now I've offended the bride's uncle or someone equally as important.

Seeing no graceful way out of the confrontation happening in front of my clients I offered, "You should stand right next to me while I am shooting then. Take the shots at the same time that I am."

What happened next can only be described as "synchronized shadowing." Camera Three took my advice quite literally. If I moved left he moved left. If I moved right he moved right. If I crouched down... you guessed it, he crouched down. He had breached my personal space, but at least the photos were humming along. That is until he went Mike Tyson on me...

He didn't bite my ear off exactly but when I turned to look over my shoulder his lens hood was so close to my head that it scraped all the peach fuzz off the back of my ear. That's when Camera Two stepped in, "Sir, you have got to back off you are smothering Camera One."

After a tense moment, Camera Three, satisfied with his photo plundering, retreated to the cocktail hour for some chimping.

Believe me, I am not one to shy away from photo related confrontation. Trish has often been surprised by the creepy calm lecturing and finger wagging I have bestowed upon drunken wedding guests, random obnoxious bystanders, fellow vendors and in some cases security guards. Something about this guy really threw me for a loop though. Was it his complete unprofessionalism coupled with his professional camera? Was it the fear that I would upset my clients by getting into it with him in front of them? Was it the risk of insulting an important member of the family? Was it caution over acting like too much of a photo diva? I guess it was all of the above.

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After the formal photographs finished I had a few minutes to myself to ponder how I could have handled the situation differently. I was mad with myself for allowing Camera Three to treat me so disrespectfully.

As I stood rubbing my raw ear and beating myself up for being so passive the groom appeared. "I wanted to apologize for that guy during the photos. He was crazy! He's like the mother of the bride's co-workers husband or something. I guess she asked him to take some photos because he's a yearbook photographer. The bride and I were getting really uncomfortable and upset about him but you handled it so gracefully and professionally. I just wanted to thank you."

I felt better. Sure, my ear is a little shredded. Yes, my ego is a little bruised. At least I didn't look like a crazy jerk. Trish and I looked tolerant and professional. Our lack of action toward Camera Three made his ridiculous actions look all the more inappropriate in the eyes of our clients. To be respectful of them I needed to ignore Camera Three's disrespect of me. My obligation lies in creating beautiful photographs for my clients not in throwing my weight around.

As the night went on the father of the bride and the best man also gave us a pat on the back for our professionalism and a thank you for our hard work. After a while, Camera Three finally laid down his long lens to join the party. It just goes to show that a professional camera does not a professional make.

Professional wedding photographers, good luck out there battling the parasitic Camera Three's of the world this wedding season. Just when you feel like pitching a fit remember to go the way of Ghandi. Practice some nonviolent resistance and make yourself look like a true professional. 

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on May 12, 2014 11:23 PM.

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