This week, an article appeared on the website PetaPixel.com giving an account of a professional photographer with a few misgivings about a DJ who decided to take and share pictures at a recent wedding for which they were both vendors. A friend shared this article with us on Facebook asking my thoughts on the subject. And as you can imagine, I do have a few:
I will not go into too lengthy a detail about the article (DJ Sparks Outcry from Photographers After Shooting and Sharing Wedding Photos), as you may click here to read the particulars. However, basically, it describes a scenario where the hired, professional photographer contractually agreed with the bride and groom that there would be no other photographer present at their wedding. The wedding DJ then brought professional camera equipment and took and shared, on social media, upwards of around 200+ images of his own. Now, the DJ claims his pictures are intended only for promotional purposes and are part of his gift to the happy couple, however, the photographer disagrees citing the fact the DJ captured ceremony and wedding detail images as well. Basically, the photographer believes the DJ overreached a bit thereby placing the exclusivity contract in breach.
I have written several blogs pleading with folks to hire a professional photographer for their wedding (Reserve Uncle Bill a Seat! Bring in a Professional) and to also put the smartphones away and just enjoy the moments (Wedding planning underway? Take 3 tips from a professional photographer!). I even wrote one about not ever, EVER, relying solely on smartphones to capture your day (Smartphone weddings?…Time for a reality check!). However, I never envisioned such a thing as a DJ bringing professional camera equipment and infringing upon part of the hired photographer’s contract. I’ve seen DJs work, and I’m surprised they would even have much time to fiddle with such matters, but, then again, here we are.
So, my opinion on the matter? Well, it is two-fold. The first, to me, seems logically (and possibly legally) cut and dry: The DJ, claiming promotional use as a reason for his photos, should not have taken photographs outside of folks dancing and/or his own DJ station setup. I don’t see how the DJ’s photo of the bride and groom at the alter promotes his DJ services (or the photographer’s services either, as he claims, for that matter). At this event, when the photographer noticed the DJ’s overstep and asked him to put the camera away, the respectful thing to do would have been to say “sorry” and have done so.
On the other hand, it is hard to be cut and dry without knowing all specifics of the photographer’s contract. Does it preclude the use of smartphones and family members’ consumer grade cameras as well? Good luck with smartphone suppression in this day and age. Basically, at what point does it cross into breach territory? Here, the DJ might have a leg to stand on and the photographer might soon have an update to make to their contract details.
This brings me to my second, more etiquette-based opinion on this matter. It’s simply a matter of respect and professional courtesy. Let’s think about it this way: Why would you show up to a dinner party with a stack of pizzas when all they asked you to bring were chips and drinks? To me, a DJ is hired to play music, announce events, and run the light show. At no point would any reasonable person expect a DJ to whip out a high-end camera (and the article does display an image of him using what appears to be a high-end Canon lens) and begin capturing moments and details. Honestly, to do so, contract or not, is simply rude and inconsiderate.
In the article, a response letter from the DJ (On which I will kindly bite my tongue regarding several points) says he would have no problem if the couple had chosen live music or another DJ. But the issue is not who the couple hired to fill the role. The point is the role of photographer was already filled and the DJ decided to interject. On that front, I ask this: Would the DJ have minded if the photographer had brought her own speakers, set up across the room and started pumping tunes against his? I mean, nobody asked (or would have expected) the photographer to do that, but what if she felt it necessary to capture the mood or thought she could offer a special soundtrack to the bride and groom as a gift?
The photographer of this event notes several valid reasons against this, which I happen to agree with. Outside of contractual issues, others include the fact multiple high-end cameras in non-guest hands can be confusing as to who the actual photographer is. Also, this can lead to photobombing of the worst kind: Other photographers in the shot as they are trying to get the same shot you were hired to get.
Along with these, I would also include the problem of deflating the reveal. Following a wedding, guests’ unedited snapshots will often show up before the professional images (sometimes immediately on FB and Twitter). While this steals a little thunder from the photographer’s work, it is not enough to be worrisome. However, when there is someone walking around with a professional camera capturing the moments, they are directly competing with the photographer on multiple fronts whether they intend to or not.
Overall, personally, as a wedding photographer in an era of affordable DSLRs and built-in cameras, it is often already an uphill battle without the other vendors stepping on your toes as well. Now, with all this being said, if the DJ truly had an interest in capturing a bride and groom’s moments and wanted to offer a professional photography package alongside his DJ services, it is a free country. Do it! However, until the DJ contract includes photographer services, maybe he needs to have a little respect for the actual hired photographer.