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Unplugged weddings – Should I ask my guests not to take photos?


We are going to discuss something a tad controversial. Unplugged weddings. An unplugged wedding is when you ask your friends and family to turn off their phones, cameras, iPads or other digital devices used to capture wedding photos. While some couples encourage their guests to snap away and take as many photographs as possible, it can actually implement the professional photographer.

bride and groom walking down the isle

Walking down the aisle

The below photograph by Thomas Steward Photography went viral and it’s easy to see why. Thomas Stewart wrote a plea to brides and grooms pleading with them to have weddings free of technology. The UK Independent stated that Thomas Stewart said “Guests with phones, iPads and cameras get right in the way of the wedding photographer. You are paying the wedding photographer quite a bit of money. We cannot do our best work with people getting in our way”.

I have to agree with Thomas on this one. The bride walking down the aisle is perhaps the most crucial part of the entire wedding. It is the part where everything comes together and its paramount everybody has the ability to do their job freely. As a wedding photographer, I try to blend into the scene and not move around. The last thing you want to do is block the view of the groom, or trip and bump into somebody.

When wedding guests are bending over like this into the aisle, it is very difficult to get an image that is un-obstructed. Not to mentioned iphones and iPads are extremely ugly in wedding photographs. On a side note, the cameras today are designed to capture objects coming towards you with ease. I can not imagine guests with iPhones or iPads would get a very pleasing photographs in this situation.

Flash Photography

When looking at the below photograph by Corey Ann Photography, any professional photographer would know what has happened here. It is that moment when a guest is taking a photograph using flash, and it happens to go off at the same time you are taking yours. Professional photographers use flash, however we know how to control it. We might use it on low power or bounce it off the roof or walls. Many beginner DSLRs are not made for wedding photography and therefore compensate by using a LOT of flash. Let me explain

Professional DSLR’s have great light sensitivity and we use high quality lenses that let in more light. Beginner DSLRs are quite the opposite. They may do a great job in a park with great lighting, however in a church or dimly lit ceremony they would really struggle. They also use lenses that do not let in much light. One of the ways beginner DLSR compensate this is to basically blast the subjects with flash. It might be well exposed on their camera, but for professional cameras it would be severely over exposed. The worst thing is, the below photograph is basically ruined. No editing in the world could fix this wedding photograph as it has lost all detail.

Family & Group Photos

This is perhaps the one that resonates with me the most. As a Brisbane wedding photographer I place a big emphasis on capturing the family photographs. Yes, it may not be the most exciting part of the whole day, but these are the wedding photographs that you and your children will look upon for years, decades or even centuries.

On occasion, I have had nearly half a dozen guests around my head clicking away on their iPhones, trying to get the same perspective as me. The problem? Eyes. Everyone in the photograph will be looking at different cameras. This may seem like a small thing, but can completely throw off the entire photograph. This is also applicable for bridal party photographs and bride and groom portraits.

group photo of wedding guests

Getting in the way

The below photograph, courtesy of DK Photos is enough to make you cry. A beautiful moment with beautiful light ruined. Again, these type of photographs are tricky, even for a professional photographer. Being able to freeze the motion of the confetti and focus continuously on the bride and groom walking towards you is not something an iPad or iPhone could do.

This type of thing has the potential to pop up over and over again during your wedding. Bride walking down the aisle, the first dance, father hugging daughter. The list goes on. I myself have had photographs ruined by guests stepping in front of me while trying to capture an image.


I am not an angry or controlling wedding photographer by any means. I have never put restrictions in my contract stating that all guests must not bring cameras or take photos (yes, some do!). I have always been polite when the instances mentioned above have happened to me. It is up to you as the bride and groom if you want to have an unplugged wedding or not. Personally, I do not mind if guests are taking photographs during the ceremony if they stay in the one spot. On occasion I have had guests circling the bride and groom throughout the ceremony which can really interfere with the professional wedding photography.

During the family photographs and the bridal party/bride and groom photographs I strongly encourage guests to not take their own photographs. The reception is fair game to me and guests may even capture some images that the professional wedding photographer may not get around to. My suggestion? Ask the celebrant to make a quick but friendly statement before you walk down the aisle that all wedding guests are asked to turn off their phones and put away their cameras.


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