Here is the question we get asked on a fairly regular basis. “Is it okay if my [fill in the blank: friend, cousin, uncle, etc] brings his camera and takes pictures at my wedding?”
The short answer is yes, but the long answer comes with some important nuances.
Most professional photographers include a clause in their contract prohibiting other guests with professional grade gear from shooting at your wedding. The reasons for this are two-fold. The first reason is that they can get in the way of the complete product your professional photographer is creating for you and in some cases can cause confusion among the guests. The other reason is that they need to protect their artwork from being diluted. Photographers are artists after all, and the exclusivity allows them to be the sole artistic interpreter.
In 80% of the cases, the sister, or uncle or friend who wants to take pictures isn’t going to do any of that. More than likely, they’ll take some pictures out by the cigar tent, and they’ll shoot some of the first dance or the bouquet toss. Most of the time their aim is not for an artistic interpretation, but rather simply a personal preservation that they feel their phone is inadequate for. I don’t think any good-hearted photographer wants to stop them from doing that.
But, the other 20% is another story. These folks are sometimes working on a portfolio, or they’re really getting into photography as a hobby, in some rare cases, they’re just convinced the photographer is going to screw something up (This is our least favorite self-fulfilling prophecy). These guests follow you and the wedding party around, distracting you from the photographer’s instruction. They’re riding the photographer’s coat tails, taking images that are few degrees off of the just-right the photographer arranged, and leaving people unsure of what camera to look at. During the reception, their diving for the best angles, getting in the way and watering down the rapport your photographer is developing with the rest of your guests.
So, what should you do if one of your guests wants to bring their camera? You can tell them yes, but remind them that you have hired a professional and would like them to stay out of the way. Or, you could invite them to get in touch with your photographer personally and your photographer will help them understand the etiquette and how to get the most out of it. After all, not all photographers are the same, and some photographers feel more strongly about this than others do. The point is, it’s communication is key, your photographer will appreciate it, and you might save yourself a headache later.