The advent of digital photography has certainly made cameras cheaper, higher quality, easier-to-use, and just plan more available than they once were. Even just 10 years ago, we would never have expected most (or all) of the guests at a wedding to have a camera (or more than one camera) in their possession. Plenty of folks have tried to leverage this camera-overabundance to their favor, using sharing software to effectively crowdsource their wedding photos, but even with all our technology, there’s no denying the fact that a professional photographer’s work using that technology still stands out as dramatically better in quality and composition.
So — how do we meet somewhere in the middle — address the new abundance of photo devices but still manage to get our awesome pro photos? Hosting an “Unplugged” wedding is one method, and it’s a method that’s becoming very popular very quickly.
As a Master of Ceremonies and Disc Jockey, you might be wondering how this would effect me, at all, and we’ll talk about that just a bit later, but SO many of my brides and grooms have had SO many questions about this idea, this season. Here are a few of them:
Should you host one, yourself? How will this benefit you? Will it “work?”
How do you tell everyone? Is it “rude?”
These aren’t ALL questions I can answer for you, myself, but I can definitely provide you with some wedding industry insider information that will help you decide what’s best for YOUR friends and family at your celebration. And — if you’re wondering about etiquette — stay tuned! I’ll be discussing Unplugged Weddings with some etiquette experts in my next edition of “Dear DJ AJ9.”
My, oh, my — unplugged weddings are attracting a lot of attention, this season! And for very good reason, indeed! After all, who wants to remember their special moments with photos like this? SO MANY CAMERAS.
Or this? Oh, my! This is what a guest’s flash looks like from a pro camera that was set to capture photos in natural light.
A local case in point: Corey Ann Balazowich. Corey photographs weddings in Northeast Ohio and beyond through Corey Ann Photography, and she recently published a blog on the topic that attracted about 150,000 views in just two weeks. A typical blog post of hers, she told us, nets 100 to 200 views. Since that very popular article was published, Corey has also been interviewed for or mentioned in articles on Unplugged Weddings in the New York Times, The Huffington Post, Glamour, and CNN.
Unplugged weddings can take many forms, from asking guests to surrender electronic devices at the door to a subtle sign requesting guests’ attention and “full presence,” but most tend to fall somewhere in the middle with brides and grooms asking their guests to keep their iPads, smart phones, and cameras down, or at least out of the way of their professionals’ shots, during their special events.
Over the years, Corey has amassed quite a few images that “plugged-in” mishaps have inadvertently ruined by stepping in front of The Kiss, the aisle, the first dance, and more. Certainly, all of the examples of times when a wedding photographer or videographer couldn’t get an important shot because of one of these photo-etiquette faux pas have driven the interest in unplugged weddings.
Most of the time, even the guests who end up in the middle of an important shot don’t realize what they’re doing — literally getting in the way of a professional the bride and groom hand-picked and hired to capture their day. But, there are also some guests who continue to seem unaware of the importance of the professional photographer, or — worse — actively seem to compete with the professionals, Corey told us.
Unfortunately — the people who suffer most from this lack of awareness or competitive attitude are the couple! “You’re not doing anything but messing up what the bride and groom are getting,” Corey said.
But, perhaps more compelling to me — an entertainer — is another force driving the interest in unplugged weddings: the desire to have people be present, to have them actually watch, not film or photograph, moments they’ve waited to see. To see with their eyes instead of their smartphones and preserve in their hearts instead of in image form — the professional photos have so much more meaning as a reminder of a memory that a friend or family member formed at the event while they were watching without the distraction of a digital device.
“A bride last year said, ‘We want you present in person and in the mind,’” Corey remembered. “‘You should be paying attention. You shouldn’t be on Facebook. You shouldn’t be on your iPhone.’”
Edric Morales, who owns EM Event Photography out of Cleveland, has watched the trend build since roughly 2007: people, now armed with their own devices, leaving their seats, standing in the middle of an aisle, getting in the way of his capturing mothers lighting unity candles and more.
He appreciates others’ appreciation for photography. Everyone, he told us, has the right to capture memories. But still… it can be distracting, and he has a job to do.
“My only concern is when [guests] go crazy with it — getting in the middle of the aisle when the bride’s walking down,” he said. “I don’t care if you take photographs. Snap away as much as you want, but be aware of the professional photographer.”
Of course, not every bride and groom wants a completely unplugged wedding, or will ask for one. So we asked Corey and Edric for some etiquette tips for those attending weddings with their smart phones and other gadgets in tow. Here’s what they said:
1.) Stay in your seat. Don’t lean out into the aisle. Don’t get up and run around. Snap a picture of what you really wanted, then put the phone or camera down and be in the moment. Spend most of your time looking at the bride and groom, not the back of your gadget. The couple has spent a great deal of effort to look their best, to build the wedding of their dreams. Soak it all in.
2.) Keep the flash off. That’s often the house rule with churches, but even if the ceremony won’t take place in a church, your flash can impact negatively the shots a couple’s professional is snapping.
3.) Let the pro handle the formal portraits. During portraits, fight the tendency to get your camera out and direct right alongside the pro. Let the pro do what s/he is there to do, and put away your camera. It helps to avoid those times when 20 eyes are looking 20 different ways.
4.) Don’t follow the photographer around. Go to the wedding and reception, enjoy the wonderful evening the couple has planned for you, and trust the professional to capture pictures you will all want, later.
5.) During the reception’s main events, be aware of and respectful of where the photographer is. Remember: this is the person the couple chose and hired to take the pictures of these events. Make sure you’re not getting in the way.
6.) Do not post pictures of the bride before the ceremony publicly!!!!! The groom might see them online!!!!!
What do YOU think?
Brides and Grooms: Did you host an Unplugged Wedding or are you planning to host an Unplugged Wedding? What are some tips you could offer other Brides and Grooms who are thinking of hosting an Unplugged Wedding?
Wedding Guests: would you be willing to give up or power down your camera or smartphone for part of the evening in order to ensure better professional photos for your friend or family member?
Wedding Photographers: did we miss anything? What other special considerations should couples make who are making the decision to plug or unplug?