I've heard people complaining about "Uncle Bob" taking pictures at events. From context, it sounds like Uncle Bob is an annoying guy with a camera?

What is an "Uncle Bob"? What is the background of the term "Uncle Bob"? Is he based on an actual individual, or is it more a stereotype?

  • 22
    I know this is a stack website, but I presume we're not talking about this poor chap: 'Robert Cecil Martin is an American software engineer and author. He is a co-author of the Agile Manifesto. He now runs a consulting firm called Uncle Bob Consulting LLC' otherwise this could be off topic ;)
    – Crazy Dino
    Nov 20, 2017 at 16:08
  • 1
    @CrazyDino lol. From your comment, I can surmise you answer questions by asking Google and using the top hit to Wikipedia... ;-)
    – scottbb
    Nov 20, 2017 at 16:10
  • 3
    Well a lot of people on StackExchange (due to the dominance of StackOverflow) probably consider Robert Martin annoying because he advocates an ordinary standard of professionalism among programmers.
    – user50888
    Nov 20, 2017 at 16:45
  • 2
    @osullic Well, its presence actually does solve one problem (albeit trivially minor): I was commenting to somebody about an Uncle Bob, but we didn't actually have something I thought was germane to point to. Sometimes terminology or basic concepts need to have a placeholder page.
    – scottbb
    Nov 20, 2017 at 18:43
  • 5
    If you have absolutely no idea what this whole "Uncle Bob" business could be referring to then you are the Uncle Bob :\ Nov 21, 2017 at 17:51

4 Answers 4


Uncle Bob is not actually your Uncle Bob.

Uncle Bob is the derogatory term used by professional and semi professional photographers to describe a 'man with a camera' and occasionly someone with 'all the gear, no idea'. There isn't a clear definition of Uncle Bob, and he can be found in many guises, this is my experience so feel free to mix and match:

  • Not necessarily bad people.
  • It's Uncle Bob's attitude rather than photographic ability. Prepare for arrogance if they think they have one better picture than you.
  • When found at events, they can usually be found taking a large amount of photos of their loved ones. On rarer occasions they somehow wangle themselves a photo pass and believe they're in the big leagues.
  • They can be seen shooting in P for Professional mode
  • Will happily tell you how his gear is better, and how much it cost to try make you think you're inferior.
  • No regards to professional etiquette. Will happily get in other photographers' way.
  • Can masquerade as a professional.
  • Remember photographer waistcoats back from the days of shooting film at sports event? Well they're not quite dead yet...
  • Especially at weddings they've been known to stand intrusively close to the hired professional to try get the exact same shots.
  • 8
    Half tempted to turn this into a community wiki. Thoughts?
    – Crazy Dino
    Nov 20, 2017 at 16:22
  • 5
    I'd say this is a good candidate for community wiki because the term "uncle bob" is a potential wedge between insiders and outsiders and does not translate clearly across cultures...what is Uncle Bob's name in Portuguese? On the other hand, I don't really like the term. 'Amateur' captures everything without necessarily being pejorative and translates more clearly across cultures. IMO, describing photographers as 'Uncle Bob' pulls this site in the wrong direction. YMMV.
    – user50888
    Nov 20, 2017 at 16:51
  • 16
    Uncle Bob is always an amateur, but not all amateurs are Uncle Bobs, eh? Nov 20, 2017 at 17:36
  • 33
    Uncle Bob always compliments your camera for all the good pictures
    – Viv
    Nov 20, 2017 at 19:15
  • 5
    I'd be wary about throwing words like "professional" around, unqualified. Uncle Bob might be a professional. The important differentiation is that they're not the paid photographer at this event, and that they're being disrespectful to or obstructing the actual photographer. The enthusiasm, outcome and attire are all secondary markers. You can be an enthusiastic amateur with high spec kit at an event without becoming Bob.
    – Oli
    Nov 22, 2017 at 9:22

In the context of a shoot, Uncle Bob is usually a very affluent gent (or has enough money to spend on some prosumer or pro gear) whose photography knowledge is usually at amateur levels, whose company was asked for by the event attendees, but whose photography was not.

He has a habit of wanting to "talk shop" with the photographers who are being paid to work the event and generally, gets in the way. Sometimes he even tries to shoot over your shoulder as you pose a subject.

Uncle Bob is very eager to share his work, and to his credit, gets some keepers. But, he'll always deliver faster than you and his keepers could mean lost sales to you.

I remember one of my first gigs ever - and was using a 20D with a 50 f/1.4 and 100 f/2 to photograph a dance recital. I was the official photographer and ran the cards out of the auditorium every 5th dance or so, so that we could sell on-site. I got stopped by Uncle Bob on one of these runs; his question was why his photos were not coming out like mine (1 Series + L glass in his hands)? Classic Uncle Bob. (My response was, "I'd be more than happy to discuss after the event, but in the meantime, we'd appreciate your business if I've taken any shots that you like")

But, as photographers, I think it's important to note that we can all become Uncle Bob. We all want to shoot, we all like to shoot, and sometimes, we are the ones invited to an event where our company is wanted, but our photography is not.

So, don't be Uncle Bob.

  • 7
    To the degree Uncle Bob can undermine a professional's sales, that seems more a matter of the professional not producing work that the market will pay for than anything else. If a professional's photographs are fungible, that's not Uncle Bob's fault. A photography business mode with a value proposition competing with free is not Uncle Bob's fault, either.
    – user50888
    Nov 20, 2017 at 17:00
  • 6
    @benrudgers - When the options are great-photo for $$ or meh-photo for free, one will very quickly lose business. I've literally posed a subject and arranged lighting to have Uncle Bob shoot over my shoulder. Of course, he didn't have the lighting I had, but he did have the meh-good-enough-photo. You're right though - this is highly market dependent. In my case, it was high school senior photos where sessions were free (contracted to the studio). Can't say I've ever lost a wedding because of Bob.
    – OnBreak.
    Nov 20, 2017 at 17:07
  • 3
    Picking clients for whom the free version is not a better alternative is market segmentation. For high school senior photos, the experience of having one's Uncle Bob take the picture probably adds value that cannot be captured in a high-volume photography abattoir. Uncle Bob may have done baby photos and first day of school and will do some wedding shots too. A senior picture is not about the photographer.
    – user50888
    Nov 20, 2017 at 19:12
  • 5
    @benrudgers - You've got a point - and I would hold no ill-will toward a contracted lead or Bob for wanting to forgo my shots in order to have Bob do things. What is wrong with the mentioned situation is when Bob shoots over my shoulder. Now, if Bob wants to take mr./ms. class senior out on location himself, more power to him. Also, in contracted situations, one doesn't pick the clients. All class seniors are sent to the contracted photographer for photos, and it's all about the up-sell from zero to client.
    – OnBreak.
    Nov 20, 2017 at 19:47
  • 5
    @benrudgers - We're going to have to agree to disagree. In my book, shooting over another photographer's shoulder is akin to plagiarism. It's also one of the most over-reaching examples of Uncle Bob's bad behavior, and it's these types of shots that could rob a shooter from an honest wage. I'm afraid that you won't be able to convince me that Uncle Bob's endearing qualities justify his over the shoulder shooting. That's just bad etiquette, and there's no excuse for it. Cheers,
    – OnBreak.
    Nov 20, 2017 at 22:59

One of the defining characteristics of Uncle Bob is the effect he has: he is somebody with a camera, who must be managed in some way, or whose repeated actions have a cumulative negative effect on those around him.

The canonical Uncle Bob prototype is usually found at weddings (as mentioned in the other answers as well):

  • Uncle Bob is the guy standing 10 ft behind and to the side of the wedding photographer also shooting the group shot. He might be polite enough to give plenty of space out of consideration to the photographer, but unaware he's still causing problems because some people in the group shot are looking at him instead of the photographer.

  • During the reception, everybody has their smartphones or point-and-shoot cameras taking pictures of the couple cutting the cake, and all of the other events in the reception. But Uncle Bob is the one whose flash is repeatedly ruining the photographer's shots of the special moments.

The dead giveaway in these situations is when the wedding photographer has to tell the wedding planner (or whoever the wedding party has chosen as "person-herder") to manage Uncle Bob, who is making it difficult for the wedding photographer to capture the shots the wedding party are paying for. For instance, see Jay Lance's answer to the question, Should I have a wedding contract provision for actions outside my control?, where he specifically has an "Uncle Bob" clause in his contracts.

But Uncle Bob can also be found elsewhere. In the question, Photographic courtesy?, the OP was trying to record an unamplified vocal performance in a high school gymnasium. In this case, Uncle Bob's camera was making excess noise with focus confirmation beeps for each shot. Had he known (or thought) to turn off his focus confirmation beeps, I don't think he would be Uncle Bob.

  • I don't think the recording incident was a case of Uncle Bob. Someone sitting in their seat taking photos is normal at a high school event. Taking out unwanted noise in post is a normal part of live audio recording. The cowpoke at their first rodeo probably wasn't the photographer.
    – user50888
    Nov 20, 2017 at 23:28
  • 2
    @benrudgers A little from column A, a little from column B, I suppose... Thing is, silenceable noises such as audible focus confirmation beeps and writeback confirmation beeps are annoying and avoidable. They are inconsiderate to the performers at an unamplified chorus / concert, and inconsiderate to everybody else around them. Their act of recording or capturing the experience is unnecessarily adding unwanted nuisance to the experience for people around them.
    – scottbb
    Nov 20, 2017 at 23:42
  • 3
    Obnoxious "focus assist" LEDs in dimly lighted contexts might be a visual analog to the beeps... I'm ashamed to admit that on one occasion I was the Uncle Bob in that manner, unbeknownst to me at the time. :/ Nov 21, 2017 at 6:11

An Uncle Bob situation exists (for you) when either of your parents has a male sibling named Robert. In photography, particularly event photography, it refers to someone (not the hired event photographer) with a camera and little, or no, awareness of his getting in the way of the professional hired to photograph the event. We don't call this person an Aunt Roberta because women typically have far more innate awarness of situational propriety than do men.

  • 2
    I don't know... there have been a few times a 'Mom w/camera' gave just as much trouble as an Uncle Bob.
    – Michael C
    Jul 27, 2018 at 3:30

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.