You know that voice of regret? The one that says “I wish I had (insert the path not taken here)” or “If I could do it over again, I would (insert the better choice here)”. We all have it. We all hear it in our heads from time to time. Sometimes we even share it. During the last year, as a photographer, I have heard many share theirs.
Oftentimes they are the voices of newlyweds, and/or parents of newlyweds, sharing, with me, heartbreaking statements something along the lines of: “I wish we had hired a professional photographer for our son’s/daughter’s wedding. We just got our pictures back and we were not happy.”
This is painful to hear for a variety of reasons. First and foremost, I am a professional photographer. Second, I understand the poignancy of 20/20 hindsight. And, third, because I know I will hear this again and again as people often tend to listen only to the voice of hindsight as opposed to the voice of foresight.
As one can imagine, this is a hot, and relatively broad, topic for professional photographers (one of which I have touched upon in previous blogs: Wedding planning underway? Take 3 tips from a professional photographer, Why Pay? Uncle Bill Has a Camera!, and Reserve Uncle Bill a Seat! Bring in a Professional) so I will limit this round to addressing one of the largest contributors to this gut-wrenching issue: The smartphone.
I had previously decided to hold off writing this blog in hopes that reports of smartphone weddings were more or less scarce. However, last week, I read another instance where someone was indirectly advocating for smartphones’ use over hiring a more expensive professional photographer. True, it saves money in the short run, but the long-term costs are going to be much higher. So, please, listen to this voice of foresight for a moment.
Now, I know smartphones are out there and I know the new generations are in love with them. Add a dash of Pinterest and Instagram to this and you soon find you’ve concocted a wonderfully, romantic recipe for having a “smartphone wedding”. This is where the bride and groom forego an expensive professional photographer, have all the guests bring their smartphones, and, after the big day, use all the captured images to put together their wedding photo album. Seems romantic, hip, and trendy, right? Can’t wait to share your smartphone wedding on Pinterest and Instagram for the world to see, right? Well, let’s throw in a little truth with this and see it if is still soup, shall we?
Based on experience and simple observance of people who could care less about photography (and believe me there are a lot of those at every wedding), here is what you are more likely to see in your wedding pictures:
- Blurry, foggy, grainy, dark, and/or washed out images
- Improperly zoomed images
- Closed eyes
- Awkward selfies
- A million peopleless pictures of that one fountain that was there for ambiance (This happened at our wedding with the disposable cameras we let everyone use. Yes I am THAT old).
- Pictures of everyone taking pictures of everyone (and everything) else.
- A very real possibility of missing the first kiss as well as other key traditional wedding shots.
- People wandering all over the place during the ceremony
- A dwindling number of photographs taken later in the day as people get tired of snapping shots, begin to leave, and/or their phones begin to go dead.
Basically, smartphones, as far as picture quality goes, is the modern-day equivalent to those click-n-wind cameras your grandmother used to have and those beeping, zooming, fixed-lens point-and-shoots your mother used just a few years ago. They have a few improvements, but, to the photography enthusiast who always looks for a single-button, automatic option, they are not going to make much of a difference. In fact, to the untrained user, these improvements could actually make things worse.
Now, I know you say: “But, Patrick, I found this great website that shows a beautiful wedding captured entirely by a smartphone.” To that, I say, I might know just the site to which you refer. Let’s have a look (A beautiful wedding captured using only a Smartphone). This beautiful wedding was captured totally on a Nokia Lumia 1020 with its 41-megapixel sensor (which is great if you plan to post your wedding portraits on a billboard). However, posting these images on social media is going to be trickier, because, as Nicolas Cage’s character “Tiny Elvis” would say on Saturday Night Live in the 90s (Once again, I’m that old): “They’re huge!”
Anyway, back on topic: Yes, I agree, these images are beautiful, gorgeous and memorable! And you want to know why? Well, that is the itsy bitsy detail they hope you might miss when viewing these wedding shots: The person taking them was…wait for it… a professional photographer! HEADLINE: “Professional photographer captures great portraits with camera!”
Of course they are going to be great! Aside from the fact she knew what to look for and how to frame it properly, they had mostly natural lighting in the ceremony, so the abhorred straight flash on this smartphone was not well represented in how it could have potentially ruined most of the shots. In fact, placing this more than $600 beast in the hands of a non-professional is likely not going to make any headlines other than: “Bride, groom wishes they had hired professional photographer”.
It is these, and other ever-increasing improvements in technology, that are fooling non-photographers into trusting their irreplicable moments to a trend. I recently read an article discussing the obstacles professional photographers will face in 2014. One of the usual foes, as it has been for some time now, is the smartphone camera.
The article says a lot of photographers, especially low-end photographers, will cease to bring in the bucks, as everyone will have a camera on their hip and can take images they need anywhere and anytime they want. To combat this, the article goes on to describe how those in the biz can begin offering items beyond simply captured moments so as to remain competitive among the myriad of “photographers” who are fresh out of the Verizon store.
I happen to agree with this for two reasons. One, because we already offer things like canvas wraps, professional portrait albums, and more. And Two, as I alluded to before, we also have something most quick-handed, phone slingers do not: An eye for photography!
The second one is the key many people forget about when they decide not to hire an expensive professional photographer. No matter how smart your smartphone is (and believe me, the ones I have messed with are anything but), just having a decent camera does not make you a photographer any more than buying a metal toothpick and a tube of toothpaste makes you a dentist.
Honestly, I could keep going. I mean, I haven’t even touched upon how easily, and often, smartphones are dropped, flushed, washed, and lost. However, hopefully this voice of foresight has already made its point and has steered you away from making one of the most financially enticing mistakes of your life.
And I will admit, as it would be with any profession in this situation, part of me is apprehensive about smartphones and their threat to my paycheck. However, I become even more anxious at the thought of the likely catastrophe of letting one’s friends and family be responsible for photographing such a beautiful, unique experience with, essentially, point-and-shoot cameras.
Bottom line: If your friends or family do not know the meanings AND functionality, of words like bokeh, ISO, shutter speed, aperture, megapixel, optical zoom, digital zoom, JPG, or RAW, then they should probably not be handed the responsibility of photographing your big day.
Now if you WANT your wedding to be captured in the same photographic vein as that great senior class trip to the Smokey Mountains, then, by all means, make sure they bring their chargers! Oh, and if you have a relative with one of those 41-megapixel miracle monsters pointed at the bride and groom (can you sense a megapixel-related blog coming in the near future?), be sure to remind them to completely empty their phone of every other image, song, and app they have before your wedding day, or, at very least, request that they bring a hard drive set up for a memory dump (which isn’t going to happen quickly with a thousand, 30-MB images), as this camera’s 32 GB memory is going to be full at about 500-1000 shots shy of the full wedding day. But, don’t worry, I’m sure the sales associates at the AT&T store already told them this.