Why You Should NOT Use a Cell Phone or Webcam to Live Stream Your Wedding

Say No to Cell Phones

Let's start by saying this... SOMETHING is better than NOTHING. With that out of the way, the question you might be asking yourself is 'Why spend money on something if you can do it for free?' Well, just because you can, doesn't mean you should. If you’re thinking of Live Streaming your Wedding, you’ve probably come across a number of articles such as the New York Times’ recent article or even our very own blog post on "How to Livestream Your Wedding" for super cheap using a cell phone or laptop’s webcam. However, the devil is in the details when it comes to using those devices to live stream your wedding.

Here are 3 major reasons why using a cell phone or webcam is actually not the best idea when live streaming a wedding if you care about your guest’s viewing experience. Again, it's better than nothing, but we'll discuss what alternatives are out there so you can make your remote guests actually feel like they were a part of your big day, and not a distant afterthought.

The 3 Problems and The 3 Solutions

Problem #1: No Zoom Lens = Lower Quality Streams.
Cell phones and webcams use wider angle lenses that leave your guests feeling “detached” from what is, by nature, an intimate event. Even newer mobile devices with a secondary “zoom lens” will likely not get you close enough unless you want to shove that phone right up in your face during your Ceremony. Im sure you're thinking, "I'll just zoom in!" Unfortunately, pinch-to-zoom is not an ideal solution as it is a "digital zoom" and only further degrades the image. The more you pinch-to-zoom on a mobile device, the worse the video looks (MUCH worse than when you pinch-to-zoom on a photo!) and remember, that degradation will only be compounded by the compression put upon the video when it’s streamed live.

Solution: Use a Zoom Lens!
Using a zoom lens on a DSLR or mirrorless camera will increase the quality of your live stream exponentially vs using a cell phone and trying to zoom in digitally. Sure, newer cell phones often have a dedicated zoom lens, but it's extremely limited in range. Professional lenses zoom OPTICALLY using glass which is far higher quality than zooming in digitally (pinch-to-zoom) and those optical lenses can zoom in MUCH closer giving you not only a cleaner looking shot, but a far more engaging one. You can RENT a professional camera and do it yourself or you can hire a professional Wedding Videographer and relax and enjoy the event. Many of the newer DSLR and mirrorless cameras can connect straight to a laptop via a USB-C cable and the laptop will detect it as a webcam. If not, then they have an HDMI output and with one HDMI to USB adapter from Amazon you're in business! Using professional cameras with optical telephoto/zoom lenses often have LOTS more audio options too so you can get even better sound which is a HUGE part of an engaging live stream. Also, the best way to have an engaging live stream of a Wedding is to use multiple cameras. This is A LOT easier to do with professional cameras vs cell phones. Sure there's software that can allow you to use multiple phones but it's often glitchy and unreliable unless you're a part of a REALLY strong hi speed network and unfortunately, that's a luxury you don't usually have at a Wedding Venue. See Problem #2 below. Hiring an experienced Wedding Videographer who offers live streaming will save you the headache of doing it all yourself and your stream will look and sound far better than if you used a cell phone or webcam.

Stuttering Video from an Unreliable Internet Connection

Problem #2: Stuttering or Pixelated Video from an Unreliable Internet Connection.
To live stream, you need a fast, reliable internet connection. Leaving your stream up to only your phone’s single, untested 5G or 4G-LTE connection or a wifi hotspot can lead to momentary hiccups in the signal which will cause your video to buffer or stutter so much that it’ll drive your viewers crazy. With a cell phone or webcam, you can’t zoom in (without degrading the quality further) so you’re left seeing a lot more background. That may sound nice, but there’s only so much bandwidth available to resolve those wide shots properly so the result will often be a pixelated mess for your viewers.

Solution #2: Run Speed Tests and Try Network Bonding.
So what should you do? Run speed tests ahead of time! NEVER assume that you can stream from any location just because you can go online and make a phone call without issues. Live streaming involves UPLOADING video live online. So download speeds don't matter much. It's the upload speeds that matter. Go to your venue and test your cell phone's network UPLOAD speeds while standing at the Ceremony site. Just google the words "Speed Test" and hit the blue button. Ask the venue if they have a router available that you can connect a long ethernet cable (up to 300ft) to for maximum speed and reliability. If not, then test available wifi speeds in addition to your cell phone's network speeds. Ideally, you’re looking for UPLOAD speeds of 6Mbps or more for higher quality HD streaming. If you're using a wireless internet connection you'll want that number to be higher since it's prone to fluctuation and network congestion vs. a more reliable and consistent ethernet connection. Streaming wirelessly is prone to hiccups that can cause your stream to freeze so a wired connection is always preferred whenever possible. However, most wedding venues won't have any wired options. Doesn't hurt to ask though! Experienced Wedding Videographers that live stream may sometimes offer what is called Network Bonding as part of their live stream packages where all those available internet sources are COMBINED into one fast, reliable signal. This article HERE explains in more detail why this one technique is so important specifically for live streaming weddings. For the DIY approach, Speedify is a fairly simple option, but devices like the LiveU Solo are even better. These are the most popular solutions used by professional Wedding Videographers who specialize in Live Streaming.

Professional Live Stream Audio Mix

Problem #3: Poor Audio Quality
Cell phones and webcams are really bad at reproducing quality audio at a wedding. If your guests watching online can’t hear the event crystal clear, you’ll lose their attention. A cell phone's mic is omnidirectional so it's picking up distracting noises from all around. Those that say the mic on a cell phone or laptop is “good enough” obviously don’t care as much about their Guest’s Experience. It's good enough for a Facetime call, but not a Wedding! It can be argued that audio is MORE important than video when engaging your viewers on a live stream.

Solution #3: Connect to the Audio Mixer for audio that’s Loud and Clear!
Getting a direct audio feed is ESSENTIAL to your Guest’s Viewing Experience. Poor audio leads to unhappy viewers. The best way to obtain great audio is to connect your camera to the sound mixer at your venue either using audio cables or wirelessly using an audio transmitter and receiver like the DJI Mic 2 which comes with adapters for professional cameras and mobile devices. It's A LOT easier to pull in a direct feed from the DJ at a Wedding with a professional camera vs. a cell phone. You can also use the DJI Mic 2's wireless lav mics on the officiant and groom for great sound. Sound overwhelming? Remember, professional Wedding Videographers will usually have this equipment already included in any Wedding Film Package that they offer.


Your Guests Deserve a Better Viewing Experience. Using a cell phone or webcam to live stream IS possible and is certainly better than nothing, but remember, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should. The reason couples don’t often cook the meals for all their guests at their wedding is because paying a catering company to do so takes the stress and responsibility off their shoulders and allows them to truly enjoy the moment. Sometimes the best option isn’t the free one. Using a cell phone or webcam may sound like a good idea, but if you care at all about your guest’s viewing experience, it’s best to avoid using either of those methods if you can afford it. If you have no budget then it’s DEFINITELY better than nothing at all. Finding a Wedding Film Company that offers reliable live streaming in your area can be a challenge but thankfully more and more companies are starting to offer live streaming due to the pandemic.

Ask the right questions!

Be sure to ask your local Wedding Videographers the right questions about live streaming (see 10 questions you should ask) so you know for sure that your live stream will go off without a hitch. Your guests will thank you for it.