It’s a whole new ball game for photographers when it comes to weddings…. gone are the days when one “Uncle Bob” shows up with a nice camera wanting to take photos of the same wedding the photographer is getting paid to cover. Now every person attending a wedding has a pretty decent camera in their pockets in the form of a “smart phone” and for some reason this has given wedding guests the idea that the photos taken from such phones are wanted and/or needed making it more difficult for the actual paid professional to complete their assigned duties! A couple years ago it was a nuisance at best, however in 2018 if you have not asked your guests to refrain from taking photos at least during the ceremony it can become an all out war fighting guests for the best spot to photograph the happy couple.
Now you may be asking yourself “What’s the Big Deal? Why wouldn’t we want more images from our wedding that can be provided by our guests?” And that is a great question because I have seen some great photos taken by guests over the years, and maybe they capture something that the photographer has missed while he or she is photographing other things. It makes me happy knowing that others have captured other angles or events that I may have missed, but it literally breaks my heart when a guest ruins a perfect photo opportunity by jumping in front of me when I’m capturing a key moment of the day; mainly because I know that the photo that they just had to get will more than likely be blurry, low resolution or perhaps the couple will never see because it doesn’t get posted or even given to them! If I had been able to get the shot that I had prepared myself for than my clients would be happy. Shots like I knew we were just seconds away from like “the first kiss” that would’ve been a key element in their wedding album!
I’m including some photos from recent weddings that I’ve covered in this blog post with the faces of the couple and guests blurred out because my objective is not to shame these people, but rather to inform the public the benefits of an “Unplugged Wedding” or at the very least an “Unplugged Ceremony”. I’ve been in the business for 18 years. Not to make myself look old, but I started out assisting my mother who was a pro in the days of film. It’s been sad watching the progression of seeing the smiling faces of wedding guests during the ceremony when the bride walks down the aisle to seeing faces hidden behind cameras and tablets. It really looks like the guests are more engaged with their phones than the actual wedding.
The most recent wedding I covered I literally had to push between at least four woman all vying for a position to photograph the couple. How was I ever to get the photos I was getting paid to take without having to be a little rude to guests. One time I was covering a Jewish wedding and I and my 2nd cameraman were both positioned for a crucial shot. When the rabbi got to the end of the ceremony and the couple were about to smash the glass an important Jewish tradition. Suddenly, a big guy sitting up front jumped up with his iPad blocking both of our views and so you can’t see the groom stomping on the glass at all! It’s not like I could yell, hey you up front move! Guests standing in the aisle of the photos also makes me sad because no matter what when you look at the photo your eyes go directly to the person standing in the aisle taking the photo and not to the actual subject of the photo.
I also really cringe when guests try to take photos over my shoulder during the formals. Usually, we are already under a time crunch so this extra interference doesn’t help. Flashes from others cameras can ruin my photos and the eyes of my subjects tend to wander to whomever is trying to take an additional photo and so they won’t be focused on my camera. And it can make guests angry if I have to tell them to put down their cameras. It’s better just to leave these photos up to the professionals. I’m not even interested in making money off print sales as most of my clients are getting all of their high resolution digital files anyways. I just want their photos to be the best that they can be, so the respectful thing is to let the photographer do their job.
So for the distinguished couple comes the new trend that is actually kind of sad that it has to be done… “The Unplugged Wedding”. Other than having your guests surrender their phones at the door to the venue like they do at some comedy shows now to protect the artists’ routines, some wise person came up with the idea of the “Unplugged Wedding”. The idea is plain enough in that it’s a simple request from the couple to their guests to turn off all of their electronic devices (even if it’s just for the actual ceremony only) and to be present in the moment for their special day. To facilitate this couples will not only write this in their wedding program, but also create signs to have displayed at their event and/or ask their wedding officiant to make an announcement during the opening remarks before the processional begins. I’ve only actually been to a couple weddings so far that put this idea into practice and I can tell you it was completely worth it! The photos and video during the ceremony that we took at these events were all amazing and the guests look like people participating in something rather than screen zombies!
I know selfies are a thing now and so are wedding hashtags, but if I were getting married today instead of 12 years ago when I did get married I would be going for a fully unplugged wedding with the reception included. Smart phones were around when I got married, but they weren’t as prevalent as they are today. My mother has always been the photographer in our family, but I ordered her not to bring her camera to my wedding because I wanted her to be present, to enjoy herself and to not be concerned about whether or not she was getting enough photos. And for one of the few times in my life I saw her at an important event in our family’s lives without a camera in hand and she was loving it! I also ended up with some beautiful photos with her in them which are few and far between because she was always the person taking them. I researched my photographer thoroughly, I had seen his work and I spent more money on that then almost everything else (besides food) because photos were that important to me. And I didn’t worry about a thing. He covered every moment of our big day, nothing was missed. I saw maybe two people pull out other cameras that day. I received one disk of photos from one of those people and almost every image was either blurry, over exposed and just not up to my standards. The other person posted a few on Facebook and I never saw the rest. I’m so grateful for the photographer that I hired and happy that I got married in another time!