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Why Shooting Hugs & Mugs Can Be Fun and Profitable

Jim and I discovered something surprising about ourselves. When looking at our wedding photos, we realized that we would love to have more images of the people who came from all over the country to celebrate with us. It never occurred to me to ask our amazing photographers for “grip-and-grins,” but looking back, that was the only part of the coverage that was missing!  Some of our dearest friends don’t dance, and are more comfortable being in the background. Since they weren’t part of the main wedding “action,” they weren’t included in our wedding images.

So now, we intentionally photograph wedding guests because those images may be more meaningful to our clients than they – or we – even realize. Honestly, I used to think these types of images were boring, not artistic enough. Now, my mentality has changed. When I shoot these types of images at weddings, my goal is to put people in the pictures at ease so their comfort comes through, and results in an image that’s more beautifully-lit and composed than something they can create with their iPhones! We believe portraits of wedding guests are a perfect complement to our primarily documentary coverage.

We often have three team members at weddings, which allows one photographer to focus on shooting guest’s photos and collecting their email addresses. Meanwhile, the other two photographers cover everything else.

What’s our “secret sauce?”

It’s simple and discreet. We pass a special guest book around during the final hours of the wedding reception, when no major events are likely to happen. The book is beautiful; guest’s names and emails are added by hand. My husband approaches guests graciously and asks if they would like to be notified when the photographs are available online. This often occurs during a band break when having two photographers covering the wedding is plenty! Passing the special guest book lasts thirty to forty-five minutes. While passing the book, guests routinely ask to have their photo taken by whomever is carrying the book. It’s a win-win exchange.

When wedding guests request “hugs and mugs” (coined by my friend and colleague, Suzi Q, who is trying to start a re-naming revolution), we discovered that they are more eager to visit the event gallery and purchase photos. Guests walk up and ask us regularly during wedding receptions, “How will we get to see these pictures, will they be posted online?” Sometimes they ask to sign the book or they’re panicked that they didn’t get to sign it! This is especially true for people who don’t have an opportunity to get together often and/or had to travel to the wedding. They may forget to ask the bride to be included when the photos are released, and then they will never have the chance to view the images!

After the shoot, we create a “Happy People” image category in our Pictage event gallery, so guests know immediately where to go when they login to view images. They’re thrilled to see images of themselves organized in an easy-to-browse category!

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of our process:

  • Purchase special guest books. Our books are leather or linen, and are made by “Paperblanks.” We purchase them at stationary stores.
  • One of us passes the guest book during the latter half of the reception, during downtime.
  • When presenting the book to wedding guests, we tell them what it signifies, in addition to stating clearly at the top of each page, “Online Photo Notification for John and Jane’s Wedding.” There is a heading for their names and their email address. This helps since it gets noisy near the dance floor!
  • At tables, guests often pass the book between themselves. People who want to see the photos will sign the book.
  • One photographer stays close to the bride, so someone is always available when the bride requests any “hugs and mugs.”
  • We check-in with the couple’s parents to ask if they’d like any group pictures made at the reception.
  • Before the wedding is released, we carefully enter email addresses into the guest list on our client’s Pictage event galleries. When images are released, guests are notified by Pictage. They also receive a five-dollar print credit to encourage purchasing prints.

Small changes to your approach can yield big results. Our print sales increased dramatically when we implemented this simple “hugs-and-mugs” system on shoots. Try it – your clients will thank you and your prints sales might spike.

About Jennifer Lindberg:

Jenn Lindberg & Jim Pitts are a wife and husband team and co-owners of Jennifer Lindberg Weddings, based near Austin, Texas. In addition to loving the work they do, they are restoring a Stick Style Victorian House, and not getting quite enough sleep due to parenthood. Their current goal is to have their recently-adopted (and extremely cute) four-year-olds invited to be ring bearer and flower girl at a wedding, so they can see what Mom and Dad actually do at work.


The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!
The NEW ShootQ is Complimentary while in Beta mode for the next few months.  Enjoy!