Do you need a camera to live stream a wedding?

Gaston Garcia
Gaston Garcia
August 4, 2021
Do you need a camera to live stream a wedding?

The quick answer is no, you don’t (unless you own very expensive camera equipment and know exactly how to configure it for best results).

I just saved you 10 minutes of your day, and some money. You can go ahead and schedule your wedding date.

Now... since you clicked on this article, I will give you an explanation that will help you decide whether YOU might want a camera or not to live stream your event. As a professional wedding photographer with access to expensive gear, my opinion might be biased. You’ve been warned.

If you prefer watching a video over reading, here's a summary of the blog post:


Today, I will compare my iPhone 11 Pro, laptop webcam, Logitech StreamCam webcam (160 USD), and professional camera setup (2300 to 4500 USD depending on the lens).

All of these tools will be compared in a real live stream and not a perfectly edited video.

Why? Because professional gear is a lot better than smartphones for cinematography, but the difference is negligible for live streaming.

Have a look and you can decide for yourself.

Is my smartphone enough to live stream my wedding?

A lot of wedding couples think that they need to use a camera to live stream their wedding ceremony… and I understand why that happens.
You’re used to seeing us, photographers and videographers, running around with big, pricey equipment.

full live streaming setup including camera, webcam, laptop and phone
Cameras and webcams require a laptop for live streaming


Do we need that? Yes, we do.
Stabilizers help us get smooth shots.
Expensive cameras allow us to capture enough information to recover details and highlights when editing the final video.
Big lenses allow us to blur backgrounds and emphasize details.

Do you need that? You probably don’t.
You don’t have to run with a camera in your hand while recording.
You don’t need to edit the video because it is going to be seen live by your family and friends.
You don’t need to blur the background because that requires an operator to make sure that the focus is perfect every time you move.

Ok.. you get the idea. But how do they compare?

Camera vs Smartphone vs Webcam for live streaming events

Every piece of gear has some pros and cons over the others.

I’ll list them below:

Smartphone:

smartphone ready to live stream
  • Great image quality
  • Performs very well under difficult lighting conditions
  • Excellent portability
  • Already in your pocket
  • Can live stream over WiFi or LTE
  • Doesn’t require expensive accessories
  • Can be held by a cheap tripod because it’s lightweight
  • Doesn’t require a laptop, only the EventLive app
  • Can be operated by any family member or friend
  • The battery can be charged with any battery pack or power bank.
  • Automatically saves the recording internally
  • Internal microphones are good

Camera: 

canon camera ready to live stream
  • Better image quality
  • Allows you to blur the background if you own expensive lenses
  • Requires a tripod and a tripod head
  • Requires an operator to choose the best settings or manually adjust focus
  • Most cameras cannot be charged while live streaming
  • Some cameras overheat while live streaming
  • Requires a laptop to live stream
  • Requires WiFi to connect the laptop
  • Most cameras require a capture card or webcam utility software to work
  • Depending on the camera, it might perform well or not under difficult lighting conditions

Webcam:

logitech webcam for live streaming
  • Low image quality
  • Integrated within any laptop
  • Basically free
  • Easy to setup
  • Requires laptop
  • Requires a WiFi connection for the laptop
  • Doesn’t perform well under most lighting conditions

What about tablets?

They’re usually not the best choice for live streaming as most tablet cameras are one generation older than smartphone cameras. That being said, if you own a newer iPad it should perform just like a modern smartphone.

Can you use a tablet to live stream your wedding?

The quick answer is yes, but it gets a bit more complicated when you start thinking about attaching it to a tripod or even asking someone to hold it the whole time.

Comparing live stream quality: Smartphone vs Camera vs Webcam

Now that you’re aware of the pros and cons of each of these cameras, let’s compare image quality in a real live stream scenario.

I placed all three cameras next to each other and started simultaneous streams. I used an app on the smartphone, and EventLive's Broadcaster on the computer.

Please note that there are two cables in the image (connected to a laptop). One for the Canon camera, and one for the Webcam. The phone doesn’t require cables to live stream.

camera vs webcam vs iphone
Professional Canon camera, Webcam mounted on top of the smartphone, and iPhone 11 Pro on the right.


To test the image quality, I chose three different backgrounds with different lighting conditions.

The first one involves easy lighting that comes from behind the camera. This is flattering light for the subject, and it’s easy to handle for every camera.

The professional camera has some clear benefits here: Better skin tones, and blurry backgrounds. Please note that I'm using 2600 USD worth of camera gear for this.

On the other side, the iPhone recovers the blown-out highlights very well. Those highlights could be part of your wedding dress, or even your guests faces in the sun.

iphone vs canon camera for live streaming


That was an easy, ideal scenario.

The second one includes very challenging lighting conditions for all these cameras. We're trying to mimic real-life situations here.

Light comes from the background, behind the subject. This is usually a videographer’s nightmare as we need to add external lighting to brighten the subject using professional cameras.

The phone has a clear advantage over the other alternatives in this case, as it recovers the bright spots. Pay attention to the sky and the sunny areas:

iphone vs canon camera for live streaming
Click the image to enlarge it on a new tab

To see the details clearly, here's a comparison between the iPhone 11 Pro on the left and the Canon camera on the right, both with automatic settings turned on.

iphone vs canon camera for live streaming
iPhone 11 Pro vs professional Canon camera during live stream

I could take this even further and show you the improvements if you compare the phone recording that we store on your phone automatically, but let's focus on the live event instead.

The third situation is a very common one at real weddings: Mixed lighting.

Sometimes the bride is in the shade while the groom is under direct sunlight, and sometimes the couple is in a sunny spot while the guests are in a shady area.

In this case, professionals need to decide whether they’ll preserve the brighter or the darker parts of the image. Saving the shadows usually means having a blown-out wedding dress, and choosing the highlights means fixing the shadows when editing the final video.

When using a modern phone, you don’t have this problem as it does a great job while exposing both areas equally. This is known as computational photography, and all modern phones do it for you.

iphone vs canon camera for live streaming
Mixed lighting conditions are always easier for smartphones

But that's in the shadows. What if I stand in the sun?
The camera operator needs to decide whether everything in the shade will look alright, or your face will be completely blown-out.

iphone vs canon camera for live streaming

What about webcams?
They are terrible at handling mixed-lighting conditions and should only be used under flattering, controlled light.
Have a look at the bright spots on my forehead:

iphone vs webcam for live streaming

I see what you’re saying… but I still want to use my camera”


Makes sense! Cameras are fantastic tools if you know how to use their advanced features and configure settings before your live stream starts.

Let’s see whether the little improvements in image quality make up for the hassle of live streaming with your camera.


Benefits and Problems of Live Streaming with your Camera

Let’s break them down.

Benefit #1: Better image quality

In great lighting conditions, cameras produce amazing results without editing.

Here’s a clear example of this, using a Canon EOS R + 50mm f1.2 Lens

iphone vs canon camera for live streaming
iPhone 11 Pro vs 4600 USD worth of Camera equipment


Benefit #2: Blurry backgrounds

This is true when you’re using good lenses and you know how to configure the aperture of your camera. If you don’t know how to do this, this benefit doesn’t apply.

Benefit #3: You can tweak the image to your liking

You can increase brightness, use a fancy zoom lens to get up close during certain moments, or even get creative, which is usually not necessary during live streams.

Benefit #4: You can connect multiple cameras for more angles

If you know what you’re doing, you can connect more video sources to your laptop and create a cinematic experience for your viewers. In case that you don’t know how to do this, you should hire a professional to do this for you.

Inconvenience #1: Cameras require a laptop to live stream

Live streaming with a camera requires a laptop, WiFi, cables, software, knowledge, and maybe even a capture card depending on your camera model.

The phone requires nothing more than a cheap tripod, a live streaming app, and an internet connection.


live streaming equipment



Inconvenience #2: You must have WiFi

You can buy a WiFi hotspot and use LTE, but it is another accessory you need to add to your toolkit. Another option is to use the hotspot ability on your phone, which eases the process a little bit. Please note that this drains the phone battery much faster.

If you live stream using a phone instead, you can simply use LTE, WiFi, or 5G.

Inconvenience #3: You need to configure your software

When live streaming from a camera, you need to install OBS on your laptop and configure it right. If you mess the bitrate settings, your video can look like a movie from the ’60s.

Sometimes we receive last-minute chats from our clients asking why there are black bars all around the live stream. This happens when OBS isn’t properly set up.

black bars using obs for live stream
Fix the black bars by adjusting the video size within OBS


Inconvenience #4: You need a camera operator

You can place a phone anywhere, or assign someone to move it around.

When you live stream using a camera, you need to make sure that the framing is right, the autofocus is spot on, and the settings are correct.

Your cousin likely knows how to use a phone, but he’s probably not that experienced with fine-tuning your camera settings, maintaining focus while zooming, and switching between different cameras.

Inconvenience #5: Some cameras and laptops overheat

Likely, this won’t happen to you, but it is a real issue for videographers.

Even professional cameras overheat while recording for long periods of time.

What about laptops? They’re not built to operate under a full sun while encoding video in real-time.
On top of that, laptops need to be plugged in or have long enough battery life to be able to keep up with a complete event.

Inconvenience #6: Many cameras have recording limits

Entry-level cameras usually have a 29:59s record limit.

Unless you have a dedicated video camera, this limit might prevent your full ceremony to be recorded.

Benefits and Problems of Live Streaming with your Webcam


Benefit #1: If you own a laptop, you own a webcam

It’s basically free. That doesn’t mean it’s a good alternative, but you can use it if needed.

Benefit #2: Setting it up takes 5 minutes

You only need a place to position your laptop. Please note that it’s easy to set up, but cumbersome to move around.

logitech streamcam for live streaming events
External Webcam: Logitech Streamcam

Inconvenience #1: It’s annoying for professionals on location

No photographer or videographer wants to move around a laptop that’s in the way and might block good angles.

Inconvenience #2: Poor image quality in most scenarios

This should be a reason enough to discard this option. Webcams are meant to be used for video calls, not for live streaming events.

Can it be used to add an extra angle to your live stream? Yes, if you have good lighting (think sunny conditions and no shadows in the scene).

What about external webcams?

While they offer an improved image quality compared to the built-in version, their inability to expose subjects in high contrast situations makes them unsuitable in most scenarios.

Benefits and Problems of Live Streaming with your Phone or Tablet


Benefit #1: Anyone can do it

You only need to ask the the person live streaming the wedding to download the broadcasting app, sign in using your credentials and they’re good to go. The whole process might take 3 or 4 minutes.

Benefit #2: You don’t need expensive equipment

You can use a cheap tripod or light stand with a phone mount and you’re good to go.

Benefit #3: Focusing is automatic

If you’re in the frame, you’re in focus. Your family and friends will see you clearly no matter what.

I had to record the camera footage multiple times because the camera wouldn't focus on me when I wasn't looking directly at it.

out of focus shots while live streaming
The camera wouldn't focus while recording myself sometimes


Benefit #4: No cables, no complicated software, no laptop

Simplicity at its best.

Benefit #5: It automatically balances both the subject and the background

This is a real struggle with cameras. They don’t do that for you.

Benefit #6: Use WiFi, LTE, or 5G

Your internet connection is the biggest improvement you can make towards great image quality. While using your phone, you can switch between WiFi and your data plan to guarantee a successful live stream.

Benefit #7: Your live stream is recorded to your phone

This is huge. Having your complete live stream saved to your phone without downloading it to a computer or making sure that your camera’s memory card is full is a lifesaver.

Inconvenience #1: It doesn’t look professional

This is all in our heads, but some people feel like that. We tend to associate phones with low-quality imagery.

Did you know that Selena Gomez recorded a few of her music videos using an iPhone in 2019? If she managed to get 568 million views using a phone, I’m sure that your family and friends will be pleased with the quality of your live stream.


selena gomez iphone video


But wait... Maybe you’re not into Selena Gomez. What about Lady Gaga?
She also recorded a music video using an iPhone in 2020.

lady gaga iphone video


Image quality on smartphones improved vastly in the last few years.
It’s only a matter of time until they replace cameras for end-users… and we’re not far from that.

Who should live stream using professional equipment?

Anyone who understands how it works and wants to go the extra mile to make their live stream a cinematic video.

Maybe you already own a camera, you know how the settings work, you understand autofocus modes, and you even used OBS in the past. If that’s the case, then live streaming from your camera might be for you.

Who should live stream their wedding using a smartphone?

Anyone who wants to share a private moment with family and friends and wants them to be a part of such an important event.

They won’t notice the difference between an okay camera and a modern smartphone and your success is guaranteed with a good internet connection.


Live streaming a wedding is a one-time thing. We can help you.

You won't have time to fix things on the go, and you only have one chance to do it right. For 90% of our wedding couples, the smartphone is the way to go.

The first step is to download a live streaming app. Then simply schedule your event and invite everyone you want.

Scared of starting?
You can try our app with unlimited free tests.

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Gaston Garcia
Gaston Garcia

Live Streaming enthusiast, in-house Marketer at EventLive, Wedding Photographer. Interested in all-things technology.

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