Unplugged and Crowdsourced: The New Age of Wedding Photography


I’m photographing a wedding in a couple of weeks. During one of our meetings, I asked the bride whether she and her fiancé had made a decision regarding their guests being allowed to photograph during the ceremony and reception. She started shaking her head, saying that it hadn’t even occurred to her.

I could tell she was getting a little agitated thinking about whether they would offend their guests if they told them they couldn’t take pictures. So we talked about the pros and cons of it. They haven’t made their decision yet.

No-More-iPhoneWhile there has always been the snap-happy friend or family member at the wedding, the hired photographer has pretty much had carte blanche in getting the job done. But in this paparazzi culture, they’re having to navigate the obstacle course of guests’ smart phones, tablets, and even DSLRs with flashes.

Consequently, couples are having to make the decision of telling their guests when they can and cannot whip out that smartphone Especially if they have hired a professional photographer. Why risk having the photos they’re paying lots of money for, potentially be ruined by one of their guests getting in the way.

A term being used a lot right now is the Unplugged Wedding. If you google it, you’ll get over 5,000,000 results. Spend time looking at all the images (and reading random photographers blogs) and it becomes very clear that the new thing-to-do is…coming up with lovely, creative ways to convey the digital boundaries.

ceremonyPersonally, I feel that the ceremony should be the one time that guests should “stay in the moment”. My father is an officiant, and has often expressed his frustration with not only guests, but even the hired photographer, detracting from the ceremony. It does seem that it’s trending in the direction of having the ceremony unplugged, except for the hired photographer…but everyone all-in at the party!

And of course, the reception is where those planned and unplanned moments collide. It’s virtually impossible for the hired photographer to get them all. And, besides, it’s those spontaneously captured moments that make some of the best memories.

And this is when I truly love the digital age.

First danceWith the advent of cloud technology, there are some really cool crowd source photo sharing apps available for couples to customize and offer their guests. Everyone can share their photos with not only the couple, but the other guests and beyond, all in one convenient location. Some of these apps are really streamlined and all about just photo sharing. Others have premium offerings like moderated live streaming slideshows.

While Instagram seems to be the most recognizable way of collectively sharing the big event, there are a handful of wedding specific apps that are gaining in popularity. As goes in the tech world, if it’s complicated or not intuitive, people will abandon it for whatever takes the fewest steps to getting their photos online.

These other apps have simplified the whole process. After the couple establishes their site, all the guests have to do is download the app, connect to the specific album, shoot and post. Most have commenting capabilities too.

Here are five apps for both iPhone & Android that look really interesting (For more information on them as well as a couple more, this guide is helpful):

Wedpics claims to be the #1. Their site states the have registered 36,000 couples, is adding more than 1,400 users per day, serves more than 1200 weddings per weekend and its users share more than 100,000 photos weekly. It’s free to use.

Wedding Party shows up a lot in the wedding blogging community. They are also very supportive of the Wedding Photographer. It’s a free app.

OurPhotoOpp is fee based. $149, but on sale for $99. They offer a live remote online viewing slideshow, in addition to many other products.

Wedding Snap: Fees range from $89-$249. The two highest packages offer photo retouching, and for the $249 package, a live moderated slide show.

Capsule: It states it’s free, but I get the feeling there might be some charges somewhere. It’s really vague. They are integrated with Instragram and The Knot. They also advocate for the wedding photographer.

As with anything that involves technology these days, photographers have to figure out a way to integrate and adapt. Integrate what works – the classics, the tried and true – with the new.

Wedding photographers, in this case, have an opportunity to expand their services and create ways of adding value to their packages so that they can help their clients make the best decisions for one of the most important days in their lives.

About the author: Tiffany Diamond is a freelance photographer based in the Pacific Northwest. She specializes in portrait, lifestyle, event, and documentary photography. Visit her website here.

Image credits: Take a photo or few, it’ll last longer by Soon., aisle by rasdourian, First dance by waitscm

  • simon

    Am I alone in thinking all this fuss is a bit excessive? Photos/no photos – isn’t it more about the day itself?

  • Mike

    The day itself kind of sucks when everyone are viewing it through a screen, waving a StuPad™ all over the place.

  • radiancedeluxe

    I’m of the opinion that trying too hard to control an inherently chaotic day just leads to unhappiness. Regardless of the stated rules, someone in the audience will be taking photos. I wouldn’t want the couple to be worried about all of that. Of course an unplugged wedding would make our lives easier, but I accept this “paparazzi culture” (great phrase, btw) as the new reality and choose to just adapt to it. DSLR Uncle Bob loves taking these photos as much as we do.

  • Chris Pickrell

    IS this a piece about wedding photography, or a very long build up to an app advertisement?

  • WeddingsByJonathan

    I had a guest this weekend tell me to “Get out of my way” so she could get a photo with her Iphone while I was taking a photo of the bride walk down the isle. She then approached me later on to argue how I was in HER way when ever she wanted to take photos. I nicely pointed to the bride (who was right in front of me posing) and said to her “Do you want to explain to the bride why I didn’t certain photos?’

  • radiancedeluxe

    Oh geez.

  • Tiffany Diamond

    A story about the new(ish) face of wedding photography! :)

  • CrackerJacker

    But when Zooey Deschanel does it we all hate her? ;)

  • BT

    As a photographer and as someone who just got married, I am SO happy that we didn’t have an “unplugged wedding.” Nobody ruined the pictures our photographer was taking because our photographer was good at his job. My friends and family took pictures, yes, but not constantly, and they were able to focus on different things than our professional photographer. Even though the quality of their images is not the same as his, I am thrilled to have their images because they show different aspects of the day that I didn’t necessarily get to see (and neither did my pro photographer because he was with me).

    Furthermore, I know how much it means to me to take and own my own pictures and I would not want to deny this to those I love.

    I think it is doing brides and grooms a disservice to push unplugged weddings. I can understand letting people know to respect the professional photographer’s role and try to be present for the wedding, but not to flat out tell people they’re not allowed to take pics.

    Also, what happens if the photographer’s memory cards get lost or corrupted? It happens. Then the couple is left with….nothing.

  • Matthew Wagg

    Well there’s the second shooter for the unscripted moments. Memory cards getting lost or corrupted? I guess you don’t know how much we value our data storage and backup policies. We have professional cameras that cost thousands because they have two slots for redundancy, then as they get full our assistants place them onto live backup discs. A pro losing pictures from a wedding (which is the couple’s most important day in their lives) will never happen as there are multiple levels of data backup going on not just on the day but also for long term.

    I’m a big proponent of unplugged weddings, it lets us get on with our jobs without people getting in our way and causing a scene. We can stay out of sight and still get the great shots and deliver magic to the couple.

  • BT

    I have worked with hundreds of photographers on thousands of weddings (not an exaggeration) and I have seen images get lost multiple times. Sometimes it’s just a few shots, a couple times it was whole weddings. My own photographer at my wedding had several files that were corrupted. Luckily for me, they were pictures of our rings and he offered to reshoot them, but that is not always possible. To say this “never” happens is irresponsible and flat out false. No matter how careful you are, you can’t always foresee a ruined card. That’s great that you’ve never had this happen to you. I’ve never had it happen to me, either, but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible.

    Also, not everyone can afford a second photographer.

    If you want to push unplugged wedding, by all means, do it. But as a bride, I am very glad to have my guests’ photos and I think it’s kind of sad to convince couples that their pictures are going to be ruined if their guests take pictures.

  • Tiffany Diamond

    Has anyone had any experience with the crowd source photo sharing apps?

  • Daniel Hine

    I agree totally Mike

  • Eugene Chok

    very timely not long ago i posted a facebook status ‘ i dont even bother shooting the wedding anymore, i just take photographs of the guests shooting, since they have it covered anyway….’

  • Tim

    You should be able to take that kind of thing with a pinch of salt Mr. “weddingsByJonathan”, I would certainly discourage anyone else from getting into a similar argument on someone’s big day. Learn how to brush it off and carry on shootIng otherwise you’ll spend more time arguing than taking photos. Diplomacy is key.

  • Nicole

    How about asking guests to just stay in their seats during the ceremony? I just recently had to football-push an overzealous Uncle Bob who backed into me during the recessional between me and the couple just so I could get the shot. No fun. And guests were coming up to me all day marveling at how rude that guy was during the ceremony. You can’t dictate consideration and respect for the hired professionals but you can put restrictions in place to curb their behavior.

  • Brooklyn Imagist

    Well I guess that I am the scourge of wedding photographers, “Uncle Bob with DSLR”. In fact, I have been working as a pro for 30 years, however while not a wedding photographer, I have shot numerous family weddings. More times than not however, they will hire a wedding photographer and I will bring my 5D and flash and shoot candid shots during the ceremony and during the reception, and while I have no interest in competing with someone just trying to make a living, I do get in the mix to get my shots during the reception, offering simply another view. I defer to the hired pros to get the classic shots, but as I usually know a lot of the people I am able to get a lot more personal images that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. This is my gift to the couple, and it has been noted more times than not that they preferred my shots to the more artificially contrived posed shots. So to assume that restricting people from shooting candid shots with iphones, ipads or even DSLRs will create a better environment for the hire photog, creating supposedly better images, simply takes away a lot of the spontaneous fun that goes on when people are hamming for the camera with people that they know and love. You can’t be all places at once and I have to believe that in the end, more is better and the pro should be relieved that they simply don’t have to worry about getting it all, as they have a lot of unpaid help assisting in creating these memories. They can concentrate on their job at hand and let the amateurs have their fun. I just shot my nephew’s wedding in Colorado and the hired photographer, to whom they paid half of the job in advance, went out of business the week before the wedding and they lost their money, hiring someone literally the day before. You can be sure that they were relieved to see “Uncle Bob” filling in as second camera! As a matter of fact, I got to get back to processing a lot of priceless memories that would not exist if I didn’t take my 5D.

  • cuteshannon

    Fighting against social media is like trying to stop a
    freight train. Try using something like
    a photofiesta kiosk. That way guests can
    upload a professional image or two to social media without disrupting the event,
    and hopefully they can keep their cellphone in their pocket – where it belongs.

  • cuteshannon

    Fighting against social media is like trying to stop a
    freight train. Try using something like
    a photofiesta kiosk. That way guests can
    upload a professional image or two to social media without disrupting the
    event, and hopefully they can keep their cellphone in their pocket – where it

  • cuteshannon

    Welcome to 2013, where planning a wedding requires not just seating plans, and color schemes but also a social media strategy. If you have never considered the effect of social media at your wedding, photofiesta would like to offer you a few tips.

    First of all, everyone planning a large event, like a wedding, needs to come up with a social media strategy. It is important that your strategy assures that only high quality photography (instead of pics. from friends’ iphones) ends up on the internet.

    Many people hope that friend’s photos will help document the big day, but several problems do exist with this strategy. One of the biggest problems with asking guests to use their smartphones to help document your wedding is that these DIY pictures are often the most viewed… and the poorest quality. These images usually get far more views than the images that you have paid a professional photographer to take.

    Another consideration to be taken into account is the experience of your guests, at a typical wedding, guests spend a lot of time staring into their phones instead of interacting with each other. In fact, 7 out of 10 twitter followers admit to sending tweets during weddings! Ideally, you want your guests to experience the wedding, not document it, and certainly not to miss key moments while they update their facebook wall! Another problem is that flashes from amateur photography often ruin a great shot that your photographer was trying to take. Many photographers have become increasingly frustrated by these ruined shots and are forced to try to convince guests to turn off their devices themselves. Many couples find that when they get their pictures back from the photographer that special moments (like a first dance) have a background that is totally obscured by devices and the picture looks more like you are dancing in front of a paparazzi scrum than a crowd of well-wishers.

    In fact, more and more couples are opting for an “unplugged wedding” – where guests are asked to turn off or surrender their phones for the duration of the wedding.

    The problem with an unplugged wedding is that social media has become such a huge part of how we interact as a society and couples don’t want to cut that part of their life out of their wedding day. In addition, almost all weddings have at least one cherished friend or family member who was not able to attend. Social medial can allow that person to participate in the event as it happens rather than hearing about it later.

    The solution? Simple, have a social media strategy in place before the wedding. Simple software like photofiesta allows your professional photographer to showcase their images on an ipad in real time. This ipad can be carried with your photographer or set up in a beautiful kiosk. Guests can view and interact with the media and easily upload it to a variety of social media.

    There is usually a period of time between the ceremony and the reception, while the wedding party has additional photography done. This time is often particularly problematic for out of town guests who have nowhere to go. This is a great time for guests to be able to interact with a kiosk and upload professional shots from your ceremony, and the images taken immediately before and after the ceremony itself

    The best part of a photofiesta type kiosk is that if you do get a picture to trend or go viral it will be of professional quality. Ask any bride and she will tell you – the most viewed picture, better be a good one!

    This type of software also encourages guests to be more engaged in your wedding by encouraging groups to view the content and discuss the pictures together.

    Hopefully, on your wedding day, you can get all of the benefits of social media, and guests can keep their phones in their pockets – where they belong!

  • Jimmy Moncrief

    Wish you would have mentioned ciderr in the article.

    We built ciderr specifically to build the photographers business…

  • Sugando Pulando

    Maybe, but I guess other people just want to piss in everyone’s cereal.

  • Maria V.

    For forty years, I have photographed family weddings. I do not use flash, I used a 35mm slr camera and now a dslr camera set on manual. I make sure I never get in the way of the official photographers and have been frequently have been thanked because of it. On several occasions the official photographer has asked me the names, etc. of the family and friends. I try to take candid shots of our family and friends. I am not an expert, and I know it. I do not post my photos, I give them to the couple to use as they please. On several occasions, my photos have been the only ones. I too have noticed more and more people are using flash and getting in the way. With social media, there is usually plenty of photos. I have noticed more and more people with Smartphones appear to need to use the camera at any excuse.