I can’t count the number of times I’ve had someone say to me, “We really love your photos, but my mate/friend/sister in law/friend’s uncle/random person on the street has offered to do our wedding photos as a freebie (or much cheaper).” It usually causes me to cringe, and it should do the same for you.
Choosing your Mate Who’s Clever With A Camera (over a professional photographer) for your wedding day could possibly be one of the worst decisions you could make. Even if they get some great photos, at best you’ll like some of them, tell them they did great, and look longingly at your friends’ amazing photos and albums from their weddings. At worst you’ll lose a friend or have a bad relationship with family member the rest of your life.
Getting all dressed up and going to lots of weddings does not a wedding photographer make. Wedding photography is hard work. I love it passionately, and every wedding day I’m a part of as a photographer adds to my life in ways nothing else could. But it’s not for the faint of heart. And the reason professional photographers charge what they do is because they have the most important job on the day, second only to the bride and groom. Preparing for all the important photo opportunities, knowing how the ceremony should go, being at the right angle at the right time, and being there for every “Can you get one of this?” requests, is something that comes with experience. If you forget something critical (like signing the official wedding certificate, which happened in one of my weddings), you want to know you have someone who has been there before – and yet is able to treat your day like it is, one of a kind.
It’s A One-Time Deal.
There’s no do-over. When the bride’s mother comes in and her eyes well up as she hugs her daughter; when the best man (or the groom) drops the ring and everyone laughs; when the father of the bride stands to make a speech and puts on a silly hat; when the flower girl yawns in the middle of the “I do”s, it’s never going to happen again. Having moments like that captured in a photo keep them captured in your heart, too. If your mate misses it, it’s gone, and you can’t get it back.
There’s a big difference between being able to snap some good shots at a wedding when the pressure is off and the professional is organising everyone into lovely poses, and being able to capture amazing shots when the pressure is on. I know, because I did a lot of that before I started my wedding photography business. I took photos at any wedding I could attend. I practically invited myself to anyone’s wedding, hoping for more experience. And I got some great shots. Some of my friends even said they liked mine better than those of the photographer they hired. Which is a lovely feeling, and encouraging to someone who wants to start a business: but I tell you, the day I got my first paid wedding I prepared like you wouldn’t believe, because the difference was indescribable. Everything happens so fast. People are constantly asking questions, asking for help, pointing out photo opportunities, and being photo opportunities. The flowers are arriving. The flowers are being sent on to the boys. The cars are arriving. No, the cars are coming later. Does anyone want a drink? Where’s my veil? Don’t step on that! Find the minister! Someone bring me my mobile phone, will you? And amongst all this, the photographer remains calm, soothes people, stirs up laughter at the right times, leaves people to weep, and is always in the right place at the right time.
Weddings are a combination of joy, laughter, family issues, stress, exhaustion, energy, love, and beauty. As such, it takes great skill to manage all the emotions and feelings that are swirling about on the day. Getting the family together, helping this person stand at the right angle, tactfully encouraging that ringbearer not to sit quite like that in a kilt, and still capturing all your moments beautifully, requires someone who actually enjoys being around people. Even with all those emotional snow flurries. I’ve known people who said their photographer was more like a drill sergeant. Great for boot camp; but not for your wedding day. Similarly, someone who’s new with a camera and to photographing weddings will generally lack the confidence to say with authority, “No, we should do this” or “It’s probably best if you stand there”. They’ll hesitate and waver and wait for you to make a decision, and I can assure you if there is one thing you don’t want to do on your wedding day, it’s having one more decision to make in an area you thought you had delegated.
I started out with a Pentax DSLR that was almost ten years old, and lenses that worked on a 35mm camera. That worked for the random photos while traveling about. Now, though, I use two Canon DSLR bodies, and a collection of lenses that are, as one of my friends put it, worth more than I am. I have backups and duplicates and triplicates of everything – memory cards, batteries, battery chargers, camera bodies, you name it. I’m still adding to my kit, and there are camera bodies and lenses that I drool over, but I’ve come a long way from when I was the clever one….with just one camera.
Yes, You Might Save A Little Money….
Your mate or family member can definitely save you a few quid. Maybe even a few hundred quid. (Or dollars, or Euro…) But this is a once in a lifetime event. It’s not just a few photos with the family on a birthday, and everyone will be round again in a few months’ time. It’s the only time in your life you will be dressed like this with all these friends and family members and with the flowers, the cake, the hats, and everything that makes a wedding beautiful. Many people spend several thousands on the venue (not to mention the dress, the suits or kilts, the flowers, the videographer, and the food) – and then try to go cheap for their photographer. Strangely enough, after the day is over, the dress is hung in the closet, the kilts are returned, the flowers have drooped and died, the food has all been eaten, and the hotel has tidied up the venue for another event the next day. And all you have left in tangible form are your photos and your album. I’ve talked to enough brides and grooms who were extremely disappointed after the wedding was over and they didn’t have the album, the photos, or the memories that others had – or that they themselves really wanted.
What You’re Actually Getting
The point is, you’re not hiring ‘someone to take photos’. You’re standing round with your friends a few weeks after the wedding, laughing your heads off at that look on your dad’s face. You’re handing a little mini album to your mother, and watching her eyes well up again as she turns the pages. You’re standing in your living room, not able to take your eyes off that amazing canvas print hanging above the fireplace. You’re living the moment all over again – joy, tears, laughter, sadness, and hilarity.
And a year or two later you’re watching your baby girl take her first steps and thinking you should get that photographer back round to help you capture this beauty, this joy, this life.
Can your mate who’s snapped a few photos do all that?