Disposable Wedding Table Cameras
Today I came across a question in a bridal group on Facebook that I see get asked every so often. The question was something to the effect of "Should I buy disposable cameras to put on each table at my wedding reception?" There are some definite pros and cons to putting these on the tables for guests, but having used these at my own wedding, I wanted to put some information out there about them - from a bride's standpoint - and you can make your decision about these cameras fully armed with information.
I had my wedding reception in a beautiful dining hall. It was the type of place that had so much character in it that it wasn't even necessary to purchase many additional decorations. My reasoning behind this was that if the place was pretty enough, good photos would create themselves. I hired a professional photographer (who did a good job), but I wanted more. I hired the pro to make sure that the main events of the day were captured, and so that we could get some nice professional portraits to hang on the wall. I knew that he would be very busy and might not have much time to just get some fun candid photos, and I'd heard that putting cameras on each table would encourage my guests to take fun photos.
I found a company that sold disposable cameras, with cute wedding designs around them. I purchased 20 of them so that each table could have their own camera. Everyone loved these cameras and I saw people running around with them all evening. When I got back from my honeymoon, I took all those little cameras to a local photo lab to get them developed. What I imagined I would get were lots of group huddles and smiles, what I actually got was vastly different.
About half of the cameras were snagged by some of the kids at the reception. Most of the shots were poorly composed, blurry, and of kids making faces at each other. The camera from the "super drunk" table came back with photos taken down women's shirts and people holding up their drinks and making faces. There were a few where people behaved and grouped up and smiled, which were ok, except they never made it into my albums because compared to the professional photographers' photos, they were complete crap. I know that sounds pretty harsh, but they were dark, grainy, lacked contrast, people had red eyes, and they just looked terrible. I threw away at least half of them because they were just nonsense, and kept maybe 30-40 of them just to toss them into a box in case I ever decided to put them into an album.
I got married back in the early 2000's before camera phones were a "thing", so those disposable cameras were my way of ensuring that I got some fun candids. Now, almost everyone has a camera phone. If they get anything good on their phones, they can easily email it or Instagram it using a hashtag that you provide for them. I consider disposable table cameras to be a complete waste of money. They cost about $10 each, plus you have to pay for the cost of developing, which is easily $10-15 more for each. So, if you have 10 tables, plan on spending at least $100 on these cameras for a lot of photos you are likely to throw in the trash. If you really want your guests to take photos, put up a signs on each table that have your Instagram wedding hashtag. Best of all, this costs you NOTHING unless you want to print out the photos.
What I would do if I had to do my own wedding all over again would be to hire a photographer along with a second shooter. Many photographers (including myself) have packages where the second shooter is part of the package. The second shooter doesn't have to worry about getting all the main photos of the day, so they can spend time wandering around and getting fun candids of your guests. These photos are much higher quality than whatever you would get off a disposable camera, and for a larger wedding, the cost of a second shooter is about the same as what these disposable cameras would cost. You could also consider hiring a photobooth company. Although this does cost more than a second shooter or disposable cameras, people love having fun with the props and you'll get lots of candids.
I hope this helps to shed some light on what types of photos you actually get with those disposable cameras. I know I like to get the most bang for my buck and I just don't think for the price of the cameras and the developing that they are worth it. Save that money and put it toward something else that makes your day special. Oh, and if you're wondering where my examples of disposable camera photos are, they're in the landfill. Yes, they really were that bad.