Camera phone photography is here to stay! I started my wedding photography business right at the beginning of the smartphone revolution, so ever since my first wedding ever, I'd see guests holding their hands up in the air with their new favorite attachment: a camera phone. Then, the iPad came: tablets that were even more disruptive and offered limited visibility to the guests behind. In addition, they usually had a worse camera than a smartphone, which boggled my mind a little bit.
Unplugged wedding in Puerto Rico
The first two to three years after cellphones started showing up on events, I would see more experienced photographers and wedding planners raving in social media about the virtues of an unplugged wedding. Now I get that the smartphone revolution was a curveball for them; how great must've it been: a ceremony where most guests were paying attention, and a reception where people were in the moment!
But, as I said, camera phones are here to stay. And during this past decade, I've also seen how pleasant little moments have been preserved by these smartphones, complementary stories to the main photography footage. After all, I'm just one person; I can't be everywhere. Also, I always feel that photography is part of the enjoyment of an experience, and I don't necessarily want to take that away from guests. Nevertheless, many clients have expressed concern about guest photography, so I'm listing some of the not-so-pleasant effects of cameraphones at a wedding.
Effects of a plugged-in wedding
- Affected visibility. Some guests will obstruct the view for others to get their shot, especially when bringing tablets. As a wedding photographer, I'm constantly checking for angles and equipment that will allow me to capture the best photo possible without blocking the view. But if someone is blocking the picture, I'll have to move closer and will probably be in the way, too.
- Face-to-face connection. I've often seen the bride walking down an aisle looking for a familiar face to greet. Many of those familiar faces have a phone blocking their face, causing a negative experience for the bride in such an emotional moment. Remember: you can see through the screen, but the other side will only see a phone.
- Distractions: Phones become a distraction from a guest's active participation in the event, but it sometimes distracts the couple, officiant, and wedding party members.
- Eyes looking at the wrong camera: One of those distractions is evident when photographing family formals. Portraits take twice as long because some eyes are looking into the wrong cameras.
- Exclusivity and giving away details before the couple is ready: It hasn't happened often, but I've had clients who see their partner before the ceremony on someone else's social media. Or couples who know the decoration before they arrive at the venue. Or even worse, clients who paid for the exclusivity of their images because they didn't want the event posted anywhere, and a guest streams the whole event.
A client's opinion on their plugged-in wedding
Julio, a former client, wanted to collaborate with me on this blog post. Last year, shortly after his wedding, voluntarily shared his experience with cellphones and plugged in guests as a cautionary tale for other couples.
When we were getting married, Camille was our first and only choice to be our wedding photographer. We loved her style, and we wanted her to cover our most important day. The communication with Camille before the wedding was exceptional. I do photography as a hobby, and I am critical when seeing a picture or a photographer covering an activity. Having Camille at our wedding allowed me to let go of that pressure, enjoy the moment, and be sure that we will have great images at the end of the day. However, if there is only one thing that I would have changed at our wedding, tell our family and friends to keep their cellphones and personal cameras in their pockets. Sadly, many great compositions were affected because someone wanted to have a picture to post on their social media accounts. Thankfully, Camille is very experienced with this type of situation, and she managed to have this issue impacted our photos the minimum possible. My advice is to tell guests to keep their cameras and cell phones out of the way during the activity. You can't repeat that day; a useless photo is a memory that will be lost forever. Having Camille in your activity is a significant investment that shouldn't be affected by someone who will undoubtedly take a photo that you will probably never see or with poor quality. They will understand if they love you, and you can always send them the outstanding pictures that Camille takes after the wedding.
To unplug or not to unplug? So how do I go about it?
Where is the balance? I don't think taking the phone away from your guests' hands is the definite answer. After all, their memories are part of their experience.
However, their ability to unplug at certain times will increase everyone's enjoyment free from distractions and deepen interpersonal experiences at critical moments.
If any of these elements are important to you, you can consider an unplugged or partially unplugged wedding. Have your guests, planner, and vendors know that you want no guest photography at particular moments of the day.
How to let know my guests I'm having an unplugged wedding?
- On your wedding invitation, have a separate card announcing the unplugged wedding details.
- During the RSVP process, your planner or person in charge can kindly remind everyone of the unplugged wedding policy when confirming their assistance.
- Before the ceremony starts, the officiant can tell a quick announcement reminding your guests of the details. You can also say to the officiant to allow 30 seconds for guest photography right before the rituals begin.
- Please unplug signs: These generally don't work, as people have so many distractions that they walk right past them.
I hope these tips help you find that perfect balance so that phones don't throw you off on the happiest day of your life!