Vendor-photographers are a new trend in event photography

Guerilla-style marketing technique

As the power of visual marketing and social media is increasingly recognized by small businesses, photographers in the event and wedding industry are witnessing a new trend. Vendors are hiring their own photographers or tasking their staff to work as photographers during events and weddings and sharing the images instantly, or near instantly on websites and social media.  Baltimore wedding The Elm

These vendor-photographers are generally less experienced (or completely inexperienced) and less familiar with a professional photographer’s workflow during a wedding or event.  They are often fiercely combative about their “right” to photograph a client’s event, with or without the client’s knowledge.  Supporters of this marketing technique cast themselves as victims of a cruel and difficult market where it’s impossible to gain clients, and necessary for them to do this kind of self-promotion. There are catchy slogans like “freedom to capture love” “Gifts are Gifts” and “free the photograph” that attempt to frame their efforts as an extra gift to clients.  There’s even a and even a catchy hashtag #weddingphotogate on Twitter and Facebook.  And there is an increasing effort from photographers to educate clients and vendors about the damage these vendor-photographers and their new marketing technique is having on client’s experiences, and photographer’s work (see linked articles below).

Risks and impact

During a recent northern Virginia wedding, Jessica and Brian Montrose hired the usual array of vendors for their intimate family wedding.  They felt “violated” and “overloaded” when nearly all of their vendors chose to send their own photographers to the event. In addition to the photographer that they spent months researching and selecting, their other vendors collectively sent along three more amateur photographers who interfered with their professional’s work. “The photographer we hired spent loads of time helping us get comfortable in front of the camera before the wedding. We arrived at the venue to see the DJ, florist and caterer all brought their own photographers. Jess spoke to two of the extra photographers and they refused to leave, saying it was required.  The florist still hasn’t removed the pictures from their website, saying they own the copyright, since they took the pictures. We didn’t give these people access. We felt surrounded by paparazzi, instead of having a quiet family wedding.”

Rachael Spiegel, a Maryland area event photographer specializing in bar and bat mitzvahs, explains that clients are not always aware of these additional photographers and may not be given a chance to refuse their ad-hoc services. During an event that she was hired to photograph, the DJ was focused on capturing the action instead of doing his job as a DJ: “While the parents were in another room for cocktail hour,  the DJ spent most of the time the kids were supposed to be dancing and playing games having them make a promo for his company instead. He had the kids shout “I love xyz dj company!” over and over while he shot a promo video. The parents had not been asked in advance, or informed on site this was going on.”

This raises some important privacy concerns for clients, but it also has some significant impact on photographer’s contracts, our ability to perform our job, and our ability to earn a living based on our work.

Vendor-photographers can also wreack havoc with the hired photographer’s contractual obligations, says Chris P. a New York area photographer who prefers to remain anonymous.  “…the videographer’s photographer managed to step on my lens bag during the ceremony, right before the first kiss.  My gut reaction, to rescue $10,000 worth of gear, meant that I missed the first kiss shots.”

On it’s own, interfering with a photographer’s ability to perform their job (tortious interference) is actionable in the courts.  One recent case focused on a photographer’s exclusivity clause, that granted the hired wedding photographers exclusive access to photograph the event.  Wedding photographers Jennifer Lindberg and Jennifer Nichols were sued by another photographer  Jerry Hayes, because Hayes wanted to photograph the same event and argued that he couldn’t be prevented from doing so because of the photographer’s contract with the client.  In their counter-claim, the courts found in favor of Jennifer and Jennifer and they were awarded $750,000 by a jury (which later was later reduced to 100,000).  Hayes also started an extensive email campaign with wedding vendors about the dispute and posted details on Facebook—which gave rise to Lindberg and Nichols’ counterclaims.

Vendors turning to social media to vent their frustrations is nothing new. When vendors, social media marketing companies and vendor-photographers set out to slander, destroy or harm a photographer’s business, this guerrilla-style marketing technique becomes more serious.


Exclusivity clauses are essential

Most wedding and event photographers have an “exclusivity clause” in their contract that grants them the access to the event, and ensures that they are the sole business at the event, hired to capture still images. These clauses are not new, nor are they exclusive to event and wedding photographer’s contracts. They are legal and they allow clients to be protected, and allow photographers earn a living by creating something unique.

A sample clause look like this:  (The photographer) will act as the sole and exclusive photographer retained by Client to photograph the event.  No other professional photographers, aspiring photographers, or other companies, will be permitted to photograph during the time that (The Photographer) is photographing.)

Additionally a contract may specify what will happen if another professional, or company crashes the party, interferes with the photographer, or works during the same event: “If Client allows another professional photographer or company to document any portion of the event, the Photographer has cause to discontinue photography coverage of the event, with no refunds or additional compensation provided. The Client authorizes the Photographer to instruct any other vendor, or photographer to cease and desist any photography activities that impede the Photographer’s ability to perform the agreed upon services.”

The purpose of these exclusivity clauses are to protect a client’s needs and desire to have professional imagery, on their terms; and for professional photographers to perform their contracts and earn a living.  These clauses do not generally apply to guest-photographers. Granny is still free to take a snapshot of the flower girl, but vendor-photographers should not be providing additional coverage of an event in an effort to promote themselves.

Additional reading on this topic:

Why #weddingphotogate is worth discussing

How we won a 6-figure verdict against a Vendor-photographer

What should photographers do about other vendors taking pictures during weddings?

Why #Weddingphotogate is a symptom of a bigger problem

Hiring a Wedding Photographer? A Disturbing “Trend” Brides MUST Beware of, the “Vendor-Photographer”!!

When This Photographer Posted Wedding Pics To Social Media, Mayhem Ensued (this article has a follow-up article: Event Photography, Client Support And The Law)

DJ Sparks Outcry from Photographers After Shooting and Sharing Wedding Photos

Dealing with unruly vendors: Grace under fire!

Youtube Video: #Weddingphotogate


  • Love this as well as all your post Kat! Valueble information 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Well written and thank you for sharing such educational tips!ReplyCancel

  • Great article! thanks for posting it. Luckily we already have it in our contract and so far we haven’t had an issue like this.ReplyCancel

  • Mike Yost

    If you are a photographer and you think it can’t happen to you, think again. Already here in Florida, I have experienced this a few months back. These “people” are rude, obboxious and somehow believe they are the most important reason to be there. I have been lucky that I could and did politely “shoo” them away. I asked my couple if they knew this person, and I put two and two together and asked them to leave. They had no choice but to comply and did so quitely.ReplyCancel

  • Paula Anne Brown

    Thanks for writing about this. I’m a wedding photographer and had two weddings last year that were affected by amateur gig photographers. Friends of the bands booked had been asked to come and photograph each wedding. This meant that the amateur photographer was in the couples first dance photos, on the dancefloor.
    I had another incident very recently where the dj wanted to record first dance on his iphone so he is the only person besides the couple on the dancefloor during the first dance photos!ReplyCancel

  • I’ve had the same situation as Paula with other suppliers. The DJ shoots stills and or video and Ive also photobooth staff video the first dance as well as other parts of the wedding dancing.ReplyCancel

  • Some of the vendors do think that taking photos for free and post them online (facebook, website etc) is a good thing, in June this year I photographed a wedding where the bride was very upset when she saw her wedding photos on the venue website, in the mean time they took them down but Im sure the bride will not recommend the venue to any of her friends.ReplyCancel

  • Interesting post, I haven’t experienced this in any impactful way just yet however I did notice a DJ once who was running back and forth to his table while taking all kinds of photos. He didn’t do it around me so I didn’t think much of it until reading this. The potential for issue is certainly there.ReplyCancel

  • David Cruz

    not really. this has been going on for years in the Hispanic market, well as long as digital and portable printers have been around. At the church, during Catholic quinceaneras and baptisms, they have have a guy taking photos of everyone! paying no attention to you the hired photographer, then after the ceremony, is slangin’ his ‘lil keychains with their photos on it, and 5×7’s. They then scare people they’ll just throw them away in a few minutes. lol.

    Venues tend to have them too, same gig. guy roams around taking photos at ten bucks a pop, gives guests dark crappy 5×7’s.

    It sucks, because this has been going on for years, guests (when in a Hispanic party) attending a wedding, quince, baptism, etc., are expecting to pay me when I ask to take their photos. Or they refuse to take another photo, because the ‘offical’ photographer already took their photo. I show up with one camera, one prime lens (back in the bag) and try to be low key. These ‘professionals’ show up with a big O light, big O lens, battery grip and flash bracket…… lol.ReplyCancel

  • Alina Prax

    Thank you Kat! This article is great, it’s informative and clear. Really nicely done!ReplyCancel

  • […] – Most wedding and event photographers have an “exclusivity clause”  in their contract that grants them the access to the event, and ensures that they are the sole […]ReplyCancel

  • Ashley Durham

    I’m yet to personally encounter a vendor brinigng their own photographer to a wedding, thankfully. But photographers MUST share photos (with client permission) to other vendors – it’s just common sense and professional courtesy.ReplyCancel

  • John Armstrong-Millar

    Wow That’s insaneReplyCancel

  • Colin Glover

    What happens when you get people wanting to book two pro’s? For example, if an Asian guy marries an American girl, the parents of the guy will want to hire an Asian photographer to capture all the things important to that culture, whereas the other family might like an American traditional photographer. In this case exclusivity clauses wouldn’t work.ReplyCancel