Disposable cameras at our wedding?
April 14, 2006 7:15 PM   Subscribe

at our wedding, should we get disposable cameras for the tables, go for an alternative type of camera (lomo, polaroid), or forgo the whole thing?

my fiancee and i have been reconsidering what seems to be the "standard" at weddings these days-- the disposable camera.

if we're going to allow our guests to take some candids (and if we're going to spend the money to provide them with the means), we want to make sure that the photos come out!

have you put cameras on your guests' tables? were the photos you got developed worth it?

... and some other thoughts that popped into our heads as alternatives:

maybe lomolito one time use lomo cameras? or
a standard polaroid camera for a set of tables? (these offer instant photos, but are much more expensive).
posted by ronv to Human Relations (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
two things:
1. Some (most) guests take crappy photos
2. Some (most) guests think the camera is theirs for the taking.
posted by Gungho at 7:29 PM on April 14, 2006

Forget Polaroids. Your guests would have fun, but they'd take home all the pics that didn't have booze already spilled on them.

I'm all for disposables, but keep your expectations low. Your wedding photographer should be the one you count on.
posted by mkultra at 7:31 PM on April 14, 2006

We had disposables but ninety nine percent of the pics were not very good (my drunk friends started taking pictures of the service staff). The vast majority of the great shots came from people's digital cameras.

Best advice is to make a place where they can send you their pics.
posted by fenriq at 7:41 PM on April 14, 2006

We're also deciding on this, and a good piece of advice I got was only put one or two cameras per table, and be sure to place a basket or something out buy the door/exit with a sign or card that it's for guests to put the cameras in. We're probably going to have them because there is bound to be a few good unexpected shots in there that the photographer couldn't get, plus it gives people something to do/have a bit of fun with the other folks at their table (who they may or may not know). We plan to go with the cheapest (under $5) non-personalized ones and not worry about the few that end up going home with someone.
posted by krix at 7:46 PM on April 14, 2006

I think the disposable camera thing can work. More important than a note reminding them to leave the cameras on the table when they leave is a note reminiding them to *use the flash* when they take a picture.

We tried the disposable camera thing and that was the #1 problem. Many, if not most, of the photos were dark and useless.
posted by BackwardsCity at 7:47 PM on April 14, 2006

Seconding the digital camera thing as well. People who brought their own camera and knew how to use it took some great shots.
posted by BackwardsCity at 7:48 PM on April 14, 2006

have everyone show the kids at the wedding how to make sure the flash is working. Kids take great wedding pictures, as long as the flash works. Serious.
posted by notsnot at 7:52 PM on April 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

I you do disposables, you could have the film developed, get contact sheets, and then just pay for the prints you want.

My friends did a cool thing with all the disposables at their reception. They got someone from each table to bring the camera with them outside, then had the guests surround them in a circle as they gazed lovingly into each other's eyes. The best man counted down and the guests all took the pictures at the same time. Later, after the happy couple got the jpg's, they put 'em together in a Matrix-style 360-spinning animation.

Other friends of hired a second photographer, who did 3-D photography and put the slides into viewmaster reels. Very cool, especially if there's something going on to that exploits the 3-D effect. (Think bubbles. Lots of bubbles.)
posted by hydrophonic at 7:54 PM on April 14, 2006

We supplied 8 b&w disposable cameras. Maybe 50% of the resulting images were worthwhile. People tend to stand too damn far away!

But between those cameras and a couple friends who actually knew what they were doing, we got enough good prints that we didn't miss having a pro.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 8:08 PM on April 14, 2006

fenriq's answer is the one that I would give. We spent a ton of money doing disposables (1 camera per table) as the gift for a friends wedding - we bought the cameras, collected them, had them developed .... and basically all the photos sucked. I think there might be one "good" shot out of over 400 photos.

I'm happy we were able to give them a gift they wanted, but in retrospect, it wasn't worth the money.
posted by anastasiav at 8:36 PM on April 14, 2006

Not necessarily in lieu of the disposables, but I recently saw this and thought it was an awesome idea.
posted by BiffSlamkovich at 8:39 PM on April 14, 2006

I saw it done at a friends wedding several years back. There was a little instruction sheet that contained a few requests:

* Use the flash
* Take ALL of the photos
* Don't let the kids play with them.

The kids ended up getting ahold of a couple of them anyway, and they just wasted the film. The others fared much better, and they were pretty happy with the results. Rite-Aid developed them and they got PhotoCDs out of it, and made an album.

The professional photographer was able to add many many more quality photos. :)
posted by drstein at 8:42 PM on April 14, 2006

not even professional photographers get 100% good shots - not even anywhere close. if you get 20 or 30 good shots out of 200-300 exposures, it'll be worth it to you in the long run.
you might want to get all black and white film disposables, which may make some mediocre shots more interesting...

one thing that might help is if you distribute the cameras with an instruction sheet that gives some suggestions/goals for your amateur photographers, like "try to be take 'artistic' shots"; "go for close up shots"; "don't be afraid to get in the way"; "try taking shots at odd angles"; "try to get one shot of every member of the wedding party", etc., etc.. that way, you stand less of a chance of getting crappy snapshots and more of a chance of getting something interesting.

(fun story: a friend of mine had disposable cameras at her reception. a couple of cameras, in the hands of a particularly attractive, persuasive and inebriated bridesmaid, became "nipplecams" - all close up shots of wedding guests' nipples, male and female. those didn't make it into the official album, but they got an album of their very own...)
posted by ab3 at 9:10 PM on April 14, 2006

One professional photographer - and I mean a professional, not your cousin Ed who swears he knows how to take pictures - is worth a hundred disposable cameras.
posted by jellicle at 9:14 PM on April 14, 2006

Actually I just attended a wedding a few weeks ago where the guestbook was composed of Polaroids just like BiffSlamkovich's link. At the main hallway before the church sanctuary, a table was set up with 3 guestbooks and 6 Polaroid cameras. Guests were asked to take photos and then write in the guestbooks after the photos were "developed." The leftover Polaroid film was later provided with the cameras to guests at the reception to pass around and take candid photos of themselves.
posted by junesix at 10:31 PM on April 14, 2006

We haven't done it yet, but our plan is to have a laptop there, and get people to download their photos to it before they leave the reception. I'd be surprised if anyone coming to the wedding didn't have access to a digital camera.
posted by wilberforce at 2:20 AM on April 15, 2006

Surprising that nobody's mentioned Flickr as a good way of sharing digital pictures - much easier than bringing a laptop. Publish a Flickr group on a note on the tables, perhaps - along with disposable cameras, too - to ensure you get a ton of good photographs.

My tip around disposable cameras was to put a label on the camera themselves. That way people can take the cameras home if they want and develop them, but they've details of where to send the pictures...
posted by jamescridland at 2:32 AM on April 15, 2006

Much easier: set up a temporary email address somewhere with loads of storage (Gmail?), and print "Please email all your digital photos of today to us: " on the back of people's place-name cards.
posted by Hogshead at 6:19 AM on April 15, 2006

The disposable camera idea is brilliant in principle: first, even the best wedding photographer can't be everywhere all the time, and second, your guests likely already know each other, so it's easier for them to get great poses/shots from their own friends than it is for some random dude with a camera.

Unfortunately, there is one major drawback to the idea. Light. A pro will have at least one, and sometimes multiple strobes, all off camera-axis. Typical disposable cameras have flashes that are marginally stronger than candlelight. Which means almost all of the great poses and "moments" are wasted because the shots are all underexposed.

So. Two solutions for you:
  1. Find a disposable camera that comes with TMAX 3200 black and white. I don't know if this exists, but if it doesn't, someone could make a shitload of money marketing them for this very purpose. The faster film speed means your shots will be grainy, but since they're black and white people will just attribute it to "artistic effect." Meanwhile, the extra 3 or 4 stops means you should be able to get decent exposures.
  2. The more advanced solution: buy a bunch of inexpensive strobes (Sunpak 552, Vivitar 283's, etc.) and place them in the corners of the room. Place them up as high as you can, then aim them down and towards the center of the room. Not exactly the center, mind you, but more of a criss-cross pattern. Set them manually to 1/2th or 1/4th power, and make sure they've got fresh batteries. Done.
The second method means that everyone will have bucketloads of light whenever they use their own measly flash. Since the flash is set for such a low power output, the flash duration is extremely fast (that's just how flashes work). Most guests won't even know that they went off. Additionally, lower power output means longer battery life. With enough of these mini-strobes sprinkled around the room (say, 4-6 of them) your guests will have a much higher ratio of keepers/throwers.

I've seen a few pros use this technique, and when done right, it can produce stunning results (both shots are courtesy and © Ric DeLorme).

Note, I've seen this technique done by pros, but I haven't seen anyone try and "open it up to the masses" yet. Most pros will hook these lights to PocketWizards and trigger them remotely (so they are the only ones who can trigger them). I don't know if your average disposable will be able to trigger the sensor from the distances typical in a wedding reception, so this might not work. Buy a couple of Sunpaks and try it out for yourself!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:21 AM on April 15, 2006

I've been considering doing this, but with the CVS "disposable" camcorder. They're $30/each plus processing fee (unless you hack them, in which case no processing). At that rate, it's probably a one-per-table deal, but I thought it might be worth the novelty factor, even if all the movies suck.
posted by nev at 6:49 AM on April 15, 2006

I don't think you should forgo the whole thing. The cost of some cameras is probably negligible compared to the cost of the whole shebang, and you may end up with some priceless shots.

Unless you spend a lot of time with your wedding photographer, and give him or her detailed instructions, he or she won't know that to see Great Uncle Joe out on the dance floor is a once-in-a-lifetime event that needs to be captured for posterity.

Yeah, the quality may not be so great (LOVE Civil_Disobedient's idea!) but when Great Uncle Joe passes on to the Great Dance Floor Beyond, you'll be glad you have ANY picture of him dancing, even if the quality is crappy.

We did one disposable at each table, and yeah, 90% of them were crap. The young cousins took pictures of their nostrils. Someone [no doubt my mom] got a great shot of my mom's purse! Woot! But those pictures made us laugh, and after the stress of a stupidly too-big reception, we needed a good nostril shot to offset the stiff posed shots favored by the pro photographer.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 7:42 AM on April 15, 2006

1. Be careful relying on your pro photographer. Ask about rights and ownership before you hire him/her. Depends on where you are and what the competitive market is like, but in some places wedding photographers insist that they own the copyright on all photos and you must return to them for prints or any other usage. Clearly you want to make sure that the photography is to be done on a 'work-for-hire' basis and that you own all of the negatives etc.

2. Friends got married last summer and had an awesome photography plan - they hired a friend/acquaintance who was a freelance photojournalist. I'm certainly exaggerating how awesome it was, but he was great - he not only had the equipment (and the time, because it was his job) but the experience to take great photos. He was also somewhat known to many of the guests and helped others a lot with their digital photography and lent flashes to people occasionally and such. The person whose wedding this was is on MeFi so maybe he can comment.

3. We had disposables on the tables at our wedding, and though the concept was and is good, anyone there who could take a decent photo had brought their digital camera. I'm not sure this is a practice that will really survive the advent of digital photography.

4. I can think of two equivalents to the disposable-camera-on-the-table that I think are worth considering. First has already been mentioned - a Flickr group. I have seen this done often and it's pretty cool. Second would be to make sure you encourage people to bring and use their digital cameras and then have a laptop with a universal memory card reader on site so that before people leave they can transfer the photos they have taken to you. clearly that would have to be voluntary, but I bet people would do it.
posted by mikel at 7:47 AM on April 15, 2006

My wife and I did the digital camera thing at our wedding last year. We had a laptop with a multi-card reader attached, and our guests with digital cameras plugged their CF cards in and transferred their photos before leaving. We ended up with something like 3,000 photos of our wedding, with many by amateurs that are excellent.
posted by waldo at 8:30 AM on April 15, 2006

We did the disposable camera thing at our wedding (pre digital camera age). We put one at each table, and also specifically handed out about half-dozen more directly to the somewhat older kids (middle school mostly) before the ceremony even began.

We definitely got some great photos based on the "million monkeys" principle. Of course, most of them were garbage, but that is about the same for my photography too. 4 out of the 5 keeper photos from our wedding came from the disposable cameras and only one from the pro.

Personally, I didn't mind the kids using them and actually saw it as a perk. It was a form of entertainment and it let us get pictures of some goofier moments. The kids that were given the cameras early on felt like they had a special mission/challenge and took is somewhat seriously. That gave them something to do and some of them captured some nice pictures.

We didn't put any instructions down, and we had no major problems. We did buy disposable cameras with a wedding themed decoration on the outside. That was probably handy because a few people accidentally took the cameras home with them and they could quickly tell where they got it. One person sent the camera to us and at least two developed the film first and sent us the pictures (which was rather nice of them). I am guessing we lost at least one other camera, but I didn't consider that to be a big deal. That is why they are called "disposable."

One thing to keep in mind is that the cost of the digital cameras + film developing is not negligible. But I am happy we did it. But I am not sure what we would do today with the prevalence of digital cameras.
posted by Tallguy at 8:55 AM on April 15, 2006

You know, it's funny, because I just attended my best friend's wedding, and the one thing I felt for sure when I was done with the weekend was that I wanted a no photography rule at the ceremony and maybe even reception. It was a relatively small gathering, but it seemed like everybody had a digital camera with them, and there was a never ending line of "pose like this" *flash flash flash* etcetera, even at the most stressfilled moments (bride on the phone to groom who is late for ceremony). At the end of the day, five or six people dropped their memory cards off with me, and I went through all of the pictures and put them on a disc, that I then burned and gave to everyone who had left their memory card. And so many of those pictures sucked. I mean, I'm sure they were meaningful, in their own way, but everybody took basically the same sort of shot, which wasn't that great to begin with. Just because people have digital cameras doesn't mean they know how to take a picture.

I suppose I got a bit upset that everyone was billing themselves as the photographer, and thus a lot of them wound up not participating fully in the event. I'd rather delegate photography to a handful of capable people, and then inform people that they can find photos on "online gallery name here".
posted by redsparkler at 10:01 AM on April 15, 2006

My wife and I did the disposable camera thing at our wedding a few years ago. I was leaning against the idea, but she wanted to do it. We put one on each table, and we got some nice shots out of it. As far as I know, we got all the cameras back.

One thing to check out beforehand: Our professional photographer had already set up lighting and flashes for his use. Unfortunately, every time one of the disposable camera flashes went off, it tripped his flashes, and the whole array would light up. Great for the disposables (since they were getting perfect lighting), but not great for the photographer, since it was draining his batteries. He had to keep running around changing them throughout the reception.

If you're going to put the disposable cameras out, be sure and warn your photographer beforehand, so he can be prepared.
posted by Gamblor at 10:35 AM on April 15, 2006

I've been to a couple of weddings as the guest of a bridesmaid, and knowing that I can take a decent photo, relatives and others in the wedding party handed me as many cameras as I could carry. They were too busy to take pictures, and it gave me an excuse to mingle and meet people. So I did, with suit pockets full of little cameras. I didn't end up seeing most of the pictures but I'm told it worked out well. It kept me occupied and I was happy to have something to contribute.

I guess what I'm suggesting is that you could look for a person or two to trust with a real, decent camera, and who aren't going to miss drinking and dancing constantly, and make them auxiliary photographers. Give someone a sense of responsibility, rather than the anonymity of loose disposable cameras. You could look at relatives or guests... or even ask a couple of local photography students to dress up and act like they belong there...
posted by Tubes at 11:11 AM on April 15, 2006

It really depends on the size of the wedding, IMHO. At our wedding, my wife and I had about 32 guests, on a boat, with no professional photographer (we did hire a pro for some family shots before the wedding cruise). We had a disposable on each of the 4 tables, and we took a polaroid camera. I used the polaroid to take photos of each couple/related group, and brought a permanent ink pen for that couple/group to write a message on the bottom of their photo. The disposables gave us about 25% acceptable photos, with about 1/3 of those being really good. This was before the current prevalence of digital cameras, but we were quite pleased by the results, especially when considering the cost.
posted by birdsquared at 3:52 PM on April 15, 2006

We did what Tubes described- at the risk of making Metafilter jealous, I was lucky enough to know someone with a track record of amazing candids and a great camera, and he graciously agreed to be an addition to the wedding pro. The pictures he took were a huge hit with everyone; the other guests didn't have to worry about taking any pictures; and we didn't have the hassle of buying/distributing/collecting/developing any disposables. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
posted by ambrosia at 4:25 PM on April 15, 2006

Not to be all bah humbug, but I'm not so very fond of this disposable camera trend, unless the weddings are very small or very casual.

1) Flashbulbs going off everywhere is distracting, particularly since people want to use their own cameras for their own pictures as well.
2) There's inevitably a HEY LET'S TAKE A PICTURE person interrupting people while they eat, converse, whatever.
3) Instructions on the tables? Forget it. I'm there to celebrate a marriage -- I'm not the photographer, and if I were, I'd get a better camera.
posted by desuetude at 7:58 PM on April 15, 2006

Disposable cameras are fun, cheap and are pretty indestructible, unlike polariods or digital cameras. It might also be fun to try the new CVS disposable camcorders. They cost $20 each, and you can hack them to recover the video without having to use their DVD service.

One thing, though: make sure none of your guests are wearing kilts. True story: a magazine I used to work for had an awards bash, and it turned into a rather drunken evening. We put disposable cameras on the tables, and someone took a picture up the kilt of a very senior executive at a very large company. Let's just say that the rumors about scottish men and underwear are true.
posted by baggers at 8:44 PM on April 15, 2006

I was at a wedding where disposable cameras were left at each table. Bride/Groom later scanned everything and put it on a website and emailed everyone the address.

Lots of junk, but a few gems (and a small number of potentially 'revenue'-generating pictures ;p). I think that the junk's worth the potential for gems.
posted by PurplePorpoise at 9:14 PM on April 15, 2006

Rather than just providing disposable cameras at the reception, why not provide a few at the ceremony, too? That way, you'll see some photos of the ceremony so much faster than the 4-6 weeks it takes for professional photos, and you might get some group photos that the professional would miss (as s/he'd be focused on your wedding party). Just an idea.
posted by MeetMegan at 6:29 PM on April 16, 2006

Thanks all! more questions to come...
posted by ronv at 8:16 AM on April 17, 2006

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