Anybody who has ever shot weddings can attest to the fact that wedding guests can be great assets or tremendous liabilities to you and your task of effectively capturing the day. That’s about the extent of the diplomacy I can muster at this point. Guests dancing at a reception providing awesome photo ops = Good. Guests stepping in and trying to direct the bride and groom during their private shoot so that said guest can grab their desired shot (true story) = Little short of infuriating. But, one app is poised to take it to a whole new level of hot-under-the-collar for photographers.
Ceremony is a free and novel little mobile app that now allows happy couples to crowdsource their wedding photos. In other words, the bride and groom can compile an entire wedding album from each of the smartphones snapping away throughout the day, basically rendering the need for a wedding photographer moot (or, so it would seem).
Invitations to “join” the wedding event can be sent via email or text directly to guests who will be attending, or you can share the event code at the venue for those who didn’t receive it previously. Guests can then snap away throughout the day and upload their images to Ceremony, even if no Internet connection is available at the time of capture.
Afterwards, the bride and groom can peruse the entire collection, sharing images over social media, or even downloading full-resolution copies of the original images with the $4.99 upgrade to a Ceremony Pro. This means that, for less than the cost of a McDonald’s value meal (which, just admit it, isn’t much of a value anyhow), a bride and groom can have digital copies of all the memories from their special day…without having to hire an outside photographer.
I see posts frequently on sites like Craigslist by couples looking for wedding photographers who are “looking to expand their portfolio,” stating that their budget tops out at $150. Which is fine. My wife and I couldn’t even afford a budget photographer for our wedding, so I completely understand. For them, an app like this is perfect. You can’t even target that demographic and still run a profitable business…it’s just impossible.
There’s also the high-end clients who want to spend $9,000 on a wedding package and wouldn’t dream of substituting a free phone app in place of it or entrusting their precious memories to a bunch of drunken frat boys, sorority sisters, and crazy aunts looking for a little post-wedding action. Sure, they might include the app as part of the day, but there’s no chance in Hades that they’re going to use it as a substitute.
Where this hits home is for the demographic somewhere in the middle – those who are budget-conscious but still want quality; those who can afford to hire a mid-range photographer but are entertaining the idea of going with a friend; those who want the momentary “fun” of the day to be captured in hilarious ways rather than looking at immortalizing a momentous day for years to come (without having to look back in embarrassment). THOSE are the ones that could pose a problem to the average wedding photographer looking to stay afloat.
The key to fighting off this ominous cloud is a good sales pitch. Our fellow photographer and writer JP Danko shared a little bit about his approach when dealing with clients considering this approach:
“There are a bunch of these. I tell my clients to use them as an excuse for me not to go to the reception. The pitch goes something like this: ‘Why not pay me to take the high priority photos of you throughout the day? These include you preparing for the ceremony, the ceremony and formal photos afterwards, the venue and detail shots, your introductions, and your first dance if you have it scheduled before the dinner. Then, you can collect your guest photos of the dancing and the rest of the reception. In all honesty, is it really worth paying me to stay for an extra three or four hours for one photo of the cake cutting, one photo of the garter toss, and four or five random photos of the dancing?’ I also require of clients that they provide my meal if they want me to stay throughout the reception, which is an additional cost on their part.”
So, does this mean a decisive end to wedding photography as we know it? I highly doubt it, just like the Ford Focus didn’t spell the end of the Ferrari. But, it can present a unique challenge when working with potential clients and, as time progresses, modifying our traditional sales tactics to better appeal to what really matters to the client.
However, for those interested in giving Ceremony a try or even using it for your own wedding (I won’t judge you), it is available for both iOS and Android devices. Just bear in mind, you might not want to see what Uncle Oscar’s phone has seen.
[via Imaging Resource]