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"Unplugged Weddings": Preventing Guests From Destroying Your Photographs

As any wedding photographer knows, one of the most nerve-wracking events is when a guest completely destroys the picture perfect moment you've been hired to capture. Whether they stand up in the aisle during the first kiss, take photos with their ipad in front of your camera, or inadvertently cause half the family to look off to the side during posed family portraits, wedding photo bombs can be a real headache. Wedding photographer Corey Ann's suggestion is having an "Unplugged Wedding".
 
 

What exactly is an unplugged wedding? An unplugged wedding is when you ask your family, friends and guest to turn off their phones, ipads, cameras and other digital distractions during the ceremony or reception. The purpose is to allow the hired wedding photographer the chance to capture the wedding as efficiently and perfectly as possible without possibly missing key shots caused by obtrusive guest photographers.

Nora and Troy Weddings
After being hired as the main photographer by a friend, Corey Ann was shocked when the bride proposed having an unplugged wedding ceremony. For this bride's ceremony there would be no outside photography at all. Before the processional, the bride's officiant made this announcement to the congregation:
 
 
 
 
 

Welcome, friends and family! Good evening everyone. Please be seated. Dan and Jennifer invite you to be truly present at this special time. Please, turn off your cell phones and put down your cameras. The photographer will capture how this moment looks — I encourage you all to capture how it feels with your hearts, without the distraction of technology. If Dan can do it, then so can you.

Corey Ann Weddings
You can see many examples of failed photographs caused by guests overstepping their boundaries on Corey's full Unplugged Weddings Blog Post. As a wedding photographer myself, I can attest that there have been times when "Uncle Canon Charlie" has not only become an annoyance at my own weddings, but he has also been responsible for me deleting images that would have been album worthy. I guess dodging guests who intrude on your hired responsibilities is just something that comes with the territory.

 

Corey Ann Weddings
After reading Corey's great argument for hosting an unplugged wedding, I'm left wondering if it might be going a bit too far asking guests to refrain from taking personal photographs during the ceremony and reception. If a guest wants to jump out in the middle of the aisle with his iPad to capture the couple's vows, am I really supposed to stop him? If I capture him in the aisle, isn't that a recorded account of what actually happened at the wedding? Are we wedding photographers a bit too sensitive on creating the perfect photos that we see wedding after wedding instead of embracing the spontaneous moments that make each wedding different?

 

Here are a few interesting quotes from responses made to Corey's original article:

"I would kill to work at an unplugged wedding, but guests are only a nuisance. You have to plan to get around all the nonsense."

"I'm sorry that this wedding photographer thinks she has it "hard." But she's getting PAID for this work and is supposed to be a PROFESSIONAL. A professional should know how to get the job done in less than ideal circumstances. That's part of being a professional and she should just deal with it instead of bitching about it in a blog post."

"If I'm a potential client and I come across the blog post, I might think to myself "this photographer can't handle herself and get the shots she wants." That might influence the decision I make on which photographer I hire."

"Yea, I get OP's rant. But I don't think it's as bad as she makes it sound. I guess it depends on personality. Most photographers, at least the ones I know, are not Type A personalities, but go-with-the-flow people. The Type A's have a shot in mind, and that's what they want to get. My view: 1) Capture what's already there; 2) there's no problem that one can't dodge or work around."

Patrick Hall
After shooting about 200 weddings myself, I personally feel like guests with cameras pose mostly as a nuisance more than anything else. Have I missed a few important shots here and there because of an overly ambitious guest? Sure. But with the help of my second shooter, it's pretty rare that some key moment isn't documented at all. I've also never had any problems with the flash from a guest's camera during posed photos or key moments. The bigger problem for me is family members looking at someone else with a camera instead of my camera, but that can easily be taken care of by being loud and in charge. In fact, sometimes guests can enhance a wedding photograph if you anticipate their flash and include them in the overall composition.
 


Patrick Hall

So what do other wedding photographers think about the concept of having an Unplugged Wedding? Leave your comments, stories, and thoughts below.

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emis stasaitis's picture

I've written a blog about my opinion on this subject here https://www.emisweddings.com/wedding-photographer-blog/unplugged-wedding...

Coming from a documentary photographer I think it's just part of the day. As soon as you make the announcement 'no phones' it set's the tone for the entire day. Weddings should be relaxed and enjoyable for everyone and the last thing I want to be know for is the photographer who doesn't want anyone else taking photos.