Those Wedding Day Disposable Cameras!

Wedding season is upon us! As I write this, soon-to-be newlyweds across the country are sitting down and planning their own ceremonies. If you’ve ever been to a wedding and walked away thinking to yourself that it was one of the best weddings you’ve been do, you probably know that it’s the details that make for a great wedding.

As a photographer and as someone who is currently working on planning her own big day, I know that one of the few things that lasts after a ceremony are those beautiful photographs. But I also know wedding photographers are expensive and it can be hard to look at that bill for several thousand dollars and not think to yourself, “there has to be a cheaper way.”

There are lots of ways to get creative with wedding photography – you take a risk by not hiring a professional, but it might pay off. You can hire a student, or trade skills with a photographer if you have something you can do for them, or even rent equipment for that one friend that has a great eye and has always wanted to try their hand at broadening their skills. There are also lots of wedding photographers who can be hired just for an hour to do some portraits of you and your sweetheart in between the ceremony and reception. You won’t get photos of the whole day, but you will get some great ones, and if you’re not hiring a professional, it might be a gamble, but you should at least get a few great pictures.

But for the love of all that is holy, do not just go out and buy a disposable camera for every table at your reception or ceremony.

As a sometimes-photolab-tech, I absolutely loathe when customers come in with a shopping bag full of disposable cameras after their wedding. I’ll tell you what’s on those cameras: 27-ish exposures that are underexposed, green tinged, and feature a newly-wed couple off in the distance on the dance floor, but you can’t really see them properly because the person taking the photo was not close enough and the room was dark and they forgot to turn on the flash and the camera has a wide-angle lens so it just looks like garbage.

/rant over

But that is what you’ll get. In the end, this isn’t even a cost-saving measure. I can’t show you pictures from the last set of disposable wedding cameras I developed because of photolab policy, but I can tell you the stats.

This customer dropped off 10 disposable cameras, which should have yielded 270 exposures. Of those 270 exposures, only 70 were “useable,” which is a generous term and means I could print them out and you could tell what was going on, but please believe me, they didn’t look good.

Those 10 disposable cameras cost the bride $10.99 each, and then another ~$12 per camera to develop, print, and scan to a CD. That works out to $24 per camera (including GST), and therefore, $240 total. In the grand scheme of wedding photography, that’s pretty inexpensive, but when you consider the photos aren’t something you’d hang on the wall or even add to a wedding album, it’s wasted money.

I’ve seen more than a few newlywed couples disappointed in how these photos turned out. Don’t do this to yourself. In the day of smartphone photos, start a hashtag and let your guests photograph the reception. Have them email full-resolution copies to you later. Get creative with who you hire as a wedding photographer if you can’t afford a pro.

Experience tells me no one ever regrets shelling out money for a good, professional photographer, but they do always regret shelling it out on those disposable cameras.

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