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Throwback Thursday: Going Unplugged

It’s that time of the week where we like to look back through the archives and share some of our most helpful posts and tips with all you newly engaged soon-to-be Brides and Grooms and this week we’d like to bring back a little post we wrote that is likely to become somewhat topical after Christmas as more and more guests find themselves with shiny new cameras, smartphones and tablets: Going Unplugged… 

These days everyone’s a photographer. We each carry on our person a camera at all times and you can be tagged so fast on Facebook that you can find out online that you’re in the same room as someone before you’ve even had chance to look up. Digital technology is changing the way we think about photography and cameras are literally everywhere. It’s not just limited to camera-phones, now that you no longer need a dark room, a huge tolerance for lots of stinking chemicals and a small fortune to waste accidentally taking pictures of your finger, everyday users can now afford the kind of camera technology that once resided solely in the hands of the professional photographer.

Nowhere is this more evident than at a wedding. Everyone wants to have their own pictures of the Bride and Groom to take home with them, to publish on Facebook and to share with anyone who wasn’t able to make it. The ability to share our experiences in such a visual way is a remarkable thing and you can often end up with some cool, fun shots of you and your mates to look back on afterwards and even a few special ones that might be treasured by the bride and groom.

However, the camera revolution does have its drawbacks…

The Paparazzi await the Bride and Groom…
Photo by York Place Studios

Too many cooks may spoil the broth, but too many photographers stops the shot from ever happening in the first place. Most couples will have hired a professional photographer to capture their wedding and ensure they have stunning shots from all the best angles throughout the day, but increasingly the professionals are struggling to fight their way through a crowd of cameras to get the shot they’re after. It can become almost a Paparazzi-like battle for the best position with flashes going off everywhere and in the end no-one, including the professional photographer, ends up with a decent photograph to show for it all.

The problem is being exacerbated with the advent of tablet computers with built-in cameras. Whilst you might be able to work around a camera the size of a mobile phone, try getting a clean shot with someone holding an iPad at arms length in front of them and you’ll see what we mean. Camera flashes can also be a major problem. Photography is effectively the manipulation of light to create an image and photographers are very careful to set up the optimum light settings to create the mood and texture they want in their pictures. If a miss-timed flash goes off at the same time they hit the shutter all those settings count for nothing and, depending on the type of shot they were going for, they may end up with nothing but a white blur. Then of course there’s the notorious ‘uncle bob’ amateur photographer who likes nothing more than speaking to the professional about their camera equipment whilst following them around and removing any chance of their being discrete and capturing natural shots. Their equipment is also often so professional looking that they’re mistakenly seen by the guests as the official photographer which can lead to further problems with mistaken identity, particularly with certain venues who have taken the extreme step of banning all photography including those by the official photographer from taking place during the ceremony after bad previous experiences with proceedings being interrupted by amateur photographers.

It’s not so much the act of taking photographs itself that can be such a problem however. The problem is often more that the people you’re trying to take a picture of are themselves holding a camera to their face, making for multiple photographs of people taking photographs rather than of happy guests enjoying the day.

Our own Father of the Groom accidentally hiding his face…
Image by Ed Peers

Now don’t get us wrong here, we enjoy taking out our iPhones and taking a few snaps probably more than most, but it’s important to remember that someone is being paid a lot of money by the couple to do that very job for them and that even if you do get a few nice images there is a huge difference in overall quality between amateur and professional photographs, and the couple are looking for a complete story of the day consistent in quality, style and texture rather than just two or three great images that don’t relate to the rest of the pictures from the day. It’s kind of like walking into fracture clinic at the hospital with some triangular bandages and putting slings on all the patients… it may be great practice for your first aid, they might be top quality bandages and might even help a few patients, but overall people would probably rather the doctor did it…

The problem has led to a lot of couples taking matters into their own hands and banning guests from taking any pictures at all on the wedding day and holding a so-called “unplugged” wedding, taking the focus away from the cameras and back onto the Bride and Groom where it belongs. This removes any concerns about guests accidentally getting in the way of the official photographs and gives the professional the freedom to get the shots they need unimpeded. For the couple it also means they’re less likely to spend their entire day posing for pictures and can spend more time actually enjoying the happiest day of their lives.

But if cameras are banned, who’s going to get those fun, relaxed and often ridiculous shots that can really only be taken by one friend of another? And most photographers disappear after the first dance –  who’s going to record the late-night revelries? Perhaps we need to find a middle ground…

After-dinner cameras
Image by Ed Peers

The fact is that during the key parts of the day – the ceremony, the speeches, first dance, cutting of the cake etc. there only really needs to be one photographer and most pros are probably perfectly happy for you to share their photographs online with all your friends and family just as you would your own pics. As a guest you’re there to enjoy the day live, not miss the action taking hundreds of pictures to look at it later, that’s why someone else is there to do it for you. But outside of those key parts of the day taking a few fun shots on your compact or even trying your hand as an aspiring amateur is generally harmless and can be a lot of fun… in fact for our own wedding we actually handed out old film cameras and polaroids after dinner for the guests to have a bit of fun with and give us some completely different types of photograph to laugh at later…

At the end of the day taking pictures can be a lot of fun and there’s definitely a time and place for it, even on a wedding day. But it’s important to remember that this is the Bride and Groom’s big day, not a free-for-all photo-shoot. If a professional photographer’s being paid lots of money solely to capture the best photographs of the day it’s fruitless getting in the way of that solely to capture something vaguely similar on a slightly different device. Digital technology is undoubtedly a fantastic thing, but on the most important day of two people’s lives, sometimes it’s better to just go unplugged.

To read more about the advantages and disadvantages of the Unplugged wedding you can find our Friday Fight-Out on this topic here: Guest Photography Vs Pro Only

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