No Hands In Front of Faces, Please!

It’s simply a fact that some people don’t like having their picture taken. Whether it’s because they think they come out looking ridiculous or that they want to be able to control every shot they appear in, there are men and women who just cannot stand appearing in candid photographs. At weddings, as you might imagine, this becomes a touch problematic.

At almost every wedding there comes a time — usually during the reception — when the photographer is making the rounds, snapping shots of wedding guests eating, drinking, dancing, and otherwise enjoying themselves. If the bride and groom happen to know a lot of photophobic individuals, what they end up with is a lot of pictures of hands covering faces or well-dressed people ducking out of the frame. It doesn’t exactly make for a great wedding album.

wedding guests

An acquaintance of mine who is planning to wed her girlfriend in the near future anticipated this problem and created a series of photographic rules for wedding guests. The main rule is as follows:

If you are at the wedding or reception, you are NOT ALLOWED to cover, duck, or otherwise hide your face when you think someone is trying to take a picture of you because you think you take such horrible pictures. I am freaking serious I will KICK YOU OUT. You will be playing on the swingset all alone with a piece of cake.

That seems entirely reasonable and understandable to me… well, except for the kicking out bit, which I take to be facetious. Really, who wants a bunch of shots of panicky-looking wedding guests waving their hands at the camera lens? But in case that seems less than reasonable to photophobes, my acquaintance drew up a number of sub-rules that clarify the main rule. Here are some of them:

1. Covering your face or, in some dramatic cases, hurling yourself under the table, is what makes a hideous photograph. Holy Batman almighty, there is nothing worse.

6. You won’t even be SEEING the pictures.

8. In fact, if you pull this Photos-of-me-are-so-hideous crap, we might blow your photo up to poster size and show it to everyone you know.

10. I mean, these are PROFESSIONAL photographers. Who only take good pictures. This is not your Uncle Joe with a disposable camera and the sun behind him so you have to squint and he shoots everyone from the top down so they look weirdly foreshortened and then you think that’s just how you looked because everyone says that the camera never lies.

What do you think? Is this an entirely reasonable thing for a bride and bride (or groom and groom or bride and groom or whatever you’re into) to ask of their wedding guests? While I wouldn’t suggest that soon-to-be newlyweds give their wedding guests specific instructions, I do think it’s a courtesy that guests should extend to their hosts automatically. After all, the snapshots the wedding photographer is taking will be some of the most precious keepsakes a couple will have, so it seems rather impolite to compromise them.

Don’t like having your photo taken? I have an easy solution for wedding guests! Simply avoid the photographer. Hint: That’s the person with the largish professional-looking camera equipment. Problem solved.

Photo credit: Make Pictures

15 Responses to “No Hands In Front of Faces, Please!”

  1. SusanC says:

    I know the feeling- My now Sister-in-Law is very shy and self concious about her weight, so she avoided the photographers and 2 friends who were putting together a short video. It’s sort of odd looking at them and not seeing her. But to her credit, she was nice about it and didn’t fuss or hold her hand up.

    I can see both sides of the story. People who are phobic around cameras should not be surprised if there’s a lot of picture taking at a wedding, and if they can’t stomach being captured in the occasional shot, they should probably bow out after going through the receiving line. Unless you are in the witness protection program, there’s no excuse for acting like a spoiled starlet.

    On the other hand, lots of other people are taking pictures, and sometimes even professional photographers can go to far in trying to get that perfect “candid” shot. Pictures of people eating are usually not terribly flattering. A word in advance to the professionals about how far to go, and perhaps who is camera-shy helps.

    And also, for the love of God, if you end up with an unflattering shot of someone, wedding or not, crop them out or don’t put it in your album. I actively monitor all my pictures and delete the ones that make people look bad- unless, of course, the other person is notable for disseminating bad pictures of me. In that case, I admit to the guilty pleasure of tit for tat.

  2. Toni says:

    I do think that learning how to look your most flattering in a photo is a good skill to learn. People are going to take your photo, so you might as well look as good as possible, yes? The best advice is to pull your shoulders back and have GOOD POSTURE! Secondly, angle your body and face slightly away from the camera. Personally, I like to jut out my hip closest to the camera and put my hand on that hip, but that might be too “pose-y” for some people. I also like to think of something funny to try and get a natural smile.

    As a (hobbyist) photographer, I can’t stand people who jeopardize photos of themselves by talking, pulling faces, or other antics, and then point to those photos as “proof” that they’re un-photogenic. I do my best to talk to my subjects and distract them so I can get natural smiles and relaxed body language. And I *always* tell them to sit/stand up straight “like their mothers taught them.”

  3. Fabrisse says:

    The pictures are supposed to be of the bride and groom. If I know the photographer is going to be taking pictures of the guests at the reception, then I will politely decline to attend.

    It has nothing to do with not liking to be photographed. Two people got into art school using photos of me.

    However, I get strobe induced migraines. Those flashbulbs are excruciatingly painful very quickly. So, brides, if you haven’t warned your guests that there will be lots of flash at your wedding it’s your own fault if they put their heads under their coats in order to relieve the pain.

  4. Raven1025 says:

    We had a pair of photojournalist style photographers at our wedding. They rarely used flash. We have scads of fantastic pictures of our friends and family, as the photographers were so covert, no one even noticed they were taking the photos. Wonderful moments of conversations, and smiles, and dancing. No one had a chance to make a weird face, or hide, as the photographer blended in. (and there weren’t any skeevey pictures, either!)

    However, we were at a friends wedding, where the photographer was trying to get such pictures, and was not covert. She planted herself in front of the subject (trying to look casual) and took forever to take the photo, with flash. I noticed her a couple of times long before she took the picture, and wasn’t sure if I should pose, or act natural, or what. That was awkward…especially during dinner. After a while, I was ready to hide.

  5. daisyj says:

    But is it really reasonable to require that your guests play along with your ideas, if it’s something they don’t enjoy? Is it worth making guests unhappy, for whatever reason, so that you can have something you want? What would you think of someone politely requesting that their picture not be taken? (Note: I am not particularly photo-phobic myself; it just seems rude for a host to insist that a guest make her- or himself unhappy in order to serve as a better set dressing.)

  6. bobbie-sue says:

    I was at a wedding last year where the photographer seemed to have a date with him, and as we have a lot of technophile friends, I just assumed that this was a guest with a large camera whom I should probably remember from university but couldn’t recognize. He didn’t ask if he could take my picture, just stuck a huge lens in my face. The result was me looking mildly horrified trying to pose for this acquaintance whom I didn’t recognize taking my picture. Subtle candids are definitely the way to go.

  7. daisyj: I don’t think that guests should sit still in front of the camera if it makes them uncomfortable! Like I said at the end of the post, it’s usually (added after reading bobbie-sue’s comment) fairly easy to tell who the photographer is and, if there’s only one, to avoid them during the course of the reception. There’s no way to avoid group shots — e.g., the dance floor crew, etc. — but a guest can certainly avoid being the sole subject of a photo with minimal effort. Alternately, a guest might see the photographer preparing to take their picture and politely ask them not to as opposed to doing a ‘hand in front of face’ post. It seems like an easier solution all around than the couple having to give the photographer a list of who would prefer not to be captured on film.

  8. It is cultural norm for people to have their picture taken at weddings. The Bride and the Groom have made a substantial investment in having a photographer at their wedding. They want to remember this day in pictures – especially who was there. The guests should relax and focus on the Bride and Groom and not themselves. Unless some one is of super start status and regularly hounded by the paparazzi, they shouldn’t get their panties all in an uproar about having their pictures taken. Any reputable photographer will only release images of superb quality, so no shots of grandma with spinach in her teeth or uncle Fred’s toupee falling off should be posted online. After all, a photographer’s job is to make their clients and their family look good! Relax people! Enjoy!

  9. daisyj says:

    NtB– Yeah, I guess I was just kind of offended by the idea of sending out a letter demanding that your guests do what you want “or else.” It seemed like an extension of this idea I hate, that the wedding couple are the stars, rather than the hosts, and that they have the right to reverse the traditions of hospitality. Maybe something a little more cajoling, like “We know we have the most gorgeous friends in the world and we want to have pictures of all your lovely faces, so please let our excellent photographer do his work,” or something would be better. You know, make it more like asking a favor than issuing a command.

    (And I’m totally not buying into the idea that just because the couple spent money on something, the guests must play along. I don’t care how much the DJ cost; I am damned if I’m doing the macarena.)

  10. KTB says:

    I completely agree with Curtis–my mother’s biggest complaint about my friend’s wedding pictures is that they all seemed to be of the bride and groom. She was adamant that the photographer get plenty of pictures of the guests at the reception and he did a fabulous job. Our friends and family look great, and both photogs were seriously unobtrusive. Aside from a handful of pics, I’m not sure some of the guests even knew they were being photographed!

  11. Myami says:

    I know I’m in the minority here, but I get fed up with the societal impulse to record every darn thing for enjoyment later – put your camera down, enjoy the moment. Don’t live it through a viewfinder.

  12. Nariya says:

    I’ve never even heard of this problem at a wedding. It seems childish to do something so self-centered and dramatic at an event that is so important to someone else–barring medical problems of course. The “I must cover my face” move just makes you an unnecessary center of attention.

    I have a friend who hates photos of herself, but she was kind enough to not make a fuss at my wedding. Perhaps she avoided the photographer quietly or something, or quietly requested they not shoot photos of her much. Frankly, I expect my family and friends to have at least that much composure. I’m not going to judge my friends when i see them in wedding photos. I just want to have memories of people having fun.

  13. Katie says:

    We have an agreement amongst our friends that the photophobic will pose nicely for one shot per event, and will be left alone after that.

  14. Valirae says:

    I duck out of shots as sort of an impulse. It’s not something I think about; I just do LOL. I’m not camera shy. Not even worried about how the picture’s going to look. There’s no reason for it.
    Once when I was at a rose garden with my boyfriend I stopped to look at this ginormous bleeding heart (it was bigger than me…so I had to get closer to see if it actually was a bleeding heart) and he turned the camera on as I was looking at a bloom and I heard the beep and hopped backward away from the bush before I even thought about it.
    If I’d thought, I’d have let him go ahead and take the picture. It would’ve been pretty, but no. I ruined it.
    Anyway, my point is : Not all of us are being divas when we avoid a camera 😉 Some of us are just silly heffahs that can’t help themselves.

  15. Billie says:

    Just an FYI, photophobia is a symptom of excessive sensitivity to light and the aversion to sunlight or well-lit places, not a fear of having one’s picuture taken.