Be present: a photographer’s take on cell phone etiquette and mindfulness

February 10, 2016



Be present: a photographer’s take on cell phone etiquette and mindfulness

I love this image. It makes me laugh every time, from a wedding a shot back in 2013 at Paradise Cove, in Orlando. A lot of folks these days always have their phones on them, making them a no-brainer go to camera. 

But today I wanted to share a little from my side of things, as your wedding photographer. And as a human being who is curious about mindfulness, which is something I think about a lot during my daily yoga practice. 

Wedding days are full of happiness, joy and highlights you & your partner’s life unlike any other day you’ll ever share together. It’s a day you want to be present, and you want everyone to share with you, right?

Of course.

So here’s the thing. I’m trying to catch a clear, crisp, magical moment of you two together. Those crucial, decisive moments that will go on to frame your memories of your wedding for years to come. 

Navigating through a sea of mobile phones, ipads and the arms that are raised out towards you by folks trying to get a better shot makes my job pretty difficult. I don’t blame them- it’s something that’s becoming normal. Unless we start to question it and think of a better way.

It also saddens me a bit, because it means I can’t get a reaction photo of that guest, since they are not looking at you- they’re looking at their screen. Sometimes I even see guests looking down reviewing the photos they just got before you even get to the end of the aisle. 

As a photographer, it takes a lot of mindfulness and restraint to sit back and simply watch. But when I do, it’s really a beautiful thing. And I think your guests might feel the same way. 

Why you should consider having an unplugged wedding:
First of all, this funny groomsmen group selfie always cracks me up, and I love this photo. But there are many times when I am photographing a wedding and looking for great photo ops and it seems like every third person has a phone in their hand. When all is said and done- when you’ve walked down the aisle, said ‘I do’ and walked into a whole new life together with your true love- photographs are one of the most beautiful and emotionally powerful ways to remember the magic of your wedding day. Albums bring your wedding day to life at the turn of a page, and you’ll be able to look back and remember fun details of the day- the expressions on your guests faces as they watch your first dance, how young your nieces and nephews looked, and your first kiss together as a married couple. 

But what happens when the majority of your guests watch your first dance through a cell phone screen, a cell phone starts ringing during your vows or your fiancĂ© sees you in your gown on instagram before your first look or walk down the aisle? Maybe it doesn’t bother you, but for many of you, you took a lot of time to plan your wedding and hire a talented, experienced photographer to help beautifully capture and curate your day into an elegant series of images. 

Top 5 advantages of an unplugged wedding:

1. You will get higher quality wedding photos. Period.

2. You’ll see more genuine, candid moments of your wedding: Your photographer can capture you and your guests experiencing the fun, emotional and beautiful moments of your day. Instead of having to ask you or your guests to put a phone away before taking a posed group shot.

3. You and your guests will experience more by ‘looking up’ more and being present in the moment, instead of watching the wedding day through their phone screens.

4. Social media quality control- you have a say on what photos are shared and make sure they represent you and your wedding day beautifully, which is all about quality, not quantity. This is why you took the time to hire an experienced, talented wedding photographer.

5. No distracting beeps or ringtones: make sure cellphone noises don’t detract from your special moment during the ceremony.

Top 5 advantages of a “plugged in” wedding:

1. You will get a higher quantity of wedding photos.

2. You can come up with a fun instagram hashtag for your guests who love instagram (I do too-

3. Saves time since you won’t have to worry about putting together a message, signs or announcements to your guests about turning off their phones or reconsidering how much they use their phone during your wedding.

4. Your wedding might appear live on twitter, facebook, instagram, and other social media.

5. Selfies. Group selfies. Your photographer can even take a funny photo of you taking a group selfie. 🙂 Even though your photographer will be happy to take a high quality photo of you looking all fancy, your group of friends from high school, etc..

Trust me, I know how exciting and emotional weddings can be, and I don’t blame people for wanting to capture the moment for themselves. But many of us professional wedding photographers across the country have noticed that cellphone use- and a lack of etiquette- is changing the face of weddings and creating issues you may wish to avoid. Just like the message in the movie theaters, you can educate and encourage your guests to unplug a bit and be more present, or even just to mute their phones and be thoughtful about when and how they use their phone at your wedding. 

In fact, you may be the sort of photo lover that wants as many photos of your wedding as possible from your family and friends on your instagram hashtag. But when it comes to cell phone photos and videos, #johnandsarahsayido can turn into a different reality- instead of sharing great conversations, dancing, hugs, cake eating and fully engaging in your wedding day moment, you’ll notice your guests sitting off by themselves looking down at their phones to see if they got that perfect instagram shot. It reminds me of the “look up” videos that have become so popular on youtube or facebook in 2014. 

Wedding Cell Phone Etiquette Options to consider:

  • unplug all devices at the wedding.
  • assign one bridesmaid and one groomsmen to keep their phones on and be contact points for the day.
  • keep the bride & groom off phones except for meaningful calls.
  • only take pictures and video thoughtfully & sparingly.
  • only take pictures thoughtfully & sparingly.
  • guest photos at the reception dinner only.
  • limit photography to cameras with no flash.
  • no video.
  • no social media sharing.
  • no social media sharing until 2 weeks later.
  • only share photos & videos privately with the bride & groom (quality control).

Wedding tech etiquette 101: Ways to educate your guests on your wedding day:

Tech is a great tool- when we use it thoughtfully and respectfully.

What you decide is up to you and your partner, and something you should take the time to decide before your wedding day to ensure that you and your guests enjoy every moment of your journey! Be mindful, focus on the people you love, and trust that your photographer will do the wonderful job you pay them for.

Thanks for reading, and I hope this gives you some ideas for you to think about as you plan your special day!