Ken Rochon was not the official, professional photographer at a recent wedding in Maryland: he was the DJ. Still he took a couple hundred photos and, with the couple's permission, shared them on his entertainment company's Facebook page.
He credited the professional photographer and linked to her Facebook page, but photographer Carly Fuller wasn't happy about having additional photos of the wedding posted so publicly.
"I love cross promotion but unfortunately no other professional company may take photographs during the event," Fuller told PetaPixel. She asked Rochon to take the photos down, and eventually got the newlyweds involved; they asked Rochon to comply with Fuller's request, and he did so.
A minor tiff between two wedding-industry professionals? That doesn't exactly sound like national news, but the incident ignited a widespread discussion that became known as #WeddingPhotoGate.
The incident touched a nerve among professional photographers, who have had an increasingly hard time protecting their rights in a digital age.
There have always been amateur shots taken alongside professional wedding photos, but amateur equipment in the pre-digital era couldn't come close to competing with professional equipment, whereas today, semi-pro setups are available for as little as a few hundred dollars.
There's still no substitute for the skill and experience of a professional photographer, but when a semi-pro like Rochon can post an entire gallery literally overnight—before the official photographer even has time to make an edit—some couples may start to wonder whether they even need to hire a pro.
Rochon's contract for the event included a common clause mandating exclusivity: "It is understood Carly Fuller Photography is the exclusive official photographer retained to perform the photographic services requested."
In the wake of the incident, Fuller explained to PetaPixel that she found Rochon's presence with a professional camera to be intrusive and confusing for guests at the wedding. She accused Rochon of "photobombing my ceremony photos."
Rochon, for his part, says he was almost always at his DJ station (and the couple were happy with his work there, tipping him an extra $300). In a statement titled "Freedom to Capture Love," he wrote that his company aims to support photographers by spreading the word about their work. They do so, in part, via photography—which is either appropriate or ironic, depending whom you ask.
"I'm sure 90% of photographers are cool about us promoting them at an event," wrote Rochon in his statement, "but unfortunately there is a segment that believes we are a threat to their industry."
In a much-liked comment on Rochon's post, a reader offers a rejoinder: "Would you be able to walk on to a movie set, starting filming the same scenes as the production company, make your own movie and release it to the public just to boost social media engagement? Absolutely not."
Still, very few couples are likely to take the Prince-like step of telling their guests to keep their phones in their bags—so, as Rochon notes, amateur photography at events where professionals are also working seems inevitable.
With new-model cell phones taking photos that are good enough to splash across giant billboards, where's the line between Ken Rochon and Aunt Sally? That may be a question that it's increasingly challenging for couples, and wedding industry professionals, to answer.