There is a notorious villain out there who can cause all kinds of problems at events like weddings, graduations, or big parties. Many photographers refer to him as "Uncle Harry." Harry has a camera just like the photographer who was hired to capture the paid event. He is out to prove that he is just as good as the paid photographer. He makes himself a nuisance and causes all kinds of mayhem. Event photographers cringe when they realize that an Uncle Harry has arrived at one of their events. You do NOT want to be confused with him. So, how do you avoid this label when there is a big event like a college graduation or a wedding, and you are asked (or want) to bring your camera? If you find yourself in this situation, think how you'd feel as the paid photographer. They have a job to do, and they don't want any distractions. I've had the same feelings when an Uncle Harry came to one of my events. Last weekend, my daughter and her boyfriend graduated from Eastern Virginia Medical School, and I was asked (and wanted) to capture the moment. But I didn't want to be that guy.
You can diffuse the situation if you recognize it and act as professionally as the paid photographer. I've found the easiest way to avoid this situation is to arrive early and seek out the photographer. If you explain the situation and assure her that you won't interfere with her job, you'll usually get a wary, suspicious "We'll see."
I arrived at Norfolk Scope 90 minutes early and found the set up. The new doctors would walk off the stage, and pose in front of an EVMS banner for a quick snap with their diplomas, before making their way back to their seats.
The photographer and her assistant had prepared well: they had a location away from the central stage; taped out a posing position to ensure quick positioning; and were testing their flash pack when I arrived. I told her who I was and what I wanted to do. I promised that I would tell her before I shot and that I would only shoot (with my resulting flash) after she had. I told her I wasn't an Uncle Harry. Once her role and seniority were established, she relaxed a bit. By the end of graduation, we were exchanging business cards.
After the ceremony, I had the privilege and fun of being the primary photographer for the families and at the graduation party in Virginia Beach.
Allow me a few lines to congratulate my daughter who declared, at the age of five, that she was going to be a doctor. She never wavered and has been in school for 24 years following her plan. Our family is proud of, but not surprised by, her success.