Are photographers going to start offering discounts for unplugged weddings?

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Photo by Sam Hurd.
Photo by Sam Hurd.

In my almost-eight years of running Offbeat Bride and working with wedding photographers, I've heard of photographers offering potential clients discounts for all sorts of things: discounts for destination weddings, discounts for LGBT-identified couples, discounts for sci-fi weddings or elopements and all sorts of other niche weddings.

But yesterday was the first time I saw a photographer who's offering a discount for couples doing an unplugged wedding. Is this a new thing?

I found out about Washington DC photographer Sam Hurd‘s discount when I stumbled across his URL in Offbeat Bride's referral logs. Clicking over, I found this in his FAQ:

Can my uncle take photos during my wedding?

He sure can… as long as he stays out of my cross hairs. I do offer a discount for “unplugged” weddings.

I'm familiar with all the reasons why photographers loooove unplugged weddings. There are dozens of comments from photographers on this post that make it clear that unplugged weddings make it easier for them to do the jobs they've been hired to do… but I've never seen a photographer translate this benefit into a discount for their clients. I got in touch with Sam and asked him about what motivated him to start offering the discount, and here's what he said:

I've been offering the “unplugged discount” throughout this past year, and for me it's proven to be extremely valuable. The past two years, my rates have increased significantly and I've noticed an upward trend of clients asking about discounts — the unplugged option is my go-to line dealing with that.

It not only provides the client with a win-win result (my life is easier, my photos more valuable, and they get to save some cash) but it changes the tone of the conversation from just being about money to being about the mood of a wedding day, and my clients realizing I have their best interests in mind.

I think we're all familiar with why couples opt not to do unplugged weddings — some of us love social media! Some of us have heard horror stories about photographers losing their memory cards, or going out of business! Having a super-plugged wedding is super awesome for some of us!

…But for those who want to keep things a little quieter device-wise, who want to look out during their ceremony and see their guests faces instead of a wall of iPads and smartphones, and who don't want their vows accompanied by the digital chirpings of a dozen small point-n-shoots… I LOVE that photographers are now actively offering discounts to make that possible.

Photographers, I know there are a ton of you reading — would you offer a discount to couples doing unplugged weddings? And couples: would an discount make you more likely to consider going unplugged for your wedding?

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Comments on Are photographers going to start offering discounts for unplugged weddings?

  1. I would be all over a photographer offering an unplugged discount. After the last wedding I was in (where the bride passed off her cell phone to the maid-of-honor who then stood there taking “close ups” during the ceremony) I am now rabidly, fervently, viciously pro-unplugged weddings. We haven’t started contacting potential photographers yet but I will definitely be asking if they offer an unplugged wedding discount.

    If anyone knows a photographer in the St. Louis area who they would recommend…

  2. Discount is nice, I suppose, but if you go for a super plugged wedding, then you wouldn’t need to hire the photographer at all. I’m getting those disposable cameras. If everyone has a phone on top of that, it’s great. Frankly, I don’t care if there’s a sea of faces looking at their phones. As long as the people I care about — ie the wedding party, our immediate family and BFFs — are paying attention, I don’t really don’t care if everyone else is watching their phone. ……..And the Rabbi. The Rabbi should definitely be paying attention. 😀 Other than that, don’t care.

  3. We’re really only in the habit of offering discounts for times that business tends to need a little encouraging: The dead of winter, for example. Or Tuesdays. While we love Unplugged weddings in the most passionate of ways, I don’t think we’d ever offer a discount for clients/couples that take our advice on how to make their photos the best they can be. We chime in on what time of day to do portraits, what direction their ceremony should be facing, whether or not 85% of their guests should be holding iDevices in the air for the entirety of the ceremony, and a bajillion other things (seriously…we have a pdf!!!), and if they decide they either don’t want to or can’t do the things we recommend, we roll with the punches, kick ass and make great photos, but we tell them in advance that they’re not going to be the best they could have been, and that bums us out. So naw, if they don’t care about my awesome shot of the bride coming up the aisle being totally blocked by someone’s aunt leaning out of her seat to get that super-great shot on her iPad, we probably aren’t gonna bribe them into feeling otherwise.

  4. I would absolutely consider it! ManFriend and I have talked about asking guests to go unplugged for the ceremony since we definitely want photos of the guests, not their iPhones!

  5. As a photographer I must say a discount sounds like an amazing idea.

    But what worries me, is giving the couple the discount, and uncle Bob still gets in the way of something important, such a the kiss or the bouquet toss. I certainly won’t go back to the couple and tell them the discount is void.

  6. As a photographer, I’m always concerned about how my pictures turn out, and what the result is when my couples are having a non-unplugged wedding and everyone is taking pictures and stealing my spot, trying to take the same pictures, etc…
    I always ask my clients to have unplugged weddings. I tell them it’s way easier for them to ask their guest if the vicar asks it as well right before the ceremony begins. It always work, and I get to work properly 🙂
    Having to actually offer a discount is a brilliant idea, because it’s kind of always hard for me to talk about this, people tend to not understand. I will definitely do that next year with my price changing!!!
    Cheers from France 🙂

  7. I’m a wedding photographer based in Hampshire, U.K. and I offer free downloads for the guests at unplugged weddings. It’s a great way for couples to subtly ask their guests to leave the cameras at home and enjoy the day as it happens rather than viewing it on a tiny screen for viewing later. My couples love it and from the amount of downloads I’ve seen this year it seems as if the wedding guests love it as well.

    • My husband and I have had a lot of couples in the last two years be really blunt about no photos during the ceremony. Two brides had the officiant say to the effect, Bob and Amy are here to take photos, you don’t need to; please pay attention to our carefully crafted ceremony.

      Honestly, the way Bob and I work, other people taking photos do not make our jobs any different. I’ve heard the horror stories about Aunt Linda leaning out to take a photo of the kiss and falling into the aisle and breaking her hip but those things just don’t happen that often considering the number of weddings that happen every day.

      If a photographer makes a big deal about how much guests with cameras get in the way, I have to wonder how experienced they are and how much they are exaggerating. And yes, I have had weddings where guests showed up with professional gear and tried to follow us around and were super obnoxious and it took practice to deal with that but we learned and moved on. I once shot a wedding that the bride’s uncle spent six hours filming with his iPad. In every group photo of the ceremony or the reception, there he is holding it above everyone’s head. I’ve also had a bride that ended up with a migrane because her brother-in-law’s flash went off every 12 seconds during the ceremony. But honestly, none of this affected my work.

      That said, if a bride (or couple or groom et al) wants to go unplugged for the ceremony or the whole day, I’ll support her in that. But it bugs me to no end when it gets pushed on a couple when it’s not really what they want. I think it’s awesome when people actually pay attention to the ceremony rather than taking a bunch of out of focus photos on their iPhones. But that’s just me.

      • “But honestly, none of this affected my work.”

        But it may have affected your clients’ experience. Some photographers focus on more than just the end product. I think that saying you “have to wonder how experienced they are and how much they are exaggerating” is kind of silly and belittles others experience, sort of like me implying you don’t care about your clients’ experience does. Just because something hasn’t happened in your history doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

        We have an entire folder of photos we show clients where guests have held gopros from their seat right in the middle of the aisle for the literal entire ceremony; where guests in the middle of the seating stand up and hold their ipad right at the kiss, ruining the wide shot; where flashes go off while the shutter’s open, over-exposing an important moment.

        We’re stoked you haven’t had that happen, but unplugged weddings exist in wedding culture for a reason, even if you haven’t experienced those reasons yourselves.

  8. Speaking as a bride to be, we want the very best results. We want an environment in which our professionals are able to document our celebration without hinderance.

    We therefore consider it to be OUR responsibility to create that environment as much as is humanly possible.

    I don’t see why a photographer should have to discount in order to encourage this, surely couples should want this for themselves?

    There’s a lot to be said for communicating with your clients early on- surely expressing the reality of the situation with them would be enough? Perhaps showing them some photos of what could happen if they don’t go unplugged? And if they still aren’t having it and only money talks, well then perhaps they aren’t your ideal client anyway.

    Monetary discounts I disagree with- but if you’re going to offer something I totally get the free downloads thing mentioned by Graham- that makes absolute sense.

    • an unplugged wedding calls for a discount purely because it makes culling and editing so much easier and faster for the photographer! It is amazing how much time it saves and my time editing and processing photos is money. Because of this I give a $200 discount, and that equates to my time saved from an unplugged wedding.

  9. Very interesting post – I think I would consider offering free downloads if the client decides to do an unplugged wedding.

  10. Heck yes, I would offer a discount for an unplugged wedding – Ive had so many great shots ruined by someone else’s flash or them just being in the way…. the only reason I don’t offer it now is because it really hasn’t caught on yet here…. As a wedding photographer, Im in it because I love it – and if its a wedding that is offbeat or different (something that as a photographer makes my heart go pitter pat) or couples are willing to make my job easier (so I can get better pics for them), then I always offer a discount! I already have discounts in place for having a first look, or having a colored dress, or being offbeat themed…. once unplugged weddings become a “thing” here, then yes, I will definitely start making that a regular discount…. 🙂

  11. My husband and I had an unplugged wedding and I’m SO glad we did!

    We asked our officiant to make a statement in the beginning of the ceremony and he had a lot of fun with it. He basically told everyone they had 3 photo opportunities before he would ask everyone to put their cameras away. We did three poses, one of us looking lovingly into each other’s eyes, one where we are pretending to laugh, and one where my husband was choking the officiant and I’m slapping my husband.

    Everyone thought it was really funny and it was a cute way to ask everyone to put their phones away. When you’re paying that much for a photographer, you don’t want people’s phones flashing or ending up in the shot.

  12. We had an unplugged ceremony, and I kind of wish we would have gone unplugged for more of the reception. My mother in law gave her camera to a young cousin of my husband, and he started to get in the way of the photographer almost immediately. Luckily, my maid of awesome had the presence of mind to tell him to stay out of the way. We also had a few guests (okay, one) who used the whole wedding as a photo shoot for their son. This also disrupted the photographer, as she was more interested in taking pictures of her kid than anything else.

  13. I am actually a guilty person when it comes to taking photos.. I did it at a friends wedding.. (had a new camera and was excited) but i now understand and wouldn’t like it done at mine.. But i also understand that unless told or researched, i wouldn’t know.. (Only one wedding as an adult.) So i will be politely asking my guests to keep photos till the reception and i will share my ceremony with those who would like some photos..

  14. Well, I think it should be the other way round. We should charge more to clients when their guests “photobomb” our work.

  15. I also wonder if there’s a way to encourage brides and grooms to discourage their gear-laden guests. Like an additional small album (to gift to MIL or keep) — if the wedding goes off successfully unplugged. If you still get Uncle Frank & his giant lens and aunt Ethel’s iPad in the aisle of your kiss shot, they lose. If not, they win the extra album and you win less extensive editing. I think most of the guests don’t intend to be a bother, just aren’t aware of what nabbing their “shot” is costing the couple in their photography investment. This issue was not so common 20 yrs ago. Love the idea of the discount and having lower res available for guests to download! Win wins in my book especially if you get to keep the advertising watermark on for guest/freebie downloads.

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