The Threat of Being an Enthusiast Photographer

Have you ever seen the term “GWC” on photography forums?  Usually, you’ll see it if you hang around the places where they talk about wedding photography.  It stands for “Guy With Camera”, and generally it isn’t a positive term.  It is what the pros call a guest (and apparently usually a guy-guest) who brings his DSLR to a wedding and/or reception and shoots photos.  Some photographers don’t like GWC’s, while others seem not to worry about it.

I have to admit that I have been a GWC at a number of weddings.  I’m proud of it – my friends have some photographs they treasure, and generally my photos are more candid-type shots that I hope wouldn’t compete in any way with the official photographer’s ability to make his/her money.  My shots are personal, and they clearly aren’t professional, especially since in those days I wasn’t at the level of knowledge I am now about my equipment and especially exposure and composition.

I’ve also always made a point to stay out of the official photographer’s way, and I’ll usually try to find a quick moment to let them know that and that they are free to let me know if I need to move, stop shooting, whatever.

Then there is the other side.  For example, when your workplace knows you like photography and have some decent equipment.  I got asked to shoot a company event that will be attended by a senior executive and the Governor of our state, and I said “yes” before I even thought about it.

Now I’m thinking about it, and I’m worried.

Firstly, I don’t own an off-camera flash.  The good news there is my buddy is loaning me his SB-900, which was Nikon’s flagship pro-grade flash until a recent update to the SB-910.  The bad news is I haven’t used anything other than my pop-up flash for…ten years? YouTube has some help, but sorting through YouTube isn’t much fun.

Secondly, I won’t have much of a chance to see the venue before the event.

Thirdly – well, even if their expectations are low (they’d hire a pro if they weren’t), mine aren’t.  I want to do well.

So what is a nervous Enthusiast Photographer to do?  I go back to Scott Kelby and his Digital Photography series.  I’m guessing the sections on weddings will be the most helpful, but I’ll be scanning for flash techniques, too.  I’m also going to re-read Lighting 101 on, which is a great resource.

I’m probably worrying too much about it, and I’ve got great equipment, but photography is about getting it right, and I want to do that!  Suggestions welcome!

4 thoughts on “The Threat of Being an Enthusiast Photographer

  1. What’s wrong with being an enthusiast?? 🙂 When I attended my step-daughter’s wedding a couple of years ago I brought my D-SLR (of course!) and shot many candids as well as formal images. My daughter liked many of them more than what the “professional” took. So as far as that goes, never be afraid to get in there and shoot.

    Congratulations on being asked to photograph the company event. You’re “the man” so again, don’t be afraid to go in there and shoot all the images you can. People will ask you if you are the photographer. Yes!!!! Say so! Don’t worry about it. You’ll feel great being asked and answering. And don’t be surprised if you’re asked to shoot certain images or capture certain people. Go for it.

    As far as using a new piece of equipment goes (the flash) – practice, practice, practice! There is nothing worse than having a new piece of equipment and not knowing how it works. The important thing with the flash is to ensure that if it is to be the primary light source then make sure it is not on “Fill Flash” mode. Your images will be greatly underexposed if so, regardless of your camera settings. Practice a lot with it, both in main source mode and fill mode. You might find that you may have to over or underexpose in certain situations.

    My expectations of myself are always higher than others. You should, and do, feel the same way. Read up on what you can, but again, practice!

    Best of luck.

    • Gary – thanks very much for the comment and encouragement! There’s surely nothing wrong with being an enthusiast – what you are passionate about is part of what defines you IMHO, and after my family, for me that is photography, classic BMW’s and basketball. I’m better at some of those than others 😉

      I’ll have some chance to practice, but we have a family trip to one of those indoor water parks scheduled for Sunday/Monday, so my time/opportunity is a little limited. I’ll read up, experiment to the degree I can, and do my best. Pressure and time constraints can produce great results – it makes you focus on exactly what you need to do. We’ll see how this one turns out. 🙂

  2. You’re definitely worrying too much I’d say. You’ve got the gear and you know what you’re doing; you’re a little rusty on flash technique but you’ve got time to practice. Considering that most ‘event photography’ rises to the level of snap shots from point & shoots and iPhones, your photos are going to look like Cartier-Bresson! 🙂

    As for being GWC, I’m ALWAYS GWC. I’ve never had a pro say anything to me and wouldn’t much care if they did; however I did have my camera at a friend of my wife’s wedding. Sometime after the event we got together with the new bride and she mentioned to me that the photographer they’d hired was a little upset that I and a couple of other people had cameras there. I told her I hoped she didn’t pay the girl too much because she wasn’t much of a professional if she was made nervous by “amatuers” with cameras. 🙂

    • Adrian – I’m surely a GWC, and I don’t worry too much about offending the pro, but I also don’t want to interfere with him/her doing the job they were hired for. 🙂

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