This (I think) got trendy this year. It’s a good trend, but realistically, not always possible (I think, again). Some of what I say might not be nice, but awareness of the situation and sensitivity is always important.
I blogged about Uncle Bob and his crew of overly-enthusiastic photography club members sometime last week. And that doesn’t include the other members that joined recently – the mobile club. The new iPhone 5 is reported to have 8 Megapixels, f2.4, has flash, and can shoot up to ISO 3200. Amazing low light capabilities, and if you view them in low resolution, the quality is passable.

unplugged weddings

You’re The Guest, So Act Like One

Me, Annie and JJ flew to Sydney a few weeks ago for Annie’s best friend’s wedding. Six months or so when we got the verbal invite we were like, sure, no problem, we’ll be there! How naive we were. That six months later, we realized that JJ wasn’t the sort of baby that would eat/sleep/play (and in this case, cry) when we wanted him to, and knowing that now, we were a bit nervous about how he’d be like in an afternoon outdoor wedding and a reception dinner.

Long story short? He didn’t sleep or cry during the wedding, but he was excited with his toy. Far too excited. I took him elsewhere in the pram, and pretty much missed the entire ceremony. Ah well.

But the point being – I was the guest. I didn’t want the ceremony to be interrupted with loud baby noises. This was their moment, and I wasn’t going to be the one to spoil it.

Back to unplugging weddings. I’d think that when the bride walks down the aisle, she’d want to see the faces of her very important guests rather than look at the lens and be potentially blinded by on-camera straight-on flash. She’d want them to share in her joy, and be part of the ceremony, rather than being distracted by it.

But I’m Multitasking

Sure you are. Like this guy here who wanted to prove to his wife he could multitask and ended up ironing his face.

Joe Buissink (ok, I’ve been learning a lot from CreativeLive) says that he shoots most of the wedding on auto (I’ll have to write this up at some other time) because he doesn’t want to detach himself; he wants to feel and be in the moment, and to capture the moment between the moments. I love this idea, and I can totally agree with it. When you look through the lens of a camera (be it an SLR or an iPhone), you immediately start the thinking process.

Photography is a conscious process. You feel, and then you think. How much or how little thinking that’s done is up to you, but whether it’s the composition, or the exposure, or shutter speed or aperture, you do think. And you immediately detach yourself, slightly or greatly, when you use the camera.

Sure you’re multitasking. But you’re also distracted, and your attention isn’t fully on the ceremony.

Turning the Coin Upside Down

On the flip side, who are we to stop guests from taking pictures? Jasmine Star said this on her blog:

Sure, your photo may be technically better than Grandma Jo’s, but to Grandma Jo, her photo has more sentimental value because she saw the moment, and she captured it. If you tell Grandma Jo (or X or anyone else for that matter) not to take a photo (though your reasons may have the best intent), what you’re really telling her is that her photo doesn’t matter as much as yours.

That’s one problem. I, as the professional photographer, could be at fault as well. One, my photos aren’t instantaneously on Facebook or Twitter or even blog, even though they’re usually there within a couple of days. The world moves way too fast sometimes. Two, if I were shooting portraits of the guests, I would never have the same access as a family member (even though I try pretty hard and usually find some way to get access). Thus, my pictures compared to Grandma Jo’s would be pretty different. And three, I started out more or less the same way as Uncle Bob. I brought a nice DSLR with a nice lens, and shot when I could. I’m pretty sure I was sensitive to the occasions, but then again, that’s how I saw it and not the professional photographer at that time.

Solutions?

There’s really no easy answer to this. On one hand I as the photographer stand to lose if I allow guests to walk over my head. On the other I’m the honorary invited guest who’s there to primarily capture the wedding, and thus leave as small a footprint as possible. So anyway… here’s my thoughts:

  1. Again, make friends. There’s power to relationships, even if it started 20 seconds ago. Let Uncle Bob play some part in the action, but you draw the line on what is acceptable and what isn’t (in a nice way of course).
  2. If you think that the bride and groom’s guests might be the shoot-happy type, then perhaps have ask for a ‘turn off your mobiles and camera in a nice way’ announcement by the celebrant, so that the guests will be slightly less inclined to whip out the camera and do a 20-picture burst.
  3. Capture the Uncle Bobs in their full glory. That way when the bride/groom ask why their pictures are so bad, you can point out a few factors. Not great, but it’s a ‘can’t be helped’ situation.
  4. A last option (and perhaps suicidal) would be to pull out the contract. I don’t think I”ll ever do this, and I don’t even want to think about doing this, but if you ever exhaust all options, then perhaps pulling it out in the middle of a wedding could be acceptable? I’ll leave that to you.