Is It Time To Demand “Unplugged Weddings?”

This weekend I ran across an Interesting article over on CNN about wedding guests taking photos when there’s already a pro wedding photographer hired by the bride and groom. Of course, sadly today that’s the norm, and different photographers deal with it in different ways.

Going “unplugged”
I think the really valuable takeaway from this article is the “unplugged” wedding concept (which they outline in the article), which basically has the bride and groom asking the guests not to take photos of any kind during the actual ceremony itself. Afterward, at the reception, or during the formals, it’s OK, but during the ceremony they’re asking them to please allow the photographer to do the job they were hired to do, and the guests can just enjoy…well…being guests.

Not only do I love this idea, I wouldn’t take a wedding gig where the bride/groom didn’t buy into this concept (which means I would probably starve to death as a full-time wedding photographer), but I believe I could make a pretty convincing case to the wedding couple that it will: (a) lower their stress (b) let their guests actually experience the ceremony as it happens, and (c) they’ll get the kind of images they hired a pro photographer for in the first place.

Sadly, (a) I wouldn’t always be able to convince them of this, and (b) some of the guests would complain that they can’t take photos during the ceremony (in fact, I believe the article mentions that very situation).

Besides the very timely and thought-provoking article, I learned about a new App you can integrate into your next wedding shoot (and use as part of this unplugged concept). Some very useful ideas here:

Here’s wishing you a totally unplugged Monday! :)




  1. This is cloes to what me and my wife did for our wedding. We had our weddingplanner announce before we came out for the ceremony that we would like people to NOT take pictures and post them on facebook before we even saw our own pictures :P
    We did say it was ok to take pictures if they would just not share them online and to just stay away from the photographer. EVeryone did and it was great :)

  2. On the other hand I’ve been to 2 weddings where I had my dSLR and both times the hired photographer bought a photo from me as they missed a crucial shot! I had my camera there at request of bride (sister and cousin).

    1. You’re much nicer than me. The last wedding I went to I was asked to bring my camera and I said no. The “professional” photographer they hired was a friend who gave them the very mediocre photos as a wedding present (incidentally the same guy who took photos of their newborn with a bright background, dark foreground, and no flash, but that was later). I wanted to enjoy myself.

  3. Everybody thinks they are a photographer. There not, but they think they are. After all the newspaper in Chicago caned their photo department and are equipping the rest of the crew with iPhones . . . ugh

  4. Everybody thinks they are a photographer. They are not, but they think they
    are. After all the newspaper in Chicago caned their photo department
    and are equipping the rest of the crew with iPhones . . . ugh

  5. LOL, thats all i can do. with everyone with smartphones and dslr’s everyone wants to be a photographer, but on the positive side, there are more chances for a great shot as long as they don’t photo bomb my shots. nowadays i find myself shooting someone shooting the bride and groom shot because it happens so much that i might as well run with it and its the world we live in. just for the record, we usually have 2 shooters all the time, so if there is the unplanned photobomb shot, the other guy should get a good one. i don’t like being the grumpy photographer guy, so i try to work with the the other people with cameras and make sure we have the priority and get the shots we were hired for.

  6. Recent wedding I attended the invitation stated, “We have photographic services. please leave your cameras and homes and do not take any pictures. We want you to enjoy your time with us, and leave the photography to our world-class photographer.”

  7. At a recent wedding this was the desire of the bride and groom so I asked the Vicar (we are in England!) to request this from the front as part of his welcome and it went swimmingly! :)

  8. Hi Scott – In the UK many churches forbid photography inside (official pros can seek special permission) but it can get quite a scrum outside. At a recent Graduation event in the stunning Durham Cathedral (where all photography is banned at all times) it was quite a relief as a parent to be able to concentrate on the ceremony without having to take the usual expected shots. I’m in favour.

  9. Unfortunately this is the time we live in. Everyone has a camera in their hands and wants to get that “special” shot for inatagram or facebook. (Not to mention the annoying # they will list it under) It is a great idea for a big event like a wedding to use a Unplugged announcement. I cant tell you how many events i have been hired to take photos at and i have to compete/wait in line behind 3-6 people with iphones or ipads sanpping away. Veryyyy frustrating!!!! The younger generations will not know what the term Pro Photographer is as well as what a great photograph is. These are the times we live in!

  10. I understand that everyone wants their own photo of the bride, but one of the best weddings I have ever attended was unplugged. The absence of the sea of lcd screens was a pleasure and the results were that you could see the guest’s faces in the official photos.

  11. I quit weddings in ’85 but my sister asked me to bring camera on 2003 so I did, her hired photog missed “the kiss” (wouldn’t focus/shoot) so I sold her mine, best shot of wedding! I don’t have patience for them. :)

  12. Mr. Kelby, if you’re going to clip and repost another photographer’s image as you did here, you should provide proper credit to the creator.

    I know you would expect the same and would probably enlist your readers to cajole other bloggers who would dare to post one of your images with no credit. Please do the right thing.

      1. Outsource, let’s get real, shall we? First of all, this isn’t about her photo, it’s about the CNN article about the unplugged weddings. Her image appears via a screen capture of the CNN website and falls under “fair use”. Also, to your point, her photo credit is not searchable on the CNN website so why aren’t you addressing this to CNN instead of Scott. Also, I have no problem reading her name on the image, tilted or not.

      2. The creator of the image actually was linked int he CNN article, but you’re right about “fair use”.

        That still doesn’t mean Mr. Kelby can’t post a link or credit the creator. That was the only point I was trying to make.

      3. And since his post was about the article and not the photographer, having the already showing photo credit is perfectly good form. Now if he had taken the image and changed it or cropped out her credit, that would be a different story alltogether.

      4. @kentoney:disqus I’m not sure if you understand what I wrote. Mr. Kelby is completely within his rights to say “fair use” and repost a CNN article to drive traffic to his blog.

        Basically what I’m saying is Mr. Kelby could have posted a name or link to the image creator when he reposted CNN’s article. I’d imagine it would have been appreciated by the image creator.

    1. if those were my photos, i wouldn’t want photo credit, it’s being used for bad examples of wedding images, these are the images i normally delete, unless i did a blog post or used as an example like this blog post.

  13. I was at one wedding last year where the reverend made an announcement before the ceremony. At the first kiss? The entire first 5 rows emptied out and jumped up front with their DSLRs and cell phones. One person with a camera started it all, the rest followed like sheep. And the leader was not a twenty something with an iphone, but a 50 yr old woman with her canon rebel. You can make the announcement but your mileage may vary.

  14. I was lucky at my last wedding when the reverend asked the guests to refrain from getting out of their seats to shoot pics. I saw a few iPhones pop up but they kept them about face level and it didn’t interfere with the ceremony or getting the shots. I was lucky at the formals as well since that’s where I would usually run into trouble with guests flocking to the site as I was shooting. The bride and some of the bridesmaids kept the rest of the party in line for me so that they all looked at my camera and not the others during that part of the shoot. I’ve been lucky with the brides being the boss for me so I don’t look like a jerk when I have to tell some one to take it down a notch. It’s her day, she can bark at someone if she needs to and no one will question it.

  15. What’s this article about exactly, the misbehaviour of some guests at weddings, or hired photographers complaining that they’re not the only photographer?

    How guests behave is really not your business, it’s not your wedding, it’s not your family, you’re just there to take pictures.

    You are rarely the only photographer these days and that’s life. The days when it took a professional photographer with years of experience to take a reasonable picture have long gone, today you have to be a *good* photographer to make a living and if you feel theatened by an aunty with a Digital Rebel then maybe you should reconsider your choice of career.

    1. I think part of the problem, as is seen in the above photo, is that shots can be ruined by people in attendance when the photographer has an obligation to do the best job they can and get the shots. It’s hard when people keep getting in the way.

      I don’t think any good pro has to worry about aunty with her iPhone taking shots.

    2. I agree with Sam. It’s not about feeling threatened by other photographers, it’s about well-meaning but clueless wedding guests who get in the way and cause the professionals to miss important shots.

  16. I see both sides … totally.

    I think that I would find a compromise and request that nobody leave their seats and to turn flashes off. And nobody gets to take photos of the formals. Let the professional do his/her job there.

    As a bride, I would give out the information for the photographer so you can order your own photos if you want “the kiss” or a particular formal or whatever.

  17. i shot a wedding few years ago, right before i pressed shutter i noticed 3 red dots on the brides dress. the of her guest using point & shoots were aiming at the bride. the front of her dress looked a swat target. another shoot at a Bar Mitzvah a woman taps me on the shoulder to inform me i was blocking her shot

  18. A cousin of mine paid a professional photographer to shoot his wedding. The Pro had just switched to digital and had her camera set to “Social Media”, thus a dpr of 72. Great for the PC but not for printing. If it hadn’t been for Aunt Tillie and her Olympus, there wouldn’t have been any printable photos!

  19. It never bothers me if wedding guests are taking pictures as long as they aren’t getting out of their seats or standing in the aisles.

    I shot a wedding last month where one of the guests brought his handheld video camera and actually stood BEHIND the bride and groom so he could film the whole thing. To make it worse, there was no podium for the officiant, so she stood just a few inches away from the couple. I was the second shooter and was supposed to be getting shots from behind them, like close ups of their hands during a knot-tying, the ring exchange, etc…but the huge black binder that the officiant was holding ended up blocking most of my shots. So basically the main shooter got a bunch of pictures with a guy holding a video camera and I got a bunch of pictures with a big black book. It was a very small outdoor space, so there wasn’t anything we could do to get around it.

  20. I will be requesting that it be unplugged, and may even include a disclaimer of sorts in my contract that states that if the couple opts out of an unplugged wedding, I am not responsible for missed shots caused by guests getting in the way. That said, I have more than one shooter on each wedding, so someone should be able to get the required shots. I just don’t want to get sued because my shot was ruined by 40 people holding up their iPhones and standing in the aisles. It may not be a likely situation, but I’ve heard of photographers getting sued for much less.

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