Friday, April 15, 2011

Dealing with GWCs

I learned a new word the other day: GWC (guy-with-camera).  It's a word used derisively by some pro photographers, pretty much synonymous with Uncle Bob.  (Ladies, you're not off the hook -- there are also MWCs moms-with-cameras.)  I suppose I would be deemed a GWC, and thought about suggesting a solution for pros.
 
Pro Perspective
I'm not a pro but from what I understand, some pros who shoot events don't like guests who are so enthusiastic in taking pictures that they crowd out the pro and get in the way of good shots, making the pro's job much more difficult.  I can certainly empathize.  During our wedding a few years ago, my well-meaning brother and uncle were getting in the way of the photographer we hired.  I had to remind them to move out of the photographer's way.
 
Another reason some pros don't like GWCs is because some GWCs are mediocre or unskilled photographers, but they offer their services as a photographer to the host/bride/groom, who end up with pictures that don't do justice to the wedding or event.  Meanwhile, the pro photographer, who could have given better quality photos, loses a sale.  A losing proposition for the host and the pro.
 
A GWC's Perspective
When I go to a party or wedding, I like to take photos.  Both to improve my skills and hopefully come up with some images the hosts will like.  In deciding whether to take photos, I try to observe the context.  If the hosts have hired a pro, then I'm going to assume the pro will serve their needs and I will take only photos for myself (e.g. taking a photo of our toddler, etc.).  Such was the case, for example, at this pool party
 
If the hosts look like they could use a photographer but they don't have one, then I will tend to shoot a little more, but I still make sure to respect boundaries and stay reasonably discreet - I won't do anything a guest shouldn't be doing.  Hence my low key (ha!) approach at this egg hunt party.  (Alternatively I might ask the hosts beforehand if they'd like me to help them take photos.)
 
A Suggestion
If you're a pro and there are GWCs around, here's a suggestion for dealing with them: consider using them as free labor.  (Definitely ask your client/host if it's ok first of course.)  But my point is that GWCs are usually just trying to be helpful, so why not ask them for help?  
  • Maybe they can be a VAL for one or more shots, or they can hold a reflector, etc.  From the GWC's perspective, they would probably be happy to participate in the making of a photo.  I know I would :)
  • Ask them to help you herd guests or keep other guests out of the shots.
  • Maybe you can even ask them to take photos from particular perspectives, or photograph particular subjects you didn't have time to shoot.
Of course you wouldn't actually rely on GWCs (i.e. ask them to do anything mission-critical), but at least by redirecting their enthusiasm, you can reduce distractions to you and maybe as a bonus get some help in the process.