Tips from the Aisle, Episode 1: Unplugged Wedding Ceremonies
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It’s pretty common these days for everyone to have some form of camera right in their pocket, whether that be a small point and shoot or a smart phone – even larger dSLR cameras are becoming more and more affordable these days. I’ve been photographing weddings for 7 years in Calgary and around the globe, and every year it seems like there are more and more “other” photographers taking their own photos during a wedding besides the professional hired to do the very same job.
There are a number of arguments that are for and against this kind of behavior. Many people believe that by looking at a ceremony behind a lens really displaces the person from actually being engaged in what is happening. To some, this somewhat defeats the purpose of that guest being there if they’re not focusing on what’s being said and instead are focused on fiddling around with camera settings for a picture. Hello!
This leads us to what is known as the unplugged wedding ceremony. This is when the use of any photo or video recording device is restricted or forbidden during the ceremony, and sometimes during the entirety of the wedding day itself.
I just want to clear the air before I continue that I’m not a strong advocate on unplugged wedding ceremonies, nor do I think having an unplugged wedding ceremony is a bad idea. However, when left to their own devices, wedding guests can potentially ruin the very job that the couple has hired me to do.
The flash from multiple cameras going off can be distracting for the officiant or the couple themselves. As a photographer, there have been multiple times where a guests’ camera flash has ruined a shot for me by blowing out the entire scene – and trust me, these are moments that happen just once! Another thing I have seen is an uncle or little kid literally step out into the aisle in front of me to get their own shot. Because, really, when the couple is having their first kiss, the shot I want to get is someone’s butt.
And then there are iPad photographers. Why they put a camera on an iPad is beyond me, but nothing is a greater headache and eyesore for a photographer than to have to edit out this giant weird floating screen from wedding photos. Seriously.
The saddest thing I’ve seen is a parent or grandparent, someone very directly involved with the couple, have a camera in front of their face the entire time. I love capturing the emotions on the faces of the mom and dad, and it probably comes as no surprise that the emotion is totally gone when they have their tongue sticking out, looking down at a camera rather than at their beautiful daughter or son. No no no no no! This is why I am here, so you don’t have to do this! Please put it away.
All of that being said, please. If you want your guests to take pictures during your wedding ceremony, by all means let them. My advice would be to give a little notice for “photo taking etiquette” – this can save you, your officiant, and your professional wedding photos.
The biggest offenders were mentioned above – flash and movement from your guests. By asking your guests to turn off flash when using their devices, you can save any fleeting moments that would otherwise be ruined and unrecoverable because it is too bright when there are two cameras going off at the same time.
Please have your guests be aware that movement is typically restricted for us photographers during your ceremony, so adding to that movement prevents us from doing our job. Moreover, this is incredibly distracting to the officiant who is focusing on her program to deliver the ceremony, and can be distracting to the bride and groom to see you move out of the corner of their eye. There have been times where a wedding ceremony was STOPPED by the officiant to ask guest photographers to sit back down in their seats. DON’T BE THAT GUY.
There are a number of ways to inform guests to restrict their photo taking. You can add a note in your invitation, you can add a note in your ceremony program, but honestly – these are a little ineffective for two reasons. That note in your invitation was so long ago and people are prone to forget, and the note in your program may or may not be read at all. The best way is to have your officiant announce the house rules just before the start of the ceremony, and this way, people don’t have a choice but to be informed as they are all paying attention at this point.
At the end of the day, the couple has paid a wedding photographer to come and capture their special moments for them. Personally, I offer to all guests of a wedding the option to view the photos from the wedding day in a password protected online gallery, so everyone will be able to view and relive those moments. Parents, please put your cameras down – you will have more than enough excellent photos of your kids provided by your skilled photographer. And everyone, sit back and enjoy the day as the couple would want you to do.
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