Right. I’ve had enough as well, Mr Thomas Stewart. Unplugged Wedding?


Guests using mobile phones, iPads, cameras etc. A more balanced view.

This is a bit of a long post so please bear with me. I hope to put a bit of a more balanced slant on the whole guests vs professional photographer story.

There has been an increase in tensions between the enthusiastic guests with cameras/phones/iPads and the professional photographer who’s been hired to photograph the day. Thomas Stewart, a photographer based in Australia, had a little rant about the whole thing and it went viral. I’m not quite sure why this particular one went viral as there are plenty of other articles on the subject – but hey.

He started with

“Right, I’ve had enough. I want to talk to you all about guests using mobile phones / cameras at weddings. I want to plead with you, and I’m going to make this very simple: brides and grooms, please have a completely unplugged wedding ceremony – Thomas Stewart”

He went on to talk about guests getting in the way, guests taking crap photo’s and guests spending more time looking at phones than actually taking part in the wedding. Yada yada.

You can read the full text on his facebook page here

I admit, I was immediately tempted to support this photographer. I’m a photographer, I understand his pain. It’s easy to blindly say “Yes! This is right! Couples must have unplugged weddings!” but…..waaaaait…. hang on there….. the post is a bit one-sided no? I’ve been a wedding guest many times and I’ve been ‘good’. Sure, I understand his frustration but all wedding guests are not evil.

All those lovely people at a wedding, who are using their own cameras and doing so in a considerate way are being tarred with the same ‘guests are evil social media junkies’ brush….. Now, I’m not really taking offence here- I really liked the post. I have nothing against Thomas stating an opinion and I really really understand why he posted it. However, not all weddings are the same, not all couples are the same, not all guests are the same.

Here were my thoughts on the subject:

  • I think it’s sad that so many of us (myself included) are turning into iPhone/camera/social media junkies and missing the actual process of forming memories and having real experiences. However, who am I to tell others what to do? I’ve no place telling other people what is good/bad. It’s an opinion.
  • Do people with iPhones/iPads/cameras get in my way? Well, yes. Does it annoy me? Not really, just at certain times. The rest of the time it doesn’t make any difference to me. My job is to document the wedding. If people are using their phones etc. then I’ll document it. My job as a wedding photographer is never easy, this is just another challenge and one I’ll take on.
  • I’m hired to document a wedding and the bride and groom expect me to capture certain things and certain moments. They expect me to be creative. They expect me to be polite and respectful. They are paying me to do a job. Now, if someone prevents me from doing my job I’m going to get frustrated of course. But I need to manage as best I can. I have to deal with it – I have to manage things. However, there are a few times where I can’t manage the situation, where I can’t manage people, repeat things etc. Bride coming down the aisle is one – I am very limited in where I can stand. I can’t stop the flow. I can’t ask someone to move. I’m struggling to get a shot of a moving subject in poor light and it’s a once-off – IT IS A VERY HARD SHOT TO GET. The second thing is bride/groom coming up the aisle. Same problem. So if someone gets in the way then it’s going to be a problem. For everyone. It’s just these two times that I need some help from the guests. I need them to put their phones down and let me get my shots. They really don’t need to photograph this moment. Their photos will almost certainly be low quality. For the rest of the day, do what you like with your phones/cameras. Just not at these two moments pretty please!
  • Now, there are other times where I do get a little frustrated – occasionally. Family photographs. People shooting over my shoulder. It’s hard enough trying to organise people and keep them focused on my camera. But it’s ok. I can stop things, I can turn around and talk to the people. I can get them to stop (I have quite a few techniques to do this) and I can also let them get their shot after I’ve done mine. The other big moment that is ‘mine’ is the bridal party and couple shots. These are the times that are mine. They are my plan, my choices, my creativity. I really don’t think anyone else should be there taking photo’s over my shoulder for these shots. Thankfully that doesn’t happen often.
  • Most importantly guests make the wedding. Without them it’s not much fun at all. If they are happy taking selfies and pictures off all sorts of things then who am I to stamp out their fun and creativity? I support people using their phones and cameras at weddings, it’s part of who we are as a society right now. It’s good fun. If they would rather take a photo than experience the moment in their reality then it is their choice – and I’m not going to judge anyone. Sure I’ll probably get in there for a selfie or two with them!

To Sum Up

I’ve no problem with people using their phones/cameras at weddings. I’ll even help you take shots!

However, I would really love it if you didn’t take any pictures during the walk down/up the aisle – I simply cannot get my shots (for which I’ve been hired). It doesn’t matter how well you hide – you will get in the way. So just relax and enjoy that moment. The rest of the time knock yerself out!

I would be extra happy if you leave the family shots to me. I’ll give you all my copy for free! Likewise for the bridal party shots.

Just have a little consideration and respect for the professional photographer who’s hired to do a job. In return you’ll get a whole load of respect back!

– Corin

p.s. if the Bride and Groom want an ‘unplugged’ wedding then it’s their CHOICE. The photographer should respect their wishes either way. Guests should do the same.

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