I've been a professional wedding photographer for almost a decade now, and there is one thing that's really changed in that time: the ever-increasing presence of the camera phone. When I started, guests at the weddings would take their own pictures---sometimes to the chagrin of the professional photographer---but did so infrequently and unobtrusively. That ain't the case anymore. You really can't attend, let alone work at, a wedding without being affected by those mobile troublemakers. It seems every guest is an unofficial brand ambassador for Instagram; throwing an elbow at Grandma if she gets in the way of a good shot.
Please don't get me wrong, I am not against guests taking pictures at weddings. I totally understand that guests at weddings and other special events want to participate. But, there is a reason why most photographers have a claus in their contract basically asking that guests not play Annie Lebowitz and get in the way of the person hired to photograph the wedding. This isn't because us photographers are ego-driven monsters who refuse to let anyone have access to the bride and groom. The reason we often prefer guests not take a lot of photos is because we then have to compete for the attention of the stars of the event. The stars who hired us to do a job, a very important job for that special day. There's nothing wrong with Aunt Betsy taking some shots with her new Nikon, but please make sure guests know the newly married couple do not want the photos they get professionally done to be full of distracted, wandering eyes and light flashes in the background
So, what's a bride or groom to do? Here are some friendly suggestions:
Ask your guests to go unplugged for the ceremony. Include the request in your invitations and reiterate it throughout the day. Yes, it is VERY difficult to ask folks to not bring their cellphone to your wedding, but think of this: no flashes, no ring tones, no checking emails, no live tweeting during your ceremony. It's so old school it's new school.
Implement designated time to take photos with guests. This is so crazy it just might work. Think about it-- your guests want to take pictures of you, with you, near you, in front of you while making a duck face, etc. If you allot a small time frame after the professional formals and before the live action of the reception, your guests have an opportunity to get their photographer on. This doesn't have to remind guests of kissing the ring of the King and Queen-- make it casual and fun. Maybe a chalkboard sign or an announcement from your band/DJ during cocktail hour. Then, kindly remind guests that you have hired a professional photographer for a reason. Let them do their job.
Whenever you feel a little guilty about not wanting your guests to take pictures of your wedding just remember these points:
You want your guests present at your wedding. You want them to share the experience with you and you want to see the smiles or tears or whatever emotion , and not from behind a smart phone.
Professional photographers can be expensive ( worth it, of course!) but it is an investment. You hire someone trusting that they will get every moment you know you want to remember, and the moments you don't remember happening. And while most professionals can work around the ever-present wedding paparazzi, you frankly aren't paying them to struggle to get a good shot of your most important moments. You want the best possible collection of memories, and when your pro has to squeeze in a line of guests to get a shot of you cutting the cake or dancing with your new husband, you likely won't be satisfied with your investment. And who wants to be disapointed in their wedding photos? I certainly don't want my clients unsatisfied, and neither does any good photog worth his or her salt.