Banning Wedding Guest Photography: Would you Choose an Unplugged Wedding?

20 Apr 2015

Should you ask wedding guests to put away their cameras and phones? We ask the professionals what gains are on offer

Wedding photographer, gushing guest or planning couple, you’re sure to have noticed the recent wave of popularity for ‘unplugged weddings’, where no one but the hired professional has consent to snap a picture. Victoria Dovey asks the pros if this is such a bright idea.

Image by Neale James

Image gallery

Image gallery

What is an unplugged wedding? It's a wedding where the bride, groom or officiator request a ban on electronic equipment, such as phones and cameras, for either the ceremony or the reception in order to allow the professional to be the sole photographer.

My grandmother recently confessed to me that my grandfather was a Teddy Boy. Immediately I asked for photographic proof. “Oh no,” she replied. “We didn’t have cameras back then. It was just the professionals at weddings and sometimes we went for portraits.” If there is one defining factor between the weddings of today and of the past, the popularisation of photography has to be it. Guests can now share in capturing those special (or sometimes delightfully cheesy) moments – but is this certain brand of accessibility a good thing? Increasingly, friends and family are being asked to put down the cameras, the smartphones and iPads; to make way for the professionals in unplugged ceremonies. As with anything, there are arguments for both sides – we found out the thoughts of four wedding photographers to find out the pros and cons of an ‘unplugged weddings’, from the professional's perspective:

David Stanbury

Professional photographer David Stanbury is FOR unplugged weddings
“We have shot over 1,000 weddings over 18 years and the difference in, for example, the walking down the aisle shot – when we were the only people with a camera – to now where when a multitude of devices iPads, phones etc are thrust in front of the couple; is that it always ruins not only the shot, but the emotion.
“This is not my number one concern regarding the so called ‘Uncle Bobs’ or camera phones. My main concern is that these images are uploaded to Facebook, and Twitter, without a thought to whether the couple will like the photograph or not. I am a strong believer in capturing the light & emotion for maximum impact, but when the image has been plastered all over social media, then the impact is lost forever.
“I have to laugh at a comedian who said he forgot his phone at a recent gig and had to endure watching the band with his eyes rather than through his phone screen. But then again if any guest gets too close or in the way, I have them physically removed! Ha!”

Professional photographer David Michael Bradford is FOR unplugged weddings
“I have been shooting weddings for over ten years now, and can't tell you the amount of times I have missed a possible great shot due to an over-zealous guest jumping across me to get the same shot on their phone or compact camera. This kind of thing is a real shame as their shot is unlikely to be as good as it could have been, so you could argue that they are depriving the couple of a recorded moment.
“Secondly, at every wedding there is a budding photographer with a decent SLR shooting away with their pop-up flash and over-exposing a good few of my shots taken at the same time. As you may have gathered, I am a big fan of unplugged weddings and hope their popularity continues to grow.”

David Michael

Professional photographer Liam Crawley is AGAINST unplugged weddings
“Personally I don't agree with the idea of unplugged weddings. I think it is really important for us as professional photographers not to lose sight of the fact that each and every individual in attendance at the weddings we shoot are emotionally close to the bride and groom. Of course they are going to want to create there own photographic memories of there granddaughter, grandson son, daughter, brother, sister or best friend. I don't feel that we, as photographers, should have the authority to deny them that... it’s their celebration, not ours. As wedding photographers it's our job to document, not dictate.”

Professional photographer Neale James sits ON THE FENCE with unplugged weddings
“I’m not entirely against having cameras during the service or other important times. We live in very different image-literate era – being attached to a camera device is seemingly oxygen to some folk. I do wonder what people do with all these pictures they take. Often many of the images I see being taken don’t even have the line of sight required to truly be of general interest, let alone the artistic variety. And many is the time I spot a bride or groom wince when a well meaning guest taps them on the shoulder to show them a series of pictures they have captured and just posted on Facebook.
“I’m sure many guests hide behind their camera on a different emotional level. Not everyone feels comfortable talking to strangers and making small talk, and a camera can be a useful way of detaching oneself from that.
“One thing I’ve noticed of late is for registrars and clergy to use the professional photographer as an excuse for their own feelings about this subject. I don’t like being cited as the reason for guests not to take pictures. It feels awkward, as if I have somehow requested by contract that guests can’t do what they would like to do. Registrars and vicars often do this, using me as their focus of reason. If I have an inkling this will happen, I’ll make sure I stand up front and say with a bright beaming smile; ‘No no, I’m quite happy for that.’
“Whilst not completely against it, there are times when guests step in front of you just at the moment the recessional is happening. But I think that’s more a problem for videographers bolted to one position by their tripod. I can move, and I’m big and ugly enough these days to teasingly jostle if I need to.”


Related content

supplier finder

Get a quote

Looking for that perfect local supplier?
Let us know what you need and we’ll start looking for you.

supplier finder

Find a supplier

Search over 200,000 Suppliers in the UK.



Everything for your wedding

In The Spotlight: The Woodyard at Worstead Estate, Norfolk

Nestled in 300 acres of private woodland is The Woodyard at Worstead Estate, a newly laun...

17 plus-size wedding guest outfits

Flatter your figure and accentuate your curves with these options in plus-size wedding gu...

Wedding Photo of the Week: Jess Soper Photography

Each week we’re inviting all wedding photographers to submit their images to be Bri...

Anna Georgina launches Wild-Spirit 2022 Bridal Collection

No fuss and no frills is the thinking behind the latest collection from Anna Georgina ...

A bold pink wedding shoot in Santorini

For a fairy tale wedding set-up on the island of Santorini, look no further than this rom...

Looking for that perfect local supplier?
Let us know what you need and we’ll start looking for you.

the wedding show