Hello again everyone! Sorry for the absence, but I had some family issues to deal with this winter season and took a sort of sebaticle. Also, my computer had contracted one of those nasty viruses and been out of commission until this week. I had been intending to write this particular blog awhile back, but now is as good of a time as any. :)
One of the main clauses in every photographer's contract when you hire them for your wedding states that no other photographer, amateur or professional, is allowed to be photographing while they are working. This is a clause I personally discuss more in detail with my clients before the wedding. Most people initially think this is only to boost sales; however that is a grave misconception. It doesn't mean that your guests are not allowed to take snapshots, but below are several reasons and examples from a wedding I photographed for you to be cautious and inform your guests about not using flashes.
One of the primary reasons to disuade your guests from taking pictures is that every person there is after the same shot. Often this will unintentionally cause your paid photographer to be blocked by guests when trying to capture your special moments. This is particularly important during the posed shots. Having multiple cameras to look at is a distraction to the people in the pictures. This causes eyes to veer in different directions and can drastically slow down the pace of your professional. Also on a personal level, even though it is not intended, it can come accross as rude to try and take the pictures they are working so hard to create for you and get in the way of their workflow.
However, the most important reason of all is that outside flashes can ruin the best shots. Your photographer adjusts their camera settings to your specific space and lighting situation. When other flashes go off (which are undoubtedly aimed at the same subject as your professionals camera during the most important and quick moments of your wedding), it essentially causes the image to become blown out and sometimes causes motion blur. It can also cause hard shadows depending on the location of the source.
Here are some examples of different degrees of this problem. The first shot is the original image, and the following shot was the attempt to fix it and make it work. If you have a photographer who can work with photoshop well, sometimes you can find a way to salvage the image or make it artistic, though it will never be as great as the clear image would have been...
However, sometimes there is just nothing you can do to make the image work, and you have then lost the moment and possibly some of the best faces of the night...
There is simply no way for your photographer, even as a professional, to account for this. Outside flashes go off at random intervals and levels from many directions during moments too quick to counter. I felt terrible that this happened to these images at her wedding; however, I discussed it with her both before and after she booked my services. It may be important, but once the ceremony starts and people pull out the cameras, it is too late for me to say anything more. I don't think anyone would expect me to stop the ceremony to ask people to stop. :) You can't recut the cake or get back your first kiss.
At this point you have paid good money to hire a professional photographer for your wedding. You don't want to have wasted that money on something outside their control. The best suggestion I have for you here is to address this issue with your guests in 2 ways. One of them is that in your invitations you can make a small note on a slip in piece of paper or at the bottom of the invite that you kindly request no flash photography. I would then remind them again as they're entering to be seated with a sign by the door or asking ushers to tell each guest as they're seated.
One more thing you may want to take into account is the location for your group photos. Typically this is something you decide beforehand with your photographer either when scouting the location or discussing what you want. Be aware of that when decorating and setting up around this area. If you are outside, find out if there will be high pedestrian or car traffic, if there will be garbage cans or other unwanted scenery around, and what can and cannot be moved. Typically though for outdoor shots your photographer can handle looking into that themself when scouting your location.
However, when it comes to setting up in a church or venue, make sure your setup includes adequate space for the location you've chosen and has the kinds of decoration you would like in your pictures. Here is an example of a group shot I did. We had decided to do pictures in front of the stage where the ceremony would be held, but they had forgotten that the dj would already be set up behind them for a smoother transition. Luckily I had brought a large black background that was able to hide the cords and blend in with the stage curtains. Also the chairs and tables had been set up a tad bit close together and were coming into the edge of the pictures. This space was only really needed so that all sizes of pictures needed could be printed without cutting people off, but it was still there. The first picture below is the original image, and the second is after I spent almost an hour clearing out the scenery in photoshop. It is most of the time doable, but will create an extreme extra workload for your photographer.
Hopefully this has been helpful for you and you'll take this into consideration during your planning process. It is a very small task that can save yourself tons of time, hassle, and disappointment in the long run. We will do everything we can for you as your hired photographer, but these little bits of help and consideration will go a long way towards getting great images. :)