Visual Currency | Thoughts on Being Present | Unplugged Weddings


As a photographer, I understand the wonderfully exciting/fulfilling feeling of capturing a miraculous sunset, Uncle Bob in the middle of his contagious belly laugh, a child blowing out his candles on his Minion shaped birthday cake, an old broken down rusty truck you found on a hike, or the first kiss that a husband and wife share. These are incredible moments and memories. And we want to share. We are made to share.

Photos are our visual currency. They are the way we release into the world–mostly through social media–what we are doing, where we are and what we are witnessing. I love seeing photos of my friends, family and other connections on social media. I love printed photos even more, but that is another blog post. People show/share photos like baseball cards, collecting and sometimes trying to one up the next person. At weddings, I see people huddled around each other phones giggling and congratulating the person on a great shot.

Visual currency has a cost. When photographing a moment, you are in another plane (not an airplane, “a level of existence, thought or development”). As you place your attention to your phone, camera or other photo-taking device, you have stepped out of the world around you. There are many things that go into photographing a moment- even with phones. Your attention is distracted and you miss the little nuances of the moment. I have seen parents of the bride and groom watch the vows through their phones as they record them. It makes me sad. It also makes me sad to see families and couples at weddings consumed by their phones instead of enjoying the company around them. Our eyes have such an amazing ability to adjust and see range of color and contrast, way better than any device – why not experience the moment with just your eyes and heart.

Visual currency has a cost.

It is funny- a lot of people comment to me “you must have a lot of fun going to weddings all the time.” I DO- but it is not in the way they are thinking. I am not fully at the wedding like the guests. As a professional wedding photographer, I am present in a different way. I have trained myself to observe with “spidey senses” and straddle the line of the world around me. I am working to capture moments—like the baseball cards mentioned earlier—so others can live the moments and can be completely present!!

I saw this video today and it spurred me to write this blog post. It has been in my head for a loooooong time. Many other photographers have written similar posts. Along with this cheeky video, I share this photograph. The photo was taken at a wedding ceremony where I, as the professional photographer, was NOT allowed to use flash. The guests with their cameras, cell phones, ipads and such are instructed not to use flash, but do so anyway.

Visual currency has a cost. Not only are the guests not present, there are impacting the wedding photos. Because I can’t use flash, I set my cameras to capture with the ambient light. And as you can see from the photo on the left- a guest fires his mini DSLR and the flash blows out the couple coming in. Luckily, my spidey senses kick in and I shoot around him- meaning I am aware of his flash and then shoot before or after him to make sure I am nailing the shot.

My hope in sharing this blog post is that brides and grooms will consider unplugging their wedding- or at least their ceremonies. And that maybe next time you are a guest at wedding you will think about unplugging to be present!!