TikTok Star Interrupts Wedding Photos, Stepping on Hired Photographer's Toes

A reader sent us in a tip to check out a photographer on TikTok that approached a wedding couple and took portraits of them. Is it wrong to do if the people you are approaching are already on a shoot with another photographer?

In this video, posted by the photographer himself, he approaches a just-married couple and tells them his plan while showing off his portfolio and social following. This is all while standing in front of the somewhat shocked wedding photographer the couple had hired. Wedding photography is usually very quick and high pressure, so the scene was a little uneasy to watch for me just, because I could not imagine being thrown off like this.

I reached out to Alex Stemplewski, a TikTok verified user who specializes in approaching strangers to take their portraits, to discuss the video and to get his perspective on what several other photographers found offensive.

His number one goal with his portraits of strangers has always been to leave them better than he found them and hopefully put a smile on their face. When he saw the beautiful wedding couple, he immediately wanted to do something special for them and send them off with some photos. Is it wrong for someone who has gained over seven million followers to assume they have what some people might desire?

What if I told you he was completely unaware of the faux pas he was about to make? Stemplewski has only done photography as a hobby for a year. Everything he has done was spontaneous with strangers or collaborations with other creators. He has never booked a photoshoot with a client. He is entirely unaware of the pressure on a professional wedding photographer and how stressful fitting everything in while staying on a schedule really can be.

@alex.stemp

I took a lot of heat for this TikTok where I interupted a newlywed photoshoot. Showing the full video to let you decide if what I did was wrong or not

♬ Up - Movie Theme - Giampaolo Pasquile

In the video, you can see that the total time taken away was two and a half minutes. This isn't the point of the reaction it received. One of our fellow writers who used to do magic told me of an old unspoken rule. Don't be another magician if someone else is already performing. Never steal the spotlight.

Even in speaking with Stemplewski, I'm not sure if he thinks there was a mistake in his etiquette or not. The first thing he said to the group was, "can I ask you a question," which could have been met with a "no, we are busy" or anything along those lines. Once there was no objection, a quick portfolio showing was followed by a brief photo session. The bride and groom were very gracious and in no way inconvenienced at the end of the day. They have a unique story to add to their big day.

The already on the job photographer was Bill Payne. He certainly kept his cool being thrown quite the curveball with the TikTok star showing up out of nowhere. Although Stemplewski claimed he meant absolutely no disrespect, he did reach out to Payne over the phone to apologize, and the two of them are okay with the situation. Payne stated that as long as the couple was okay with what was going on, so was he. According to Stemplewski, neither of the two are competitive photographers, so the idea of upstaging never crossed their minds. Stemplewski actually doesn't shoot client work and plans to send any referrals Payne's way. They will assure anyone there is no bad blood, and there is talk of future collaborations on the table. In retrospect, Stemplewski admits he could have done a better job leaving Payne better than he had found him.

Payne was quite shocked at the response the video has received. None of Stemplewski's previous videos ever dabbled in controversy. Still, this particular post had struck a nerve with every TikTok photographer out there and then beyond to every other social network from there. The TikTok post alone has 4.7 million likes, 12.4 thousand shares, and over 9,000 comments.

The top-ranked comments all point to this as a cringeworthy act of upstaging a fellow photographer. While I understand and get it, I'm not sure my set of values and standards align with the new wave of social media creators out there. I do know that Stemplewski has received a lot of hate and threatening messages, which is simply not cool. The mob mentality of the internet is way too real, and it seems to me like a newer artist might just see some humility and a lesson in what to do so other new photographers won't make the same mistake.

As you can see above, Payne had the wedding couple in good hands. Being an experienced photographer means being ready for anything and everything. While the video may have made for good TikTok content, it does show an example of what not to do. Stemplewski shard with me that the stats on the video showed a higher like-to-view ratio than most of his videos, meaning there was undoubtedly a level of support from the fellow TikTok community. You should never steal another person's thunder unless there is a dire reason to do so. In this case, some views or some social boost were probably not worth it.

I'm sure the photographer had good intentions and feels confident about his work. If you gave me millions of followers and a checkmark, I might feel the same. This seems to have been perceived by the majority as a violation of peer respect. It would be like a band showing up on stage to outdo the scheduled gig and publishing the humiliating video to their YouTube channel.

The photo community may have their own strong opinion, but if the other photographer and the couple are cool with it, does it matter? What do you think? Was the disruption warranted? Is the chance to say you were photographed by an influencer worth it?

Thanks to Stemplewski for taking the time to speak with us; if TikTok isn't your thing, check out his Instagram page.

Lead photo by Nicole Stuart.

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49 Comments

Alex Cooke's picture

I don't think the photographer was cool with it. He looked very annoyed, and it seems like he relented only to avoid a bigger confrontation in front of his clients.

Motti Bembaron's picture

Would you be cool with it? Good for him for keeping his cool, I wouldn't.

Alex Cooke's picture

No, I wouldn’t.

David Justice's picture

The last thing you want to do in front of clients is do something that makes them uncomfortable or changes their mood. It's incredibly tough to win them back once you've lost them. So of course the photographer was going to go with it. If he freaked out and went off on the guy, now his bride and groom are going to be uncomfortable. Thinking they were potentially next to upset the man.

Eric Snyder's picture

NOPE!! self-entitled millennial.

AJ L's picture

Looked at this guy’s Instagram. Is this garbage what gets you 7 million followers now? He has the ability to disarmingly walk up to random women and ask to take their picture, which is pretty difficult to do correctly, but then he just takes some ordinary blurry background shots with bad lighting and filters the crap out of them.

Brook Brown's picture

Stemplewski needs to grow up. Hopefully, this behavior will catch up with him.

Kudos to Bill Payne for managing this punk’s outrageous behavior with skill and class. He appears to be a better man than I.

Matt Williams's picture

I very much respect someone asking permission to photograph strangers, but this was incredibly inappropriate, rude, and unprofessional. Asking random people walking down the street - sure. Asking a couple in wedding attire who are WITH A PHOTOGRAPHER is insanely narcissistic and classless.

Pieter Batenburg's picture

It is really rude

Glem Let's picture

The guy is wrong on so many levels...
Rude
Disrespectful
Thoughtless
Egocentric

You don’t just jump into someone else’s Uber and say to the driver...‘I’ll drive... I want to leave them in a better place...’

For him then to call up the photographer and say ‘ I didn’t mean any disrespect to you....’ Well YOU DID... and flimsy apologies never make it ok.

Unfortunately as we all know, in this ‘Insta’ driven world, the ego and narcissistic nature of certain people just inflates exponentially when they get a few likes.

At a time when we see human greatness across the planet in the pandemic fight...

This guy should really sit down and realise how cr@p a human being he really is.

I mean, could he actually be any worse?

Park the ego fella....

Alfred Williams's picture

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Catherine Bowlene's picture

Wow, this was rude. I was happy to see that many people in the comment section didn't support this kind of behavior. Honestly, it would be much better if he took a few photos from the distance and then send it as something of "behind the scene" kind of picture to the originally booked photographer.

Jozo Kozen's picture

That's called a paid back up photographer...He should have left them alone entirely and not interupted, extremely rude to do to somebody on their wedding day obviously doing a photo shoot.

user 65983's picture

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Matt Williams's picture

He seems to get plenty of images (some pretty good) from many strangers on the street, so I'm pretty sure his issue is straight up narcissism.

user 65983's picture

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Matt Williams's picture

I watched two of his videos and indeed that was what happened in one video. If it's a regular occurrence, then it's indeed rare.

In the other, this woman didn't want to do it (his notes on screen said she didn't like the way she looked basically) and he turned it into a video about how everyone is beautiful. Which is fine, IF TRUE. You never hear her talk, only his text, and I wouldn't be surprised if she just plain didn't want to do it and he kept pressuring her until she gave in and then presented it as some kind of inspirational thing.

Leon Kolenda's picture

This guy is way out of line! Rude and very inconsiderate of the contracted Photographer. What I would have done is, asked the Married Couple to excuse myself for a few minutes, pulled the guy over to the side a good 20 feet or more and said to him. Get the Hell out of here, I'm their contracted photographer, now move on, you're completely in the wrong here!

Zoli Tarnavölgyi's picture

Tik-tok star... WTF is that for God's sake..? :-D

K Y's picture

If you have to ask this kind of question, I don't think you even want to know the answer :D

Joel Manes's picture

I think it carries the same "prestige" as a porn star.

K Y's picture

Or instagram model :)

Carl Murray's picture

I beg to differ. Porn stars actually work hard, and do something useful. TikTok stars are just like "influencers," in that they do absolutely nothing useful.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

Everyone is a photographer now, until they understand how photography works. Flaky influentials are not pro at anything, they prove it every day.

John Ohle's picture

I think this really showed up "Alex the ThickTok star". Aside from the lack of professionalism by jumping ontop of a wedding shoot, his pictures look slightly soft with really bad light. Billy Paynes shot looks stunning. Plus they both shot in the same location.

I wonder which photo will the bride and groom use??? In fact, who would you prefer to shoot your wedding? Billy Payne gets my vote.

David Pavlich's picture

He's an a$$ hat. Were I 20 years younger and shooting that wedding, I wouldn't have been so diplomatic. I'd a told him I'd stuff his camera into a very small cavity if he didn't leave.

Jan Holler's picture

No, you wouldn't do that. You would not want to spoil the couple's day and your session. Angry feelings turn lovely faces into at least boring ones if not worse, you would see the tensions. But I sure can understand your feelings, I feel the same.

David Pavlich's picture

You're probably right, but 20 years ago, I posed a pretty intimidating 'look'. I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have gone beyond words. But, discretion and valor in mind, it more than likely wouldn't have gone that way. Still, he deserves to have his camera 'handed' to him. ;-)

jim hughes's picture

I don't photograph weddings but used to work them as a musician. You hope to pick up more weddings from guests who might be getting married in the near future. We wouldn't have appreciated a guy showing up with an accordion and working the room.

Matthew Lacy's picture

"I only wanted to leave the music in a better place. I don't understand what everyone is so worked up about."

Tony Clark's picture

I applaud the actual photographer for his self control, I probably would not have been so polite if some guy approached my client. After looking at the single he created I see no reason to click on his profile. One day, a photographer is going to knock him to his knees for pulling such a stunt.

Sean Scarmack's picture

If it wasn't 2020 this dude would get his teeth knocked in. Straight up disrespectful!!!!

Jim Bolen's picture

I would have nicely told him to F off, and then if that didn't work I would have forcefully removed him. It was bad enough when 'photographers' would come up to me when shooting weddings telling me what to shoot. This was extremely rude.

David Justice's picture

The TikTok dude is completely wrong. When you go into public and you break social norms or break people out of their status quo, they're going to do everything they can to keep everything normal. That's why hidden camera shows always look like the people in public are actors. They're trying to keep calm and normal when something ridiculous is happening. So they'll say yes to just about anything that won't get them hurt because they don't know what not accepting will do to them.

I get why people like him. He's going into the public, finding normal looking people, and making them beautiful for a photo. People love that. It's something you'd see in like a movie or something, it subverts everything you know about photography and getting portraits. They all wish they could have this done to themselves. That's why he's popular. It has nothing to do with his skill level or anything like that. He's just a dude trying to be inspirational.

But the problem with what's going on is, like you said in the article, he has no idea what actual photography is like. To him, what he's doing, this is normal. He's never been on the other side of the situation when you're getting paid to be a photographer. He's probably never upset a client. He's never had to tell someone that's a bad idea. So all of those norms for us, he's somehow blind to. He probably thinks of himself as a positive energy and he's not hurting anyone.

It happens. You learn. You move on. I don't think this dude should be skewered, because in the end everyone is going to benefit and this guy learned more. Hopefully he will take that and learn more.

RT Simon's picture

This is why you hire an assistant. To grab the guy by the arm and lead him away as quietly as possible. Influencer is just another word for JERK.

jim hughes's picture

"Can I ask you a question" is a bit cringeworthy. On the street it's a typical lead-in for a panhandler or con.

jim hughes's picture

"Can I ask you a question" is a bit cringeworthy. On the street it's a typical lead-in for a panhandler or con.

regan albertson's picture

What goes around, comes around. He had no right to disturb others in their celebration, or work. To me this guy is no different from the asshats that thought Jackass, or for all that matters, Candid Camera were okay. Stemplewski, your idea of art is corrupt if it is screwing with other's life energy.

Fristen Lasten's picture

Only in La La Land... Bill Payne - Fantastic photo in front of the heart sculpture!

Marc McAllister's picture

It was extremely inconsiderate. If someone were to insert themselves uninvited into my kid's wedding photoshoot like that,,,,the hired photographer wouldn't need to be "gracious" about the interruption because I'll take care of the problem very damn quickly! There are boundaries of common courtesy that should not be crossed!

Jim Tincher's picture

TikTok Alex is a self absorbed asshole...

jim hughes's picture

Ok guys, enough with the threats. Nobody is really going to punch the Tiktok guy and no professional photographer is going to make a scene in front of the clients. At most, you might say to the guy, quietly, "not cool".

It's really up to the clients to get angry, they booked the room. Maybe they like being Tiktokked. Personally I think it's intrusive, possibly trespassing, and definitely TicTacky. But I'm old.

Ian Smissen's picture

I am so over the self entitlement narcissism of so called social media 'influencers'. If this guy is using the excuse he's only been photographing for a year to excuse this behaviour then he's an even bigger dill. You don't need to be a photographer to know this is totally inappropriate. Great job toPayne for keeping his cool and handling this so well - I may not have.

Simon Miller's picture

It should be in your contract. It's in ours. And then all that is required is to politely remind the couple of that.

Jozo Kozen's picture

The TikTok person is an absolute moron without an ounce of class... makes my blood boil. Get your ego in check you dweeb. Bill Payne handled it like an absolute champ though, as you don't want to throw off the bride and groom and cause a scene either.

Jay Moroso's picture

What a douche. Obviously Payne was concerned. You can tell by his answer w/regard to the time. Not even going to check this idiot out on-line. You can tell from the pics he posted that Payne's are much better.

Jonathan Butler's picture

This is so disrespectful... To interrupt a wedding photos by stepping on hired photographer's toes is terrible. Nobody shouldn't mess up the wedding. Cause wedding is very important day in our life. It is a day that usually requires a lot of planning and we deserve to spent it without any stress and accident. I remember the day of my wedding. My fiancee did a good job and everything was perfect. What I liked the most was the sound equipment. She hired it from this company https://www.ontourevents.co.uk/wedding-events-services. They provide an exceptional service. The wedding was great and I am very happy that my fiancee was satisfied with the wedding and everything gone well, as we planned

lia not's picture

wedding is the best thing to happen in our life!

lia not's picture

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